January Part 2
THE BURNLEY MEMORABILIA SHOP is well worth a visit. I made my first trip there on Saturday afternoon before the Swansea game. Pete Shirtcliffe has done a great job there. You walk in and it’s like a mini museum with all the pictures and team groups up on the walls. It’s superbly organised, videos/DVDs play in the background, it’s warm and cosy. There’s a good selection of general football books as well as Burnley. It was the only highlight of a drab early evening. I hope Pete manages to keep it going and it is well worth supporting. I can’t think there can be many Championship teams that have a dedicated privately run shop like this. Parking was no problem; either on the nearest streets, or over the dual carriageway in the retail area. Good job I don’t live in Burnley, I’d be in there every day.
I ALWAYS FIND PIE COMPLAINTS HILARIOUS.
Sure enough after the Swansea game there were complaints that the pies ran put early. Actually I didn’t know that Holland’s made pies that could run away. Anyway you will recall that this was a game when there were vouchers for a buy-one-get-one-free pie. Naturally before the game from where I sat it seemed that people were certainly availing themselves of this generous offer as they came up the stairs. I offered to help a neighbour eat one of his but the greedy b$*t&rd ate both. I hope he is seriously ill.
Anyway all this reminded me that in NNN Vol 2, ex director Derek Gill tells another hilarious pie story involving a game where the pies ran out at an early game in the season and it merited discussion at a board meeting because of the unusual circumstances in which there weren’t enough. I won’t say more but do recommend you buy a copy of Vol 2 which is a snip at £14.99, and read his story.
I can’t wait for the next pie tasting session at the club either, the ones where they have fans coming in to taste pies in order to decide the next supplier. The one I went to was notable for the fire brigade turning up – not to put out a fire but to scoff all the pies that were on offer. As soon as they’d got wind of the event they turned up in a fire engine, dozens of them piled out, headed upstairs, all in uniform, and tucked in.
QPR REPLAY and ALL OUR PLAYERS ARE STILL HERE: Well that’s good news and bad news I suppose. On the morning of the QPR replay we might have lost McCann by now but haven’t (good news) and we might have lost Akinbiyi and Kirali by now but haven’t (bad news). I’ve no personal axe to grind re the latter two, (and will never forget Ade’s Chelsea goal), except the money they soak up. But here’s a thought about McCann. He has only to play until the end of his contract and then go on a free. That way the club loses a potential sales fee and he and his agent are in a position to negotiate a far bigger wage deal and signing on fee. I would imagine the only way McCann will leave this month or this summer is if some club desperately wants him (doubtful) or before the end of his contract if one club gets wind of another club asking about him thus starting a mini panic/race to sign him. He is the level of player you might expect to sign for a top 3 Championship club or a just-relegated Premier club; clubs with just a bit of brass to spend but not unrealistic millions. I suspect we kid ourselves that he is good enough to have top clubs scrambling over themselves to pay £4million.
Is QPR a must-win game? Yes it is, for no other reason than to stop the rot and boost morale, both ours and players. Another defeat would make 5 in the last 6 games and this is where supporters begin to feel more than just a little restless. It is a game where Owen Coyle has to address the basic problem with his last three league game selections and the problematic inclusion of both Eagles and Elliot as wide players with Eagles on the left.
I was really surprised before the game to hear Mrs T say that she’d give anything not to bother going. This is most unlike her. It is usually me that moans. She went on to explain that having seen so much good stuff this season and so many good displays and wins, having tasted the heady heights of the top six, Chelsea and Arsenal, it is now so depressing to be back to the old Burnley that we know and expect – in short, the one that raises your hopes and then lets you down. The offer of a meal at the Kettledrum and a large gin restored her flagging spirits.
A GAME TO TEST THE RESOLVE and the purse strings comes along every so often, and by gum the QPR game was it. The attendance of just 2760 must have come as a shock to all of us. I’d said to Mrs T that it might be anything between 4000 and 6000 but to be under 4000 was a eye-opener. Somewhere the reasons are there I suppose. The FA Cup is certainly no magical tournament any more unless the later stages have been reached or unless you have an Arsenal or a Man U at home to play. And then you add to that the number of games people are shelling out for at the moment. But even so 3,760; we are all shaking our heads. In terms of income it was hardly worth opening the gates I would imagine, although there was a £50,000 winners ‘prize’.
And the game itself: an opening 45 minutes that had us groaning with the sheer tedium of what was played at the pace of a practice or pre-season game; Paterson injured in the warm-up, McCann injured in the opening stages, lots of tippy-tappy, neat, tidy football from both sides but the atmosphere of a morgue. Predictions were for extra time it was already so sterile. Second half and QPR scored and from what – a Burnley individual error in midfield when the dithering Mahon was easily dispossessed, but the equaliser within minutes, just, the ball only a foot over the line before bouncing out again. The second half better, livelier, Eagles more in the game and running at QPR, Elliot bringing much needed twinkle to his early midfield role and then wide right, Thompson in at last from the start adding height, presence and his goal, but Robbie sadly still in need of an injection of vitality and sharpness. Gudjonnson was brilliant one minute with his passing, abysmal the next when they go astray like a missile over the head of the intended receiver. Again it was a night of misplaced passes or losing the ball in one to ones. Thankfully the back four (Carlisle back again) was solid and dependable. And Jensen: another super show with two top drawer saves, one of them in the closing sages defying all the laws of gravity.
Extra time came. We groaned and shivered. No team looked like scoring and then somehow, in the final minute, a long punt down the field, a high bounce; a misjudgement by the tall centre back, the high bounce comes down, suddenly Rodriguez is clear and approaching the penalty area, the goalkeeper comes out and Rodriguez from just outside the box toe pokes the ball. It rolls towards the goal, will it be wide, will it just miss… NO… it creeps in by the post. The very last minute and BEDLAM erupts. 3760 people stand up exultant and gobsmacked and relieved. No sorry 3760 minus a handful of devastated QPR fans who have sung all night and can’t believe how cruel football can be.
The consolations for this night of boredom… we won; plus the displays of Rodriguez and little Alex Macdonald who also came on; the individual skill of Elliot; and we are able to say we have seen tonight one of ‘the’ truly great saves by Jensen. But QPR – why can’t one of their super-bracket millionaires put some money into our team. QPR were abysmal and yet had the luck gone their way, could so easily have won. Burnley 2 QPR 1: and well done the Claret faithful who stuck this out.
But here’s a thought. We all knew this would be a low attendance but over 6,000 went all the way to Chelsea, over 4,000 went all the way to Spurs.
WHY HAVEN’T WE BID FOR KAKA? What a joke that a club can bid £100million for a player and pay him half a million a week. If this takes place this will finally be the moment when the English Premier League has turned totally lunatic. The oil-rich Sheiks who are funding this are contemptible. Have they nothing better to do with their money. These amounts of money would do serious good in many parts of the world. There are whole swathes of people who are living in abject poverty and who are starving to death. Just suppose some crazy oil rich billionaire landed in Burnley and we were in the same position as Man City are now, splashing these absurd sums around, I would end my support for the club. I would want no part of a place where the lunatics really have taken charge of the asylum. Exactly where does all this leave the spirit and the heart of football?
THE PRESTON RESULT LEFT ME FUMING at the outrageous decision given for Preston’s second penalty. It won them the game and consigned us to a fourth consecutive league defeat. This one, like the game away at Barnsley, was decided by incorrect refereeing.
It was back to the correct team formation, it was back to one wide player, Thompson and Paterson up front, Blake on the bench, and Alexander in front of the back four. And other then the two goals, Burnley never looked in any real trouble. Both goals were penalties, the first the referee possibly had to give from where he saw it; Jensen appearing to bring down the player. But, replays certainly showed that the forward was halfway to the ground before Jensen even touched him, and the two TV pundits also felt that the forward possibly dived, or was already falling, when he knew he had lost the ball. It was a dive, but at the speed it happened you have to give the referee the benefit of the doubt.
But, the second was a dreadful decision, the ball hitting Caldwell’s arm, both arms already in the raised position as he tussled with an opponent who had already had his own arm around Caldwell’s arm.
We played so well, did nothing wrong, had 24 goal attempts, 12 on target and still lost not because we deserved to, or because Preston were better, but because of utterly crass refereeing. This was a game handed on a plate to the opposition and the result of a game has never left me feeling so angry and irate.
You couldn’t really fault any Burnley player although no doubt there will be those who might point a finger at Jensen’s challenge that gave away penalty number one, and then at the way the ball went under him for the second penalty. Throughout the game he had far less work to do than the PNE goalkeeper who made several good saves especially one in the dieing moments from Paterson. Lonergan, the centre back Mawene and the referee won this game. The result was a travesty. You somehow don’t mind if you batter a team but they win with two fluke breakaways but two dodgy penalties is unacceptable. The second decision was so bad it ranks with the one nearly 50 years ago in 59/60 when against Blackburn in the FA up, and winning 3 – 0, with just 20 minutes to go, the ball hit Alex Elder on the arm bouncing up from a divot on the turf, and the ref awarded the penalty. Blackburn cock a hoop, went on to draw the game, and win the replay. The players still talk about it and Jimmy Mac still thinks that one decision cost them the ‘double’ that season.
I feel livid, but am left with the thought that; play as well as this on Wednesday against Spurs; and we will certainly score two… and after that anything can happen. Preston was the 36th game of the season, more than any other league team a SKY pundit said. You would not have thought so. The season is far from over; still a faint chance in the Carling Cup, still in the FA Cup and still seventh in the Championship, and still a team that can play terrific, entertaining football.
NOWT TO DO WITH BURNLEY BUT MAN CITY do provide such fabulous entertainment (usually off the field). Stuart Hall calls them The Theatre of Base Comedy. We’ve had all the fun of watching the Kaka saga end up with both sides accusing the other of pulling out. Simultaneously Robinho legs it and flies home back to Brazil from the City training camp in the sun. He says City says it was OK and they say at first they knew nowt about it and where the f*** is he? Simultaneously they sign (wait for it) Craig Bellamy he who has had 8 clubs in 9 years according to the papers. Unsettled by Spurs overtures he as good as went on strike at West Ham, allegedly, West Ham wouldn’t sell him to Spurs so in come Citeh who have enough money to buy everybody. Now by my reckoning Bellamy, he who hit a Liverpool team-mate with a golf club on one famous occasion, has not been at any club for more than just over a year. So, Citeh, avoiding the sensible option of just giving him a one-year contract, give him a 4 and half year deal. You couldn’t make it up.
SO THE BIG NIGHT CAME and before the game we consoled ourselves with the thought that for a few hours we were in the last three of the Carling Cup. Man United versus Burnley or Spurs. It looked kinda good up on the TV screen. In our heads all logic said that a 3 – 0 win and then a clean sheet in extra time was beyond all hope. But in our hearts we thought and imagined the impossible… score once… score again early in the second half… Spurs get shaky… and then anything might happen. Everest to climb and then some more, said Coyle.
I wrote that before the game. To my astonishment it is exactly what happened. But then it broke our hearts that we were unable to hang on in the dieing minutes of extra time. It will be a night to remember and treasure alongside Chelsea and Arsenal but on March 1st we will all think the same. This should be us at Wembley.
The Kettledrum was filled with noisy Spurs supporters before the game. Those who had seen the PNE game on TV all agreed those penalties were a joke. All of them were nervous and fearful of the outcome as they downed double vodkas and other drinks I’ve never even heard of.
The conditions were atrocious, cold, swirling rain that battered the ground and game relentlessly until the final moments. It was a night so bad that you’d hesitate to put your dog out in the back yard. And yet Burnley provided a night of football magic and pulsating endeavour. The task ahead seemed impossible but one by one the three goals went in; Blake superb throughout, every other player magnificent.
Goal one, a Blake curling free kick from 30 yards; the second a Blake twisting run and the pass across the goal for McCann to slam home, and then Rodriguez just minutes from full time stabbed home the third from a long deep Blake free kick. It might have been a volcano erupting as three sides of the ground went wild and the noise must have reached the heavens. We needed three goals, we scored three goals but then you knew that it was a matter of hanging on. Tottenham would have to score, would have to play better. Previously as good as invisible, they dominated all the second period of extra time as Burnley’s legs and stamina by then had totally gone. It was as simple as that. We couldn’t hold on and sheer exhaustion was the reason. Tottenham had energy left, mainly because they’d done so little up until then, and the silky skilled Pavlachenko just three minutes from the end rescued the game for them. Up front we just could not retain possession when the now ineffective, almost statuesque Ade was brought on.
It might possibly be that in a future year, when an impassive historian writes the history of this Cup run, that the substitution of Akinbiyi for Paterson will be recorded as a turning point in the game. At Chelsea his introduction was a mammoth success. In this game it was in truth a disaster for at that moment the initiative was handed to Spurs. Surely little Alex Macdonald would have had more pace, energy and movement.
In my heart then I just knew that to hang on was just too much. The ball now came back into the Burnley half with relentless regularity. Just three minutes away from the win, from the Final, from lasting fame, that’s all that remained until the Russian scored from Spurs’ only flowing move of the night. Defoe then scored another irrelevant goal as Burnley players were almost close to collapse, Eagles in particular.
We’ll remember all this for years to come, but, cruelly, the record books will not, and will simply record the plain, stark fact that Tottenham won 6 – 4 on aggregate. They won’t say how little Burnley came so close and how we all left the ground so stunned by those last three minutes, so deflated when the end finally came. They won’t record how the ground chanted Eagles’ name to support him in the dieing minutes when they knew he was utterly spent. They won’t tell of Robbie Blake’s masterclass for that is what it was. They won’t record that Jensen, with a touch, was so close to keeping out Pavlechenko’s goal. They won’t record Redknapp’s after-game words that this was the most uncomfortable night of his football life.
And they won’t record that yet again the results of games can hinge on referees’ decisions. Halsey had an excellent game save for two moments, the first early on when a Spurs back pass spooned up into the air, was heading straight into the net, but the goalkeeper made a miraculous fingertip save. The rules are clear that the goalkeeper shall not touch the ball if it is a backpass. He saved a certain goal. What should the referee have decided there - an indirect free kick at the very least from which we might have scored even earlier; or even very possibly but unlikely, a sending off? And the second – a clear first half sending off when Bentley made a two-footed tackle on Eagles that left him writhing on the floor.
Mrs T and I drove home drained, our voices hoarse, hardly speaking. The radio talk show had Spurs fans coming on saying the better team lost and how lucky they had been. It wasn’t until seeing the replays the morning-after that we saw how close Jensen was, getting his fingers to the ball, to keeping out Pavlachenko’s goal. We played so well. We were just three minutes from an impossible outcome and a London weekend. The fairy-tale ending was so close. The newspapers, the experts, the pundits, this morning praise us to the skies. But what good is all that? We lost. And that’s the end of it.
Except; on March 1st I’ll think once more of what might have been.
Dave Thomas 2009