Football: Waddle's plan to wake up `sleeping giant'

Glenn Moore talks to a superstar eager to learn his trade as a manager
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The Independent Online
It was a steamy afternoon in Lincoln and Chris Waddle, former wing wizard and terrace hero from Tyneside to Provence, was helping to cart Burnley's match kit into the changing rooms at Sincil Bank. Alongside him, offering a helping hand, was Frank Teasdale, the Burnley chairman.

Welcome to life in the Nationwide League's Second Division. It is hard to imagine Kenny Dalglish and Sir John Hall pushing the kit skip at Newcastle, where Waddle began his playing career, or Irving Scholar and Bernard Tapie, the chairmen of Spurs and Marseilles when Waddle was playing for them. Like several contemporaries, Waddle could have cut his managerial teeth in the Premiership, so why Burnley?

Waddle, who makes his home debut as manager against Gillingham this afternoon, explained: "A lot of people I spoke to said `work as high as you can', a lot said `go and learn your trade'. I think this club fits both. They have the potential to be regarded as a sleeping giant. It should be a good First Division club at least. I have a three-year contract and that's my target. I had no connection with the club, apart from playing there once with Newcastle and getting beat, but I had waited for a club of this stature."

By the standards of the division Burnley are very well supported and well funded. They just missed out on the play-offs under Adrian Heath last year and, importantly for Waddle, have a tradition of good football.

"I like to play," he said. "I hate long-ball football. There will be times we do hit it long, no team can pass pass perfect all the time, but I've said to the players, `get it, pass it, move'. I'd never resort to direct football. If success means doing that I'd rather walk away, go and follow a team as a spectator instead."

Waddle's first three matches are against teams who play the direct game to varying degrees. Last Saturday they lost at Watford, today Waddle makes his home debut against Gillingham. In between, they were at Lincoln for a Coca-Cola Cup tie.

It is five hours before the game but Burnley are taking the opportunity to lay out the kit before the crowd gathers - and to have a look at the pitch to see if the infamous John Beck, now manager of Lincoln, has done anything to it.

It looks perfect but one of the groundstaff admits that when Beck arrived he attempted to have the corners banked as on a cycle track so a long ball hit into the corners would hold up. A few holidaying schoolboys are hanging around. As usual they follow Manchester United, not the local team, and are thrilled when Waddle allows them a quick look around the bus - it is the one United use.

This is a rare touch of luxury for Burnley. Waddle admitted that while he had talked about management to a lot of people the most "invaluable" preparation was having a month as a player at Falkirk last season and five at Bradford. "I'd been accustomed to clubs where you can wave a cheque book around and where everything was geared to the players. Where you were spoilt. I'm not saying those clubs are small clubs but they were not as big as the ones I was used to and that gave me a different expectancy."

Waddle has spent pounds 600,000 bringing in former Premiership players Mark Ford (Leeds), Steve Blatherwick (Nottingham Forest), Lee Howey (Sunderland) and Michael Williams (Sheffield Wednesday) along with Marco Gentile, nephew of the infamous Claudio Gentile. He also has an impressive back-room staff of Glenn Roeder, Gordon Cowans and Chris Woods, who is also eligible to play. Not surprisingly, the bookmakers have Burnley down at 9-4 to gain promotion.

"If the bookies are right, I'll be happy but I don't have a magic wand. It would be a massive achievement to go up this season, new players need time to settle. All I can do is get the players to believe in what we are trying to achieve, to play football, give effort and commitment. We won't fail for lack of effort, it will be because we were not good enough or did not have the luck. People say luck levels itself out. I'm not a great believer in that."

Continental theory is in vogue and he will introduce afternoon training later in the season but notes: "Marseilles' training wasn't hard. People say `you do morning and afternoon' but we'd do 40 minutes in the morning and 45 in the afternoon. It is pointless doing it because they do it. It has got to be beneficial. We have cut out all the chips and stuff like that but you can't watch them 24 hours a day. Me and Jean-Pierre Papin used to have a McDonalds after training. You just hope that players are good pros and when they leave training they go home, they eat sensibly, they stay in and do all that, but English players are a breed of their own."

Supporters, too. In the evening Waddle is taunted with chants of "you're not famous anymore" when he warms up, but he had earlier recalled: "I, noticed a difference in the way I was perceived when I came back from France. People always say you are a good player in your country but if you go abroad, and do very well, you are looked at differently. When I came back I was known as a great player - and I was a better player. Also, everybody was saying how well I was playing yet I could not get in the England squad."

Ironically, the man who would not pick him was his first opponent as manager, Graham Taylor having returned to Watford. "It wasn't a problem. I don't bear any grudges against Graham. He was manager and he had to make decisions about who to pick and leave out, I'll have to do the same."

Taylor is also at Lincoln, probably to watch Lincoln's Gareth Ainsworth, a modern-day Nigel Callaghan who causes Burnley problems from the start. Burnley are clearly the better footballing side but they have problems on the flanks and, despite the first of three superlative saves by Marlon Beresford, are behind to an excellent Phil Stant goal at half-time.

Waddle, who is not fully fit, has made himself substitute. On the touchline he is a prowler, pacing about the manager's box like an expectant father, but he shows little emotion. Only once does he berate the lenient referee, ex-player Steve Baines, when Paul Barnes is unfairly pulled back. Most of the time he restricts himself to clapping and encouraging his team.

With 13 minutes to go he is rewarded when Howey heads in a corner. Waddle, pleased with the team's resilience, leads the mutual applause with the 436-strong away support then heads for the dressing room before re-emerging for the long round of media interviews.

Then it is home to Sheffield to reacquaint himself with the family. I remind him of an interview when his wife, Lorna, complained that she would send him out for a takeaway and he would stop on the way back to watch a kids pick-up game in the park, so keen was he on football, and would come back with a cold dinner.

Waddle confirms that he has not changed, this week he watched six live and two televised games.

"I'll be seeing a lot of football this season. I knew it would be hard until I got into a routine but I haven't just gone and said to Lorna `I'm taking this job'. I've been offered jobs since I was 32 [he is 36] and we've talked about it for years. She said `go for it'."