Review Of The Season (Mar 2010) "I'm sure I've gone half deaf"" PDF Print E-mail
Written by davethomas   
Monday, 15 March 2010

 "I'm Sure I've Gone Half Deaf!"



   After the Portsmouth debacle at home none of us wanted to hear the words countdown orconundrum ever again. It took a while to recover from the feelings of dejection as we walked away. The only consolation was staying overfor the Jimmy Mac/Team of the Seventies dinner in the evening and joking with Jimmy Mac that even he could have headed the chance home that Stephen Fletcher missed. Alastair Campbell gave a cracking Burnley oriented speech, Tommy Docherty was a joy as he quietly tolda string of football jokes all related to his own time in football: “I went to 14 great clubs – well at least they were when I joined them.” And then Paul Fletcher rounded off the entertainment withtales of BFC in the seventies. Campbell had copies of his new book there to sell with proceeds going to Jimmy. They sold out – all four of them.

The mood of despondency was well and truly lifted by the time the evening ended.The local butcher round the corner had produced yet another commemorative sausage, the McIlroy Muncher. By God they were good.That was the good news. The bad news was there were only two on the plate. This bloke sure knows how to make both ends meat. Jimmy Mac was presented with a boxload big enough to last him for a lifetime.But Jimmy cracks a good joke about himself. I was with him to do an interview but he sat reading the Burnley Express. “Sorry Dave,” he said putting the paper down. “I always look at the obituary column to see if I’m in it.”

In the Sunday papers, the day after, lots of pages concentrated on the Terry/Bridgehandshake situation. Before a game all the players ceremonially shakehands. Bridge lowered his hand as he passed Terry in the line-up.Personally I was hoping he would raise his hand and smack him one.Man City gave Chelsea a bit of a pasting 4 – 2. De Jong, Bridge’s Man City colleage said that they won for their team-mate Wayne. They were angry at Terry because he had broken the unwritten football rule; that whilst it was OK to sleep with the wife of another team’s player, nobody should ever sleep with a team-mate’s wife or girlfriend. It was good to know they have such a code of honour andfirm principles. The angelic Craig Bellamy chipped in and said that everybody in football knows what Terry is like off the field. Well his wife, bless her, certainly does. Piers Morgan had a good lead headline for his Sunday piece – “They tell me Terry is nice to kids… but so were the Krays.”

There was a cracking paragraph in the Sunday Mail where Patrick Collins whohad been writing about Terry and Cole and Cheryl now Tweedy again,and Simon Cowell; and he wrote: “Thus is the game reduced to thestatus of a soap opera, awash with money, obsessed by trivia, bled by parasites, and run by those who lack both a sense of style and agrasp of history.” Of course there are exceptions he added. Luckily for us, methinks some of the exceptions are at Burnley. I can reliably inform you there are plenty of skeletons in the Burnleycupboards that have built up over the years. But, at least they staythere and nobody has phoned Max Cliiford. Us Northern lads don’thang our dirty washing out in public.

In complete contrast to guys like Terry and Cole were blokes like Adam Blacklaw. The news came through on March 1st that sadly he had passed awayand another great name from our ‘59/60 title team joined those of Brian Miller and Tommy Cummings. I was stunned to read the news. Yeshe had been ill but his death was quite sudden. Much was made of the‘best-ever’ great save Gordon Banks made from Pele in the 1970 World Cup, but I’ll tell you something. Adam made a save in the game away at Reims in the European Cup game that was even better.It’s on one of those scratchy old videos the club did some  years ago about when Burnley were great, and the way he hurls his bodyacross to make the save was just stupendous. That was a wonderful game he had and Burnley were under the cosh for much of the game buthe kept them in it so that John Connelly could race away and scorethe goal that put us through to the next round. But the save that Adam made was even more important. Watch the video and you’ll see.It rarely, if ever, gets a mention. Go back to what Patrick Collins wrote. When the likes of Cummings, Miller and Blacklaw played, he could never have written it about them. They were wonderful, honest men who represented their club and town with modesty, honour and distinction. They made no great fortunes; when they finished in the game they had to work for a living. Way back then Dubai was just aheap of sand blowing in the wind, not somewhere that you flew off to,to get a marriage back on track. For the first time in an age I chose not to watch an England game, the one versus Egypt on March 3rd.I couldn’t bear to watch overpaid prima donnas who think they are untouchable, shrug off the fans that pay their wages, and grasp at every payment that comes their way. A handful of them give all therest a bad, bad name. It needs the good guys to denounce the wrong‘uns.

Centre forwards in Blacklaw’s day were expected to give the goalkeeper some stick.They usually bounced straight off Adam and I can remember one game against Leicester City when their centre forward, a big bruiser of abloke, thought he’d clobber him. He did, but it was Blacklaw who remained unmoved, casually upright, as the centre forward slowly slithered to the floor unconscious. Adam folded his arms and stood legs astride over the body of this foolish and now inert player,totally unconcerned, watching the play continue further up the field.It is an image I have to this day, rather like one of those old sepiapictures of a big-game hunter standing triumphantly over the prey he has just felled. There were other games too when he made fantasticsaves so good that the opposition players applauded him. It’s quite heartbreaking to see these true legends one by one pass away. Time and age are cruel, and sadly unavoidable.

Adam Blacklaw, 1937– 2010, played 383 games, from 1954 until 1966. Two thingsdelighted him; seeing Burnley back in the top flight, and at last in 2009 receiving a Cap for the Scotland games he played in 1963 and1965.

How unfair it wasto see Brian Laws coming in for some criticism; he took over a place in uproar, a team that was already in a rut; but in the space of just two weeks replaced a complete backroom staff, signed a number of players, and secured Nugent’s return. Certain players have been badly missed; McCann, Caldwell, Alexander and Paterson’s return showed how much he was missed as well. That’s pretty much the core of the team. Once they are on the field, he is in the hands of the players and if a centre forward misses a sitter, and a centre half gives away two penalties, and all in the same game, hardly his fault if the game is lost.

Next up for our floundering, but not disheartened team (we were told) was Arsenal away, despite a catalogue of injuries, just a few points behind Chelsea and Man U at the top and with a 4 – 0 win over Burnley could actually go top. The heart asked would this be the unlikely away game where we got a result. The head said Arsenal in their current form would put six past us. The away tickets were sold out;the support for the club still indomitable. But after Portsmouth it really did feel like this had become a horrible season. Nobody minded getting beaten by the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U, or Spurs –the good sides. But Portsmouth - do me a favour; after that game nobody was holding their head high or thinking well at least we’re playing with pride.

In fact it turnedout to be a creditable performance at the Emirates. With minutes togo had Steve Thompson not missed a good chance it could well have ended 2 – 2. Alas, Arshevin went on to make it 3 – 1 right at the death. A procession of Bendtner misses meant that Burnley were alwaysin with a chance once Nugent had equalised Arsenal’s opener. It wasa superb poacher’s goal. A long header from a defender, one bounce, Nugent onto it and he lifted/lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper’s head. Ironically it was Theo Walcott who scored Arsenal’s second. This highly over-rated player, criticised by Chris Waddle in midweekas having no football brain went on to have his best game for an ageagainst Burnley. “Twaddle from Waddle,” said one Sunday paper. In truth Walcott had a stinker against Egypt. This time he pretty muchgave Fox a tough time whenever he had the ball – and scored aswell. A pal who was there likened poor Fox to the Invisible Man.Walcott for much of the match scooted up and down the wing as if Fox was nowhere to be seen, especially when he cut in to score.

Nevertheless, even after this 8th Burnley defeat in nine games, the Premiership was still wide open, at both top and bottom ends. Hull, West Ham and Wolves all lost to keep them down in the mix. Bolton and Wigan won and looked to be heading to safety. But for Burnley two home games in the space of four days were next – to Stoke City and then Wolves. We’ll take anything, said supporters, a couple of 1 –0 wins, we don’t care how scrappy, or how the goals come. Please let’s just steal the points any way we can. Manager Laws revealed that Leon Cort would have inside knowledge about the famed Rory Delap long-throws which hurled into the penalty area have brought Stoke a whole bunch of goals. “I’ll be picking his brains,” said Laws.That’s good to know, I thought.

As it happened Cort had a decent game; so did Nugent and the point won in the 1 – 1 draw kept us in there with a chance of survival. But dear God what alumpen lot Stoke are. You could quite see why they drive any football purist like Wenger mad. They sure ain’t pretty and the first half of this game was as bad as anything seen for years. Of course Stoke scored from one of those famed Delap throws – into the box, flicked on by one head, and flicked in by another. It looked like the advertising hoarding being moved closer to the pitch, was Burnley’ssecret weapon. Whoops, didn’t work did it; the crowd round us hated these long throws and voiced their ire at the time consuming ballwiping. Beyond these projectiles, however, it’s difficult to seewhat other football qualities Delap has. To coin a well-known expression, other than his throws, he did f*** all.

In a nutshell Burnley were awful in the first half but picked up in the second,came out fired up, played football on the floor and deservedly equalised with a fine Nugent header from a Paterson cross. Thompson too played well but for some reason was taken off and the Burnley threat (or at least their ability to mix it with the Stoke giants) decreased from that point onwards.

Not a game for the memory box then and it’s funny how the label Premiership stuck onthis game attracted 20,000+ people. A Division lower it might have scraped 12,000. It certainly wasn’t Prem football; in fact somemight argue it was not even Championship quality.

But I’ll remember two things about it. Firstly a little story I heard about why Jensen so often kicks the ball so high in the air you get neck ache watching it. A pal of mine sometimes has access to the holy of holies after a game – the boardroom. It was either the late Sandy Stewart or Phil Hughes he accosted about why Jensen continually pumps the ball 100feet up into the air. “Well at least while it’s up there, the opposition don’t have it,” replied the football expert.

And secondly, I camehome nearly deafened from this game. That bloody tannoy system. Quite why it has to be so loud is beyond me. So, I am contemplating suing Burnley Football Club because my ears still feel like cotton wool andI am sure I have gone half deaf.



Dave Thomas March11th, 2010

Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 March 2010 )
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