If you were to look up the term ‘value for money’ you probably wouldn’t be surprised to see Clarets defender Michael Duff pictured alongside the definition.
A total of 383 appearances, which puts him level with Adam Blacklaw in 13th place on Burnley’s all-time appearance list, and three promotions to the Premier League all for a measly sum of £30,000.
That fee roughly translates to £78.33 per outing or £10,000 per promotion, which has seen millions of pounds injected in to the coffers at Turf Moor.
Steve Cotterill certainly knows a bargain when he sees one but not even he could have envisaged what the Northern Ireland international would go on to achieve following his switch from Cheltenham Town almost 12 years ago.
The 38-year-old, who earned a testimonial for his dedication and commitment to the club, has overseen a staggering transformation and evolution at Burnley Football Club during his time.
The development on and off the pitch has been seismic.
We’re in a really strong position now, probably the best opportunity to stay in the league now and we’ve kept the managerMichael Duff
On his arrival, the club was still choking from the collapse of ITV digital, they had secured Championship survival by the skin of their teeth, conceding more goals than all but one team in the division. The squad was also down to the bare bones.
“It’s night and day,” said Duff, who has played at eight different levels of the domestic game.
“You talk about extreme cases, it’s only Bournemouth that are any different. I think we had eight players, favourites for relegation, just survived the year before, conceded 400 million goals the year before I came and I think the brief was just stay in the division.
“We’ve grown and grown steadily. Even going up and bouncing, first time we went up we bought back the training ground and debts were paid.
“The last promotion, the training ground’s been built and this one…we’re in a really strong position now, probably the best opportunity to stay in the league now and we’ve kept the manager.”
Lifting “The Lady” and bowing out with a winners’ medal was splendidly befitting of a man who truly epitomised the character of the Clarets.
But his decision wasn’t spur of the moment. It wasn’t an option undertaken at this point to romanticise the moment. Duff’s switch from playing to coaching has been in the pipeline for some time.
Having acquired his coaching badges, prompted by a serious injury sustained against Crystal Palace in 2007, the defender will now work in the Academy in a bid to blood the next generation of players.
“There wasn’t a moment, I had quite a few conversations with the gaffer since I came out of the team,” he said.
“He knows it’s been something I wanted to do, wanted to get into. Ultimately I had a decision to make.
“He wanted to keep me at the club but it had to be in a coaching capacity. I’ve had the decision to make last couple of years but I’ve decided to play on and he was fine with that.
“The playing option got taken away, he said he wanted me about and I just think, I’ve got to 38-and-a-half, another year, two years, where ultimately it’s not a bad place to be at the minute.
“There’s the new training ground being built, we’re in the Premier League and the manager is one of the best young managers in the country. It ticked all the boxes.
“I’m looking forward to it It’s a totally new challenge and I’m quite excited. Hopefully, I can influence and help mould good, young players.”
Duff, who rates three promotions, the dramatic Carling Cup tie against Spurs and his debut against Sheffield United as his favourite moments in claret and blue, has been typically reliable, resolute and resilient throughout his tenure whether employed at full back or at the heart of the defence.
However, he admits that there was a moment of weakness where he let his guard drop during a presentation prior to the fixture against Charlton Athletic at the Valley.
“I’ve known for a long time. It’s been planned and I think it’s the right time,” he said.
“I suppose there was a little bit of infighting with myself because I know I could play on physically.
“I spoke to a lot of people because you always hear the old adage ‘play as you long as you can’. But that’s normally aimed at 32, 33 year-olds, not 38-year-olds.
“They said, ‘Do what I’m doing’. You might not enjoy going somewhere else where it’s a totally different environment for one more year.
“I’ve been planning for this moment since I’ve been 29/30, since I did that knee injury.”
Duff added: “Before the Charlton game we did a pre-match presentation. The gaffer said, ‘We all know Duffo’s retiring’ and the analyst had clipped together five-or-six minutes of footage of my career.
“It wasn’t just of Burnley, it was of Cheltenham and Northern Ireland as well. I was sat next to Scotty Arfield and he said, ‘you’re going to go here’.
“I felt fine even then and halfway through I was okay. I was fine and at the end they presented me with a Rolex watch and I started talking and all of a sudden, I don’t know where it came from, that was almost the moment, it’s happening, I am retiring.
“I was fine after that and then 12 of the lads came up to me and they’d gone as well. It was a surreal moment.
“I think it will probably hit me when I get my kit and I’ve got MD on my top instead of a four, when the lads are doing the yo-yo test and things like that.
“The group that I’ve worked with for such a long time are going one way and I’ll be going another.”