THE Clarets have been forced to endure almost 34 years of hurt against Blackburn Rovers in the East Lancashire derby at Turf Moor.
For not since Peter Noble’s 43rd minute strike in a 2-1 triumph on Boxing Day in 1978 have the Clarets scored against their oldest rivals on home soil.
Granted only four fixtures have been played between the two sides since then, but it’s difficult to comprehend that nearly three-and-a-half decades have elapsed since Burnley last found the net against Rovers on their own patch.
Striker Paul Fletcher opened the scoring in the fifth minute that day, before Noble doubled the advantage just before half-time. Kevin Hird pulled a goal back in the 57th minute for Rovers, who culminated the season at the foot of the table.
“Goals are goals and I’ve scored loads of them,” declared Noble. “I don’t remember most of them unless they’re overhead kicks. I can’t remember much about it but I think Paul Fletcher knocked a nice ball in to us and I’ve put it in to make it 2-0. We went on to win the game 2-1.”
The Clarets immortal, who like leading scorer Charlie Austin signed from Swindon Town, enjoyed a prolific seven-year stay after his £40,000 move prior to the 1973/74 campaign. The Sunderland-born striker scored 63 goals in 243 appearances in all competitions for the Clarets, which included four goals in six league games in the derby.
“It’s funny that, I did score a few in the derby games,” Noble said. “Those matches were always hard work and for some reason I always seemed to score. I can’t believe I was the last player to score against Rovers at Turf Moor. You wouldn’t have thought that Burnley hadn’t beaten Rovers since that season either.”
Though the tier of football remains the same, the outcome of fixtures between the two eras are the complete antithesis. Of the six games Noble played, the Clarets won four, though since the turn of the millennium, in the same amount of fixtures, Rovers have won on five occasions. However, Noble insists that the build-up, atmosphere, passion and tension of the derby stays true throughout time.
“It was similar to what it is now, derby games are always the same,” he said. “All the lads knew it was going to be a good game and I preferred to play in games like that. You really wanted to win the games for the fans because a lot rested on the result. If you beat Blackburn everybody was over the moon. You’ve got to win your derby games and I think there’s a bit more pressure on the players to do that these days.
“I loved being a part of that atmosphere and you do miss it from time to time. But I’ve done my bit and it’s probably forgotten about now. Back then I was gutted if we got beat in the derby. They were always close, competitive games, which they should be because derbies always are. There was always a lot of passion and fight.
“They were the big games, the ones you looked out for, especially for the fans. I didn’t specifically look out for that game at the start of the season because I focussed on winning every single match. But when it was coming round I did look forward to it more than the others.”
Noble, signed by Clarets legend Jimmy Adamson, is also believed to hold a penalty-taking world record. His perfect strike rate from the spot from 28 attempts included an 89th minute consolation against Rovers in a 3-2 defeat at Turf Moor on Boxing Day, 1977.
“I was always good at penalties,” beamed Noble. “I’ve got the world record apparently because I never missed a penalty. I scored 28 out of 28. Whether it’s definitely true or not I don’t know. But I scored one against Blackburn.”
But despite his goal scoring exploits, and the reputation and expectation of the country’s leading scorer Austin, the former forward insists that the game is about the collective rather than the individual, particularly where derbies are concerned.
“I was over the moon that I scored but it’s not all about that for me,” said Noble. “Someone has to make it, provide the pass, for me to tap it in the net. I never got big-headed about scoring goals because someone else has done the work. I used to get the ball, run back and start again. For me it was a team game, all about the result, rather than my individual contribution. It’s about 11 men becoming heroes rather than just one.”