TESCO HAM IS DIFFERENT CLASS

PRESTON NORTH END 0 BURNLEY 1

Mrs T had no voice the morning after the Middlesbrough game. She was the perfect woman while it lasted. Mine was just a sort of rasp and a croak, a bit like a parrot with a sore throat. What a night it was and another five minutes and I swear we’d have nicked the winner.

The video of the players’ celebrations when Keane scored were as memorable as the goal itself. The players leapt and screamed and grabbed each other in a melee by the corner flag with Barton leaping onto the top of the pile like a wild man. That’s how much it meant. The subs had raced down; staff had raced down, stewards danced with joy, one young lad from the crowd was lifted aloft by Lowton and then carried around over his shoulder. The lad will remember the moment for the rest of his life. These are the magic moments of football.

The way things were as the end of season approached with just three games remaining, and just two points separating the top three teams, the body remained willing, but the head was almost unable to take any more as no-one, just no-one, was able to forecast who would go up, as nerves were shredded, as emotions were up and down like a fiddler’s elbow, as we waited for the next game on pins. It’s a mental mangle that we go through; it’s a pain process that has no logic with some fancy name along the lines of benign masochism where we for some reason deliberately endure discomfort or mental torture sure in the knowledge that it’s great when it ends.

I swear I once knew a bloke who used to whack himself on the head with a rolled up newspaper for up to 5 minutes at a time. I asked him why he did it.

“It’s just so lovely when I stop,” he said.

That’s exactly how it was during the Boro game. We squirmed, we endured, we groaned, we clenched sphincters; we grit our teeth and generally went through hell. It was the football equivalent of what that bloke used to do with the newspaper. And then when it was all over, the mental high was extraordinary, the joy was just seismic, the relief was beyond measure. It was football and this is what it does.

‘A helter-skelter match decorated with pulsating play,’ said the Irish Times.

‘A rousing, captivating encounter, toe to toe, blow for blow, 96 minutes of ferocity and courage,’ said the Daily Telegraph.

We searched for comparisons: the promotion win at York in the old Fourth Division maybe in ’92, the promotion win at Scunthorpe in 2000, the League Cup win at Chelsea on penalties, the Wembley play-off win in 2009, the 1-0 defeat of Man United;  there might be a few more. But one thing is for sure, they don’t come every day.

It was a trip back to the garden centre at Harden, Bingley, on Wednesday; the drive was in warm sunshine, a chance to get our heads back on again, come back down to earth, the egg and bacon butty delicious (I had that while Mrs T wandered up and down the brassicas). It should have been a kind of warm-down after the night before but I couldn’t get rid of those incredible images.

On my way out of the restaurant I was stopped by a face I didn’t recognise and she asked me, “Is that you; weren’t you the Deputy Head at St Margaret’s Horsforth years ago?”

I nodded and smiled without any idea who she was. She explained she was the mother of three children I had taught years ago; it must have been over 40 years ago as each one turned 11. One was now an architect, one had an electrical business and the girl was a teacher. She laughed and asked, “Do you remember that report you wrote about Andrew when you said if he didn’t buck his ideas up he’d more than likely end up as a road sweeper. We’ve still got it.”

It was fun being a teacher all those years ago when you could write stuff like that on kids’ reports.  You’d be had up now by the PC brigade, apparently road sweepers can be very sensitive,  and anyway by the time I’d left teaching it was all tick lists and computerised with pre-written comments that you could print out.

We exchanged more pleasantries and went our separate ways, she chuckling at the old report, me with my head still at Turf Moor. I found Mrs T with a trolley filled with brassicas and stuff and I asked could we get some claret and blue garden gnomes. She said no. Her voice back had come back.

In a week that saw the Queen’s ninetieth birthday and then the sad demise of the brilliant ‘Prince’ and the wonderful Victoria Wood, plus all the EU stuff that we are now bombarded with on a daily basis, be they IN or OUT, (apparently if we leave we shall all starve to death from 2030 onwards), it may have gone unnoticed that Middlesbrough were deemed ineligible for promotion. It was revealed in the SOCCER on SUNDAY website, a seemingly obscure site, so well done to them for discovering that:

     Middlesbrough Football Club were dealt a cruel blow with the FA declaring the North Yorkshire club ineligible for promotion. A return to the top flight had looked likely for the Championship frontrunners until the ruling. Under the Football Association’s new Three Strikes law, clubs relegated three times in any 20-year period will be banned from promotion for 10 years after their last relegation, in Middlesbrough’s case until 2019.

     “Three strikes and you are out,” FA Chairman Greg Dyke told Soccer on Sunday. “Middlesbrough have been up and down like a whore’s knickers. I’ve seen lifts get less vertical action. It has to stop. The age of the yo-yo club is over. The FA will no longer stand by while an institution such as Middlesbrough goes up and down like a deranged chimp on a pogo stick.”

     Should they finish in this season’s top two or win the play-off, the FA have confirmed that Boro will be compensated for losing out on promotion. Players capped ten times or more will pocket a brand new Zanussi washing machine, and the club itself will enjoy a lifetime supply of Tesco ham.

     “They can stick their ham,” former manager Bryan Robson told Soccer on Sunday. “Don’t get me wrong, Tesco ham is different class. But we’re talking about players missing out on the Premier League. Ham, even Tesco ham can only soften the blow so much.”

     Boro manager Aitor Karanka was even more diplomatic. “Of course we will challenge this ruling,” the Spaniard told Soccer on Sunday. “But if we lose, then we will accept the ham and move on as professionals. But to be fair Tesco ham is different class.”

We couldn’t get to Preston. Months ago we’d arranged for good friends to stay for the weekend. It’s a good job they’re tolerant and know what Burnley means to us so that there were no complaints when the TV went on for the game on SKY. Watching on TV is far worse than watching a game live. When it’s live you shout and holler, get worked up, you’re part of what goes on and see the whole picture not what a director wants you to see. It’s a tribal thing and you are part of the tribe. On TV it’s just a segment of the field, there’s a sort of odd detachment; it’s funny really, at a match I’ll leap up and rant at a referee for any bad decision. Sometimes a naughty word or two will just pop out and Mrs T tells me to sit down and shut up. On TV I just sit there, inwardly churned up of course, but outwardly impassive with the appearance of calm. It’s not the same telling a TV to f*ck off.

Over the years many players have appeared for both Preston and Burnley but the two that caught my eye were Jack Mustard in the 1930’s and Archibald Pinnell in the 1890’s. Earlier in the season Preston had won 2-0 at Burnley. Currently they hadn’t won in four.  Tom Heaton said that the mentality at the club was stronger than ever. David Jones commented that on all three occasions that he had experienced promotion to the Premier League the common factor had been a good dressing room spirit. Now he looked to add a fourth promotion. Joey Barton on twitter said he was honoured to have been named in the PFA Championship team of the season but would not be attending the ceremony – there was still work to be done. Apparently the names had been leaked and along with Barton there was Tom Heaton, Michael Keane and Andre Gray.

Sean Dyche said he wasn’t losing any sleep, he could only control the controllables, he couldn’t rely on the twists and turns or lady luck, you concentrate on what you do, not what others do. You can only cut your own grass, he concluded. Whatever will be will be. After a game like the one against Boro, by the time he’d driven home he’d got it out of his system. Now it was time for ‘shoulders back.’

Not far short of 6,000 Burnley fans filled the away end at Deepdale waiting for the game to start; the messageboards and social media were awash with requests for spare tickets.  At Moorland View we tucked into Salmon Mousse, then Chicken Moutard avec Crème Fraiche followed by home-grown rhubarb tart. We’re just ordinary, poor folk, but we struggle on.  Austerity means champers is just a memory, it’s tap water not Pellegrino, the fast lane we used to enjoy is now more of a slow journey in an old Morris Minor. And, anyway, if we are all gonna starve by 2030, we decided we’d better get stuck in now and get ready.

As we tucked into the pre-game cheese and bickies and Colombian mints, the permutations wouldn’t go away. A Burnley win and we could begin to think about an automatic place. It would then put pressure on Boro and Brighton in their Saturday games. A draw would not be a disaster but would probably mean having to win the final two games. A defeat (an agonising thought) and who knows what might happen because that would mean the other two needing to lose a game each before the season ended to see us still in contention. If we were in this state, heaven only knows how Karanka’s bowels must have been faring, rational thinking not being his strong point recently.

To our delight and relief they DID win. It was 1-0 but could so easily have been three or more at half-time they were so good and racked up the shots and headers with Preston on the back foot for all the 45 minutes. This was as good a 45 minute performance as we had at Brentford, except this time the extra goals they so richly deserved did not go in. It was hard not to think this was just too easy as Burnley carved them open time and again with slick play.

Preston were simply blown away but somehow went back to the dressing room only one goal behind and so for all Burnley’s superiority all of us knew this was going to be a nervy second half. Grayson is no mug and made tactical changes so that Preston got into the game more and more. Even so Gray hit the post with a stunning shot on the turn and then Boyd hit the crossbar with a mighty 30-yarder. You willed another goal to go in because you knew that 1-0 could so easily be turned into a 1-1 or even 1-2.

Alas after Boyd’s shot hit the bar there was little else up front from Burnley as they had to dig in at the back and Preston showed why they are in the top half of the table forcing Burnley into five bookings. But throughout the game this was the Barton and Boyd show. Everyone played well but these two were outstanding. It was hard to think of any single player who had been brought into the club who has such a major impact in such a short time as Barton. “He’s a leader,” said Boyd in the post-match interviews and how it showed in this game.

Preston too had their second-half chances and the returning Beckford could so easily have scored. But this would have been rough justice on a Burnley side that deserved so much more than just the one single goal that came from a deflected long-range Barton free kick as early as the sixth minute. The rest of that half was a delight to watch, but at the end we sat on the sofa squirming and wriggling and willing the final minutes away. We roared at the six extra minutes at the end of the Boro game; now we groaned in anguish when there were five in this game.  Benign masochism, déjà vu, you might say.

So: in this epic, enthralling finale to the season Burnley went top again by just one point, but three ahead of Brighton. The commentators made it sound so easy. “Win their next two games and Burnley will go up.” Would that it was so simple we all said at Number 12. There was still a scenario that would put Burnley back to third if Boro won and Brighton stuck six past Charlton, the latter a real and nagging possibility. We could think about the Premier League, we told ourselves, but that’s all.

It remained neck and neck with the finishing line ever closer but still with nothing certain. Now it wasn’t Gaviscon we needed, it was sedatives, with a long ten-day wait to the penultimate game.

SOMEBODY HAS TO BLINK

BURNLEY 1 MIDDLESBROUGH 1

The euphoria of the win at Birmingham continued all through Sunday on the websites. Gary Rowett the Birmingham manager was savaged by most people for his blinkered view of the game and his comments that Barton had just about run the referee and that he had made a meal of the bad tackle that nobbled him in the first half. It wasn’t a yellow said the Bluenose. Then he made up some nonsense that Brum should have had a penalty when Keane nearly kicked someone’s head off (actually he connected with the lad’s chest) and then he wondered if Barton had been taken off to prevent him doing something stupid.

‘Morgan’ on Uptheclarets, one of the prominent fan sites, was seething at the abuse hurled by Birmingham fans at Dyche, Barton and Lowton (being ex Villa). A resident of Birmingham of 44 years he’d sat in a home stand and was privy to the foul language and vile insults hurled at them as they walked on and off the field. They are one of the most ‘one-eyed, ignorant and dim set of supporters I’ve ever come across,’ he said of the Birmingham mob.

What everyone was agreed on was that at the final whistle Dyche had revealed a level of emotion far greater than usual. He surely knew deep inside what every supporter knew, that this had been a monumental win. Managers might argue that there are no such things as must win games until you reach the very end of the season and this was certainly one of them.  A defeat might have ended any hopes of automatic promotion. But everyone could now look to the Tuesday game with Boro and think that a win might just be the one that could almost secure the second spot place.

But, said Andre Gray before the game, ‘It’s not going to be fancy football and cutting teams open. We’re up there for a reason so teams will sit in and make it hard for us; it’s about trying to take our chances when they come.’

Taking the chances that had come his way during the season had just earned him the prestigious Skybet Championship Player of the Year award announced the evening after the Birmingham game. Burnley fans haven’t done too badly with the strikers they’ve been able to see in recent seasons, Charlie Austin, Danny Ings and now Gray with Vokes too chipping in with his fair share of goals.

The Press were well into the top-three situation in the division cranking up the hype suggesting that tension, tetchiness and terseness were on the increase. There were the inevitable ‘what-if’ scenarios… if Burnley won, or Brighton lost to QPR, or if it was a draw, or if Middlesbrough won and then there were the remaining games of the season and who was likely to win or lose them. The ‘noise’ Dyche described it, which you switched off, ignored it, just got on with the job and concentrated on thinking about the one game ahead. But permutations and ‘what-ifs’ are what we fans do and board members as well no doubt, fans just like the rest of us. One thing was simple enough though: the side that won its final four games would go up.

Over at Middlesbrough Karanka, he who had reportedly walked out on his club some weeks earlier and persuaded to return by Chairman Gibson, was certainly getting Karanky again blurting that if he’d had 12 players from the Premier League (Burnley of course) and his chairman had bought him Gray and Tarkowski, maybe Boro would have been in the Premier League by February already. ‘I would have had no excuses not to win promotion.’

It did seem rather silly to be saying such things when Boro had certainly spent far more than Burnley. The prize on offer at the end of the season had gone up again. Just like the £6million paid for Andre Gray rises by a million or two with each press report, so too does the Premier League jackpot now said to be £200million for the promoted teams even if relegated immediately.

‘Somebody has to blink,’ wrote Paul Wilson in the Guardian. According to Wilson Dyche was playing the whole thing down, his attitude being you only get three points for a game at this stage of the season, same as you do at the beginning. He says he doesn’t talk about promotion with the players, that there is no need to overthink the situation or get ahead of themselves.  What’s important is retaining common sense and doing the things they’ve done all season. Far from his mind are any thoughts about setting a new post-war unbeaten record if they remain unbeaten until the end of the season. But, he said, he is addicted to winning and picking up points.

And then in a more tribal vein in a different interview: ‘Bring it on, we’re ready,’ said Dyche presumably sticking out his chin. The day before the game only a few hundred seats were still available and the game was being beamed back to the Riverside for several thousand fans.

A brilliant clear blue sky over Leeds early morning: was I the only one thinking this had the feel of a Wembley Play-off Final to it, or at the very least a play-off. That last minute equaliser away at Brighton that salvaged a point now seemed huge; so did that slow-motion moment the ball bounced off the cross-bar, again in the dying moments of a game, at home to Cardiff, denying the away side the win. When Danny Batth had scored in the last minute for Wolves at Burnley, Brighton had scraped a win only because MK Dons missed a last-minute penalty. The images of these last-minute scenarios would not go away. You wondered if it would be same in this huge game at Turf Moor.

You assumed that Dyche would be telling his players to forget all these things and just do the one job in hand. You hoped that Karanka’s temperamental edginess would rub off on his players; his walk-out was bizarre to say the least. But since his return, Middlesbrough had won all six games. Sometimes you can’t quite work football out or how it works.

Sometimes too you just marvel at football when a game comes along that leaves you breathless and voiceless. Such a game was the 1-1 draw between Burnley and Boro. Sometimes you wonder just what is the point of a 1-1 draw, so often they are nothing games, stalemates, games to forget; at least with a 0-0 there is the achievement of a clean sheet. And then sometimes along comes a 1-1 game that has everything from minute one to minute 90, or in this case minute 96.

This time it was Middlesbrough’s turn to be on the wrong end of an injury time goal and what we might well remember most about this season when it does come to its still totally unpredictable end is the number of times that last minute goals have brought us despair, or brought us joy. In this game it was despair for Boro and joy for Burnley.

Karanka disagreed with any suggestion that a draw was a fair result claiming that his side could have had three goals if chances had gone in. But then by the same token Burnley could have had three goals or more if chances had been taken or shots more accurate. Just one shot out of 19 by Burnley was on target according to the stats with Arfield wasting a glorious first-half chance when put through long before Boro scored their second-half goal, the result of a free kick that had most of us scratching our heads and wondering what it was for. Ironically, picking the ball out of the net was the most strenuous thing Heaton had to do all night. It was hard to think of a single save he had to make.

Referee Jones had given soft head-scratching decisions to Boro all night long and this one was right in that category. It made Burnley’s injury-time equaliser all the more deserved; a Boro win would have been a rank injustice.

Sure they played well, but that was in the first half when they showed just what a good side they are, strong, organised and sharp. But as early as the third minute they showed the cynical side when Barton was scythed down with an atrocious tackle that only resulted in a yellow card. Their goal was a gift from the referee but Barton was clearly in no mood to lie down. He along with the subs that came on, Barnes and Taylor in particular, changed the game, took it by the scruff of the neck, charged into Boro and got them on the back foot.

Barnes was on for Gray who had run himself into the ground to the point of exhaustion. He didn’t score but this was still one of his best games.

Into the final third and now it was Burnley on the up, forcing the play, with yet more corners, more of the possession, more of the passing. Karanka was in bizarre mode again critical of Burnley’s long ball game, patronisingly saying that HIS side played football. The stats showed otherwise. Burnley hit 85 long balls and Boro hit 107. Burnley made a total of 433 passes and Boro well less, 354. Karanka would do well to think before he opens his mouth after a game.

But none of this carping at him should take away what a great night under the floodlights this was. Some of the roads into Burnley were at a standstill. Harry Potts Way was heaving shoulder to shoulder. The stadium was packed with a crowd just three short of 21,000. Before the game it was chaotic as a long line of 200 people or more queued at the ticket collection point. The car park was jammed with cars and milling people. The beer tent was overflowing. The Burger van queue was the longest in living memory. The sun shone down on all of this with a blue sky overhead; the atmosphere was electric even before you got into the stadium. People knew just what the importance of this game was. The winner had there been one, might well have taken all.

When Boro scored, that man Rhodes again, they went wild, fans and staff and subs and players. The way the ref had quietly favoured them with several of his decisions, it would have been no surprise to have seen him do a little hop, skip and jump with them. But Burnley exhorted by King Joey marched back to the centre circle and readied themselves; they were far from down and out. MOTM had to be Barton yet again for his industry, drive, leadership, bravery, determination and no little skill.

Dyer, he of the electric heels was brought on. The space down the left was made for him but not one ball was played to him to let him use that pace. Ironically Ward had got down that empty wing several times only to ping crosses over that were far too hard.  Taylor was on too, and twice we willed his free kicks from 30 yards to fly in as we know they often do. That left foot of his is like a hammer. The first was on target arrowing home but at the last minute a Boro body deflected it for a corner. His second shot alas went high over the bar.

The announcement that there would be SIX minutes of added time acted like an adrenalin boost. It was as if the Gods had decided that now it was Burnley’s turn to benefit from their efforts to amuse themselves. It geed all of us up, galvanised us, it geed up the players and galvanised them. It was if we now knew they’d now go on to equalise. SIX minutes, six bloody minutes to salvage something and rescue the night – and that’s just what they did. There is not one shadow of doubt that the crowd was now the twelfth man as they provided a cauldron of noise, support and willpower as their voices cascaded down from all sides of the ground like a torrent of power and energy. A Glasgow Rangers fan at the game said in astonishment that 50,000 at Ibrox don’t make this noise. It must surely have spread to the players and my goodness did they respond.

What Taylor can also do is take pinpoint corners and it was from his second in stoppage time that the equaliser came. Over the ball went, Barton was involved in the box, it pinged around a bit and then there was Keane to rifle the ball home. That was when the roof of every stand nearly came off. Not since Blake scored that wonder goal against Manchester United way back in 2009 has a roar so loud been heard. Some folk said it was heard as far away as Colne and Nelson as it travelled around and across the surrounding landscapes. The hills were alive with the sound of a different kind of music. The players mobbed Keane and now it was the Burnley fans going wild and dancing with strangers.     The very foundations of the ground must have vibrated when that goal went in. But as the Beach Boys sang, these were Good Vibrations.

The raucous tribal roar went on until ears were deafened because with the knowledge that Brighton faraway to the south were by now winning 4-0, Burnley had once again slipped to third. Now as a result of this precious goal they were back to second, albeit only on goal difference, but back to a position where destiny was once again in their own hands. Boro were now content to settle for the draw, slowing the game down, the goalkeeper taking an age with his goal kicks. They knew that a fired-up rampant Burnley still had it in them to snatch not just the equaliser but a winner as well. There was, alas, no winner. The whistle went; we breathed deeply, stopped shaking, steadied our beating hearts and knew that we had seen an epic contest and a glorious advert for Championship football.

Pell mell, end to end, with a sprinkling of spice, decorated with pulsating play, said the Guardian.

We drove home knowing that if Burnley could win their last three games they would likely be promoted. With the final game of the season between Brighton and Middlesbrough, with both of them destined to lose two points in the event of a draw in the game, or one team destined to lose all three points, everything was to Burnley’s advantage… if…  if…

STRONG CHINS AND GAVISCON ESSENTIAL

BURNLEY 1 LEEDS UNITED 0

BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 BURNLEY 2

I was thinking a bit. It gets harder as you get older but you have to keep trying. We were on the plane and I looked out the window and thought ‘hell that looks a long way down.’ I still don’t understand how aeroplanes manage to stay up in the air.

‘Awesome,’ said little Joe the first time he flew with us and the plane banked over the bay as it came down to land. ‘Awesome.’

So we were in Tenerife at Golf del Sur again looking for some sun after this wet winter and cold (so far) April. Joe had his Tom Heaton kit with him and this season’s home strip. Last time we were there we met the Wellers, you know the guy, a quality car dealer that can be trusted (seriously). My mother once bought a car from a garage in Barnsley owned by a guy called Reg. Hmmm, I went, thinking is that a name that can be trusted? Turned out the car was OK in fact. Certainly wouldn’t buy a car from a guy called Cameron, that’s for sure. If we had wingers who could evade full backs like Call-me-Dave’s dad avoided paying tax we’d have sorted automatic promotion by mid-season. And this £9million he’s spending to send everyone a let’s stay in the EU letter. What a waste, we could just about pay for the new Gawthorpe with that.

Friday was travel day and the day kicked off in the Yorkshire Lounge at Leeds/Bradford, a lounge so generous with its bacon and sausage sandwiches and the free bar it belies any notions that Yorkshire folk are mean and stingy. We booked to go back for a fortnight and just eat and sit there, read the complimentary mags, sip G&T’s and watch the planes. Who actually needs to go away at their prices?

Departure was not without a couple of hitches. At check-in I didn’t see the girl slip JET2 discount vouchers into the passports. It would cause a bit of a kafuffle later. What JET2 do in their infinite wisdom is make them the same size and format and colour as boarding cards. Inside the passport you wouldn’t know the difference.

Onto the next hurdle and the guy round the corner who checks the boarding cards had clearly forgotten his badge that said ‘Grumpy Yorkshireman’. I handed over all four boarding cards for him to scan them. Except they weren’t the boarding cards they were the discount vouchers. He looked like he had a mouth full of wasps as he stared at them disbelievingly.

‘What are these?’ he asked.

From where I stood they still looked like boarding cards. ‘Boarding cards,’ I answered cheerfully, ‘all four of them there are four of us.’

‘Well you won’t get far with these,’ he muttered looking at me like I was an idiot.  ‘These are discount vouchers,’ he added in a withering tone with a face that would have curdled a pint of milk. I can only assume he’d been up since about 2 or 3 in the morning and he was fed up of people going off on their jollies while he was stuck there bored witless. If I’d been quicker I’d have said well it’s a cut price flight.

But all I said was, ‘Eh?’ trying to appear intelligent. I laughed out loud realising what I’d done. He didn’t. Retrieving the discount vouchers I gave him the boarding cards. There wasn’t a thankyou or a glimmer of a smile as he handed them back. It was tempting to ask was he called Meldrew.

Next it was Mrs T’s turn to be under the spotlight. Unwittingly, the Gaviscon she carries with her in her handbag in a plain see-through phial, and not in the clear plastic bags that they like you to put these things in, was the catalyst for a bit of a conflab.

The woman on the scanner retrieved the handbag and handed it over to someone else. This next person rifled through the bag and fished out the phial.  Hmmm she said and held it up to the light. Hmmm, what’s this? Mrs T was about to say it’s only my Gaviscon but the phial was taken over to a nearby huddle of blokes and handed to them. Hmmm they all said, what’s this then?

One of them walked over. Hmmm, what’s this, he asked Mrs T. What she really wanted to say was, it’s my f***ing Gaviscon you idiot, but instead she replied politely.

‘Er it’s just my Gaviscon; sorry I forgot it was in my handbag.’

‘Ah digestion problems eh,’ he laughed in a voice loud enough to have a dozen nearby heads turn around out of curiosity. ‘My wife has them too.’

It was the last hiccup of the morning, save for the luggage being last off the plane at Tenerife South. I can’t remember when our luggage was ever first off. It’s funny how everybody you meet says their luggage is always last off but how can that be true? My theory that luggage checked in when you’re first in the queue will be first off, was as usual blown to smithereens.

Course: the downside of all this week in the sun was missing the Leeds game. The wins had dried up over the previous three games and performances had stuttered. There’d been that magic few days when we’d been 7 points clear at the top but that was being whittled away. Then there was also the worry that Leeds always seem to up their game a bit at Turf Moor with a real derby feel to these games; Lancashire versus Yorkshire, good versus evil, Lancashire Hot Pot versus Yorkshire Pudding, and similar stuff. It’s funny for me actually living in Leeds and I’ve frequently been asked have I never fancied going down to Elland Road and supporting them. On balance I think I’d rather go down to the dentists.

I was terribly sad to hear that my chum John and Leeds supporter that we’d met in Kalkan some time ago (he of the pale white legs) had suffered a heart attack recently. His wife Kath got him to Dewsbury A&E pronto quick and a couple of stents did the trick. Funnily enough the attack was shortly after he’d watched Leeds at Burnley on the telly. The consultant had been firm with his advice. ‘You really need to stop watching Leeds United. It can seriously damage your health.’

We’d been scanning the Daily Express front pages for weather forecasts but they’d been strangely absent for a while. The Express only seems interested in hurricane winds, killer blizzards and monsoon rain, and even then they’re usually wrong. On the day the damning news broke about the leaked tax haven documents, the Express headlined with something about Walnuts. Anyway: the forecast from other sources seemed optimistic enough for the week so in went the sun hats and creams.

Evans was still at Leeds even though it was forecast he was for the chop after Leeds had lost heavily at Brighton and Cellino had of late been strangely quiet. His son however, Edoardo, had been charged by the FA for abusive and insulting comments made on social media. Their centre-forward had been banned for 8 games for biting another player. That would have been understandable if they were still taking their own economy-measure lunches to the training ground and he’d been a bit peckish but this munch was actually during a game.

The Leeds natives were restless following the defeat at Rotherham and then the game at home to QPR when bigears40 on one website said watching that game was worse than watching paint dry with two teams competing for nothing, without leadership, with some players just a liability, baffling substitutions and promises of promotion ‘next year.’ Next season said Bigears40 would be like watching another coat of paint drying.

@baldyman1965 was brief and to the point. ‘We’re screwed.’

Steve Evans meanwhile commented ominously: ‘I think they are the champions in waiting but if we play as well as we can, it’s game on.’ That was our question too, which Leeds would turn up on the day?

A good Leeds side did turn up on the day but mercifully missed two great heading chances. If this wasn’t the longest 94 minutes I have ever sat through I don’t know what is. The viewing conditions were perfect. Behind us the pool, beyond that the blue sky and the majestic Mount Teide, the bar to our left and in front of us on the low table, lunch. A Leeds fan sat to our right shouting and ranting every time Barton made a tackle. He came in after the game started and was gobsmacked to hear that Leeds were already a goal down. A goal in a minute, settling the nerves or so we thought but from that moment on it was purgatory from where we sat.

A text book goal as well: Heaton to Vokes, the flick on to Gray who then passed to Arfield. He then jinked inside the box and unleashed a diagonal shot that went in. Any thoughts of turning on the style and cracking home a few more were soon dispelled when Leeds came into the game more and more and played damned well. Not until the final moments of the game was there another slick Burnley move and in between Woods missed two glorious headed chances.

We sat and squirmed but this was what Dyche referred to as the beauty of an ugly win with heroic defending, cleared corners and routine goalkeeping that stopped Leeds from inflicting any real damage. Leeds forced a dozen or more corners and all were comfortably headed away with Burnley admirably demonstrating why they were holding on to that top spot. It was another result where the opposition walk away wondering just how they have lost. Burnley had the knack yet again of playing poorly but defending manfully. Nick a goal, have a strong chin and keep the other buggars out is the basic ploy.

‘That’s how we win,’ I said to the Leeds fan who sat shaking his head at the missed chances and well aware of his own team’s shortcomings.

Arfield the subject of recent criticism was publicly defended by the manager who pointed out that he had more assists and goals than any other winger in the championship. And here he was again winning the points with his perfect strike. Boyd, too, could have added a carbon copy goal in the first half with a diagonal shot but his went inches wide.

And yet despite all that Leeds possession and good play, and all the nerves that jangled all afternoon, Barnes, on for the injured Vokes, could have sealed it in the final minute or so. Taylor also on as a sub, turned inside and played a lovely pass back to the incoming Barnes. He has to score, we yelled from Tenerife. He missed and put it wide.  The goal gaped, he was just 8 yards out, perfectly positioned but using his right foot he fluffed his lines and what would have been a belter of a goal was just a what if. We howled with exasperation.

What a relief when that whistle went. Maybe the day seemed better at Turf Moor but at Golf del Sur on a TV screen it was excruciating. Winning ugly is fine but winning ugly just 1-0 is not good for the heart. It was Shredded Wheat on the patio for breakfast. It was shredded nerves for lunch.

Another riposte from Dyche when someone said that’s another lucky win. ‘Lucky – I’ll show you the 11 penalties we should have had this season.’

Still top then on Saturday night but how football can change so quickly. By the time we got back home to a soaked, freezing cold hail and wind-blasted Leeds/Bradford airport that could have been mistaken for Wuthering Heights, Brighton had played twice and Middlesbrough once. We squirmed through dinner on Monday night in the restaurant with the Brighton game on the IPad. A last minute goal won the game for Brighton. A last minute goal won the game for Middlesbrough on Tuesday night and ruined another meal. On Friday night as we were on the way home Brighton then won 5-0 and there was Burnley down to third. From being 7 points ahead not that many days ago, they were now out of the automatic places.

Last minute and injury time goals could well decide how this season ends. Middlesbrough won at lunchtime at Bolton with what else but an injury time goal. Every time one of these last minute goals went in you thought back to the last minute Wolves equaliser at Burnley that deprived Burnley of the win and all three points. Being a glass not even half-full sort of bloke I’d turned to Mrs T convinced that it was a goal that could cost us the title. Her reply was to be expected.

‘Stop being so bloody miserable, your father was just the same.’ She knows full well how much that winds me up.

Squirming through the Leeds game ruined our lunch as we watched on TV. The last minute Brighton goal ruined dinner on Monday. The last minute Middlesbrough goal ruined our dinner on Tuesday. All I could think was thank God for Gaviscon. Feeling morose from time to time is part of the Burnley psyche and then seeing that last minute Boro goal at Bolton made a pretty convincing argument that the football Gods were having a little laugh at our expense. From 7 points ahead at the top to 5 points behind within just a few days seemed quite absurd.

But against Birmingham thank God for Boyd and Gray and a 2-1 win at a place where Burnley don’t win too often. We were due out for a meal on Saturday night. Boy did we enjoy this one.  There’s a case for saying that there is no such thing as a must-win game but this was the game that blew that idea right out of the water. In this nail-biting end to the season it was a simply massive win and put Burnley right back into a position that leaves not us, but Brighton playing catch-up.

My granny used to say ‘it’s me nerves,’ when she felt ill and out of sorts.  In this neck and neck end to the season I currently know what she meant. And fingers crossed we don’t need any more Gaviscon.

NOWT WRONG WITH SHODDY

Brighton

BRIGHTON 2 BURNLEY 2

We’d been in Kent for the week tootling round picturesque villages in the sunshine, and National Trust gardens and homes, and then drove home on the day of the Brighton game hoping to get back in time to watch at least the second half on TV (we didn’t). The injury time Wolves equaliser was still an image that hadn’t quite gone away and made the Brighton game all the more important. One hates to say that the Brighton game was one we could not afford to lose; especially in this case with several games still remaining so that a defeat was not the end of the world, but it was another thought that wouldn’t quite go away.

Meanwhile it was with great sadness that we learned that Ian Britton had been admitted to Pendleside and had then later passed away. All of us who attended the Orient game in May of ’87 will never forget the headed goal he scored; one, because he was just about the smallest man on the pitch but rose to pinpoint the header home and two, because it was a goal of such staggering and historical importance it could well be described as Burnley’s most important goal ever, and in that we include those scored by Wade Elliott at Wembley in 2009 or Bert Freeman’s at Crystal Palace in 1914. Two goals were scored that day in May; the other by Neil Grewcock, but it’s the Britton goal we remember. Neil might well understandably feel a bit left out of things I suppose, but that’s just the way it is. Ian stayed in Burnley and became a familiar face, a cheerful and laughing one at that and always ready for a chat and a jest or two. Even at the very end he was larking about in his hospital bed with what my grandmother used to call the gazunder.

It was a week of news in fact, Burnley posting a profit of £30million, Ronnie Corbett passing away, Middlesbrough beating QPR, the wonderful T20 midweek win against New Zealand, and the news of Blackburn’s horrendous £100million+ debt.  But the Ian Britton news overshadowed all that and affected us all. In his latter football years you might say he was a bit of a journeyman, but that followed 10 great years at fashionable Chelsea with a memorable hairstyle to match. They paid him a huge tribute on hearing the news.

Part of his journey landed him at Burnley; thank goodness it did because without him and that priceless goal who knows where this club would now be, or even if there would have been a club.

Players come and go, some make no impression at all and just disappear, some leave a memory or two that might last a few years; but others leave a long and lasting impression. Then there is the small cluster that enters the realms of folklore and Ian Britton is one of them. In 50 years’ time which are the names that will still be mentioned, his for sure, alongside the likes of Jimmy Mac, Bert Freeman, Jerry Dawson, Tommy Boyle, Brian Miller and a tiny smattering of others.

Few names will be written on the Burnley history pages with as much significance as his. ‘That goal’ will be talked about by those that saw it, and then those that will read about it. Its value was incalculable. As a place Burnley has its detractors but as an outsider I often wonder why. To me from 40 miles away it seems homely with a real community feel, a place that has given roots to so many people, and a place that has been adopted by people like Ian Britton as the place where they chose to stay. He became a part of the place he helped to save which made him all the more worthy of the affection and respect bestowed upon him.

A hero but modest, a legend but approachable, so sociable, no airs or graces, none of the conceit that comes from the trappings of wealth or ostentation that so many of today’s players display. There was none of that for Ian when he hung up his boots so that he had to work for a living afterwards. He was an ordinary bloke and remained an ordinary bloke despite that moment of fame and glory that transformed him into an immortal. He fulfilled our own fantasies. Which of us have not imagined or pretended that we have scored a winning goal for Burnley in a massive game? These blokes who possess the talent that we do not, become extensions of ourselves out there on that pitch on a Saturday afternoon when in our heads we kick every ball with them.

Of course there were 10 others out there on the pitch that day but it was Ian Britton who was in the right place at the right time to save Burnley Football Club. I can still picture Whoosh Deakin, Taffy James and limping, galloping Joe Gallagher and I can still see the shot that Neil Grewcock blasted home; but it remains Ian Britton and an iconic photograph where he wheels away, arms wide, face creased by the biggest grin in history, that capture the drama of the moment and the intensity of the passion that he and we all felt.

In football, there are heroes, legends, cult figures, journeymen and galacticos, but it is the word hero that best sums him up, a word that fits him like a glove.

We haven’t quite got to that particular season with former groundsman Roy Oldfield; we still have the John Benson relegation season and then the next one that featured Martin Buchan and Tommy Cavanagh and this was the season at the end of which the club was an inch away from closure. If during the months before Wembley 2009 the club was teetering on the financial edge, then at the end of season 85/86 it was actually well over the edge and hanging on by a cliff-edge tree root by one finger. It was so bad that the club printed extra programmes for the final game just in case the club did fold and it would at least leave souvenir programmes as a memento of a once great club.

So: if the club was close to extinction on the day of the Orient game, it was actually in an even more vulnerable state the season before. You could argue that the seasons from 82/83 to 86/87 were the five worst seasons ever in the club’s history, a sort of football equivalent of the Twilight Zone, a mixture of drama, fiction, fantasy, horror and suspense. To have been a supporter then was an endurance test of faith and loyalty with those that were still turning up game after game true heroes. There was a messageboard suggestion that special badges should be minted to give to the hardy souls (some would say barmy) that stuck with the club when gates dipped below 2,000.

It’s the Orient season that receives the focus so it may well go unnoticed that the end of this season, 2015/16, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the club incredibly close to going out of business a full year before that unforgettable game. It makes the £30million profit just posted even more remarkable. The club’s debts then were simply enormous. In a bundle of scrapbooks I borrowed to help with the ‘Roy’ book, there were cuttings relating to the state of the club and what horrendous reading they make. Money was in such short supply that Roy Oldfield used to take his wheelbarrow around Gawthorpe and collect all the soil from the molehills to use as filler and levelling. Reading that you might think it’s some kind of April Fools spoof, but it isn’t.

Saturday of the Easter weekend and in the olden days there’d have been a game, and in the very olden days there’d have been three games over the Easter weekend, three games in four days. We used to love them. Win all three and you could win a title; lose all three and you could end up in the relegation zone. Thank goodness this time round there was the T20 game against Sri Lanka and then in the evening the Germany England game. These T20 games have been getting better and better and this one was a nail-biting thriller with England winning by ten runs when it looked like Sri Lanka batting second, were about to pull off a quite improbable win. It’s not often I’ve sat on the edge of a sofa so engrossed in a game. And then in the evening there was the England football game. How often have we sat and cursed these friendly games that get in the way of club games at a time of the season when the last thing you want is a break. But this one was a treat to watch with as dynamic an England team as we’ve seen for a years. 2-0 down to the Germans (and was that the music from the Dam Busters we heard in the background at one point), then 2-1 with a Harry Kane twist, turn and shot, then 2-2 with a Clyne cross, a Vardy back-flick that was so quick if you blinked you missed it, and then in the dying minutes 3-2 with a thumping header from a corner. This was a simply stunning day of cricket and football.

In mid-week Sean Dyche had committed himself to Burnley for the time being at least. It’s not a forever story he said, you can be hero one minute and zero the next, modern fans get fed up of a manager’s rhetoric and eventually feel the need for change, but for now he had no intention of running out of here, as he put it. The reference to managers’ talk was true enough inasmuch as there are only certain things a manager can keep on saying and they can soon become repetitive. Nobody minds what a manager says then the team is winning, but start to lose and the words for certain lose their effect and fans stop listening.

But after the Brighton game in the SKY post-match interview his comments were absolutely spot-on. It was in fact a stunning day at Brighton with a game that was packed with talking points, a goal that was but wasn’t, a Joey Barton controversy, er nay two, a last minute Burnley equaliser, all played in brilliant sunshine, and a sell-out game that Brighton must have thought was done and dusted as the final minutes ticked away with them 2-1 ahead and three points nearer Burnley. This was no lazy afternoon on the beach; this was a high-octane, adrenalin-filled, Championship frenetic slug-fest. A ‘don’t get beat’ game said Dyche that Burnley had taken over in the latter stages.

Gray was due a goal and got one to equalise the first goal by Brighton but then as we drove back up the motorways from Kent, Brighton scored again before half-time and we thought it would be their day from that point on. But what can you say about this Burnley side? The words have been used often enough, never-say-die, unyielding, unrelenting, determined, dogged and unwavering. Not for them a collective long face when a good goal was not given, clearly a foot or more over the line. Within a couple of minutes they did score again and deservedly so.

Football two weeks earlier had kicked us in the teeth when Wolves equalised in the last minute and we went home morose, feeling like we had lost. Now it was Brighton’s turn to feel exactly that, and our turn to feel like we had won despite the solitary point. Much as we would have loved to have won, this was a marvellous point and probably one that most of us would have settled for before the game.

Joey Barton was in fine form on twitter in the evening announcing that football was a contact sport and not quite crown green bowls. It followed his character assassination by all and sundry (most notably by Paul Hayward in the Telegraph) after firstly he had appeared to stamp on a leg that was underneath him as he tussled for the ball and hurdled the player beneath him. As he came down his boot landed fair and square on Kayal’s leg. The twentieth slow-motion replay and compulsory close-ups made it look bad as they always do. Normal speed and you simply thought accidental. Then, secondly, there was an alleged elbow in the face when he rose to head the ball, against the same player. They’d given each other stick all afternoon no quarter asked and none given. But where was the outcry when Barton was clearly hacked down later on and then got a sly knee in the back as he lay on the floor. Where was the Brighton indignation then?  There was none – funny that.

‘But,’ said Hayward, ‘Kayal had brought Joey the old enfant terrible, back to life.’

‘Flat track bullies,’ wrote a Brighton blogger though I couldn’t quite work that one out given that Burnley have the best disciplinary record in the division by a mile. What they are though is an image of their creator, hard, uncompromising, organised, few if any frills and gritty as any moorland crag. Burnley are not lace embroidery, they are hard-wearing Lancashire cotton whilst Brighton would have us believe Burnley are shoddy.

‘I can’t stand Barton or Dyche,’ added the blogger clearly miffed at the result ending with ‘I never want to see Joey Barton or referee Craig Pawson at the Amex again.’ At least it shortens his Christmas card list. One wonders if this blogger had seen and counted the number of times that Brighton’s Bruno held Ward in a blatant bear hug at corners? For sure the ref and linesman weren’t interested. And when Gray smashed the ball home for his goal, Bruno was unable to do anything about it because he, the nearest Brighton player, was too busy on the floor with Ward.

How often have we said this season, this was not Burnley’s best performance; it was hard to find anyone who said they’d played dazzling football but most were agreed that Barnes, Marney and Taylor coming on made a difference. But they’re good at what they do, said Hughton. Somehow they are top of the league, the leading scorers and unbeaten since Boxing Day, just 10 defeats in the last 90 championship games. Heck, they must be doing something right and by the way, there’s nowt wrong with shoddy. My Uncle Ted made a fortune out of it.

IN THE LAND OF THE WEAVERS

1910 view down St James St

BURNLEY 1 WOLVES 1

There’s a team in the land of the weavers, their colours are claret and blue. They’re a team of renown, the pride of the town, and their football so clean and so true.

You couldn’t really argue with that and how could you not predict a win against Wolves. Whilst Middlesbrough had lost three out of four, Hull had just one win in five, Brighton two wins in six; and all the while Burnley cruising serenely onwards stacking up six consecutive wins. The heart said it had to be a Burnley win. But:

This is Burnley, there’s always that tiny flicker of doubt; we wouldn’t be fully qualified Burnley fans if we didn’t just take a step back and urge caution. Then someone found an interesting stat that way back in 1968/69 there had been a winning run of six games, but then who came along but Wolves to draw 1-1.

Things were just so good, we thought after the Huddersfield win, all so different to how things were 30 years ago. We’ve got to the bit with Goundsman Roy Oldfield when after the promotion of ‘81/82 and everything in the garden was rosy, to when it all began to go wrong leading up the appointment of John Bond. What a chaotic club it became, and not all down to John Bond either, as the money was frittered away, crowds dropped lower and lower, disharmony pervaded the boardroom, and then by the end of ‘86/87 the club was on its last legs and only saved itself by the skin of its teeth. It’s a period that makes for grim reading and the anguish continued until that famous night in York.

Tod claret amongst others could remember it was a time when you had the Longside almost all to yourself; sometimes the pies were still frozen at half-time, the entertainment were parades of dogs. We lost at home to teams like Crewe and Rochdale and 0-6 at home to Hereford in front of just 1,961 fans, and the fiercest local rival was Stockport County. Teams like Telford and Chester knocked us out of the First Round of the FA Cup. Rochdale fans in particular rejoiced in our discomfort.

Contrast all that with now: in the Prem twice, a third time is a clear possibility, the steelwork is going up at Gawthorpe and it’s a club that knows what it’s doing and it’s impossible not to think of the Prem millions within touching distance. But when you’re up at the top, there are no easy games. One game at a time then; so be it.

Sean Dyche, yet again was full of praise for Joey Barton and impact on the squad, saying that he and Jones were excellent. He pointed to Barton’s reading of the game, his will and desire. Players when they get older can morph into something different, when they want the ball but the work to get the ball softens. His doesn’t. ‘His desire to work for the team and do the ugly side as well as the nice side of the game; he’s got a very healthy mixture to his game.’

Next game Wolves:  In season ‘82/83 there was a home game that was a 0-1 defeat. It was that daft season when there was glory in the cup competitions but relegation by the end, a season when a club was in the unusual situation of being relegated whilst making a healthy profit at the same time. The Wolves game on April 2 was one of the games late in the season that sealed their fate. You can view it on Youtube but what the video portrays so well is not so much the defeat but the conditions that the game was played in. A picture is worth a thousand words they say and the film shows exactly the kinds of surface that Burnley played on all those years ago. There’s the briefest moment when you catch of glimpse of groundsman Roy Oldfield sitting on his bench by the players’ tunnel.

It was a day that began bright and sunny before lunch but by the time the first half ended the soft surface was cutting up and the pitch was littered with divots. The field that had begun looking green and smooth within 45 minutes was heading towards ruination. After halftime the hail came down in buckets. This was followed by heavy snow and Roy noted in his diary that from his bench he could barely see the full length of the field. Play continued, it’s what they did in those days, the whole pitch turned white, divots were everywhere lying in the mud, a green smoke bomb hurled from the terraces added to the general fun. Burnley’s Kevin Young threw it off the pitch.

At the end of the game the players scurried off, drenched and frozen leaving Roy to survey the wreckage of his once green pitch. ‘Now completely ruined,’ he wrote. He made no attempt to put the divots back, there were simply too many. All he could do was use the light roller and level everything. It was the stuff of groundsmen’s nightmares.

Jimmy Greaves was the studio pundit and laughed at the whole thing recalling the days when the Spurs bus with him in it would roll down Manchester Road into Burnley.

‘It was horrible stuff,’ he said of the game. ‘It reminds me of the old days. This wasn’t Brigadoon this was Burnley, we were a goal down before we even got off the coach.’

It was in this same game that striker Terry Donovan left the field suffering from hypothermia. Roy Oldfield says that they had to wrap him up in some kind of special blanket and by the time he got back to the dressing room he had stiffened up and had to be undressed and lifted into the bath. Kevin Young, Alan Stevenson and Martin Dobson were similarly affected although not to the point of having to be helped into the bath, two of them suffering from severe shivering.

Roy worked at a time in all weathers and never had a penny in any kind of clothing allowance. He bought his own, in winter piling on extra sweaters and working sometimes when it was so cold one pair of ex-army boots he had almost froze to the ground when he stood still as he did on one occasion speaking to someone on the pitch. On days like this it was actually painful to work outdoors. On some days he was soaked to the bone during a downpour; trying to work on the pitch the day after a game when it was imperative that any repair work was done as soon as possible.

The weather was his constant worry especially on Friday nights before a home game during any unpredictable spells. He would watch every weather forecast on all the TV stations and had a weather centre he could telephone for local forecasts. He said it used to drive his wife Eva mad and she’d scold him and tell him what there was no point worrying there was nowt he could do about it.

The newly formed Burnley Supporters Club, a group that had been encouraged by John Jackson, was busy raising money to help the club. Under Derek Gill’s guidance the club got itself solvent again, indeed for a short time there was a healthy bank balance, but initially in the Jackson period there was not a penny spare. So the Supporters Club set to work and one of the first things they did was buy Roy a new wheelbarrow. The old one, said Roy, was wrecked and ruined, rusting away, falling apart and stained with old concrete that had never been cleaned out properly. And then along came the new one and he thought it was Christmas. The old one should have been put on display at Towneley Museum, he said. It must have been the only wheelbarrow that limped, added Ray Lott a former secretary of the Supporter’s Club, down from Cumbria for the day to visit his old friend.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: big, strong, muscular and arrived with a plan. They defended, hassled, harried, pressed and crowded and had done their homework. They also attacked; it wasn’t all just defending or shutting up shop. It might just be that Jackett is fashioning what could be a very effective side. Anybody who thought that three easy points were on their way was well wide of the mark. They were an impressive outfit.

To have beaten them Burnley would have had to have been at their best; but they weren’t. The run of six straight wins ended but it was so close to continuing. With just two minutes of extra time remaining Wolves equalised from a corner that originated from the ball being lost cheaply when a hoof into Row Z might have been the answer with the final whistle so close.

It was time for the Batth and he powered a spotlessly clean header into the net to connect with the corner kick. But then Mee did just the same at Huddersfield. When a Burnley player scores from a corner we say what a great headed goal; when the opposition score a goal we ask where were the defenders. What was hugely disappointing was that it was so close to the whistle and we could just about see three more points to add to the total.

Whether three points would have been deserved or not might have been the question, but if we had won, who cares at this stage how Burnley win the points. They didn’t though and the analyses began. Websites can be cruel places on a Saturday night.

Unbeaten since Boxing Day, six straight wins and still unbeaten, but you might have thought it was the day Burnley had imploded from some of the reactions. Sure, it wasn’t the best of weekends with Boro winning the night before, and Brighton winning as well with the added frustration of their opponents MK Dons missing the chance to equalise with a penalty in the final minute. But there were Burnley still at the top, four points clear, with the bonus of a goal difference worth an extra point.

Boyd, Mee, Keane and Vokes were the pick today but it certainly wasn’t the best of performances, with two or three individuals clearly having an off day. There were too many long balls from the back over the top of midfield that in general were comfortably mopped up by the Wolves six-footers. You frequently looked for a wide man to receive a pass, but too often there was no wide man. Too often Heaton looked for runners for the throw but there weren’t any. Passes went astray or the ball was given away loosely.

But it happens: and still Burnley got a point when on another day Wolves might have stolen a 1-0 win. Had it petered out into a 0-0 draw we might well have come away not exactly happy, but nevertheless thankful. But when you are winning 1-0 with just two minutes remaining and the opposition score, it feels like a defeat especially when you’ve lost the chance to be six points clear.

But football is funny: had Burnley been losing 1-0 and equalised in the final moments we’d have whooped and hollered as if we’d won at Wembley and come away happy as Larry. The most sensible view expressed by many was that this result was certainly not disastrous, that it did not derail the promotion possibility, and that it was a timely reminder that Burnley will not win every game.

Burnley’s goal was a beauty, Vokes majestically rising and powering home a terrific header from a Barton cross. How ironic that one missed it whilst one was making use of the gentlemen’s facilities down below. But what an interesting moment and sensation it was down below. Whilst I’m standing there in mid-stream there was this almighty roar and the ground and the walls actually shook visibly. The last time this happened I was in the basement loo of a villa in Greece at the commencement of an earthquake. It was quite alarming really. I can tell you I didn’t loiter down there.

Bloody missed it, I moaned as the porcelain stopped wobbling, this being only the second time in all these years of watching Burnley that this has happened.

Reading between the lines of his post-match comments, Sean D was not too chuffed with the crowd suggesting they need to be more patient, teams don’t come to Turf Moor just to roll over and lose, that some of them do actually come with a plan that works, and that goals whether we like it or not, can be conceded from set plays.

Perhaps we had already had too much of a good thing this week, with that marvellous twenty/twenty win over South Africa in the cricket, for sure one of the best games I’ve ever watched. Then there was the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith architect of the bedroom tax and other such financial wheezes designed to exterminate the poor. After hearing all the details of the case Richard 111 was declared fit for work by the DW&P. There was the triumphant English Rugby Union team and the climax to the marvellous ‘Happy Valley.’

Burnley 1 Wolves 1 was not quite a good thing but almost. On the way home, the steak and ale pie at the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden would have mellowed Victor Meldrew himself. By the time I’d cleaned the plate I wasn’t thinking about two dropped points, I was thinking bloody hell that was fair tasty, and for the next two weeks we’d be top of the league by four points, five if you add on goal difference and in a week we’d be off on the first jolly of the year. At that point there seemed nowt to worry about and with a loud burp that escaped quite accidentally, sat back feeling well fed and all’s well with the world.