From fighting to fish shops for Burnley star Weller

Leeds midfielder David Batty gets to grips with Paul Weller

Leeds midfielder David Batty gets to grips with Paul Weller

First published in Sport This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Burnley FC reporter

PAUL Weller played almost 300 games for Burnley in 12 and a half years at Turf Moor.

Through the marvel of medicine and the skill of surgeons the majority of those came after the midfielder’s life-changing bowel operation.

But his Clarets career was almost cut short by Stan Ternent in his 1999/2000 comeback season.

Bust-ups with the former Burnley boss were not an uncommon occurrence with most members of his squad, but the frustrations of fighting back to full fitness had led to fighting talk for Weller.

“I got into a couple of arguments that I shouldn’t have done with Stan. We had a fall-out in February over a trivial thing,” he said.

“It was nose-to-nose, shouting and balling and he put me on the transfer list.”

Weller had been troubled by minor knee injuries and another one flared up around that time.

Having been rushed back by Chris Waddle a couple of years earlier he was determined to be more patient now that he felt nudged out of a promotion push that had been boosted by Ian Wright, a Valentine’s Day arrival.

“I had all of February, all of March looking after myself doing loads of squats and really working on it. I came back really fresh, I started to feel really good, I was playing well and Stan put me back in the squad for Oxford,” he said.

“I thought ‘What am I doing here, carrying the boots or something?’.

“I got down there and he’d put me on the bench. Me and Wrighty were joking about it. He said ‘We’ll get on, you cross it and I’ll head it in’.

“We both got on, but he crossed it and I headed it and it was just hilarious.

“I spoke to the Press after and they said ‘Stan’s just told us you’ve come off the transfer list, that you’re committed and part of Burnley and you regret going on it in the first place’.

“I knew nothing about it but I said ‘Obviously I want to be part of the promotion push. I love Burnley, I’ve been here since I was 16’ and all that caper.

“It was Stan’s way of managing the situation and, really, he was good to me.”

Weller’s last-minute winner at the Kassam Stadium in April 2000 was key in helping to clinch automatic promotion on the final day of the season.

Ternent recognised the battle that the still young youth team product had been through and saw a brighter future.

“We were in a bar in Portugal at the end of the season and Stan said: ‘You’ve had a tough, tough year, now you’ve got yourself right. Next year’s your year. You’ve got a lot of work to do but next year’s your year’.

“And he was right,” said the 39-year-old, who continues to be medicated for Crohn’s disease.

“I got my chance at the start of the Championship year. Glen Little had got injured in pre-season so I got in playing right wing back at the time, played 44 games in the league that year and that was the start of my good spell.

“Stan was a very passionate manager. He taught me proper football.

“Adrian Heath was very Premier League – or First Division as it was back then. We’d play five-a-side, doing a little twist and a turn, whereas Stan taught us to fight.

“When you cross that white line it was war, and he was right. You had to win the battle, and once you’d done that then all your trickery could come out.

“He was a hard man but a good man and an unbelievable character.”

Ternent signed a few as well, including Paul Gascoigne, who although struggled to rediscover the flare of his former years was a boost to the dressing room banter.

“He loved a laugh and a joke,” said Weller. “He’d send Jimmy Five Bellies to the sandwich shop, get a turkey salad, take the turkey out and put bars of soap in there. His agent would come in and he’d give him the sandwich.

“We cut his socks up and did the tricks to him too.”

But they suffered the consequences.

“On the following Friday he made tea for all the lads when Stan used to sort out the fines in his ‘court’,” he continued.

“Stan asked Gazza if he had anything to bring up after we’d cut his socks.

“He said ‘No, I’ve got them all back. Nice pot of tea boys?’.

“Gordon Armstrong was sat there, legs crossed, on his third cup. Gazza pulled out a bottle of laxatives, half empty. Gordon spat his mouthful out.

“I didn’t drink tea then. I was laughing my head off! But that was what the dressing room was all about.”

Weller added: “David May was up to something all the time.

“We should have been in treatment one day but we jumped in his car and went to the fish shop in Padiham because he wanted to get Sam.

“He said ‘I want the worst smelling fish chopped up into about five pieces please’.

“I thought ‘What’s he up to?’.

“We went back, got Sam’s keys out of his pocket, put one piece under his seat, another under the other seat, a piece in the boot, a piece in the engine, and so on.

“I said, ‘Why are you doing all this?

“He said, ‘What happens is when they find one they think that’s it. They don’t think there are more’.

“Sam was driving around for a couple of weeks before he got them all.”

They had just one more season together as the end of ITV Digital signalled the start of a new era at Turf Moor.

Weller had been offered a contract by Ternent mid-season but with the collapse of a lucrative television deal the budget was slashed and Weller’s contract was more than halved.

He said he would sign it, but wanted to wait until the end of the season. By that point however, it was too late.

Ternent’s own contract was not renewed and the offers he had made to others were null and void.

“When it was Stan and Glen’s last game against Sunderland in 2004, I didn’t know it was mine too,” he said.

“The day before my wedding that summer Steve Cotterill rang me and said ‘I’m releasing you. You’re not on holiday are you?’.

“He didn’t know about the wedding. A few days before my honeymoon I went back to the club for my P45.”

After training with former Turf Moor team-mates Chris Brass and Steve Davis at York City, Weller went to Rochdale. But he walked away after just five games. Bar those non-contract outings he was a one-club-man.

“I wasn’t enjoying the football and my body was in bits,” said the father-of-two.

“I couldn’t get as fit as I wanted to and I’d just had enough.”

It prompted a Turf Moor return working in the community department, running the leisure centre on site and assisting Vince Overson with the youth set-up.

After four years he joined Bury as community manager before progressing to general manager of the community trust – a role that he left earlier this year.

But football, and Burnley, will always have his focus.

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