It took plenty by surprised, only happened because of Stan Ternent and could have lasted another season.
The transfer that stunned Burnley and gave Clarets supporters the perfect Valentine’s Day present was 20 years ago today when Ian Wright arrived in one of the most sensational signings in the history of the club.
An England international and scorer of 113 Premier League goals was swapping Celtic for the Clarets and a third tier promotion push.
Yet the former Arsenal man nearly joined one of Burnley’s promotion rivals when he made the move back down south.
Millwall, who went on to finish fifth in the third tier that season, were interested but there was one key reason why Burnley won the day – manager Ternent.
“If it wasn’t for Stan I would have gone to Millwall,” said Wright, speaking to LancsLive. “At Celtic it wasn’t going very well and I was looking to come back to England.
“Stan was integral, he was very influential on me and my game when he came to Palace in the 1980s.
“He made it very comfortable for me, I literally lived in his house with him and his missus and the boys, he is like a father figure to me.
“It was between Millwall and Burnley but because Stan Ternent was at Burnley I wanted to go back and work with him as he was so integral when I was at Palace, when I first got into the game.
“Stan called me and I said yep I’ll come, he told me he thought he had a team that could win promotion and in the end we did.”
Ternent was looking for a spark to ensure the Clarets kept up with the league’s pacesetters heading into the final few months of the campaign.
Wright was the perfect fit, a player with unquestionable ability who also lifted morale in the dressing room.
The forward made an impact and helped the club to promotion to the second tier, from where they have never looked back.
“I heard a lot about the club from back in the day,” said Wright ahead of joining. “There was a statistic that they are one of the best supported clubs in English football for the size of the town.
“Stan was brilliant when I arrived, I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome.
“My impressions were that the club was steeped in history, it was a great club and it was good to be there.”
Wright made his debut against Wigan Athletic at Turf Moor five days after signing.
The crowd was nearly 7,000 more than the previous home game and the 36-year-old completed the full 90 minutes of a 0-0 draw.
It is a day that sticks with Wright, even now.
“I know that people couldn’t believe I was there, but it was because of Stan that I was,” he added.
“I was desperate to score, I didn’t realise how hectic and hard it was to play at that level, it was tough.
“It was a fantastic reception and a full house. It was good to feel the love after leaving Celtic.”
Wright didn’t score in his first five matches for the Clarets but broke his duck with a crucial equaliser at promotion rivals Gillingham.
Burnley had twice fallen behind and, with just four minutes left Wright, who had come off the bench for the final quarter, found space in the box to level.
He sprinted off to the dug-outs, seeking out one man.
“I didn’t feel any pressure because the fans didn’t put me under any pressure,” recalls Wright.
“Stan didn’t put me under any pressure but I did say to Stan: ‘I can’t play at this level, it’s too quick for me, it’s too hectic so 15, 20 minutes at the end will do me.
“At Gillingham we were losing and Stan put me on and I scored. I ran back to Stan and hugged him for the faith he showed me because it was a great bunch of lads and Stan was magnificent.”
A few days later Wright was on target again, putting the gloss on a win over Reading – another side in contention for his signature when he left Celtic – while he made it three in four games with a superbly taken late winner against Notts County as the Clarets’ promotion push gathered momentum.
“The goal against Reading (was a real highlight),” said Wright.
“Alan Pardew was manager. He wanted me to go to Reading once he heard I was leaving Celtic but I said I’m going to go with Stan which he understood.
“(Against Notts County) I came on and scored the winner, that was a big one, that was a really good one, I really liked that one.”
Ternent’s men were now on a roll and went on to win seven of their final eight games, including a final day 2-1 success away at Scunthorpe which secured promotion as Gillingham lost to Wrexham.
For Wright it was vindication of his decision to come to a Clarets side which he felt, and of which his manager was certain, would secure a top two finish that year.
Wright added: “It was brilliant to get the promotion at the end of it because Stan said to me when he got me there: ‘Listen I think that with you just being in and around the place, in and around a really good bunch of lads think we’ve got a very good chance of getting promotion.”
“So to get it in the end and to do it at Scunthorpe – I think Glenn Little scored a fantastic goal – was a great way for me to sign off.”
That turned out to be Wright’s final game as a professional as a career in the media, which was already in full swing by the time he joined Burnley – so much so that he only trained one day a week – took hold.
The now 56-year-old is still a media regular these days but admits he would have loved one more year in the claret and blue.
“Stan offered for me to stay, he wanted me to stay for another season but unfortunately my representation at the time discouraged me and TV was beckoning,” said Wright.
“I should have stayed with Stan and maybe I would have got my coaching badges.
“If I had my time again I probably would have stayed an extra year and then anything could have happened.
“But you make these decisions and you can’t really live in regret but I do wish I had stayed with Stan – but it wasn’t meant to be.”
He added: “I know Stan wanted me to stay on but it was a great way for me to end my footballing career.
“That season I started at West Ham, went to Nottingham Forest then to Celtic and ended at Burnley.
“I was really pleased it ended in promotion.”