Name: Graham Branch
D.O.B:12th Feb 1972 (Liverpool)
Clubs:Burnley, Tranmere, Stockport, Wigan(loan), Bury(loan, Accrington Stanley
Fee payed by Burnley:Free from Stockport 1999
Signed by Stan Ternent
Last appearance for Burnley:
Burnley Stats: 240(66) Game, 18 Goals http://www.soccerbase.com/players_details.sd?playerid=917
Testimonial info: 1,809 fans turned out at Turf Moor on 7th May 2007 to say goodbye to the versatile player when the current Burnley side played a 'Branch XI'.
A Fan’s Tribute to Graham Branch
“It’s a funny old game innit”, said Jimmy Greaves one day. It certainly is and never more so in April of 2003 when Graham Branch picked up the award for Most Improved Player of the Year. “Funny,” Graham might have thought, “I’m 31 already.”
2006/07 and he’s still here at Turf Moor and deservedly so. Loyalty and long service at one club is a rare thing these days. He was signed by Stan Ternent, was big, strong, and straight-backed and had a kind of dignified regency elegance about his play. He wasn’t brilliant (and was always the first to admit it) but was dedicated, all heart, and was no mean header of a ball. He wasn’t blessed with a sprinters pace but when he worked up a head of steam could bomb forward and as long as he had control of the ball looked a real threat as he powered in from the left side towards goal.
That ‘improved-player’ award came at the end of the wacky season when we had all kinds of bizarre scores… 4 – 7… 4 – 6… 2 – 7… 2 – 6… Life is never dull at Turf Moor.
It was a season when any player could have been forgiven for keeping well clear of any awards ceremony. But Graham didn’t and something else too; he didn’t shirk a promise to meet someone in the James Hargreaves Hospitality Suite, who was very ill, after an end of season game.
What was significant though, and tells you something about the man and his character, was that this meeting took place after the home game that we lost 2 – 7 to Sheffield Wednesday. Now I don’t know about you but if I was a player the last thing I would want to do after a result like that would be to go into the JH and mingle with the fans. I’d simply want to get away as quick as I could and draw the curtains when I got home.
But not Graham Branch. He went up into the JH as planned and met the club’s guest and presented her with his shirt. After a game you’ve just lost 2 – 7, it takes a big man to do that.
Whilst he has been here at Burnley he has been the utility man, always willing, never afraid to play out of position. For a while he made the centre back place his own… Branchenbauer we called him too… he had more than one good game there.
One of them was the home against Gillingham, again towards the end of the 2002/03 season. It was a rare game when Stan Ternent went for youth. It was the game when Gareth Taylor scored a rare left-footed goal, so rare in fact that there is a rumour he had the left boot framed, and it was summed up in It’s Burnley Not Barcelona as the game when Branchy was picked as man-of-the-match because he was so lightening quick, so majestic, so commanding, and so unbeatable. It was a game where he got nothing wrong, won header after header, made no end of great tackles, and looked like he’d played there all his life.
And: it was also the game when Mrs T and I sponsored the matchball. Mrs T and female friend spent the whole game in fact trying to persuade the motm sponsors, sitting near us, that Gareth Taylor was yer man. He was up there in the Colin Firth, Mr D’ Arcy, Pride and Prejudice, wet shirt league as far as Mrs T was concerned. But in truth, there was no other contender but Branchy for the accolade and after the game our little group waited patiently for the big man to arrive upstairs in the sponsors’ area, Emma and Mrs T very disappointed of course that big Gareth would be going home early.
Mrs T’s friend, a bonny young lass, Emma by name, early twenties by age, and at that time unattached, was initially unimpressed, but when Branchy appeared, was quite beside herself. On the pitch, he looks like he could do with a bath and a shave, hair all over the place, and by the end of the game looking much the worse for wear and in need of a makeover.
The door opened. The star walked in, clean shirt, be-suited, smart tie if I remember rightly, hair brushed and under some sort of control, clean and spruce, in fact a debonair and handsome cove that might well one day make a good James Bond.
“Ooooh,” cooed Emma, instantly forgetting Gareth Taylor, heart athrob, eyes wide, mouth open, pulse racing, hands clasped. And then she spoke in reverent tones. “Doesn’t he scrub up well?”
In Stan’s final season there were two home games towards the end of the season we had to win. We won them both and those wins were down to Graham Branch. When we needed him most he was there.
It could never be said he was al the fan’s favourite player but in his own way he achieved assort of cult status. Stan Ternent never had favourites – but having said that, Branchy was one of them for his willingness and bravery.
Well done Branchy. Burnley fans will not forget you (and Emma will love you forever).
Dave Thomas November 2006.