How exciting life is at the moment.
The 1 – 1 against Birmingham in October was one of the best games I’ve seen even though I deeply dislike a scoreline that says 1 – 1. I always think what’s the point of playing a game that ends that way. At least with a 0 – 0 there’s the satisfaction of a clean sheet and a 2 – 2 there’s four goals to entertain us. But a 1 – 1 is such a dull thing. I always come away moaning and groaning at the sheer pointlessness of it – but not after the Birmingham game. Boy did we play well, played them off the park, and only a momentary aberration gave them the equaliser. It made me remember how in the old days when I were nobbut a lad, Jimmy Mac would have wound down the clock taking the ball into the corner flag and wasted time by sticking out his backside, screening and shielding the ball so that he could spend up to five minutes there till the whistle went. While he did that we read Harry Potts programme notes. Robbie Blake has the skill to do it but clearly no one has ever shown him a Jimmy Mac bit of film or told him all about it. (October 18th 2008)
I have to own up to something I said: I was a bit critical of Robbie in the Birmingham game. I forget whether I wrote it somewhere or said it to someone. I think I said that his legs might finally have gone. I know; how could I? Class tells, and Robbie has it in buckets. I have said three Hail Mary’s and sacrificed a couple of chickens. I have given a donation to Help the Aged and have been out selling poppies. I have learned my lesson and washed my mouth with soap and water. His goal against Coventry was a piece of Robbie magic his little legs going ten to the dozen. His goal against Reading was just sublime. How he threaded it through that crowd of Reading players will remain one of life’s mysteries. His masterclass against Norwich was almost McIlroy-esque. One run along the by-line and it could have been Jimmy Mac. For those who never saw Jimmy Mac play, this was what he did half a dozen times a game.
Robbie’s underwear shows he is a man of distinction, elegance and quality. Meanwhile it says much for the Burnley public that the first batch of repro Robbie pants was sold out by the club shop within 24 hours. It says much for the media that the red-top dailies and Sky Sports all gave them a splash.
Up above I said I thought the Birmingham game was one of the best I’ve seen. The Reading game was even better. It was a game with everything; the injury-hit, patched-up underdog against the recent parachute payment Premiership team with a host of star players, and third in the table when the game began. The home team was battered, was the general verdict, Jensen in goal had a marvellous evening and the post and crossbar saved Burnley three times. But even against that background the revealing on-and-off-target shots stats showed that there was little between the teams in terms of chances. And then the mercurial Blake came on. How embarrassed I am to have effectively written him off some weeks ago. His goal defies description; a posse of Reading players surrounded him, but in it went and the ground erupted. It was a magical evening.
The Claretsmad website went into overdrive in their praise for Burnley in general and Jensen in particular. Their player-ratings thread gave him a string of tens. The accolades were spoiled only by those who felt it necessary to include comments such as “he owes us a performance like this.” A vociferous little group on the Claretsmad site criticise him constantly. One comment was particularly crass:
“No-one can say Brian Jensen wasn’t outstanding last night. However one exceptional performance does not outweigh all the mistakes he has made and in all likelihood will continue to make in his time at Turf Moor.”
If he makes one mistake in a game he is castigated. But, if he was faultless he would play in the Prem not at Turf Moor. I’m back on my hobby-horse again and always ask why is it that a forward can miss sitters that can cost a game, but they are soon forgotten when he does score. But a goalkeeper makes a mistake and it is remembered for weeks, his great saves forgotten. I remember the game at PNE some years ago that we lost 3 – 5. Glen Little missed an absolute open-goal sitter right in front of us all, and immediately PNE went up the field and scored. Guess who was the villain that day? It was Jensen yet I went home wondering just how we had lost by that score and what I still remember is Little’s glaring miss. It was a defining moment in the game. This is not the first time that Jensen has won a game for us; there was the 2 – 1 win at Bradford, under Stan Ternent, near the end of a season at a time when a defeat would probably have contributed to relegation. There have been others.
So: just suppose we are promoted this season or at least reach the top six, let no-one forget the three points won by the Beast against Reading. Poor Penny, all this way to sit on the bench, but yet again Jensen fights off the intended replacement. As I write this we have played 18 games and in 14 of them we have conceded just one goal or kept a clean sheet. That sounds like decent goalkeeping to me. Added to which is that four of the goals we have conceded in the first game of the season were let in not by Jensen but by Penny. (October 30th 2008)
Emmerdale BFC tie sensation:
Watch out for the Emmerdale episodes (maybe they’ll have been on already by the time this mag is distributed) where the evil Pollard (Chris Chittell) will wear his newly acquired BFC tie. This is the tie presented to him at the No Nay Never dinner in October. Chris had recently won an award for appearing in Emmerdale for 22 years. Fellow thespian and Burnley boy (actually pensioner age these days) Richard Moore made a little speech, congratulated Chris on his achievement, and then had us gasping in amazement as one of the club’s highest awards was bestowed on Chris – a gift of one of the coveted club ties – a staggering £9.99 from the club shop. Chris thus joins a small but distinguished list of soap stars who have worn BFC clothing on TV; Richard Moore being the other, (Jarvis the binman), again in Emmerdale with his woolly hat.
Got a copy of ‘Swanny’, Peter Swan’s new book: There are two lengthy BFC chapters about his two spells at the club, and in between them comes a chapter about his time with Stan at Bury. What comes across is his high regard for Stan and the simple fact that he regards him as the best manager he has ever worked for. He hasn’t quite had the same number of clubs as Jack Nicklaus but has worked for enough managers to be able to make a judgment.
This is a readable and entertaining book but I do suggest you don’t rush out to spend £17.99 on the hardback – wait for the paperback and then enjoy a ‘good read’ on holiday.
There is a definite formula for these books and publishers John Blake seem to have mastered the art. It doesn’t quite have the same blatant, in-yer-face, machine-gun, tabloid style of Tony Livesey’s classic about Stan, but there are all the usual ingredients of “going out on the piss with the lads,” confrontations with managers, drinking, head-butting, playing through the pain barrier, fun-filled pranks (moving each others’ cars around and hiding them seems to have been a favourite - wow), the use of suppositories, plus assorted footballer adventures and escapades. Meanwhile, back home is the long-suffering and dutiful wife who props up the absent husband and to whom he is ever grateful. And in spite of signing on fees he never got in full, and finishing the game in danger of being a cripple, all ends well as the lad comes good and now whizzes up and down the length and breadth of the land summarising Hull City games and sending in a column for the Hull local rag, and he’s ever so grateful for what football has done for him and how good life is now.
The sub-title lets you know what you are in for Confessions of a Lower League Legend. The sub-sub-title tells you this is not gonna be Shakespeare: ‘There weren’t many Ferraris and leggy blondes around in my day. All I got for 500 games was a few quid and a dodgy knee.’ For 16 years he was a fully paid up member of football’s drink culture. As a young lad at Leeds old pros like Charlton, Hunter and Jordan taught him all the dirty tricks of the trade. His philosophy is that the game is about money not winning trophies; trophies don’t pay the mortgage he announces. On a youth tour in Italy he was able to shake hands with the Pope one day. From that day on his niggling back problem healed. Is that spooky or what?
It’s a lower league book, if you know what I mean, but at least is based on a full and gritty, eventful career, unlike the pap and drivel that comes from the likes of Rooney, and Ashley Cole. There’s even a new Owen Hargreaves book on the shelves and if anyone can tell me just what he has done that’s worth writing about, please do. For this reason Swanny’s tome gets the thumbs up from me and is certainly worth grabbing at the airport next summer if it is 3 for the price of 2 at Waterstones.
While I was reading it came the news that Stan had left Huddersfield, ‘sacked by mutual consent’ was one summary. The chairman said somewhere that even if they had been ten points clear at the top, Stan’s departure would still have had to go. With him go the physio, plus Jeppo and Docho and Andrew Watson - behind the scenes politics and machinations it sounds like to me? Of course it has nothing to do with Boothroyd getting the chop at Watford the day before was another comment.
The Chelsea game saw the most astonishing ticket sales.
There was a 6,100 away end sell-out. And on top of that there were undoubtedly many more in the other stands and in the corporate areas. When has the club ever before had a waiting list for tickets or had to lay on extra coaches?
Yours truly was in the West Stand with a Chelsea chum. We motored up from Kent early morning and spent a happy afternoon wandering the length of the Kings Road. I have never seen so many shoe shops in my life. Her indoors was in heaven. I looked in vain on the shelves at Waterstone’s for any of my books. The nearest I ever got was one copy of the Willie Irvine book on the shelf in Waterstone’s in Leeds. Ironically it was damaged. It was tempting to write Please Buy Me on the cover.
A bit of celebrity spotting (there weren’t any) and a late afternoon lunch plus copious bottles of wine set us up nicely for the evening.
From the West Stand the sight of the Claret ranks in the Shed End was truly awesome. I’ve seen and heard some things in my time but this was one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed. The sight was fabulous; the noise was thunderous, great deafening rolls of sound, chants and songs cascading down to the pitch all night long; the power and the passion quite glorious. It will be forever remembered. This was the old Longside transported in time and place. It was difficult to decide whether it was better to be in it and part of it; or where I was, so that I was able to witness it. The Chelsea folk around us were truly open-mouthed and astonished at it all.
Some of them remembered our great days when we could go down there in the early sixties and win 6 – 2. Some of them were able to chat about the 4 – 4 game at Turf Moor when our reserve side took on their first team because our first team were being ‘rested’ - quite unheard of in those days. As a result there was severe criticism of the club and Bob Lord, and a £1,000 fine. J. L. Manning in the Daily Mail was particularly vehement towards old Bob. Today playing a second team is common practice at the big clubs. It was also against Chelsea in the fifties that there was a Cup game and FOUR replays until Chelsea finally won the tie.
Light years and millions of pounds now separate the two clubs but it wasn’t always so. To the majority of Chelsea fans today, consumers of chardonnay, sun-dried tomatoes and filter-coffee at chic pavement cafes, we are a small unknown town in a part of the land which is quite alien to anything they know and understand. Astonishingly there is still an image of cloth caps, cobbles and mill chimneys, peopled by folk who eat fish and chips every day. But just a few of them can still acknowledge what a club Burnley once were and the names Bob Lord, Harry Potts and Jimmy McIlroy came up very quickly. If us oldies always associate the name Jimmy Greaves with Chelsea, then Chelsea oldies talk of Jimmy Mac with similar admiration and fond memories.
It was a privilege to have been there and will remain one of those occasions when you say “I was there.” The memories will remain for a long, long time.
Dave Thomas November 2008