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On This Day: Premier League Here We Come!

25 May 2016

Seven years ago today all roads from Burnley led to Wembley for the Championship play-off final showdown with Sheffield United.

The Clarets had been in the play-off places since early March, having been as low as 10th a month before that, and only one defeat in the final 10 league matches kept the momentum going at the end of an epic campaign.

Even so it needed a last day win against Bristol City at Turf Moor to finally get the Clarets over the line, and they eventually finished in fifth place.

The first leg of the play-off semi-final against Reading at Turf Moor had been a tense affair, with the visitors, who had finished fourth, having the better of the possession.

They failed to take their chances however and were punished when Graham Alexander dispatched the winning penalty six minutes from time after a tug on Steven Thompson’s shirt by Andre Bikey.

Bikey was sent off in added time following a stamp on Robbie Blake and the abiding memory of that match for most Burnley fans was the sight of a petulant Bikey struggling to get his shirt off over his head as he made for the dressing room.

Talking of abiding memories, the goals by Martin Paterson and Steven Thompson in seven devastating second half minutes of the second leg were both goal-of-the-season contenders, both long range efforts struck with tremendous power.

They were both worthy enough of winning any match, let alone a play-off semi-final.

And so to Wembley, where a large proportion of the population of Burnley and the surrounding area decamped to cheer their heroes one last time at the end of that memorable campaign.

In the event the Blades were swept aside on a tide of claret and blue emotion and the single goal victory was scant reward for their domination.

But what a goal it was, yet another goal-of-the-season contender!

On 13 minutes Wade Elliott collected the ball in his own half and powered forward before laying it off to Chris McCann.

The ball broke back to him and from 25 yards he hit a quite wonderful shot that was only ever going in the top corner.

The United players visibly wilted and the men in pale blue drew strength from their superiority. They used every inch of the wide Wembley pitch, stretching their opponents with accurate passing, long, short then long again.

Chances were created, but missed and as the game wore on still with just a slender lead, nerves started to shred among the Claret hordes in the stands.

United began to gain some momentum, but that was checked when substitute Ward was sent off in the final ten minutes for two minor handling offences.

Fans with clear memories of these things recalled another Wembley occasion fifteen years earlier, to the week, when Stockport County had two men dismissed during another epic play-off final success.

Not to be outdone, United themselves had a second player sent off after the final whistle, as the Burnley fans and players began to party.

The boys from Turf Moor were on their way back to the top flight of English football for the first time in more than three decades.

If we were being totally honest, most of us thought that the Premier League season in 2009-10 would be a one-off, somehow written in the stars fifty years on from winning the First Division Championship in 1959-60.

We were all determined to make the most of it, enjoying watching games at Turf Moor against teams we only ever saw on TV and many of us visiting new grounds where we’d never seen Burnley play.

But look what’s happened… two more promotions back to the Promised Land and a real determination that next season it will be third time lucky and, that now, we are in the big time to stay.

Burnley (4-4-2): Brian Jensen, Michael Duff, Clarke Carlisle, Steven Caldwell, Christian Kalvenes, Wade Elliott, Chris McCann (Joey Gudjonsson 27), Graham Alexander, Robbie Blake (Chris Eagles 69), Steven Thompson (Jay Rodriguez 73), Martin Paterson.

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