FEBRUARY PART TWO
THERE ARE SPOOFS AND THEN THERE ARE SUPER-SPOOFS and most of us fell for the one put out by Paul Fletcher in mid February. It was a corker. To work of course it had to have the cooperation of CM webmeister Tony Scholes who ran it on Claretsmad through the day on the CM website.
A newly voted list of the 100 Greatest Clarets was announced with the top ten being invited to a grand London ceremony (£135 a seat) at the Grosvenor Hotel where they would receive expensive watches (value £2,500) whilst the bottom 50 of the list would receive a limited edition club scarf.
The top ten, at first, looked fairly convincing, Jimmy Mac number one of course, but then you saw Paul Gascoigne at number six. Fletcher was at number ten. Many of the remaining names and placings on the list were far from convincing, for example some of them such as Martin Dobson at number 64 with Roger Eli 30 places above him.
The Claretsmad messageboard hummed with ire and fury at the daftness of some of the selections by a randomly invited selection of season ticket holders (including me) who emailed an instant response to Paul Fletcher asking whose barm pot idea was it that the selections should be made this way, and that the inclusion of Gascoigne should be over-ruled.
Behind the scenes (I can reveal for your eyes only) Martin Dobson was particularly indignant at his lowly position and Mrs Dobson announced that no way was she going to pay £135 for the dinner to see him presented with a ******* club scarf. Owen Coyle knocked on Dobbo’s office door at the club to ask him was Roger Eli really as good as number 36, nearly 30 places higher than Dobbo. A number 64 was pinned to Dobbo’s door.
And then you saw the date of the presentation – April 1st, 2009. But even then you thought well this is too early for an April Fool, this must be genuine. I must admit my sixth sense twitched when I saw Fletcher at number ten, but even than I simply thought well this is what happens when you ask random people to compile such a list instead of people who know their club history.
The spoof went on all day with over 100 people getting crosser and crosser until Fletch (via CM) issued an explanation. Yes indeed it was a spoof and was initially aimed at a selected group of his 1970s team-mates who each received a letter indicating their position in the voting lists (all in the bottom 50) and details of the event and prizes (but for them only a cheap club scarf).
His apology began with a lovely 1970s Turf Moor story. “Before I explain the spoof I need to let you know what it was like in those days, with a tale about the annual Christmas turkeys. You always wondered what the club thought of you. Each Christmas Bob Lord gave out Christmas turkeys to all players and everyone knew that your standing at the club was equivalent to the weight of your Christmas turkey. Colin Waldron, as captain, always got the biggest, and then you hoped you were somewhere near the weight of his bird, if you know what I mean. A low weight and you could be out of the door. One Christmas Brian Flynn’s turkey was so big it carried him home.”
Good one Fletch and no harm done.
SO IT IS ARSENAL AGAIN. But this time away at the Emirates in the FA Cup not the Carling. Arsenal demolished Cardiff City who were very poor on the night. Surely we can put up a better show than they did. Eduardo returned for his first game since the horrible leg break a year ago. He scored twice. The game was on Setanta, the Mickey Mouse nuisance channel that no one wants, but there was a website channel I found and saw Arsenal back to their silky best for much of the game. Even the obnoxious Bendtner scored. Arsenal have a Champions League game on the 11th so surely the game won’t be on the Monday c/o Setanta. Whatever date it is with two games so close for them you might assume they will play the kids again against us. As it turned out Setanta grabbed the game and it will be on Sunday 8th at 1.30. This is a civilised reasonable hour and we won’t be home too late unless we win of course and then who knows what will happen. The club elected to take just over 5,000 lower tier tickets and not the full 9,000 that were available if they took the upper tier as well. Apparently the club has to pay up front for the tickets and it seems reasonable to assume that they would not all sell. Neither will 5,000 be enough though, if the evidence of Chelsea is anything to go by.
THERE WERE MIXED FEELINGS LAST NIGHT at the Coventry 1 – 1 game. You didn’t know whether to see it as another two points lost as the opportunities were there but the ball would just not run (plus the Thompson howler of course) or, was it a point saved as Eagles equalised with just minutes remaining to prevent a disastrous score line? Then you remember the Jordan howler that gave them the opportunity to score (just about the only serious attempt they had all night).
You can’t say we played badly, though not as brilliantly as in the Wolves game; the football was there in spells, and the first 15 minutes buzzed as we carved them apart and the spontaneous applause after each move was more or less continuous.
But then Coventry imposed themselves, put a stranglehold on the game, weren’t particularly ambitious or imaginative and Burnley’s pace and momentum faded. Thanks to us they scored, and you felt for the rest of the game until the equaliser came that it was going to be just one of those nights as we buried our heads in our hands, and moaned and groaned at wasted chances.
But, with both Swansea and Bristol City losing, it was not entirely a wasted night and we creep to within a point of the top six. Some of the sides above and around us will need to play each other in the coming weeks, they will all drop more points so the target is still there… just.
Frustrating though wasn’t it to lose because of one bad mistake, one awful individual error, and then several spurned scoring chances. Paterson had one thunderbolt shot that must have nearly broken the goalkeeper’s hands. Bobby Charlton used to say that if you have 4 shots on target you would expect to score once. We had 13 shots on target but just the one goal, yet again this season scored as the result of a substitution or scored by a substitute.
I suppose if we had drawn with top team Wolves and got three points against Coventry we’d be well pleased with the four points. We still ended up with four, but oh how it should have been six in front of a decent 14,500 crowd thanks to the free ticket offer.
THE AVAILABLE POINTS SLIP AWAY as we draw 1 – 1 today at Norwich. By all accounts this was a poor and weary performance from at least half the side against a very poor Norwich team. Eagles had a glorious chance to make it a 2 - 1 win in the dieing minutes but skied the shot way over the bar. MOTM was Jensen with several saves to keep us in the game. With Birmingham losing, Sheffield United drawing, and Preston suffering a surprising clouting at Southampton this then was a chance to make up some ground. The two form teams however are clearly Bristol City and Swansea. Both won, the former at Reading of all places. Under normal circumstances you would consider an away point a good one, but this was at another bottom three team. How many times this season have we wasted these games against bottom-half poorer opposition? When, at the season’s end, the question is asked, why did we not reach the top six, one answer will clearly be an inability to despatch bottom end teams. Seven wins out of twelve remaining games must be the target. It is a feasible objective especially as the biggest game of them all might just conspire to be the final home game against Bristol City. Who is to say that this very last game might not decide the sixth play-off place? Two other key games are at home to Sheffield United and away to Cardiff.
By now over the last few seasons our season has usually been well and truly over. The result of the traditional post-Christmas slump – except for a couple where we slipped slowly to the bottom half and the worry and tension grew that a bottom three place beckoned.
It’s easy to feel frustrated after this game, but that’s six games unbeaten; I think back to the dire, miserable run of twenty winless games under Steve Cotterill, and instantly cheer up.
The News of the World reports that Bolton Wanderers are keen to take Coyle as manger in the summer when they will oust Gary Megson. Megson currently does well there, but is apparently unpopular with supporters.
Arsenal struggle to score these days, Sunderland this time holding them to a 0 – 0 draw. Burnley and Blake at their attacking best (rather than in Norwich mode) will give them a run for their money. My tickets have arrived and the coach seats are booked. Coaches have to be in the car park two hours before the game. It is to be hoped we can find a cosy café that does a good healthy fry-up. It looks like a 5.30 a.m. departure from the Turf then.
Blackburn Rovers are in the bottom three and now they are out of the FA Cup, beaten by Coventry. Oh dear.
THE POST CHRISTMAS SLUMP: Still so close to the top six, wonderful Cup runs, about to play Arsenal, and with everything still very much to play for, no one seems to realise that the annual post Christmas Claret slump is alive and extremely well. This didn’t occur to me until I saw this analysis from Aggi on Claretsmad in which he looked at the games played by all clubs since Christmas. It makes salutary reading. Luckily for us this seems to be the Championship that nobody wants to win.
Bristol City played ten 25 pts.
Doncaster played nine 22 pts.
Swansea played nine 18 pts.
Ipswich played ten 18 pts
Preston played ten 16 pts.
Sheffield United played nine 15 pts
Coventry played nine 15 pts.
Birmingham played nine 13 pts.
Nottingham Forest played ten 13 pts.
Cardiff played six 12 pts.
Derby County played eight 12 pts.
Sheffield Wed played ten 12 pts.
Queens Park rangers played eight 11 pts.
Reading played eight 10 pts.
Watford played eight 10 pts.
Southampton played nine 9 pts.
Burnley played ten 9 pts.
Blackpool played ten 9 pts.
Barnsley played eight 8 pts.
Charlton played nine 8 pts.
Wolves played ten 8 points.
Norwich played ten 7 pts.
Crystal Palace played seven 6 pts.
Plymouth played ten 6 pts.
Take away all the Cup hype and it’s not very impressive is it? Over a full season, relegation form isn’t it? Like many of us I suspect; I didn’t realise just how poor our form has been, and add to this the two defeats in the last two games of December and it really is alarming. Nine points from twelve games is abysmal. It’s a Championship this season that is just waiting for some team to take by the scruff of the neck with half a dozen consecutive wins. And how on earth are Wolves still top? Their form is worse than Burnley’s.
I WATCHED INTER MILAN VERSUS MAN UTD, and loved Mourhino’s interview after the game. Mourhino who will forever be known as the ‘special one’ on account of that’s how he described himself, explained that he was unable to shake hands with Alex Ferguson after the game because he went straight to his ‘special’ door at the back of his dugout. He went on to explain that he had left a £300 bottle of wine for Ferguson in his hotel room. I am intrigued as to where this door might actually lead… Narnia or Oddbins?
I DIDN’T RELISH THE SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY GAME with much anticipation other than wanting to collect another fee condom for my Burney collection. The first one that I collected, with the picture of Blacklaw on the front, sits on my Burnley shelf in between the 1973/74 team of the seventies mug, and my Corgi 1959/60. Some of these buses go for the amazing price of nearly £90 on EBay.
Anyway our record against Sheffield Wed isn’t too clever is it? We have not beaten them at Turf Moor since October 2000. I still cringe at the memory of the seven two clattering they gave us at the Turf when they had already been relegated.
And this one could have been just as bad but for the crossbar and Jensen keeping the score down to a respectable 4 – for them that is.
Just what is going on? After a week’s rest, this was a team that looked weary and leaden. It was like the old days when teams that were muscular and strong, powerful and big, used to come here and make us look puny.
We really are not as good as we think we are, or have been led to believe, as we were quite simply ripped apart by a Wednesday team that were first to everything, and had us completely in their pockets.
Nor did we help ourselves. Williams lost the ball, then a weak, insipid, wishy-washy attempt at a tackle near the touchline by Elliot let them in for the first goal. More poor defending gave away the other goals.
Other factors conspired to undermine any attempt at a fight back when the referee ignored a sure penalty when a defender clattered into the back of McDonald with the force of a steamroller. From there Wednesday went straight up the pitch and scored. The score thus became 1 - 4 rather than 2 – 3. Game over.
The current patchy poor state of the pitch does not help the Burnley passing game. But, in truth, none of this should excuse the fact that we were outplayed by a team, that probably won’t play as well as this again all season. Everything they tried came off. We were just miserable and people began to stream away when the 3rd goal went in.
Elliot who had a stinker and was taken off after 60 minutes was adjudged MOTM by the sponsors. This surely must have been some sort of drunken joke. You’d have been hard picked to choose any of them, but from our viewpoint it looked like only Blake carried any threat, skill or effort.
And so another chance to grab a top six place goes begging as Cardiff, Reading and Wolves all lost and Bristol City only drew. Amazingly we are still only just ONE point from a top six place despite having such an appalling record over the last dozen games. Amazingly Wolves still retain top spot as we move into March, with an even worse record than ours. This truly is the Championship this season that nobody wants to win.
Coyle ranted and raved about his defence after the game and promised changes and freshening things up; but who with, Carlisle, Kalvanez and Gudjonnson maybe? Rightly so perhaps, but why blame a defence when there is such a weak midfield that leaves spaces as big as the Canadian Prairies. Next: what is the point to Jensen’s stratospheric goalkicks that time and again give the ball to the opposition defenders? Where are the quick throws to a wide man streaking into space down the wings (I refuse to say channels). In fact where are the wide men streaking into space to receive a throw? Exactly – they’re not there; they don’t streak into space, do they?
Next: when will we see some variation to the usual long corner kicks? Why not a short corner every now and then? Why not try a diagonal corner to someone steaming in from outside of the box; or a near post corner to be flicked on by someone by the near post.
No, sorry to say this, but today we were poor. This was not the side that carved up Birmingham City away, or ran rings round Wolves just two weeks ago. But, there is still time to get back on track. 11 games remain and we can only hope that 6 of them will be wins, starting with Blackpool. The top six teams are currently so inconsistent that it is hard to see any of them winning any more than 5 out of their remaining games
There were two consolations. One was Eagles’ superb goal, pity it wasn’t a match winner in a key game. And then there was my free condom… this one with a picture of Graham Alexander on the front. I was determined to get one and to the embarrassment of Mrs T gleefully took it from the girl who was handing them out.
AND TOMORROW TO COMPOUND MATTERS, I shall look at Tottenham at Wembley and think just what are they doing there? Name me one other football competition in the world where a team can win a two-legged tie after the end of the second 90 minutes, and still be knocked out. Bloody madness.
THE JIMMY MAC BOOK progresses apace. Hundreds of items (match reports, photographs, action and team groups, FA Cup, 59/60 title, opponents, Northern Ireland, European Cup, programmes, old adverts, and the transfer to Stoke City) have been scanned at the printers, many of them previously unseen. This should be a prestigious 120+ page, almost A3 scrapbook size publication and the main focal items for each page are currently being selected. For more info see burnleyfcbooks.co.uk or the book section in the Longside reference. As soon as a price is known we will be taking advance orders as this will be a limited edition book. Projected publication date is October 2009 and it is hoped there will be a launch/dinner at Turf Moor.
Dave Thomas February 2009