Michael Duff feels privileged to have played for Burnley in what he considers the best period in the club’s history since the halcyon years.
The 37-year-old has been handed a testimonial after 11 seasons with the club he joined as “a calculated risk” signing by Steve Cotterill from Cheltenham Town.
Duff has gone on to spend every season in the top two tiers with the Clarets, and is currently enjoying a second Premier League campaign - the only survivor from Burnley’s previous experience in 2009/10.
Remarkably he is the only player in Burnley’s history to twice be promoted to the top flight.
And the former Northern Ireland international believes this era is arguably the best the club have enjoyed in around half a decade, since Burnley’s glory days of the 1960s and 70s.
When Duff arrived, signed for £30,000, with a friendly game throw in, from Cheltenham, Burnley had had four years back in the First Division, as was, but had struggled for a couple of years after the collapse of ITV Digital.
It’s been a decent 11 years – there’s been a lot more highs than lowsMichael Duff
Cotterill came into a club with only eight contracted players, but he went back to his former club for Duff, and it has proved one of the most shrewd pieces of business Burnley have made.
Duff passed the 350 appearance mark for the Clarets when he returned to the side for the 1-0 win over champions Manchester City, and while the award of a benefit year usually means a player is reaching the end of his career, he is far from finished yet.
Inspired by the professionalism and longevity of former teammate Graham Alexander, Duff has bounced back from a potentially career-threatening knee injury in 2007, and is still going strong.
Having played at eight levels of the English pyramid, in ascending order, right the way to the top, he also completed a triple century of appearances for Cheltenham, and by matching that feat with the Clarets, joined the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews and Phil Neville in reaching that milestone for two different clubs.
Looking back on a rather eventful time so far at Turf Moor, Duff said: “It’s been a decent 11 years I think – there’s been a lot more highs than lows.
“The first two or three years were hard, with the situation the club were in, but when you compare that to everything now, it’s night and day.
“I watched the reserve team at the training ground the other day and the pitch was unbelievable, and you see the plans...there’ll be a nice training ground when I’ve retired!
“I’ve been lucky to have been at the club through probably the most successful period, other than the glory years back in the sixties and that, which we often get reminded about.
“But I’m proud to have played for the club.”
He is a deserving recipient of a testimonial, which was launched earlier this month, with a match to come in August at Turf Moor, and Duff said: “I’ve got a few events and dates, a few things to be confirmed, and it’s nice to be offered one.
“’I’ve spent a long time here, and it’s just an opportunity to hopefully get a few of the ex-players back to Turf Moor and have a few nights with the supporters.”
First up will be a “Michael Duff and Guests” question and answer night at Turf Moor on April 30th, with confirmed guests including current teammates Sam Vokes, Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier and his old defensive partner Clarke Carlisle.
Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m. in the James Hargreaves Suite, cost £15.
Next there will be a black tie dinner on May 14th at Hotel Football on Sir Matt Busby Way at Old Trafford, where Duff will be joined by a number of Clarets heroes from his time at the club including Wade Elliot, Alexander and Ings, with tables of 10 available.
Then comes the testimonial match, against a team to be confirmed, a golf day at former Ryder Cup venue The Belfry in Warwickshire, and a Formula One day on October 14th at Silverstone.
A percentage of proceeds from the testimonial will be donated to Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice, Middlesbrough, which cares for babies and infants aged up to five suffering from life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.
For more details, go to www.md4testimonial.co.uk