Phil Cavener was born on the 2nd June 1961 in North Shields, however at the age of ten he emigrated to Australia with his family in the early 1970’s. Having made an impression on the pitch down under Arsenal Football Club offered him a trial at Highbury at the age of fifteen. After his family relocated to Burnley he signed schoolboy forms for the Clarets first before signing a professional contract in May 1979.
He made his debut for the club against Leyton Orient on the 3rd November 1979 and became a regular in the Clarets first-team squad. The following season (1980-81) he made 42 appearances, scoring 4 goals. However he lost form the following season and made twelve league and cup appearances as the Clarets won the Third Division Championship.
After a loan spell at Valley Parade where he made nine appearances for Bradford City he was released by the Clarets at the end of the 1982-83 season. Cavener then went overseas and joined FK Karlskrona in Sweden where he made just one appearance. He returned to England signing for Gilligham before becoming a first-team regular at Northampton Town where he returned to Turf Moor to face Burnley in the clubs first-ever 4th Division match in August 1985.
Cavener, joined Kettering Town in the summer of 1986 and was a key member of the Vauxhall Conference side helping them reach and win the Bob Lord Trophy Final against Hendon at Wembley Stadium. However whilst driving back from the cup final he was badly injured in a car accident and spent eight months in hospital, bringing an end to his playing career.
Having joined Arlesey Town as manager he led them to a league and cup double in the 1994–95 season, which saw them win the Southern Premier Division with a record 107 points, as well as beating Oxford City 2–1 in the FA Vase Final at Wembley Stadium.
Chadwick Media this week caught up with the former Clarets midfielder to speak about his football career and time at Turf Moor. During the interview we discussed the people that have influenced his career and the best players he has played with and against over his football career.
Biggest influence on your career in football?
There can only be one person, the biggest influence on my football career was my dad
What is your best football highlight?
It’s difficult to name just one highlight, but three things come to mind the first would be scoring two goals for Burnley on my away debut in the old second division. The second would be scoring a hat-trick in a 3-2 win for Northampton Town against Torquay United and the final thing would be leading Arlesey Town out as manager at Wembley in the 1994-95 FA Vase against Oxford City which we won 2-1, brilliant day and fantastic bunch of players.
Tell us about your Football League Debut?
My league debut was against Leyton Orient at Turf Moor on the 3rd November 1979, we lost the game 2-1 and I was very nervous playing on the same team as legends like Alan Stevenson, Keith Newton, Martin Dobson, Brian Flynn, Peter Noble, Jim Thomson, Leighton James, Paul Fletcher, Steve Kindon and Vince Overson who also made his league debut in the same match.
Toughest Opponent You faced and Why?
Again it is difficult to pick out just one player, I would say the toughest opponents I faced were Ron Harris, Ray Stewart, Dennis Smith to be honest in those days all the full-backs wanted to give you a hard time and they could get away with kicking and elbowing you, it was nothing like what you see in the game today.
Best Goal you Scored and Why?
I didn’t score too many goals so the two goals I scored against Notts County in my first away game for the Clarets really stand out. The game was played at Meadow Lane in front of a crowd of 7,596 on the 29th December 1979. The first goal came on eighteen minutes after beating two men I shot from fifteen yards into the far corner of the net. The second goal was more of a team effort with Billy Hamilton, Marshall Burke and Derek Scott working hard to put me through on goal to score my second of the game.
Best Manager you Played for and Why?
I liked all the managers I played for in different ways, from Harry Potts, Brian Miller and Frank Casper (Burnley) Trevor Cherry (Bradford City), Tony Barton (Northampton Town), Graham Carr (Northampton Town), Keith Peacock (Gillingham), Alan Buckley (Kettering) all good managers and I learnt at from them all over the years.
Best Player you Played with and Why?
Again tough question, I played with some fantastic players such as Leighton James, one of the best, he had everything you ever needed in a player. Then there was Martin Dobson he was such an elegant player, Paul Fletcher who used to just hang in the air, we also had players like Steve Kindon who was fast, direct and so powerful, Trevor Steven a brilliant player and I knew when training and playing alongside him he would go onto big things. Whilst at Bradford City I played alongside some of the club legends, players such as Bobby Campbell (below), Stuart Mcall (current Bradford City Manager), Peter Jackson and Mark Ellis. At Gillingham I played in the same side as Steve Bruce, who was also in the team that I played in at Wallsend Boys Club.
You were part of the Clarets 3rd Division Championship team under Brian Miller, could you tell us about that Championship season and squad?
It was an excellent season for the club, however it was a disappointing season in some ways as I think I only played around six league games. I spent most of the season frozen out as the team were playing well and my form was not the best. I was low on confidence, but the games I did play in I really enjoyed, we had a great trip to Spain at the end of the season to celebrate and the team did fantastic to win the league. It was a top bunch of players.
What was it like playing football in Sweden for FK Karlskrona and how did it differ from the UK?
I was very disillusioned after getting released from Burnley and I had numerous offers, but I had a call from an agent about playing in Sweden. I thought why not, the problem was before my registration came through which took three weeks, the team was relegated and I had only played one game. I thought football was great a lot slower and easier than in the UK. Anyway I was asked to go out on loan or they would pay my contract up and I could go home, so I spoke to the PFA and ended up signing for Gillingham.