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Turf Moor has played host to the Premier League cameras for three straight seasons, the best run in the top flight for Burnley since 1976.
The Claret’s presence in the Premier League has always been like a yoyo with promotions from the Championship followed by relegations. This season has been no different. After an incredible 7th place finish in the 2017/18 season, Burnley are now languishing in 17th place, which in comparison with last year, makes this the worst slump in the league by a stretch. While Burnley’s league position is subject to change, their ground, Turf Moor, has been ever-present.
Burnley FC moved to Turf Moor in 1883 which makes it the oldest current ground in the Premier League, opened just one year before Anfield. However, the history of Turf Moor actually stretches back 50 years before that, when it was first used as a cricket ground by Burnley Cricket Club.
In 1883, the Cricket Club invited the football club to play their matches on a pitch next to the cricket ground and the footballers duly accepted. In the initial years after its inception, the ground had no seating facilities, and so fans had to gather around the pitch to watch football. However, it wasn’t long before Turf Moor started to resemble a proper football stadium. In 1885, the club built an 800-seater stand and terracing that could house 5000 people behind the goals.
Possibly the greatest accolade that Turf Moor holds is that it was the first senior football ground ever to be visited by a member of the Royal Family. Prince Albert Victor, the son of the King, visited the stadium to watch a 3-4 defeat at the hands of local rivals Bolton Wanderers in 1886 during a stately visit to a local hospital. In 1891, further massive developments were made to the ground in the shape of Burnley Union Star’s grandstand, which was purchased by Burnley FC and moved to the Turf Moor site after Union Star folded.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Burnley was pretty much a permanent construction site. Various sides of the ground were built and then rebuilt a few years later. For example, the Star Grandstand was demolished only 15 years after it had been moved from Union Star in 1898. These progressive developments all culminated in a record 54,755 attendance at Turf Moor in an FA Cup Third Round match against Huddersfield in 1924.
Burnley went on to beat the Terrier’s and eventually made it to the semi-finals before losing 3-0 to Aston Villa at Bramall Lane. Whilst that match was the greatest ever crowd at Turf Moor, perhaps the best thing witnessed by the Turf Moor faithful was Burnley’s unbeaten First Division season in 1920/21 where they went 30 games without losing, a record that was only taken in the 2003/04 season by Arsenal’s Invincibles.
The Turf Moor we know today is a far cry from the original stadium that was developed in the late 1800s and 1900s. In fact, all the stands currently seen at Turf Moor were constructed between 1969 and 1994. The Cricket Field Stand was the first to be redeveloped in 1969 at a cost of £2.72m in terms of today’s money, with changing rooms and a player’s tunnel also built behind the goal. In 1974, the Brunshaw Road stand (the South Stand) was replaced by an all-seater and renamed the Bob Lord Stand, after the Chairman who commissioned it. This stand was opened by the Prime Minister at the time, Edward Heath and cost the club £4.59m.
1974 was also a historic time for the club out on the pitch, when the famous Turf Moor slope that had existed since the ground was first built in 1883 was rectified. The club also installed new drainage and undersoil heating technology.
The final redevelopments on Burnley’s home were completed in 1996 at a cost of £9.13m after the Taylor Ruling forced all clubs to build all-seater stadia. Both the Beehole End and the Longside End were demolished and replaced by two new stands – the Jimmy Mcilroy and the James Hargreaves Stands, named after a former striker and a bathroom company respectively.
Many additions and revamps have been proposed at Turf Moor since then, but various issues have restricted them. In 2007, the Clarets’ hierarchy proposed wholescale changes to both the training facilities and the stadium which would cost £20m. A youth academy would be constructed at the Gawthorpe Hall training complex, the Cricket Field Stand was to be demolished and further commercial facilities were planned. More tiers were also part of the new blueprint for the Bob Lord Stand but all of this development was put on hold due to the economic crisis that hit in 2008.
Since then changes to the stadium have been few and far between. In 2011, the club set up a football university at Turf Moor, the UCFB, which has been heavily advertised on TV. Apart from that, the club has proposed no new developments as of yet, apart from improved disabled viewing areas in the corner of the ground. Despite the age of the ground, there is no doubt Sean Dyche managed to put a spring in the step of his players last season. This season has been at the other end of the spectrum but you would certainly bet that Sean Dyche bring a change in fortunes and breathe life back into the old stadium.