WHILE many with a Blackburn Rovers affiliation might have congratulated Burnley this week through gritted teeth, David May is different.
Few players have crossed the East Lancashire divide in recent times. May is one of them and, while his spell at Ewood Park was considerably more notable, he makes no secret of the fact that he wants both clubs to do well.
As he surveyed Burnley’s promotion party on Monday, then, he hopes Rovers will be able to hold the same celebrations some time soon.
“I really did enjoy playing for both clubs,” he says.
“For Burnley to get promoted this year is great. Next year hopefully Blackburn can go on and get promoted as well.”
May believes Rovers can use Burnley as an inspiration, as proof that it can be done.
“If you can get off to a good start then you can go a long way,” he said, speaking at an appearance as an ambassador at the StreetGames Football Pools Fives community tournament in Manchester.
“That’s what Burnley did, Blackburn just might miss out on the play-offs but what they have to do is build for next season and make sure they’re in a position to fight for automatic promotion.
“You only have to look at Burnley and how they’ve structured it. They’ve brought in goalscorers and you always need a goalscorer.
“The manager has done really well picking his players and picking a squad that can sustain it.
“I just wish Blackburn could have gone up with them.”
Rovers’ promotion bid is not quite over but their play-offs hopes look a serious long shot.
But May hopes that, if not this year, next season they can emulate his own promotion feats with the club in 1992.
After breaking into the first team in 1989, on the way to 151 games for the club, he helped the club to the top flight via the play-offs under the guidance of boss Kenny Dalglish.
“Blackburn are very close to me, I grew up playing for them and I’d love them to be in the Premier League,” he said.
“When we got promoted, Blackburn at the time were in the doldrums.
“First and foremost you need a togetherness, you need a bit of experience and you need leaders in the game.
“We had David Speedie, Howard Gayle, Colin Hendry, big characters.
“It’s a great achievement getting promoted, and it was great to be part of that.
“Kenny came in and Jack Walker came in with all his money and I’m glad that Jack saw the club win the Premier League before he passed away, because that was what it was all geared for.
“Albeit it was against Man United, but I was pleased for Jack that they did that.”
Indeed, Rovers’ Premier League title win in 1995 was something of an irony for May.
He was part of the Rovers squad that finished second to Manchester United in 1993/94.
After joining United that summer, he then finished second again – this time to Rovers.
“It was strange but the year after we managed to win the league again at United and win the FA Cup,” May said.
“So although I missed out on that league, I managed to go on and win it myself.
“I would have loved to have won it at Blackburn.
“The year before we pushed United so close, and maybe that little lack of experience, that little bit of knowledge was what we missed out on.
“But they got there in the end.”
May would win two league titles and two FA Cups at Manchester United, and also received a Champions League winner’s medal in 1999 – even though he never actually played a single minute in the competition that season.
He now works for MUTV, causing a stir on the channel at the weekend when he called David Moyes ‘out of his depth’ – although he was soon back as a pundit after Moyes was sacked.
After finishing his career at Bacup Borough, where he also had a spell as assistant manager, for a period he ran his own wine importing company. His last professional club was Burnley, where he moved in 2003 and featured 39 times during a single season at Turf Moor in the second tier.
He admits it felt a little bizarre to be playing for the club he was taught to dislike as a youngster.
“It was actually,” says the 43-year-old.
“Growing up as a Blackburn apprentice, you knew the rivalry straight away, whether you played them in the A team, the hatred and the rivalry was there from day one.
“But I had a great time at Burnley and the fans were great.
“It’s how the manager spends his money now in the Premier League.
“There is going to be a lot of money available but what you can’t do is go out and spend every penny that is available because that would be stupid, because if you do get relegated you’ve got nothing to fall back on.
“It might be two or three promotion or relegations, then you get a steady financial situation and you’re able to sustain it.”
* David May is a supporter of the StreetGames Football Pools Fives, a programme that takes football to young people in disadvantaged communities across the UK.
Go to www.streetgames.org/ footballpoolsfives