I sometimes wonder what on earth I shall scribble down next. But then I have a gander at a football messageboard or occasionally Facebook. I’m a messageboard stalker. I love them. I love the gossip and the rumours and the occasional bits of info that are true. Do you remember the one when Stevie Cotterill had just been ‘sacked’ and somebody comes on the CM messageboard and says he was sitting in First Class on the train to London and overheard Brendan Flood on his mobile telling BK all about ‘the last supper’ and his meeting with Cotts where they agree SC should leave. Gerrawy we all thought at the time. Nobody on CM can afford First Class. But yes it was correct and Flood even mentions it in his book. Now this week there’s one all about a geezer who works in McDonalds in Clitheroe and who should walk in but Owen Coyle who spills the beans on why he left Burnley and hints that he may come in for a Burnley player with the enigmatic words “wait and see.” And, his order was a plain quarter large meal, a plain cheeseburger happy meal, and a Big Mac on its own; yum yum, presumably washed down with a pint of Irn-bru.
My favourite was a while back and said there had been a secret meeting between club officials and a possible new manager in the Deever Hotel. I scratched my head for ages until I realised that he meant The De Vere Hotel.
The McDonalds mole cites Coyle as saying that BK had no passion to stay in the Premier League. As one messageboarder later replied “what a load of bollocks.” What BK has no passion for is overspending, betting the ranch, emptying the jamjar, mortgaging the club’s future recklessly. BK is cautious and knows how close this club was to insolvency in April 2008 with an accompanying transfer embargo. That’s what Coyle couldn’t get his head round, frustrated him, and he thought he would have loadsa dosh at Bolton – but has since found out he hasn’t – and is at a club at least £44million in debt with unsustainable gates of around 20,000. He was on SKY Sports News trying to be cheerful talking about how he will have to sell before he can buy. Methinks Gartside didn’t quite tell him everything. Mind you the stadium does have nice dressing rooms.
Blackburn fans must be pinching themselves. Folk in that neck of the woods must be more used to Indian takeaways than takeovers. Just how and why has an Indian billionaire decided to take over this motley shower, a sort of poor man’s Stoke City? Presumably it won’t be long before someone adds a turban to the Jack Walker statue. Fits his investment philosophy he says in jargonspeak; “good assets that are undervalued with huge potential for a turnaround situation.” At first I thought he was talking about Katie Price. A number of clubs were presented to him he says and he has been doing this kind of deal for 14 years and Blackburn fitted the bill. I must speak to my good neighbour the esteemed Mr Patel. He isn’t quite in the same league as Mr Ali Syed with just a half a dozen restaurants, a couple of Arkwrights (open all hours) and a chip shop. But with Barry K often offering fish and chips to guests in the panelled boardroom, Mr Patel might just be the man for the job. I can also charge an introduction fee. Ah, there’s Mr Patel now just coming home now… excuse me while I nip out to talk to him…
Like watching Arkle pulling a milk-float; like watching Sebastian Coe running to the chip shop, wrote Henry Winter… or Craig Bellamy playing for Cardiff. The Bellamy loan deal to Cardiff City: how is it possible? Here is a club that still owed Motherwell £175,000. Motherwell are fuming. Here is a club that has faced four winding-up orders. Here is a club with barely a pot to piss in, an estimated £30million in debt scraping to make ends meet – yet here they go and sign a player on a reported salary of £95,000 a week at Man City. Even if Cardiff are paying just a quarter of that, where is the money coming from? And if City are paying the other £75,000 for the season, how is that fair to the rest of the Championship clubs? Let’s say Cardiff beat QPR 1 – 0 and Bellamy scores the goal, and it’s a result that takes Cardiff into the Prem at the expense of QPR, or any other club for that matter; how fair is that, how right is that? For all his trouble-making reputation (hands up those who remember the ‘nutter with the putter’ incident when he was at Liverpool), Bellamy is a damned good player and could be the difference between Cardiff going up and not going up. There are dozens of loan deals, and Burnley had the Nugent deal last season – but the Bellamy deal takes it up a whole new level and it stinks.
Ok Leicester City turned up next. The ‘owner’ is Aiyawatt Raksiarskorn; I don’t suppose he comes from Bacup. Leicester were one of the first clubs to play the administration game before penalty points were imposed and somehow got a new stadium out of it making minimal payments to creditors. But time has made them respectable again. Raksiarskorn heads a Thai consortium, Asian Football Investments, fronted by the King Power Group that wants to rename the Walkers Stadium the ‘King Power Stadium’. All that plus a manager called Sousa. What would Bob Lord make of football now? Who are we to make fun? Our main sponsor FUN88 (where dreams come true) comes from Singapore but they have their local head office in the Isle of Man. How international is that?
It was the usual stop start stop start grinding journey from Leeds to Burnley. Pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, roundabouts, speed restrictions and cameras down to 30mph for nearly all the journey, two sets of roadworks in the Calder Valley; and Hebden Bridge now the weekly weekend bottleneck full of gawping tourists and rambling wanderers. On a bad day it’s nearly a two hour journey to do just 40 miles and that’s including any shortcuts I know. Why, I ask myself, does the place have so many frightening-looking women wearing bovver boots, trousers with bracers and short cropped hair? But, Hebden does have the excellent Stubbing Wharfe pub alongside the canal out on the Tod road. Mrs T and me lived in Hebden Bridge for a couple of years back in the 60s. The drive up Mytholm Steeps and then over the moors to Burnley is as stunning a drive as you could want, as spectacular in pouring rain as it is in glorious sunshine, or in winter a snowy wilderness. The origins of the 19th century Thomas family are buried up there in the old chapel at Blackshawhead. My ancestors on the Thomas side were hill farmers and road makers up on the Wuthering Heights moors; before they all moved down into the valley to get away from the rain; find work in the mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution and get the bus to Turf Moor.
Groundhog Day: another goal in the 44th minute gave Burnley the lead against Leicester after a display that had the bloke behind me saying he was off to ask for his money back. A massive deflection gave Wallace his first goal and left me thinking if we’d had a sprinkling of this sort of luck last season, we’d still be a Prem side.
Half time saw three Burnley greats on the pitch. Out came Ralph Coates, Brian O Neil in one of his one-size-too-small, trademark hats, and Andy Lochhead to make the halftime draw. What price these lads today – and when you think that in the same team as them, there was also Gordon Harris, Willie Morgan and Willie Irvine, you realise what a fantastic place it was to be at Turf Moor, once upon a time. That team came so close to winning the title in 1965/66. How it didn’t remains a mystery.
Five quick Leicester corners in the early second half had Burnley on the back foot but then all went well. Elliot with a brilliant pass inside the box while sprawled on the floor in the relaxing-on-the sofa position, fed Wallace who dinked it in and there was Iwelhumo; 2 – 0 and game over for Leicester, who overall were no match for what is now a rugged, robust Burnley. And then on came Eagles and Cork, out came the party tricks, Eagles pepped things up, was tripped in the box by a defender, and up strode Alexander to smite the ball home from the spot like he always does, and then do a diving/falling-over celebration that would have looked good in a Monty Python sketch.
What a good win that was. The system is becoming clear. Grind the opposition down for the first 44 minutes. Take a 2 – 0 lead and then bring on the fancy stuff. It’s fine by me.
Oh but bad news, Mr Patel my esteemed neighbour and laudable chap though he is, will not be investing his money in Burnley. It was his son’s wedding this weekend and he spent all his money on that. What a weekend then: we were guests at a wonderful Hindu wedding with supper on Friday, the wedding ceremony and a meal on Sunday, and a good Burnley win in between. QPR stay top, Burnley third and Sheffield United now bottom and minus Kevin Blackwell.