A Rovers season ticket holder who has an affinity for Burnley and would name them as his second team, surely the work of fiction?

Well for Michael Hodkinson, the two clubs have been a huge part of his life, so much so he has written a book chronicling the fortunes of the two East Lancashire teams and their derby meetings.

‘No Nay Never’, set to go on general sale in the coming months, includes 500 pages of detail on each club’s fortunes since the Football League’s formation in 1888, speaking to some of the leading cast members in some of the fixtures most memorable moments.

Michael, aged 75, says the experience of penning the book, and speaking to former players of both sides, has been ‘wonderfully enjoyable’, even despite the difficulties of finding the associated materials during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a history of the two clubs, with references to the rivalry,” Michael, a season ticket holder in the Jack Walker Upper stand outlines.

“There are a hell of a lot of years where there were no derby games, quite a number more that there hasn’t than there has and amazingly really it seems the rivalry is even stronger when there isn’t a game somehow or other.

“It’s not absence makes the heart grow fonder, quite the opposite, and maybe when they were playing twice a season it was something that you came to expect, but when it’s once every blue moon there’s always that ‘when’s the next one going to be?’

“The years there are derby games we cover them in more detail than years when there isn’t.”

His love affair with Rovers started in 1954, his first derby experience came four years later, and he says he has been passionate about the game ever since.

A former teacher at Darwen Vale, where he worked for over 30 years, Michael’s love for the game saw him volunteer for the English Football Schools Association, and was later invited to do some scouting work for Burnley, which he did for nine years.

“I had to ask myself one or two questions, ‘which is my team?’ but it will always be the Rovers,” he explained.

“I’m probably quite a rare specimen in that I do have a quite an affinity with Burnley. Rovers are my No.1 team and Burnley are No.2. I don’t think there’s many like that around.”

As part of the book, Michael has spoken to more than 30 players from each side of the divide, Simon Garner, Derek Fazakerley, Bryan Douglas, Matt Jansen and David Dunn among those from the blue side, Kevin Ball, Micky Mellon, Steve Davis and Martin Dobson representing the Claret and Blue, and Lenny Johnrose somewhere in the middle.

Among the many themes that Michael has uncovered in the book is how contrasting the club’s fortunes are at similar points in their respective histories, limiting the number of meetings there have been.

The sides last met in the league cup in August 2017 where there were then two divisions between the sides, with March 2016 the most recent league meeting.

He added: “It’s almost like a see-saw in that when one club is up, the other one is down.

“That’s one of the reasons why there’s only 40-odd seasons why there have been a lot more seasons when they haven’t been in the same division.

“Rovers were in the top division until 1936, they were the last club of the original members to go down, them and Aston Villa got relegated together, and they were the last two.

“From 1979 to the Sean Dyche era really, Burnley were second best.”

Michael, secretary of the Blackburn and Darwen Schools’ Town Team for 20 years, says despite his support for Rovers, the book is a balanced look at the rivalry, and the fortunes of each club.

There has been no shortage of drama in the meetings between the sides, with Michael picking out two stories he uncovered during the course of his research.

There was the abandoned game of December 1891 when Rovers goalkeeper Herbie Arthur was left last man standing by his team-mates, and then goalkeeping devastation for Burnley in November 1929.

“There are some great stories from way back, in 1891 10 of the Rovers players walked off and for a few minutes the Burnley players were up against only the Rovers goalkeeper, “Michael takes up the story.

“The weather wasn’t good, it was snowing like mad, the referee had sent off a player from each side for having a fight and the Rovers felt that their man was the victim so they walked off and the goalkeeper stayed on, and Burnley couldn’t score because they kept being caught offside.

“Then there was a tragic in 1929 when the Burnley goalkeeper got injured and he carried on, Rovers won 8-3 in the end because he couldn’t save much and he collapsed in the dressing room afterwards with a ruptured kidney. He never played again.”

For those fully immersed in East Lancashire football, the rivalry is deep-rooted, but that same feeling doesn’t always register outside of the area, rarely mentioned in the ‘top 10 fiercest rivalry’ debates that tend to rage on social media.

Michael speaks to the local heroes of either side about the derby, but it is the insight from those who were signed from other clubs that it most revealing about what the game means.

“If you talk to people who know their football they know of the East Lancs derby,” he says.

“I interviewed a lot of players who played in derbies for the book, people who got transferred into the clubs and they were quite shocked.

“Kevin Ball played in a lot of north east derbies that are full of passion and he said that when he came down here he couldn’t believe it, and Micky Mellon said the same sort of thing and wasn’t expecting what he got.

“Because it was so special for the fans it became special for the players too.”

The book will be published by Legends Publications and will be available before September.