Garlick proud of progress

Mike Garlick's decade on the Burnley board will be remembered for a hat-trick of promotions to the Premier League.

Monday, 14th November 2016, 5:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:38 pm
Clarets chairman Mike Garlick

But some of the chairman’s stand out memories don’t necessarily relate directly to the glory days of 2009, 2014 and this summer.

Born in Burnley and educated at Burnley Grammar School, Garlick has been a Claret all his life, and long held a dream to be a director, his wife once writing to Jim’ll Fix It to be one for a day.

He got his wish for more than a day, in October 2006, before becoming co-chairman with John Banaszkiewicz in June 2012, and sole chair in the summer of 2015.

As Garlick looks back on a hugely-successful 10 years, he smiles as he recalls some of the highlights.

Back in 1967, Burnley claimed a 0-0 draw at Napoli to progress 3-0 on aggregate in the European Fairs Cup, but the squad required an armoured lorry, nine jeep loads of militia and a dozen police motor cyclists to make the short journey back to Capodochina Airport.

And Garlick told of a similarly hairy episode in Italy: “Before we got the first promotion we were looking at tying up with a foreign club to access good quality players.

“Me and John (Banaszkiewicz) were in Rome with one of the Rome clubs, and the then owner of this particular club was being threatened by the mafia element of the ultras, so we got a police escort through Rome with flashing lights.

“In the end we didn’t agree to go ahead with the partnership.”

There was a similarly frosty reception down the M65 after Burnley ended nigh on 35 years of hurt at Ewood Park on the road to promotion: “I remember almost getting kicked out of Ewood Park the day we beat them 2-1. We were in the boardroom and they said our celebrations were over exuberant. We noticed they had some champagne and we tried to buy some, but they refused, they didn’t want to sell us any champagne!”

Two of the promotions may have been offset with relegation the following year, but the club are in their best position yet to maintain Premier League status, sitting ninth in the table after the first 11 games of the season.

And Garlick feels the club’s fortunes on and off the pitch have been vastly improved in the space of 10 years: “There’s been ups and downs, on balance more ups. You have to have the downs to enjoy the highs.

“In late 2005 or early 2006 I wrote to Barry Kilby and said I was keen to get on board and just help.

“We’d just sold Ade Akinbiyi to Sheffield United at the time, the fans weren’t happy about that but quite simply the club needed the money to survive.

“I think we were regarded as a survivor in the Championship, trying to keep pour head above water. People hadn’t given up hope of promotion but it was seen as a very distant prospect.

“That was the mood at the time. I came on board in the October of that year, we made a few purchases at the time and within a couple of years we found ourselves in the Premier League.

“At some point someone had to give it a bit of a jolt and we managed too with the extra cash we put in. We got to the Premier League, unexpectedly I guess, and a few unfortunate events that year meant we couldn’t sustain it.

“It was the first part of the journey. We were fortunate financially that when we went down they increased the parachute payments from two years to four, that gave us an extra cushion to try and rebuild again.

“We reinvested, it didn’t come off initially, but slowly and surely after a couple of management changes we got back on track and we got back there.”

In an era of foreign ownership dominating the Premier League landscape, Burnley stand as a beacon of success, while still retaining traditional values of supporters on the board.

Garlick feels having that emotional investment in the club is important: “Ultimately why we do we punch above our weight? It’s because we care. Why do we care? Because we’re local. Our reputations are on the line, our names are on the line.

“We’re not some owner who is 20,000 miles away thinking ‘so what if we can’t pay the wages’. We care and it makes a difference.”

Burnley reported a turnover of £78.77m in March, and a profit of £30.14m, but the club didn’t own Turf Moor when Garlick came on board: “When I joined, we’d sold the ground, we didn’t even own our ground – that was one of my most satisfying moments, negotiation with the then landlord to buy the ground back.

“We thought we had an option to buy it back, but due to a legal cock-up we didn’t.

“He could have held out and never sold us the ground back, but I managed to persuade him to sell it back.

“That was one of the first steps on the road to recovery.

“You want your own home don’t you? It’s just like buying your own house. If you don’t own it anything, you develop is for someone else.

“That was a good step.

“The ground, the training ground, the improvements to the club shop. Just the general improvements to the stadium which we’ve made and slowly but surely there’s more to come. There’s a legacy there.”

The training ground will be a huge part of that legacy, changing the face of Gawthorpe: “The general perception is it’s all about youth development. But that’s only half of it.

“When a senior pro comes to look around the training ground and is thinking of joining the club and sees what we’ve got, that will make the difference for a lot of people. It will pay for itself.”

While the money spent on the Barnfield Training Centre – at around £10m – is a significant piece of business, Garlick looks at two players still with the club as the best transfer deals of his time with the club: “Buying Sam Vokes, that was the best signing, for £350,000, from a value perspective. Eddie (Howe) said ‘Mike, he’ll contribute but he won’t score many goals’, look how it’s worked out, he’s done fantastic. Tom Heaton as well, that was a good one.”

Garlick has recently taken more of a hands-on role in transfer dealings, after the club failed to land a string of targets last time out in the Premier League: “Not getting involved as much in the transfer window in the Premier League season two years ago, that was a mistake.

“Both transfer windows.

“Just to find out why things weren’t working quite as well as they should be, so I got a lot more involved recently.

“I left it to the people that be and I think they all tried their best but it just didn’t come off. I thought ‘I’ve got to find out why it didn’t happen’.

“Without going into any detail I think we’re on a better track now.”

Manager Sean Dyche delivered two of the three promotions in Garlick’s decade on the board, and he was his and then co-chairman Banaszkiewicz’s first, and only, appointment to date, back in October 2012: “We had a long interview process, we saw about 15 candidates and we whittled it down to two. I had a difficult evening the night before convincing the other directors that there was only one choice, and then I got up in the morning and told them that there was only one person, and thankfully they went with it.

“I had a personal connection through a guy who I’d done business with who knew him very well.

“He said he couldn’t recommend for his qualities as a football manager, because he knew nothing about football, but he could recommend him as a person in terms of his ethics, integrity, behaviour and management skills.

“I thought that was really important.

“What can you say? He’s turned around everything slowly but surely.

“He’s had his tough moments as well, but we stuck with him and we never questioned him. We could see he was trying to do the right things.”