A Work in Progress
Now who said that before he upped sticks and left? Except this time we’re talking about the Turf Moor pitch as well as the developing side.
I liked what Des Lynam said on the opening day of the season. He spoke for all of us, the universal football fan. “Today I am getting down to the serious business of being a true sports fan again, of really caring. There are thousands like me for whom there is no comparable substitute for a weekly pilgrimage which can at least temporarily anaesthetise the various burdens of our human condition… and I want my team (name your own team here his is Brighton) to give me some joy just as I ask of them every season. There may be some suffering involved but there will certainly be caring.”
Steve Claridge was uncharacteristically generous after the opening game against Forest in the BBC show on Saturday night.
“A quality game between two of the better sides,” he said. Good Lord.
There was much debate afterwards about the decision to replace Paterson with Rodriguez on the right flank, rather than Chris Eagles. The latter always provokes discussion. Did he tweak something during his touchline warm-ups? Is that why he was seen with the physio on the floor? Opinion remains divided on Eagles but one thing is certain, and that is that he is a flair player, can bring something different to a game when needed from the subs bench, and on form can run at defences and scare them. In the blue corner are those who say he doesn’t do this often enough and there is little end product. In the claret corner are those who say he can influence and win games and provides the unexpected. In the old days (ho ho just listen to the old man talking) every team had its tricky dribbling winger who five times out of ten would usually beat his man with wing-wizadry and the crowd would roar and love it. The other five times he might fall flat on his arse or be kicked into Row Z by a scowling Neanderthal full-back like Tommy Banks. When that happened we accepted that these wingers would not win every duel and wished him better luck next time. Today’s football crowds brought up in the tradition of keep possession and take no risks, go mad if players like Eagles lose the ball. Perhaps we should turn the clock back and just accept that he ain’t gonna reach the byline every time (if he did he’d still be at Man U on £100k a week), and just appreciate the occasions that he does succeed and the flamboyance that he brings. I must confess in moments of frustration, I call him Bambi, but we need him and if promotion is the target, he can play a massive part.
Brian Laws was relieved at the win but clearly knew this was not a finished side; “Attack-wise we didn’t do as well as we hoped,” he said. And neither was it a finished pitch. The latter came in for heavy criticism from Laws for being “unfinished.” Finished down the middle but not down the outsides apparently, and cutting up badly throughout the game, being very soft. Having been started way back in May it was a pretty damning indictment. Apparently for the opening game it was eleven days behind schedule and an oil leak near the halfway line meant it had to be dug up in that area, presumably the brown patch we could all see. Apparently 20million artificial fibres had to be woven into the grass and the machines that do the job arrived late and then when they arrived there were problems with them. It takes seven hours to complete one narrow touchline to touchline strip. Perhaps we should be even more thankful that the game took place at all, and that we got the three points on a pitch that the players were literally sinking into. With this is mind, perhaps early criticisms of the first home performance were unfair.
We received a few congratulatory messages regarding our 43rd wedding anniversary on the day Burnley won 1 - 0. That’s 43 years watching Burnley together. Her first game was in 1967. I thought of an old couple I know who are in their 80s. He’s an Everton supporter but has a soft spot for Burnley and Jimmy Mac and Ray Pointer, but his Mrs has never been interested in football. He has a fund of jokes… like… There’s an old couple in bed one night and the wife turned to her husband and said… all you think about is football… once upon a time when we came to bed you used to hold me tight… so he said oh alright, and held her tight for a bit… then she said once upon a time when we came to bed you used to give me a cuddle… he thought for a minute and said oh alright and gave her a cuddle… next she said, once upon a time when you came to bed you used to kiss me… oh he said alright and gave her a kiss… it went quiet for a minute and then she said once upon a time when you came to bed you used to bite my ear… he thought for a minute and said oh alright… but then he got out of bed… what are you doing she asked him… well, he said, I’ll have ter go and put me teeth in…
Unless you only became a Burnley supporter during the Premiership season, you will no doubt remember Gabor Kiraly – he of the track suit bottoms and somewhat odd career at BFC. Well, there he was in the England v Hungary friendly on August 11th and playing rather well, in fact making four outstanding saves. Opinion is divided on his merits at BFC. Some think he was the best goalkeeper we have had for a long time and had a raw deal from Coyle, and others think he was truly dire. I’ll sit on the fence on this one and agree with both sides that he was outstanding one day and dire the next. Coyle vowed he would never play for him again after one particular game (I can’t remember which one). Coyle then signed Penny and we all know what a good investment that was by the former Messiah. The story, and I couldn’t possibly confirm this, is that Penny was brought in on the strength of a video.
Mrs T and me hummed and hahed about going to the Ipswich game. The heart said yes, the wallet said no, things being sadly tight at the minute for various reasons and don’t forget this scribbler is only a pensioner; plus there’s the decking to varnish again before it rots away. I bought the stuff three weeks ago and lousy weather ever since has delayed things. So, it was back to good old Phil Bird and the internet.
There was no Chris McCann for this game, nor will there be for some considerable time. He missed most of 09/10 and will now miss six months at least of this season with the injury now definitely diagnosed as cruciate ligament. Laws commented that in hindsight the direction taken on the injury in the first place was “sceptical.” The surgeons thought at first the ligament would re-attach itself. In fact it didn’t. Laws choice of the word “sceptical” presumably means dubious and was this indeed a quiet censure of the previous management and their announcement at one stage that there had been a miracle recovery? However, at the end of the day it meant that whenever he played he was aggravating the injury, continued to suffer niggles, until at last another examination revealed the need for full re-constructive surgery. For McCann it is devastating and for the club it meant the decision had to be made whether to make strenuous efforts to sign another quality midfielder if we were serious about wanting to get back to the Prem. Last season’s fans’ favourite Jack Cork had been made available by Chelsea and the question was would Burnley snap him up with Swansea also competing for his signature. It was reassuring to see that the club and chairman were decisive. The deal was done swiftly and this was no make do and mend with what you’ve got. It made a statement and underlined that the club were in the serious business of regaining the Premiership place. It was good to know.
On the evidence of the first game against Forest I did wonder if Ipswich would give Burnley a bit of a tubbing if they didn’t up their game a level. A couple of days before the game Keane tried to sign Jason Scotland from Wigan, a name that Burnley had been associated with on previous occasions. Brian Laws and Keane were together as players at Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough and Laws says he had his best ever game against the Liverpool’s John Barnes mainly because it was 17-year old Roy Keane who kept dumping him on the floor.
Forty years since Burnley last won at Ipswich, the days of managers Harry Potts and Bobby Robson. This game no different with a final score of 1 – 1 and all the drama in the last five minutes with Ipswich taking the lead after a goalmouth bounce-around and failure to clear. And this after Burnley had enjoyed more possession, more corners, and more shots on target without actually firing on all cylinders, still a work in progress. Eagles was brought on which was good to see ending the stories that he was out of favour.
The late equaliser came as I stomped around the house bemoaning and cursing a likely 0 – 1 defeat. But, during the countdown to full time, deep into stoppage time, Clarke Carlisle, he of telly fame and he who knows lots of big words, came up with a nine-letter beauty with a glancing header from a corner. Statisticians – when was the last time Burnley scored from a corner? Disraeli was Prime Minister it feels like. “A year ago,” said Brian Laws, “which is ludicrous and embarrassing.” Commentators Phil Bird and Darren Bentley were well pleased with the point. There’s something very satisfying with a last minute equaliser – as long as it’s Burnley’s. The players’ ecstatic celebrations were good to see; looks like there are no problems with team spirit. Mears was absent with injury, the first game missed since he signed for the club. Edgar, replacing him at right-back, was sent off, a second yellow offence; taking one for the team as the saying goes.
With back aching from grabbing the rare sunshine to get the decking done and painting benches blue because she indoors has gone all garden-chic and bijou, the wine went down well with dinner. Pity it was only egg and chips. The lamb joint we saw in Tesco was £15 so that’s where we left it. Even chickens are no longer going cheep.
Watching Wigan losing 4 – 0 to Blackpool in the first Prem game made me kind of whistful reminded me of how close it was when Burnley went to Wigan last season and a reverse of the score on that day would have seen Wigan down and Burnley survive. Ah well, down we went. But, four points, 8th, and the Ipswich point a good one. Win the home games and draw away; sounds easy, just 44 games to go. QPR remain top and Preston bottom.
Dave Thomas August 14th 2010