FORGET Fame Academy. The test of true talent is battling your way to the top - and for Delroy Facey, that has involved a tortuous couple of years on and off the big stage.

The tragic death of his father was followed by a dream move to the Premiership that turned sour when the striker came close to losing his own life after suffering a near-fatal bout of pneumonia.

So who could blame an emotional Facey for dedicating his first senior hat-trick to supportive dad Len, who first set his son on the road to footballing fame many moons ago.

A genuine 'pop' idol, you might say!

Add the fact Facey went on to pay tribute to recuperating mother Rita, Clarets boss Stan Ternent, all his Burnley team mates and just about every jubilant Clarets fan inside Turf Moor on Saturday, and you have some measure of the weight that was lifted from the young man's shoulders after his drought ended in a goalscoring glut.

The on-loan Bolton hitman simply couldn't buy a goal in 623 barren minutes of football in a claret and blue shirt before the first release came just four minutes into the showdown with the Saddlers.

Around an hour and a half later, even a tongue-in-cheek quip from Ternent that the hat-trick hero would have to cough up £75 for the autographed match ball couldn't wipe the smile from his beaming face.

Facey said: "It was great to get on the scoresheet for Burnley at last. Obviously I have put the ball in the net in a competitive game, so that will give me confidence, but scoring a hat-trick makes it even better and maybe the Bolton manager can stand up and take note of what I have done.

"I have shown I can put the ball in the back of the net and I feel I'm in the shop window again."

Frustration has been the key word for Facey in each of his previous seven starts for the Clarets. Chances have come and gone and, even when the ribbon-wrapped present of an open goal arrived against Bradford in the last home game, the gift went unopened.

But all Facey's birthdays came at once early on against Walsall as a silky-sweet passing move down the right started the celebrations and threw up hope of better things to come if Sam Allardyce - suffering his own goalscoring drought at the Reebok - resists the temptation to reach for the phone and call old pal Ternent muttering the dreaded word "recall".

Luke Chadwick instigated proceedings by finding Robbie Blake, whose sumptuous first time ball found Dean West rampaging into the Walsall box.

A quick glance up and a laser-guided ball across the six-yard box found the inrushing striker, who was never going to turn down the invitation and gleefully rifled the ball into the gaping goal.

The early goal not only boosted Facey, it also fired Burnley and for nigh on 20 minutes, it is no exaggeration to suggest a repeat of the Bradford rout was on the cards.

Chadwick and Facey combined, this time down the left, and when the latter's cross reached West on the opposite side of the box, the full back clattered a rising drive off the bar via the fingertips of agile Saddlers stopper James Walker.

Blake then forced another jaw-dropping stop from Walker with a humdinger of a free kick from 30 yards after he had been clattered by Neil Emblen.

Ian Moore forced yet another save with a shot on the turn and West fizzed another drive from distance inches over the angle as Colin Lee's men wobbled.

But, as any Burnley fan will confirm, following this club week-in and week-out prepares you for the worst - and Walsall duly supplied the predictable kick-in-the-teeth with their first attack.

Hesitancy reigned from Vinny Samways deep 24th minute corner and when Danny Hay headed the ball back across goal, Paul Merson all-too easily stretched his neck and nodded home the equaliser.

What followed was pure farce as the visitors wasted FOUR glorious chances in five crazy minutes. Dangerman Jorge Leitao skipped around nervy stopper Brian Jensen only to see his shot hacked off the line by Graham Branch and Merson missed a sitter when put clean through seconds later.

Paul Weller made a vital block to deny Pedro Matias and Leitao somehow side-footed wide with just Jensen to beat from inside the six-yard box.

Thankfully, the storm abated and Facey reminded us of the threat at the opposite end when he dived to head West's hanging cross onto the angle of bar and post with the clock ticking down.

But if the first half was a feast, what followed was a famine as the Saddlers were forced onto the back foot and tried grimly to hang on to a point.

Samways, who commutes from Spain each week to play First Division football, looked like he was enjoying a siesta as Richard Chaplow began to rule the midfield.

At the back, Andy Todd - hailed as "absolutely blinding" by Ternent as his loan spell from Blackburn sadly came to an end - turned provider as his defensive duties became less and less.

Yet clear-cut chances remained elusive and Facey came closest with an angled 70th minute shot that Walker clearly turned for a corner, but escaped with a goal kick.

He would have no such luck eight minutes from time. Chris Baird was harshly penalised for hand ball, and when Blake swung over the resulting free kick from the left flank, that man Facey timed his run perfectly and powered home a header.

Added to his earlier right foot finish, Facey duly joined the ranks of the 'perfect' hat-trick club with a lashed left-footed third following great play from Chaplow and Blake.

Eighth in the table and more than a quarter of the season now gone. Perfect indeed!


Facey 4, 82, 87


Merson 24

Turf Moor. Att: 10,532