|"Not Such A Grand Finale"|
|Written by Dave Thomas|
|Monday, 09 May 2011|
Not such a grand finale
The sub-title of the newest Burnley book “Success and Failure at Burnley Football Club” became even more appropriate. It was a season of successes and failures. Alas the failures outweighed the successes. Had it been the other way round we’d have been in the top six. And not just results, amongst the players from week to week there were successes and failures. Arguments took place all season as to the merits of Wallace, Cort and Iwelumo, not to mention Bikey and Carlisle at centre-back. Eagles too provoked argument. On form he was unplayable but off form there were games when nothing went right. Overall, did he flatter to deceive or was he the key player? Was Wembley hero Elliot a spent force? Have we seen the last of the unique Graham Alexander as a player? Questions, questions, questions to keep Eddie Howe busy all summer.
So why was this a season that ended in failure? Sheffield United and Preston would trade places in an instant. Failure for them was relegation. Failure for Burnley was a place outside the top six. We told ourselves we had the players. We told ourselves we had the money. We were told we had the ambition. The players fell over themselves in the final weeks to say they hadn’t given up. Didn’t one of them guarantee a top six place? They fell over themselves to say how disappointed they were after poor results but they were not giving up yet. It suggested there was a good team spirit; they themselves said one by one there was a good spirit. But frankly it left with Coyle. It was a Coyle spirit said Jensen in his book and Brian Laws and Eddie Howe were both then left with players who were shattered when he left; shattered by the sudden loss of energy, positivity and belief. The band of brothers of 2008/09 was no more, even though all bar two were still at the club. Neither Laws nor Howe were able to replicate it.
And so to the Cardiff game. It was fitting that Rodriguez scored the goal. The Bikey pass was sublime. It was a shame that the odious Bellamy scored the Cardiff leveller. It was kind of fitting that it ended 1 – 1 a sort of metaphor for the season – promise turning to disappointment.
Maybe we expect too much. This was a season that included a managerial change. It has to be said it was a change that most people wanted. It was a change that could have been made at the end of last season but wasn’t. From the moment Brian Laws took over he was in an unenviable position facing players who’d had the rug pulled from under their feet by the guy who walked out, and fans who were totally surprised by the appointment.The history books might reveal in some detail one day just what he had to contend with. If the players had the rug pulled from under their own feet, I’ll always suspect there were players who then pulled the rug from under Laws’ feet. In more than just a few games in the Prem season the finger of blame (and a national journalist I know) pointed at down-hearted players not Laws.
On the final day as I watched SKY Sports and QPR and the other teams in the play-offs I wondered if I’d feel any real sense of envy at their success, or disappointment at Burnley’s failure. I actually didn’t feel either. Truth is we were never ever really good enough this season. A top six place never ever looked likely as we headed towards December. What I did find myself thinking was that it was only a year since we played the last Prem game. Somehow this last one has seemed longer than usual and the longer it went on there was a kind of increasing realisation and acceptance that this was going to be a wasted season – transitional the preferred word in some quarters.
On the other hand, if next season is successful, then you could argue that that the appointment of Eddie Howe means that this season has not been a waste. But there’s that word “if” the biggest word in football. If we hadn’t thrown away two-goal leads so often, if penalties had been awarded when they should have been, if Burnley had scored instead of hitting the woodwork so often in the first weeks of the season, if Alexander had not missed the penalty against Bristol City, if Burnley had actually turned up at Leicester, Bristol and Leeds, if Burnley had got more shots on target... you could go on all night. But overall, at the end of the season, the table says the teams above us were better than we were.
So: onto 2011/12 and trips to Brighton and Southampton, West Ham again it looks like; but no trip to Preston or Sheffield United. Two years ago at Wembley Burnley and Sheffield were level-pegging and look where Sheffield are now. Their fans must be shell-shocked. Without that lifesaving Wembley win it could so easily have been us that went on the downward spiral. That’s a good enough reason maybe to be happy with 8th in the Championship. Burnley still have three more seasons of parachute money including another £16million next season. That doesn’t make relegation impossible, but it does make it unthinkable.
A 1 – 0 win over Cardiff to mark the last game would have been nice, but in a way the 1 -1 was a reminder of the vast amount of work that needs to be done to make this a team that can score goals at one end, or at least get more shots on target; and keep them out at the other with defenders who will be a lot more dependable than they have been this season.
Eddie Howe thinks he has a good squad; Paterson, a properly fit McCann, Austin should make a difference. He thinks all it needs is some tweaking but there is no word on where Cork will be. We shall see. Come August we’ll all be ready and rarin’ to go again.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 May 2011 )|