FOR Chris Pearce Burnley's Fourth Division title triumph was a bitter-sweet moment.

The Welsh goalkeeper had been taken to the hearts of the Turf Moor faithful over his first four years at the club, winning player of the year awards and helping the Clarets start the climb towards ending their seven year exile in the bottom tier.

But when the defining season finally arrived Pearce found himself often ostracised by Jimmy Mullen. He was one of five goalkeepers to feature during the 1991/92 campaign and even 25 years on he admits that the way his time at the club ended still brings a tear to his eye.

There had been no sign of how things would pan out the year before when Burnley missed out on promotion in a play-off semi-final defeat to Torquay.

"We had a great set of lads, we weren’t the best in the world but we gelled as a team," Pearce remembers. "That started the season before under Frank Casper, he was getting a good squad together and you could sense things were going the right way.

"Even though we lost to Torquay in the play-offs we weren’t too down because the club had come such a long way since nearly going out of the league."

Pearce had missed just three league games in that season but his troubles in 91/92 began after the first game, a 2-1 defeat at Rotherham, after which he was dropped.

"I was very surprised. I thought ‘what have I done wrong?’," Pearce said.

"It was my last season and it was my hardest season. I had five great years at Burnley, the first four was tremendous, I won player of the year a couple of times, I got on great with the crowd.

"Then things just went downhill in that season. I know my form wasn’t brilliant. I got dropped, they brought three or four other goalkeepers in and it didn’t do my confidence any good at all. You’re trying your best and I was trying to put things right on the training ground, I was playing well for the reserves, I’d get back in the first team but then I didn’t seem to have the confidence I normally had."

Although Casper began that season in charge he was replaced after seven games by Jimmy Mullen and Pearce admits relations between him and the new boss weren't great.

"I don’t know what it was with Jimmy and me, I haven’t got a clue. Even the other players were surprised with what was happening," he said.

Pearce is reminiscing on his memories of the 1991/92 season while away working in Rotherham, which was the location of perhaps his finest moment of the season when he saved two penalties in the Autoglass Trophy Northern Quarter-Final penalty shootout against the Millers.

He had started the last five league games before his spot kick heroics, but it proved to be another false dawn.

"I thought ‘I’m back on form here’, then all of a sudden I was dropped again. I couldn’t believe it," Pearce said.

"I turned up for the next game at Turf Moor, I was down to play but there was a TBA at the bottom of the list. I sat there in the dressing room and then Jimmy Mullen announced the team and I wasn’t in it and it was Nicky Walker. I got on with all the goalkeepers that came in, it wasn’t their fault."

Still Pearce forced his way back into the team as the campaign wound its way to a dramatic conclusion, but injury put paid to his chances of playing in the title-clinching win at York City.

And within 24 hours of that memorable night at Bootham Crescent he was told his 236-game career at the club was over.

"I was absolutely gutted I couldn’t play at York," Pearce said. "I was in the dressing room after with the players, we were all celebrating, we went out afterwards and it was an unbelievable night, we had a late night and a few beers. We could enjoy it.

"The next morning we went in for a warm down and one of the apprentices came in and said ‘Jimmy Mullen wants you in the office’.

"I went in, didn't think anything of it, Jimmy was sat behind his desk and he said ‘right that’s it now, you can leave’. That was the following day. I went back to the dressing room and got my bag and left. It put a bit of a downer on it for me."

Pearce was convinced to attend the Turf Moor celebration against Wrexham, with over 21,000 in attendance, by his teammates and commercial manager Joyce Pickles, and it proved to be an emotional occasion.

"Someone asked me in the dressing room to do an interview," he remembers. "I went out and they took me down the tunnel and I just didn’t expect what was going to happen.

"It was a full house and I’ll be honest I cried when I went out and saw all the fans. It really hurt me and it still hurts me now."

It was a day of celebration, but it wasn't the way Pearce had envisaged ending his career at Turf Moor. While his former colleagues jetted off to Bermuda on an end-of-season trip he was told he couldn't attend by Mullen, who also told Pearce he hadn't played enough to get a medal, something he knew wasn't the case.

"Eventually I got a call from the office to say my medal was there," he said.

"I had to go into the office to collect mine, it was in an envelope with just ‘Chris Pearce’ written on it. That’s the way he wanted to do it."