Stan the Man: A Hard Life in Football

Stan the Man: A Hard Life in Football

by Stan Ternent, Tony Livesey


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This is the extraordinary life story of Stan Ternent, one of the most outrageous managers in professional soccer. Celebrated for achieving a series of promotions on shoestring budgets, he has coached some of soccer's biggest names, including Ian Wright, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise, and Gazza. Stan's outspoken attitude and uncompromising behavior have been legendary within soccer circles for years, and so have his punch-ups. Now for the first time, the Burnley manager—called "one of the greatest characters in the game" by the Scot who manages Man United—reveals his amazing exploits from four decades as a soccer icon.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781904034377
Publisher: John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 01/01/2003
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 2.10(d)

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Stan the Man

A Hard Life in Football

By Stan Ternent, Tony Livesey

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2004 Stan Ternent and Tony Livesey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84454-018-1


'You Know What It's Like with a Bird on Your Arm ...'

BURNLEY, 1998–99

My wife bolted upright in bed as ominously as a corpse with wind. The ringing of the telephone, now clamped to her ear, had woken us both. Her face paled as she registered the abuse pouring down the line.


Kath leaned over and tapped me on the head with the receiver.

'It's for you.'

The caller had a point he wanted to make and seemed pretty insistent.

'YOU FAT BAAASTARD!' he shouted again.

Understand this: after 40 years in football, I have suffered. I've been spat at; pelted with beer cans; assaulted with turds (human and dog); locked in police cells; headbutted by my own centre-forward; hit with a brick; suspected of being the Yorkshire Ripper; the victim of an assassination attempt by two Premiership stars and I've worked with a pair of the biggest shits in soccer.

So you would imagine I was immune to a touch of long-distance verbals.

Not so.

It was 11.00pm. I'd been in my pyjamas for over an hour and in a bad mood for longer. If I could have laid my hands on this lunatic phone-pest I would have knocked him clean out. Then it clicked. I recognised his voice.

'Hello, Jonah,' I said.

Vinnie Jones. The ultimate competitor. A gentleman. A man who shot down a plane for me. A man who comforted me as I approached a nervous breakdown at Chelsea during one of the lowest points in my life. Piss-taker extraordinaire. I relaxed.


Me: I heard you the first time.

Vinnie: I've just seen you on telly. I need a fucking widescreen TV!

Vinnie had watched Sky Sports on television and had stumbled across a story which barely made headlines beyond a five-mile radius of my farmhouse in the Lancashire hills. It was May 1998 and I'd just spent my first day as manager of Second Division Burnley.

Strangely, I was relieved to hear Vinnie's kind words. His call had rudely interrupted a self-pitying wallow as I digested the cancerous state of the club I had inherited less than 24 hours earlier. Too many of my new squad were worse than rubbish. As a young player for Burnley in the 1960s, the Turf Moor I knew was a stage for their championship-winning legends. That morning, it had resembled a knackers' yard.

I had to suppress the urge to be sick when it dawned on me that the centre-halves I'd been lumbered with were capable of being outjumped at corners by Jimmy Krankie and his little brother.

This was all doubly disturbing when I considered the Burnley fans I was supposed to satisfy. They are loyal, fiercely proud and loudly partisan. Some of them can be a tad judgemental, too. When ex-manager Jimmy Mullen led the club to immediate relegation the season after he took them to Division One in 1994, supporters tried to set fire to his wife in a chip shop.

Vinnie: Listen, Stan. Good luck. I'm off to LA tomorrow for filming. Call me, but not at 4.00pm. I'm playing tennis with Rod.

Me: Who's that ... Rod Hull?

Vinnie was destined to move in different circles to me. He would be in make-up by the time I rolled out of bed to begin the most gruelling, depressing, punishing and exhilarating four years of my life.

Faced with nothing more taxing than months of Los Angeles sunshine and Hollywood pampering, Vinnie ended his gee-up call by bollocking me for not attending his Hello! magazine wedding and asking why I had accepted the job at Burnley. 'Where is it, anyhow?' he wondered.

Sadly, Burnley exists in a place neither Jonah nor many other Premiership stars will ever recognise. I, on the other hand, knew it well.

I had married a Burnley lass and made my home in the town 30 years ago after spending six years at the club as an apprentice and senior pro. I see it on sunny days when heather blanketing the surrounding moorland competes with the sunset to bathe us in a purple hue. I see it on autumn evenings when a badger will come snuffling through the wind-blown leaves piled against my garden fence.

Unfortunately, on the rare occasions those muppets from Grandstand come to town, they film cobbled streets, whippets and blokes with beer guts and their arses hanging out of their jeans.

The club has produced some stunning players – Tommy Lawton, Jimmy Adamson, Jimmy McIlroy, Leighton James, Trevor Steven, Ralph Coates – but if you want footage of them in action, the BBC cupboard is bare.

Ask the Beeb for clips of back-to-back terraced housing or an interview with a bloke in a flat cap smoking tabs and there are so many videos they have to be delivered by sweaty 17-year-old research assistants from the Home Counties using a forklift truck.

After a race riot a couple of years ago when the town's Duke of York pub was burned to the ground live on CNN, inspectors said Burnley had all the problems of an inner city with none of the benefits.

True, some areas in the centre consist of clumps of squalid houses owned by people whose weekly wage barely keeps their children in school clothes. Some homes are so damp they don't have rent books, they have tide tables. Drugs are dealt. Kids go hungry. Hardly news to anyone living in Britain today.

The crucial difference in Burnley those officials failed to recognise is that the town survives because its spirit has never been broken. And central to its fight against decline is Turf Moor, home of Burnley FC. It is the most important entity in town. It defines the place. Generations of locals have worshipped at its altar.

The stadium towers over surrounding streets like an aircraft carrier in dry dock. The club won the FA Cup in 1914 in the days when the coach on their home-coming parade was horse-drawn. It won the old First Division title in 1960 and has been champion of every other division at least once since it was formed in 1882. Burnley even reached the quarter-final of the European Cup in the Sixties.

It's easy to forget that, before World War II, Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Preston and Burnley won 14 FA Cups between them. Everton, Liverpool, Man City and Man United won five.

No one can question the club's pedigree. But it's all too long ago. The combination for the lock on Turf Moor's trophy cabinet remains set at Harold Macmillan's hat-size. Memories of those glory days are slowly dying with the stars and the fans who witnessed them.

In true Dunkirk spirit, Burnley supporters now hold slap-up dinners to commemorate a more recent historic victory, known as 'The Orient Game'.

When Football League bosses decided in 1987 to boot out clubs which finished bottom of the Fourth Division, they didn't imagine that on the last day of the season it would be Burnley, one of their own founder members, facing the chop. There was horrified embarrassment at the highest levels of the game. There was even talk of a compromise to let the club off.

But that was daft. Rules are rules. Burnley had only themselves to blame and, to be fair, they were crap. I'd bobbed down a few times from my home a couple of miles away to watch the lads training and it wasn't pretty.

On the day of their final game against Leyton Orient, that season's average gate of around 4,000 was obliterated as 17,000 fans poured in to watch. Most of the big-name newspaper, radio and TV members of the Claptrappers Union who packed into Turf Moor were desperate to see Burnley go under. They'd come to bury the club under a mound of meaningless drivel about 'sleeping giants' and 'the end of an era'.

But passions were stirred, and supporters who forgot what it was like to be aroused by 11 blokes in shorts were reduced to quivering wrecks, the way their fathers had been when Burnley competed for First Division titles almost 30 years before. There was a frenzy about the town that day.

Orient manager Frank Clark has since claimed that he was told before the match that police couldn't guarantee his team's safety if they came out winners. True or not, it was irrelevant.

Burnley won 2-1. A nation rejoiced. Lincoln dropped down to the Vauxhall Conference and no one noticed.

A revival of sorts followed. Burnley reached Division One again, although it took seven years, but it all ended in disaster when they dropped back into Division Two after just one disappointing season.

Fans turned on the Board. The Chairman at the time was Frank Teasdale, a plumpish fellow who blinked at you through large owlish glasses which made him look like the lovechild of snooker star Dennis Taylor and Toad of Toad Hall.

He was surrounded by directors who were well-meaning local worthies with either a few bob (but never enough) or big mouths ... or both.

Restless Burnley fans wanted revolution. After-match protests on the streets outside the ground went unnoticed, so they took their campaign inside Turf Moor.

During one game, at exactly 3.33pm, a firework exploded in mid-air behind a section of terracing. It was the signal for a bizarre display called 'Backs to the Board'. Seventy per cent of home supporters turned their backs on the game, and specifically the directors' box, as they stood in silence for one minute.

It worked. Fans got their change. But instead of quitting himself, Frank and his board clung to power while hapless manager Mullen was asked to leave.

Ex-Everton star Adrian Heath was persuaded to take the job after Mullen, but he soon sodded off to be assistant to Howard Kendall at Everton. He was followed into Turf Moor by England international Chris Waddle.

The team got worse. In their first season, Chris and his number two Glenn Roeder took Burnley to the brink of disaster. Only a last-match win against Plymouth saved them from relegation to the Third Division in the summer of 1998.

Chris left sharpish, supposedly by mutual consent. In reality, the Board had played the celebrity manager card, been bluffed and wanted rid. Chris realised he could no longer rely on their support.

Finally, it dawned on Frank to offer the manager's job to the bloke who had lived up the road from the ground for years, who was bred to the Burnley cause, who had worked for Chelsea, Leeds, Crystal Palace, Bradford City, Blackpool and Sunderland, who had just won two successive promotions on a shoestring budget at Bury, and who was better qualified than the club's last six managers put together.


I was tempted to tell him to piss off.

I knew Chris was in trouble long before it ever occurred to Frank. I was busy keeping Bury in the First Division while he fought to keep Burnley in the Second on twice my budget. I didn't see them play a match that season. I didn't see why I should. There were enough long faces in my local country pub on the fringes of town, The Kettledrum, to tell me all I needed to know.

For years, I'd been expecting Burnley to offer me a chance to take them forward. But one spring night in 1998, when a phone call begging for help finally came, it wasn't from Frank at all. Surprise, surprise.

I'd doubted he even knew my number. It was Chris himself and he was desperate. He had six games left to save his season. He wanted to meet to pick my brain.

Ironic, really. His club could have been doing that for years.

I arranged to meet Chris up the 'Drum'; he wandered in with one of his assistants, Gordon Cowans. Over our first pint, it became obvious that too many regulars were taking an interest, so we went back to my house to talk.

Chris is a decent man. But despite playing for Newcastle and England, as well as coping with all the flak he received after missing one of the crucial World Cup penalties against Germany in 1990, he was finding the expectation levels at Turf Moor difficult to deal with.

He had spent over £1m, a small fortune by Burnley's standards, to bring new players in, but his signings let him down badly. They took six games even to score a goal ... and twelve to notch a win!

I'd heard there was trouble on the training pitch. One of Burnley's better players was Glen Little, a rangy 6ft winger with a cockney accent and a motor mouth, signed from Irish club Glentoran.

Little, a favourite of the fans, complained he was treated like a leper. He said, 'It was strange. When Waddle came to the club, all the players thought we would hit the big time. But mistakes were made. The players brought in were naïve. I wasn't allowed to be part of it. I was totally bombed out. The only two who knew why were Waddle and Roeder.

'Waddle didn't even speak to me for three months. I never trained with the first team. Players who'd never played a professional game in their lives were ahead of me. It was a nightmare. I was close to leaving.'

Glen said that he was alone in the boot room one day when Waddle walked in and stood there shuffling his feet in silence. Little said, 'He just mumbled, "All right", and walked out again. Other players were embarrassed by all this. I was depressed. I was a young bloke living a long way from home. I used to ring my mum a lot and she told me to just pack it all in and come back to London.

'I was close to going. When fans challenged Roeder to pick me, he said I wasn't fit to lace Chris Waddle's boots. The supporters were frightened to have a go at Waddle so they made Roeder the scapegoat.

'Training was a laugh and a joke. Waddle would say, "What's the day? Monday? Oh, see you guys Wednesday then." On match days, Waddle would say, "Go out there and play," and some of the lads would turn round and ask, "Where?" It seemed there was no game plan.

'Waddle's team-talks on a Friday morning lasted for five minutes, then we got the footballs out and that was it.'

As Chris's season collapsed around his ears and we sat round my kitchen table, I knew, out of respect, that I had to avoid telling him how to do his job.

Besides, I didn't know a lot about the players he'd signed, though you didn't have to be Anne Robinson to realise they were weak links.

I related my Bury experiences as the night wore on and worked hard to try to find common ground. It was impossible. His body language as he sloped out to his car that night illustrated how depressed he was.

Morale inside the club had already plummeted with separate factions vying for control. Director Clive Holt angrily claimed in the privacy of the Boardroom that Waddle organised training sessions around his media commitments.

Clive believed Chris was going to disappear to France that summer to cover the World Cup for the BBC, so he wrote a memo to Teasdale complaining, 'Quite frankly, this is not satisfactory. We have got to have some ground rules ... For God's sake, we need to sort this out. We need to organise a team for next season!'

At one Board meeting, Chris sent his pal Roeder along in his place. He was monstered by Clive. Roeder was attacked at the same meeting by another Burnley director, a former local Tory councillor called Bernard Rothwell. The pair of them laid into Chris's number two over the non-selection of Little.

The next day, Chris rang the directors to try to bollock them but Clive replied, 'Tough luck.' Saving Burnley's bacon on the last day of the season was never going to be enough to save Waddle's.

It was a real shame. Chris has plenty to offer football. He is charismatic and gifted, but a club as demanding as Burnley was always going to be too exhausting and bewildering for a novice.

When the end came, I was miles away, happily swallow-diving into a triple Bacardi and Coke in sunny Magaluf with my Bury lads.

I'd kept them in a First Division that included Charlton, Wolves, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Manchester City and my Chairman, Terry Robinson, who looked like Bill Maynard's sumo-wrestling brother, was treating me and the lads to a taste of Bury's typical two-star luxury.

Terry wandered over to me by the pool one morning clutching a copy of the Daily Mail, his belly glowing bright red as though someone had opened the front door on a kitchen Aga.

'Waddle's gone,' he said.

Time to look inscrutable. 'Really?' I said. To be honest, I was astonished. I knew Chris was out of his depth but he was just cutting his teeth in football management. The only way to get experience is to hang on in there.

My career was littered with poxy chairmen, useless players and ridiculous expectation levels. I'm too proud to run away from any trouble and, after just 46 games, I wish I could have persuaded Chris to do the same.

Terry was paranoid about me leaving to manage Burnley. They had once tried to entice one of his ex-managers, Martin Dobson, and they had succeeded in nicking Frank Casper, his assistant boss, in 1989.

He said, 'Will you go?'


Excerpted from Stan the Man by Stan Ternent, Tony Livesey. Copyright © 2004 Stan Ternent and Tony Livesey. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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8 'F*** ME, ANOTHER WIG ...',
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