FEBRUARY PART ONE 2009
THESE ARE STANGE TIMES AT TURF MOOR: We have Cup games against Premier teams that we quietly expect to win, and League games, when with that inbuilt caution and sense of doom that is the hallmark of the football fan everywhere, we assume we will struggle
This time it was the FA Cup replay against West Brom and we won handsomely although not without the compulsory spell where we add to our collections of grey hairs and short finger-nails.
I am sorry to say I missed two of the goals, the first because I was too busy watching a woman coming up the stairs near our seats carrying three hot dogs and three cups of coffee, with just one pair of hands, and I was thinking she’ll never do it as she juggled with them and nervously hung on to them. She did do it, but then a roar signified that something had happened, I looked up to see the ball in the back of the net, and the next thing I knew I was asking what’s happened and Mrs T was shouting WE’VE SCORED.
Goal three was the other I missed. As the final whistle approached and my finger nails were slowly disappearing, I said to Mrs T that I would visit the loo when the big screen clock showed 86 minutes, so as to waste a bit of time and run the clock down. This I duly did. The huge roar above my head signified an obvious goal.
When is the last time anybody has missed two out of three goals in a match?
THE ATTENDANCE WAS A DISGRACE I THOUGHT. Prices were reasonable, Burnley was not buried beneath deep snowdrifts, it was a Premier team we were playing, and if me and Mrs T can make it from Leeds along with other people I know who travelled from Leeds, then I think it was shameful that this wasn’t at least a 9,000 crowd and even that would hardly have been respectable. At least the prize money was reasonable, £100,000 I think, not to be sneezed at. And if Arsenal are the next opponents, that is a very nice pay day on the horizon, TV fee and all. But just over six and half thousand last night was very poor and possibly 1,000 of those were from West Brom. Mrs T and I shouted Boing Boing for the last few minutes. People around us looked at us as if we were loopy. Don’t they know this is a West Brom chant?
WAS THE EVERTON/LIVERPOOL REPLAY THE WORST GAME YOU HAVE SEEN? I have never seen anything quite so dire in my life. Not even in Steve Cotterill’s time here did we ever suffer something as excruciating as that. The commentators and studio pundits tried to make it sound exciting. I can’t recall seeing one flowing move, sustained individual skill, any consecutive accurate passes. Just nothing but biff, bang, wallop, head-tennis, the ball 90 feet in the air, clatter into somebody, get rid of the ball, lose the ball, dodge the missiles and wait for some lucky break, a free-kick, a penalty, something to break the deadlock. This was in fact Premiership Cotterball.
By comparison what a delight the game at Burnley was with good football, shots on goal, individual skill, terrific individual performances – but all in front of just 6,635.
Meanwhile back to the Everton game; my heart sank when it went into extra time since all I was waiting up for were the Cup highlights later in the evening so I could see the goals I stupidly missed on Tuesday. Thank goodness young Gosling scored just a couple of minutes from the end of extra-time. Liverpool well and truly goosed as you might say by the Gosling’s one moment of twinkle-toed, penalty area flair.
The irony was that half the country missed this goal, this one flash of skill in one of the worst games ever. Somehow, just as the kid was about to score an advert comes on by mistake. I missed two goals on Tuesday. The next night several million people missed the Everton goal.
I saw the Burnley highlights and goals the next day and if there has been a better ‘assist’ than Robbie’s, as he wriggled and twisted his way round and through all those defenders, for the third I have yet to see it.
BIRMINGHAM SHOULD HAVE BEEN BLASTED OUT OF SIGHT said the Times. Absolutely true. We could have been 4 – 0 even 5 – 0 up by half time against a club with a £20million wage bill. I certainly don’t share the view that this was a good point. It was two points lost and the goal they scored can be added to the long list of pantomime goals that we have given away over the years. At a stage in the game in the first half when we could have been home and dry a poor back pass bounces up and leaves Jensen panicking as to what to do with Philips too close for comfort. Jensen heads he ball, Phillips latches onto it and bingo it’s 1 – 1. Birmingham had more of the game in the second half and Jensen was called upon several times but even then Thompson missed another golden heading chance to have won the game.
The day began badly at home as well. A flat tyre I noticed just as we were leaving to get the coach meant a trip to Bradford Kwik Fit. That was quarter to ten. With a bay free, they had a new tyre on by 10.20. £73 worse off and we had just over an hour to get to Burnley by 11.30 and no chance was I risking a trip over the ice taking the shortcut over the moors. We just made it with the roads empty, no hold-ups and just about every light green. That was the good news but after that start you could be forgiven for thinking that this would not be our day. Returning home having seen so many scoring chances wasted even after a point gained it still felt like a bad day.
This was a first trip to St Andrews and from the packed away stand there were views of jets from Birmingham Airport climbing up, and in the home stand nearest to us wonderful views of the police storming into action removing home spectators most of whom could have been no more than 14 or 15. What a quiet crowd they are, with great gaps and empty spaces. It was the packed away end that provided any atmosphere. An ex Premier club with no undersoil heating and the attendance of only 16,000 included a probable 2000 from Burnley. Just what kind of a ‘big’ club is this?
THERE IS TALK OF ADE TO GILLINGHAM or BLACKPOOL and the Gills manager says he is only waiting for a call from Burnley to sanction the move. If and when he moves or retires Ade will leave Burnley forever a legend and a cult figure. And yet just how has he managed this? Here is a player of no great skill or elegance, either on the ground or in the air, and has moved from club to club and back again. He has made a lucrative career based on not much more than bravery, power, pace and muscle. And yet his popularity remains undimmed even after the most awful of misses.
He arrived at Burnley after there was a game when he and Gifton Williams came to Burnley with Stoke and absolutely terrorised us. Steve Cotterill undoubtedly memorised this and later brought the pair of them to Turf Moor.
What we will remember him for at Burnley are not just the absolute sitters he has missed, but more importantly the moments of glory such as the Luton hat-trick (a ten man win and now part of Burnley folk-lore) and the fabulous goal at Chelsea. The first thing he ever did at the club as soon as he came on against Sunderland, was that memorable head-butt, for which he was dismissed, having been on the field for not much more than three minutes in what was his debut game. Debuts don’t come more spectacular than that. His last goal was the one he scored at Chelsea. For me, these are the two contrasting events that define his time at Burnley.
In between he has run and run, tried and tried, been totally honest and fair; and behind the scenes we are told he is a genuinely nice guy, a great clubman who goes out of his way to help people like Rodriguez. His celebration with Rodriguez after the latter’s goal against Tottenham was almost as memorable as the goal itself and he clearly shared Rodriguez’ joy.
In his first spell here he played superbly well, was almost prolific and his career seemed revitalised. He ran, chased, covered every inch of grass and scored goals. We were genuinely impressed and at last we had a hero figure. Warnock was thus tempted to take him to Sheffield but there he did little of note other than incur the wrath of Warnock who berated him on one occasion for not deliberately going down on the penalty area under a challenge. He preferred to stay on his feet and try to score.
In his second spell here he was less impressive, assuming the mantle of the old Ade (Leicester City anyone) who on some days seemed incapable of hitting a barn door with a banjo. He returned looking more like Hercules than a footballer. And yet we smiled and just accepted the penalty area gaffs. “Well, that’s Ade,” we would say and shrug with a benign and wry acceptance. At other players we would rage in frustration.
If we will remember him as a legend and cult figure when he eventually leaves, confirmation came with that one golden moment that sent 6,000 fans into raptures at Chelsea. His goal was the classic poacher’s strike, an instinctive reaction with no time to think when the opportunity presented itself. It forced the draw, against all the odds, and set up the most improbably penalty win. It is for this goal and for this reason that we shall always be grateful to him and think of him at Burnley with fondness and huge affection.
THERE IS LIFE OUTSIDE OF BURNLEY - something we might forget unless we happen to see the back page of one of the nationals. It was no surprise to see Tony Adams and his services dispensed with at Portsmouth. The big surprise there was that he was appointed in the first place. But I did feel a little sorry for him looking so beleaguered as Liverpool snatched a win there 3 – 2 after being 2 – 1 down with just 5 minutes to go. The win would have saved him I suppose; it shows the fine line between joy and despair.
The removal of Scolari so soon at Chelsea was a big shock though. In both his case and Adams’ the chalice they were handed was a poisoned one. The one at Chelsea was less obvious however, although my mate Bob the Chelsea supporter with whom we went to the Cup game, was telling us then that this team was now nothing special and contained more than one player below the standard they had been used to for so long. Scolari took over a team just at the beginning of the decline cycle and it could be said that Burnley played a part in moving that decline along. Add to all that the demise of Drogba, the half-heartedness of Anelka, the lack of big new player signings and the foundations were there for supporter dissatisfaction. Once we have disposed of Arsenal (after a draw at The Emirates) in the next round, it would be no disappointment to draw Chelsea at Turf Moor after that.
HOW MANY POINTS FOR THE PLAY-OFFS? We are all busily working out how many we need now as the season enters the final third; just 15 games remain and we are on 47 points. 9 wins and 27 more points could do it but sadly I can’t see it. 10 wins will definitely do it. I see that even less. Birmingham should have been the first of those wins. We will look back at two results with anguish I suspect – the defeats away at Preston and Barnsley when both results were decided by officials rather than players. Three teams other than the top three have hit form – Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol City. Media ‘experts’ already say that the Cup diversions have undermined Burnley’s League results. But Cup games had no effect on results at Preston and Barnsley; had no effect on the inability to take some very easy chances at Birmingham; and had no bearing at all on the two disastrous first games of the season.
THE WOLVES GAME WAS OUTSTANDING. This was another game where Burnley could have scored three at least. It was only last ditch defending and alert goalkeeping that kept the score down. Wolves are a typical McCarthy side, big, strong, muscular, pushing, shouldering, shirt-pulling, holding, awkward, niggly and difficult. Not without skill either and they moved the ball around comfortably and smoothly with pace and great movement. But Caldwell and Duff were magnificent at the heart of our own defence and Williams and Kalvanez were rarely beaten. The whole game was a magnificent advert for Championship football and one player shone throughout. Robbie Blake was yet again outstanding on the left side of midfield and at last Owen Coyle clearly knows what his best line-up is with Thompson at centre forward and Eagles on the bench. This was a superb all round display by the Clarets. Man of the match could have been any one of half a dozen players but it has to be Blake. There are moments when the clock goes back many years to Jimmy McIlroy when you watch Blake. Some of the things he is doing at the moment are reminiscent of the great man. It was yet another masterclass. It is not often that we can say that we have a player worth travelling and paying to watch.
A sixth minute goal when it is a 1 – 0 win gives us all a long and nervous afternoon. Even playing as well as we did there was always the worry that Wolves had the pace and height to get crosses over and score.
The chances we made came on a regular basis. But rather than cite profligacy and wastefulness I’d rather say it was superb defending that kept them out. Every so often half a dozen players will give a peak performance and today was one of them. Jensen had little to do other than catch a few crosses and stop an occasional long shot.
Yet again though you wonder about a referee? There was a blatant penalty in the second half when a Burnley player was wrestled/hauled to the ground. Our seats were right in line with it. The picture on the club website explicitly shows Foley blatantly pulling Paterson down by the shirt. Duff was red-carded for much less against Swansea not long ago and a penalty awarded for the merest of touches. It’s time we had a bit more luck with refereeing decisions.
I was less than impressed with the much lauded Ebanks-Blake. Duff and Calders had him in their pockets all the game. He reminded me very much of a tub of lard. Here’ a joke for the oldies… I thought he was more of a Ewbank than an Electrolux.
My pal Kev said that a friend he sat with hadn’t been to a game for over two years since the Cotterill days and couldn’t believe the standard of the football he was seeing. It really was a joy to watch for any Burnley fan or a neutral. It looks a lot better being 8th than 10th and just 3 points behind 4th place. Tuesday becomes another huge game (how many more times will we say that this season?). If results go our way we are back in the top six and back in business.
And way darn sarf guess who won? Struggling Portsmouth having sacked Adams just days ago beat Man City 2 – 0.
ISN’T IT RIDICULOUS: that if Arsenal beat Cardiff we have to wait till the weekend of March 7/8th to play the next FA Cup game? While other clubs are playing their 6th round ties we will play a 5th round tie and possibly on the daftest of nights – Monday the 9th so as to fit in with that Mickey Mouse channel, Setanta, if they decide to televise it.
If the semi final draw takes place on Sunday the 8th, and our Arsenal match is not played until the 9th, then Burnley will be in the hat for the semi finals.
Burnley or Arsenal or one of the 6th round winners VERSUS one of the other 6th round winners… I think?
IS THIS ONE OF BURNLEY’S BEST TEAMS? I have to go back to Adamson’s team of the 70s before I can recall any team that played football as delightful as this one. “Pleasing to the eye,” Coyle describes it. But how long can this team and its football be kept together and sustained? Just every now and then, by accident or design, a bunch of players comes together that clicks. This, at the moment is just such a group of players. But at the end of the season presumably Thompson and Williams will leave (rumour has it that Thompson wants to end his career back in Scotland), Blake and Elliot and Duff are another year older. Paterson and McCann could be the next sales targets. Several of this bunch of players for varying reasons may well therefore disperse at the end of season. Make the most of this season then.
DIEGO PENNY SHOPS IN ASDA has been widely reported on the Claretsmad message board. Every penny counts.
(Dave Thomas February 15th 2009)