Clarets stalwart all set to make milestone 300th appearance
Two hundred and ninety nine games into his Burnley career, Michael Duff insists he is happy to remain the underdog.
The Clarets defender is set to join an elite club of only four players in the 21st Century to achieve 300 appearances for the club, when Sean Dyche’s side host Charlton Athletic this weekend.
That will follow a similar amount racked-up at former club Cheltenham Town; putting him in an even more select band of players that have made 300 appearances for two clubs, including Sir Stanley Matthews and Phil Neville.
And although Duff insists Burnley is now a much different club then when he arrived as a £30,000 bargain from Whaddon Road back in 2004, one constant still remains.
“I don’t think the underdog mentality is a bad one to have, insisted the 35-year-old defender.
“It’s a mindset I’ve had throughout my career, to be the challenger, because the moment you think you have arrived is the moment you might as well pack up and go home because there’s nothing left to work towards.
“I’ve not even looked at the bookies odds, but I’ll bet we are nowhere in their eyes and that’s fine!
“We just want to keep our heads down and keep working hard. It’s a cliché, but it’s that sort of league. It doesn’t allow you to look too far ahead.”
Duff’s rise is a remarkable one who repeating, having played in EIGHT divisions, from Hellenic, through Dr Martens Midlands, Dr Martens’ Premier Division, Conference, League Two, League One, Championship and Premier League, not to mention international recognition with Northern Ireland.
Happy times at Cheltenham
And as the bargain of the decade stands on the verge of completing his latest milestone, he took time to reflect on an action-packed career as a wonderful club servant.
“It’s something I will be quite proud of really,” he admitted.
“I’ll have played 300 games for two clubs, following Cheltenham, and I don’t think there will be too many players who have done that at two clubs.
“A lot got made of the price tag at the time I came here because I think Steve Cotterill called it a ‘calculated risk’.
“I think Steve maybe said that to take a little bit of pressure off me. He obviously thought I was good enough because he bought me and I thought I was good enough.
“It was just about getting the opportunity to play at a higher level and I thought that might have passed me by, because I was 26 and, at Cheltenham, a lot of clubs had been looking at me from the age of 19 or 20.
“I could have gone to Stoke with Steve ironically, but that fell through and I thought my chance had gone.
“So when it finally came at Burnley I had to take it with both hands.”
Duff in pre-season 2004, v Dundee United at Turf Moor
And grab it he did… becoming the one constant as the Clarets rose to the Premier League under Owen Coyle - and now looking to defy all the odds as Burnley look to regain their place at the top table.
And as he enters his testimonial year, Duff insists there is plenty to be proud about following a roller-coaster decade at Turf Moor.
He said: “There was maybe a little doom and gloom after we came out of the Premier League, but the whole infrastructure is better now and maybe supporters don’t always realise what has changed.
“When I arrived we used to get changed at the ground, jump in the car and train at Gawthorpe on a mud heap.
“It was so hard to get any quality training in because of the standard if the pitches.
“I think we only had eight players too when I signed, but if you look now we have fantastic facilities, a chef on site and even a canteen!
“The club has come on leaps and bounds and things like that can go unnoticed.”
Duff, who insists he is not yet considering retirement, added: “I’m sure my time at the club is something I’ll look back on in a few years – and I hope it is a few years – and be quite proud of, but there’s work to do yet.
“I feel good at the minute physically and my stats are good.
“I don’t get any leniency towards my age because if there’s a 19-year-old striker up against me on a Saturday I still have to try and catch him.
“But I’ll carry on as long as my body lets me and at the moment I feel ok.”