Four By Four
Part three of our summer squad number feature
Squad numbers were introduced for the first time in the 1999/2000 season and a generation of Clarets have since put their own special mark on a particular shirt.
Repeating a series by contributor Wallace Chadwick which ran in the on-line Turf matchday magazine during the 2020/21 season, we will be highlighting who wore what and profiling some of those who made their mark at Turf Moor.
This time the spotlight is on number four - the shirt currently worn by Jack Cork as one of three he has worn across his three spells at Turf Moor.
1999-2001 Micky Mellon (to Mar ’01)
2001-02 Kevin Ball
2003-04 Paul Weller
2004-07 John McGreal
2007-16 Michael Duff
2016-17 Jon Flanagan
2017- Jack Cork
Michael Duff wore the Clarets’ number-four shirt for nine of his 12 seasons as a Burnley player.
Over the course of those dozen seasons, Duff made a total of 383 first-team appearances, making him, so far, the club record-holder for the 21st century.
It seemed an unremarkable piece of business when Steve Cotterill signed him from Cheltenham for £30,000 in the summer of 2004, describing the deal as a “calculated risk.”
It was certainly a step up for Duff, but he quickly proved capable of making it. He was certainly not lacking in experience, having already played over 300 times for Cheltenham, and he came straight into the side, initially featuring at right-back.
His preferred position, though, was in central defence, and once he moved into that role he showed his true capabilities, strong in the tackle and particularly good in the air.
He was the team’s star player in 2006/07 but early in the following campaign suffered a serious knee injury at Crystal Palace which kept him out for most of the season.
By the time he returned, Owen Coyle was the new manager and there was competition for his place from Clarke Carlisle and Steven Caldwell.
Duff’s ability to play at right-back remained invaluable, though, and he filled that role for the successful play-off final in 2009, with his dance following the Wembley win against Sheffield United is well remembered.
By the time Sean Dyche took the managerial reins, Duff was a near-automatic starter again and his partnership with Jason Shackell at the back was key to the automatic promotion success of 2014.
Although by this time in his late thirties, he featured in the following Premier League campaign and was awarded a testimonial game at Turf Moor in August 2015 against Bradford City.
He played throughout the first half of his third promotion season with Burnley, 2015/16, but finally moved aside when Ben Mee moved from left-back to the centre of the defence. Duff made his final appearance as a late substitute in the final game against Charlton when the Championship title was clinched.
He subsequently moved on to the coaching staff at Turf Moor – taking charge of the Clarets’ U18 and U23s teams, and in September 2018 returned to his previous club Cheltenham as manager.
After reaching the League Two play-offs in his first full season, the Robins secured promotion as champions in 2021 as Duff further enhanced his leadership credentials.
One of the first arrivals at Turf Moor following the influx of new funds at the end of 1998, Micky Mellon proved a shrewd acquisition by Stan Ternent.
A hard-working, no-nonsense type of midfielder, he was already well-known to Clarets’ fans from his time with Blackpool and fit the Ternent mould perfectly.
He featured prominently in the side’s improvement in the second half of the 1998/99 season and again as promotion to what is now the Championship was won a year later.
His most memorable moment came with the first goal in the Clarets’ 2-1 win at Scunthorpe United on the final day of the season which clinched promotion automatically.
Mellon’s Burnley career was sandwiched between two spells with Tranmere Rovers. It was a surprise when he left Turf Moor in March 2001 to return to Prenton Park as he was far from past his peak at the age of 29.
He eventually dropped into non-League and has since pursued a notable career in coaching and management.
After working in the Clarets’ academy set-up, Mellon’s first senior role came as Fleetwood Town’s manager in September 2008. Mellon enjoyed great success there, taking the club into the Football League after they won the Conference title with 103 points in 2012.
He was surprisingly sacked halfway into the following season but then subsequently enjoyed further success as manager of Shrewsbury Town and back at Tranmere.
The Scotsman took the up Shrews to League One in 2015 and then guided Tranmere back into the League in 2018 and up to League One a year later.
He then had a season-long stay in charge at Scottish Premiership side Dundee United – keeping the club in the top flight – before returning once more to Prenton Park and Tranmere at the end of last month.
When Steve Cotterill took over as Burnley’s manager in 2004 he began with a squad that had been decimated through the financial collapse of ITV Digital. His first signing, and one of his best, was that of experienced defender John McGreal from Ipswich Town.
McGreal had established his reputation at Tranmere Rovers, then in the second tier, and enhanced it as Ipswich won promotion to the Premier League in 2000 and finished fifth in the following season.
He was the type of player Burnley had conspicuously lacked through two seasons of defensive chaos before his arrival and his cool dominance at the back soon endeared him to supporters as Cotterill’s side, for a while, became clean sheet specialists.
For much of his first season at the Turf he was partnered by teenager Gary Cahill, who gained his first League experience on loan with Burnley before going on to huge success with Chelsea and England.
That first season was McGreal’s best and injuries blighted his later career as a Claret. He was released in 2007 and two years later began a long association with Colchester United.
Joining their coaching staff in 2009, he moved up to have a brief spell as caretaker manager late in 2015 before taking on the role permanently in May 2016. He took the Us to the League Two play-offs in 2019/20 where they were defeated by Exeter in the semi-final.
He was dismissed shortly afterwards, ending a spell of four years in charge, but returned to management in May, 2021 as the new boss of Swindon Town.