Former Burnley FC scout — and Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder — pens new "No Nay Never" book about East Lancashire rivals!

A former Burnley FC scout — and Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder — has penned a book that chronicles the history of the East Lancashire rivalry and the comparative successes of the sides involved.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 10:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 10:18 am
Marcus Bent of Blackburn Rovers tries to tackle Steve Davis of Burnley during the Nationwide League Division One game between Blackburn Rovers v Burnley at Ewood Park, Blackburn.

Michael Hodkinson, 75, who lives in Clitheroe, has developed a rare affiliation for both clubs during his lifetime, which has provided the inspiration for the near 500-page scripture, "No Nay Never - Blackburn Rovers v Burnley" .

The ex-English Schools' FA Council member took his first steps on to the Ewood Park terraces in 1954, with his first taste of a derby encounter arriving just four years later.

Dally Duncan had replaced promotion-winning manager Johnny Carey in the days leading up to the fixture at Turf Moor — the first meeting between the two teams in six-and-a-half years — as they shared the spoils in a goalless draw.

Mick Mellon of Burnley battles with David Dunn of Blackburn during the Burnley v Blackburn Rovers Nationwide Division One match at Turf Moor, Burnley.

From that moment the 'Auld Enemies' locked horns every season until the World Cup winning year of 1966, facing off no less than 19 times in total during that spell.

The Clarets, of course, were crowned English champions in the midst of all that, though they won just one of four games in league and cup against Rovers that term.

"When I first started watching the derbies there was no doubt that Burnley were the superior side," Mr Hodkinson said. "Rovers were promoted in 1957-58 and I watched the home game the following season. The big one was in 1960 because both had really strong sides.

"Burnley, of course, went on to win the First Division title while Rovers were FA Cup finalists. There were two epic cup games that season as well. My first visit to Turf Moor ended in a 3-3 draw, but Burnley had been coasting. I remember a decision went against Alex Elder, a penalty was awarded for handball, and that changed the game.

The Burnley Division One championship winning squad of season 1959-60 pose with the trophy at Turf Moor, Burnley, England, selected players include Ray Pointer (back row right)John Connelly (front row left) Jimmy McIlroy (front row second left) Jimmy Adamson (front row centre)

"The crowd went absolutely ballistic. John Connelly had run them ragged for 75 minutes, Rovers could never cope with him, he was just too quick. It was a great Burnley side to watch and they gave Rovers one or two drubbings during that period."

He added: "I admired that Burnley side; they didn't have any weaknesses. You don't become champions of England unless you're a great side. Jimmy McIlroy pulled the strings, he was way ahead of his time, the opposition simply couldn't get the ball off him.

"He was the king of that Burnley side. Ray Pointer really stood out on the pitch as well. Of course, he had this incredibly blonde head of hair, but he was so energetic and scored a lot of goals."

Their paths wouldn't cross as regularly after Rovers were consigned to relegation from the top flight. They dropped again, this time to the third tier, in 1971, but they were re-acquainted with Burnley in 1976-77.

Kevin Ball of Burnley and Jamie Pollock of Palace during the game between Crystal Palace v Barnsley in the Nationwide Division One played at Selhurst Park, London.

The Clarets lost just once in eight head-to-heads in all competitions, winning five, before Rovers came out on top in 1982 and 1983, which marked the last battle between the pair for 17-and-a-half years.

Mr Hodkinson said: "I saw all the derby games towards the end of the '70s, but I didn't see the one in 1982. I was offered a ticket for the game in 2000-01 at Turf Moor, at a point when I was heavily involved at Burnley.

"Everybody at Gawthorpe had been talking about it. Jeff [Taylor] had offered me a ticket, but it didn't seem right to accept a ticket in the home end for a derby. I ended up watching it on Sky, it was a fantastic game.

"I spoke to Kevin Ball for the book; he sent [David] Dunn skywards, but he assured me that he went for the ball. He was really interesting to speak to. He's convinced that he got a bit of the ball, but I'm not so sure!"

Matthew Rose of Queens Park Rangers clears from Andy Payton of Burnley during the Nationwide League Division One match played at Loftus Road, in London. Burnley won the match 1-0.

Mr Hodkinson became involved on a part-time basis at Burnley, operating as a scout for the club's School of Excellence. He was tasked with finding proteges in their mid-teens as he worked alongside the likes of Vince Overson and Terry Pashley over a decade of service at Gawthorpe.

His tenure coincided with the appointments of Adrian Heath, Chris Waddle and Stan Ternent as he developed a quite unique affinity with the club he had been expected to despise. And it was that abnormality that partly influenced his fascination and exploration of this long-standing tug-of-war.

"I worked for Burnley on a part-time basis for 10 years, either side of the Millennium," Mr Hodkinson confirmed. "I had a scouting role for the School of Excellence. I knew Jeff Taylor very well.

"I built this affinity with Burnley FC through that, which was quite unique. I had a fondness for both clubs, which is why the book is written in a very unbiased and balanced way. My background as a Blackburn Rovers supporter hasn't coloured my views.

"I'd reached a point ahead of the reunion in December 2000 where I didn't really know who I wanted to win the derby. However, as soon as a ball was kicked I knew that I wanted Rovers to win. I had a 40-year history of watching Rovers and you don't just lose that."

He continued to witness and revel in Rovers' domination between '82 and 2010, which included the first ever Premier League jousts between the two sides.

And Mr Hodkinson had the sense to stay at a safe distance as the Clarets slowly started to take over. Sean Dyche's time in charge opened with three successive 1-1 draws against Rovers in the Championship.

They've won four times on the bounce since, with the last of those a 2-0 win at Ewood Park in the League Cup in August 2017.

Having emigrated to southern France, Mr Hodkinson said: "I haven't attended an East Lancashire derby since Owen Coyle's time at Burnley.

"We lived in Dordogne, in south west France, for 13 years, but I still kept abreast of everything that was going on. I would always be on the phone to family or friends to find out what was happening.

"I started on the book just before we left France. There have been some great books about both clubs, but not many that have charted the histories of both.

"The 'bragging rights' between the two rivals forms a big part of this book, we look at what a derby game is all about, where they originated from and why they are like they are.

"It's quite interesting really because, even though the two sides have never been more than two divisions apart, there have only been 45 seasons where derby games have been played.

"There have been far more seasons where the two teams haven't met; they're not a regular occurrence at all. The vast majority of those fixtures were played in a generation that long precedes this one. It's quite fascinating."

More than 30 players from each side of the divide, with one or two caught up in the middle, have been interviewed for the book, which has been published by Legends Publishing.

Kevin Ball, Micky Mellon, Steve Davis, Les Latcham, Derek Scott, Graham Branch, Ross Wallace and Andy Payton are among those to have told their stories through Claret and Blue tinted glasses, with Simon Garner, Derek Fazakerley, Bryan Douglas, Matt Jansen and David Dunn representing the opposition's viewpoint. Lenny Johnrose and Kevin Hird, meanwhile, offered their perspectives from both sides.

"I spoke to many players and fans and tried to look into why they support the teams that they do," Mr Hodkinson concluded. "Kevin Ball was a stormer of an interview, I was on the phone to Bryan Douglas for two-and-a-half hours, and he had some great stories to tell. I've spoken to Derek Scott, Les Latcham, Micky Mellon, Graham Branch, Ross Wallace, Martin Dobson and Andy Payton.

"Once they got going they couldn't stop talking. Payton played in the Glasgow [Old Firm] derby and he told me that the East Lancashire derby was its equal, at the very least.

"He always had this burning ambition to score against Rovers, which he did, several times, but never for Burnley. He said that was one of his biggest regrets in football!"

"No Nay Never - Blackburn Rovers v Burnley" is priced at £24.99 and is currently accessible online via this link: https://www.legendspublishing.net/product/no-nay-never/

The 490-page book will also be available in selected stores from November 1st.