PAUL Fletcher is a visionary, a vibrant optimist who thinks outside the box.
His journey has transported him from the impoverished terraces of an industrial 1950s Bolton and a premature conclusion to education to a potent playing career as a striker, a mastermind who architected the development of numerous football stadia and the managing director of the unique, pioneering University College of Football Business at Turf Moor.
Fletcher’s two spells at Burnley Football Club brought unmitigated success. Signed by Jimmy Adamson in 1971, for a club record fee at the time, he became an integral component in the side that gained promotion back to the First Division in the 1972/73 campaign. And the following season he scored, what was deemed to be, goal of the decade with an incredible overhead kick against Don Revie’s reigning champions Leeds United in a 4-1 triumph at Elland Road.
Then, 28 years after scoring 71 goals for the Clarets in just under 300 games, Fletcher returned to the club as Chief Executive for a four-year tenure that coincided with Burnley’s mesmeric rise to the top tier of English football.
“My favourite moment was a goal I scored against Leeds at Elland Road which got voted goal of the decade,” smiled Fletcher. “It was a strange moment because it was at a time the team started to decline because immediately after beating Leeds 4-1, Frank Casper picked up a bad injury and everything started to crumble and it did so for many years. It was a great moment but also a sad moment at the same time.”
He added: “Obviously as Chief Executive the highlight had to be the visit to Wembley. To sit there in a stadium that I helped design, build and fund as a guest of Wembley Stadium with my wife and four grandchildren all in Burnley strips, jumping up and down when Wade Elliott scored was a moment to remember. It was surreal. When I was a player we won promotion from the Second Division in to the First Division so to win promotion to the Premier League in my next spell was a fantastic achievement.”
Fletcher’s book, entitled ‘Magical - A Life in Football’, charters the rise from his first game at Burnden Park and learning to head the ball along his mum’s washing line in the back garden of his parent’s council estate home. It’s an encapsulating 256-page read brimming with humour, honesty, serendipity and quirky anecdotes that script his experiences and progress from Huddersfield’s McAlpine Stadium to the Reebok at Bolton and the Ricoh Arena at Coventry, with a spell at the New Wembley Stadium as Commercial Director sandwiched inbetween.
However, despite being heavily involved in the construction of four UK stadiums and adviser to 30 others around the world, Fletcher was unable to animate his dreams of refurbishing Turf Moor, more specifically a project to modernise the Cricket Field Stand, to make it multi-purpose and financially viable, due to the country’s economic downturn.
“It’s a massive shame,” declared Fletcher. “I was ready to bring all my knowledge of development back to Burnley and at that moment Brendan Flood was flying. In the book I put it to the fans that he was responsible for getting us promotion. While chairman Barry Kilby kept the club surviving over that time it needed impetus of someone like Brendan to come in and give it a real kickstart.
“It was all going along pretty swimmingly until the recession hit and it hit us very hard.”
Fletcher’s book was released on Thursday, priced £14.99, and he will be signing copies of his book at WH Smith in Market Square from 11 a.m. until noon today.
For more information contact Dave Thomas on 0113 2555350.