"I loved playing at Turf Moor, I think it's one of the great grounds of English football" - Adrian Heath looks back on his playing days at Burnley

Adrian Heath played in the best side in Everton's history.

Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 9:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 9:28 am
Adrian Heath in action in the 1984 Milk Cup Final

But he insists his spell as a player at Burnley in the early 1990s was every bit as enjoyable.

Under Howard Kendall, Heath twice helped the Toffees win the First Division title, as well as the European Cup Winners' Cup, while reaching the Milk Cup Final and FA Cup Final, losing both to Liverpool.

After a year at Espanyol, and spells at Aston Villa and Manchester City, a brief return to his first club Stoke City looked set to lead to a more permanent deal.

However, he ended up at Turf Moor, with Burnley fresh from winning the Fourth Division title, and Heath became a huge crowd favourite as Jimmy Mullen's side consolidated in the third tier, before winning promotion at Wembley the year after.

Heath looked back on how his move to East Lancashire came about: "I was going to sign for Stoke.

"Everything had been agreed the season before, and Lou Macari decided at the last minute that he didn't want me there, which was not only a blow...to say I wasn't very pleased at the time was an understatement.

"I'd gone there to try and help them get promotion from the Second Division, and we played in the Autoglass final, and it had gone well.

"I was pretty much settled on going home, back where I was living, where I was born, and at the last minute he let me down.

"I had plenty of offers to go into other clubs, and then Burnley came about.

"It was just after the season had started, we were away at Stockport, I went on a week to week, which eventually worked out really well for me, because you would think there's not a lot of stability with that, you're pretty much in the club's hands, but the way it worked out, I ended up getting in the team, started scoring a few goals, and I think the club realised I could still play, and I probably ended up getting the contract I wouldn't have got had I signed when I first got there.

"In your career, you go to clubs and sometimes you're lucky, you go to a place where it's the right place at the right time, and I loved my time there."

Heath was at home in a dressing room full of character and experience, and the forward enjoyed the most prolific campaign in his career in his first season: "Great set of guys, the likes of John Deary, Joe Jakub, Andy Farrell, Steve Davis, they were all an integral part of what was going on and made me feel really welcome.

"But more importantly, great guys, an experienced team, we knew what we had to do on a Saturday and got on with it.

"That first season, it was me and Mike Conroy up front, then Kevin Russell the season after, Ted McMinn came in, and we had some good players, and good characters.

"I didn't really know Jimmy (Mullen) before, I'd spoken to a few people and they told me about his nature, a really fiery guy, went after the players, but that had never been an issue for me, I didn't mind that.

"That group could have managed itself though, we knew we had to work hard in training, we had a laugh and a joke, but we took the game seriously and all had reasonable careers. Come matchday, everybody brought their best game.

"I got 23 that season, but we had a really good team, and some of the football we played that first couple of years was outstanding."

Heath was used to playing at historically big clubs, and while Burnley had fallen on hard times while he was at his peak with Everton, he was fully aware of the stature of the club: "They were really exciting days.

"I always say, and people can say it's lip service, it never was for me, I enjoyed my years there playing before I got the manager's job, as much as anywhere I'd been.

"I loved playing at Turf Moor, I think it's one of the great grounds of English football, the Longside was still there, and seeing that full when we played Plymouth in the play-offs...we had some great crowds and atmospheres, proper old English football club.

"I used to say to people, it was like being a Premier League footballer, but in the third division.

"The stadium was great, the way the club looked after you, going into the main entrance with the beautiful claret carpets, the white seats in the directors' box - I know they are only little things, but they made you feel like you played for a big club."

A sleeping giant was beginning to raise from its slumber, and Heath played a big role in the club's revival.

He hit another 10 goals the following season as Burnley beat Stockport County at Wembley in the play-off final, although he recalls upsetting the Hatters fans with a typical quip!: "Going to Wembley was something you never forget.

"I never thought we were ever going to lose the game, but it was strange, I made a throwaway comment, before the play-offs, I said hopefully we could get someone like Plymouth in the final and get a full house at Wembley, because if Stockport get there, they'll send their supporters in a taxi!

"I became the villain of the piece, and years later, when I went back managing there, I still got absolutely caned by their supporters!

"But it was a great day out, we must have had 40-odd thousand there, proper support when you consider the size of the town.

"When I think back, it was a fantastic period towards the back end of my career, that I'll always be eternally grateful for."