A pin-drop silence greeted the festive atmosphere surrounding Turf Moor on Boxing Day last season as Burnley were thrashed 5-1 at home by Everton, leaving them in the relegation zone just three points a way from safety.
Some fans called for manager Sean Dyche’s head following the extraordinary margin of defeat which they termed ‘absolutely unacceptable’.
Danny Ward, who has been supporting Burnley for the last eighteen years instead preferred to maintain a stoic silence walking back silently following the wave of negativity surrounding his beloved club.
While the 25-year-old confessed to experiencing a sense of frustration following the club’s below-par show, he is certainly no stranger to the self-confessed “emotional rollercoaster” ride entailing the life of a Burnley fan.
An emotional rollercoaster? It is certainly rare to hear such a vivid description. Danny has a wry smile on his face when quizzed about this, drawing us back to 2002 when he was hardly eight years old.
“My dad is an avid Burnley fan and has been supporting the club since the 1960s. He took me to a home clash back in the 2001/02 season, despite the reluctance of my mom who was a Manchester United fan. The atmosphere at Turf Moor was awe-inspiring, to say the least with the fans cheering on the players and singing in a united fashion. I was hooked straight away much to the dismay of my mother,” he says with a laugh.
However, the laughter is soon replaced with a grave look as Danny describes the struggle which the club underwent during the period between 2002-07 in the Championship with absolutely no expectations.
“It was certainly one of the toughest periods which the club, as well as the supporters, have had the misfortune of experiencing. While the players attempted to battle it out to the finest of their abilities, the bleak financial reserves and lack of effective management resulted in the club never really managing to make it’s presence felt.”
Despite all the struggle experienced on a daily basis, Danny always believed that there would be a shining light at the end of the tunnel. His faith was soon reaffirmed in the 2008/09 season where Burnley were promoted to the English Premier League (EPL), on the back of an outstanding season under manager Owen Coyle.
“I did not hold any expectations at the beginning of the season because of our recent struggle, instead opting to stay patient and silently support the club in every situation. However, my happiness knew no bounds as we kept picking up points at regular intervals resulting in promotion to the EPL.”
“That season also gifted me the best moment I have ever experienced as a fan. I travelled with my dad to Wembley for the playoffs and it was definitely a fantastic day for both of us with claret and blue everywhere. It felt like the whole town had come down to London. The only moment which has come close to the same joy as experienced that day, was when Burnley qualified for Europe for the first time in 51 years recently in the 2017/18 season. I still remember the smile on my dad’s face as he witnessed European football return to Turf Moor for the first time since his childhood. It was a moment of pure joy for him,” says a beaming Danny.
However, the 25-year-old also describes his most disappointing experience as one which he experienced during the same season.
“Despite all the joy that season, my most disappointing experience as a fan was when Burnley were defeated by Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final of the League Cup 2008/09. We made a comeback in the second leg after being 4-1 down from the first leg at the White Hart lane, going in with a lead of 3-0 into extra time. All we needed was to hold on in order to go to Wembley and face Manchester United in the final. However, our opponents scored two goals in the last two minutes leaving me and all the supporters around me in tears.”
Burnley managed to beat relegation last season undergoing another comeback following the Everton defeat, with goalkeeper Tom Heaton’s return to goal and emergence of Dwight McNeil playing a key role in this regard.
Danny’s faith in manager Sean Dyche and the club was vindicated, resulting in cheers and passionate cries of joy from the fans.
“Burnley are a no-nonsense club, you know what you’re going to get. We are not going to blow millions on a player or pay ridiculous wages. The fans are proud and passionate to support their local team,” says the 25-year-old with the pride in his club clear from the tone.
Danny is optimistic about the upcoming season considering the club’s presence in the English Premier League over the last four successive seasons.
“A bit more investment would certainly enhance the squad’s abilities and result in a more effective performance. I am personally very excited about the emergence of McNeil who is a class act and will no doubt make his presence felt in the next couple of seasons.”
The 25-year-old has just one message for all the football fans out there.
“Support your local team and do not switch clubs in search of glory. You will miss out on an experience of a lifetime,” he says on a concluding note.