ACCRINGTON 1 BURNLEY 0
The stats just made you laugh when you saw them laid out in black and white. The Liverpool game was so one-sided it was untrue; the even more astonishing stat was Liverpool’s 1014 touches to Burnley’s 336. But what good was that; Klopp looked bemused, stunned, shell-shocked, in his TV interviews immediately afterwards.
But everyone was in awe of that defensive performance, the back four like a sponge just soaking up the attacks so that rarely did any direct threat come from inside the penalty area. It was a masterclass was the comment that appeared several times from Matt le Tissier on Soccer Saturday and Danny Murphy on MOTD.
The Olympic spirit that Dyche referred to was there in abundance, the basic principle that hard work and effort reap their rewards, that an indefatigable never-say-die attitude will overcome the biggest obstacles, and as Burnley won on Saturday the golds kept coming in Rio.
Our drive home back to Leeds was in a state of elation, not to mention just a little surprise, and ironically we had the quickest getaway ever from the car park where normally we are stuck ‘til sometimes nearly 5.30 as the away coaches drive away. This time we were out before 5.15; we can only suppose the disbelieving Liverpool fans couldn’t wait to get away.
“How could they disappear in a game wearing that garish fluorescent yellow strip?” they asked shaking their heads. It wasn’t so much a disappearing act; it was more that they were simply swallowed up by the waiting defenders, sucked into every trap and blind alley that was laid for them.
‘Liverpool humbled as defence is torn apart,’ began the Sunday Telegraph. Tactically and physically, Sean Dyche’s side were superior.
Sean Dyche’s men were simply hungrier, said the Guardian. On this evidence Burnley have a fighting chance of staying up.
“This might shut up those people predicting we’re going down again, this will give everyone here a massive psychological lift,” said Sean Dyche in the Mirror. Much was made of the fact that Vokes and Gray were neighbours as well as strike partners in several of the papers.
“It helps that we get on,” said Gray. “It’s easy to talk things through and speak to each other. We clicked from day one before I moved in next door to him. It’s a lot easier when it’s a big man little man combination. “
Jurgen Klopp said on Wednesday night that he’d re-watched the tape of his team’s defeat at Turf Moor and had isolated where his players had gone wrong. “The main problem was that with one more pass we were 15 times completely free in the box,” he said. But dear Jurgen I thought, your players had already made 850 passes. And you wanted 15 more?
And so the Olympics ended. It was kind of nice that Brazil won the football final over Germany, Mo came through again but that last boxing fight was a puzzler. I’m no boxing expert but it seemed odd that the winner was the bloke who stood for 80% of the contest covering his head and face with his gloves whilst the British guy belted him mercilessly. It showed once again that you can dominate for 80% of the time and still not win. Perhaps it was the gold medal for playing peekaboo.
Liverpool websites were going into meltdown; the pundits had their knives out ready to stick into Klopp. The Times Burnley report was a disgrace with barely a mention of Burnley in its 1000 words. The Monday red tops preferred to concentrate on the controversial Gray tweets that had emerged after the game. I could only wonder at what kind of person trawls through 4 years of tweets to dig this stuff up from so long ago; perhaps they already have such stuff saved in a jar in the cupboard ready to bring out when someone becomes a celeb. Gray apologised profusely in his lengthy statement and it was a more than convincing declaration of regret. Being in the Premier League brings with it a whole new set of spotlights and this was the perfect illustration. Muckraking my old granny used to call it.
Just when we were anticipating with relish the Accrington game, the old Accrington along with Burnley one of the founder members of the League, The FA charged Andre Gray with misconduct. The media, particularly the internet is cruel and words mostly of the knee-jerk kind, poured out relentlessly on an almost industrial scale. Celebrity status brings its own pitfalls and Gray has become a celebrity of late, even more so now, but for the wrong reasons.
In things like this it is easy to be pompously condemnatory and glibly sanctimonious but I’ll bet that Gray wished there was a large hole on Saturday night he could have disappeared into. Jane Pike, brought up in a family of tolerance and understanding, issued a fine plea (abridged) for others to be understanding and tolerant:
‘I know feelings are running high on this one but I would remind people that it’s pretty reasonable to assume Andre has experienced prejudice too and growing up in a gang culture with other young black men listened to Jamaican dancehall music where they sing about ‘killing the battyman.’
‘The upshot of it all is that those who are calling for him to be hung out to dry are in danger of sounding as ignorant as the youthful Gray. For the rest of his life everywhere he goes, dressed well because he has the money as a footballer, he will be judged as a black man with a scar on his face and therefore someone who has gained his fortune through ill-gotten gains.
‘This is why I say he has paid a high price already, and every day when he looks in the mirror he is reminded of what he was. If you want to pour scorn on top of all that, you maybe need to stop and think for a moment, about what you are hoping to achieve.
‘I have no wish to upset friends who may think at first glance that I am being lenient on Gray, he was wrong, no-one thinks otherwise, I just implore you to get some context and show a little more tolerance yourselves. Imagine the prejudice and struggle Gray himself will have endured, it doesn’t excuse what he did, but the fact that he is grown, is ashamed of the views he once held, and has changed, is surely the best outcome here and one we should welcome.’
Time after time the media pointed to the tweets emerging “after Gray’s first Premier goal.” It’s reasonable to think that prior to that, it was uninteresting as far as the press were concerned.
Alas, the FA may well want its pound of flesh.
In a website piece by Iain Macintosh there were some nice observations: Burnley are an odd football club in that they are run by people with the ability to think over time periods longer than are generally required to eat a sandwich … It’s crazy really, they genuinely do seem to care about ensuring the survival and prosperity of their club more than they do spunking tens of millions of pounds on agents’ fees and discombobulated South American thirty-somethings… sensible and shrewd on and off the pitch they have it within them to survive. Although conclusions formed in August tend to melt as quickly as ice lollies in the same month.
1888, December 1 and it was Accrington 5 Burnley 1. This first-ever Football League season wasn’t the finest in Burnley’s history; it also included a 7-1 defeat against Blackburn Rovers. They played 22 games, won seven and amassed 17 points to finish ninth out of the twelve and had to apply for re-election. They were primitive times. When Wales beat Ireland 11-0 in 1888 three players left the game early to catch the train that they would otherwise have missed. When Burnley played Aston Villa at Turf Moor, Villa began with just 8 players because three were late due to fog causing transport delays.
128 years later here Burnley were in the Premier League, with Blackburn at the foot of the Championship and Accrington hanging on to newly found league status. Manager John Coleman was confident of an upset. We took this with a pinch of salt. ‘Yeh right,’ we thought. Trouble is we forgot what a weird and wonderful game football is… and lost to the most penniless side in the Football League; from the euphoria of the win over Liverpool to the embarrassment of losing at the Wham Stadium.
Burnley made 10 changes and put out the reserves. But these are decent players and it was a side good enough to have won against a Division Two side, but they didn’t do the job. Some of these lads are on good money, maybe some of them on ten grand a week.
They did make chances, the Accy goalkeeper made three stunning saves; McCartan most certainly should have been sent off in the first half thus reducing Accrington to ten men. That he wasn’t dismissed was a travesty; the tackle on O Neil was a leg-breaker. Refereeing wasn’t actually this referee’s strong point. In extra time he disallowed a superb Gray 20-yard goal after he had shrugged off the defender, for a supposed Gray foul.
The first half was 45 minutes to forget and the good news was there was only 2 mins extra time. It was hard to think of one player that distinguished himself, there were near misses from Vokes, Gudjonsson and the Jut. Only O Neil (who surely will be an immense player before long) and Tarkowski came out of the half with any credit. The atmosphere was dead, the football sterile. At least three Burnley players looked out of their depth even at this level, huge question marks over their performances and ability.
The second half was marginally better, Accrington defended, blocked, dug in, tackled, the goalkeeper kept Gray out. With Gray on there was a sense of urgency and more purpose but after his disallowed goal, no side looked like scoring before Christmas in this awful game. Extra-time: it came and almost went with penalties looming, and then the inevitable; the kind of thing that happens on a night like this. The underdogs, by now playing on adrenalin and instinct, scored with just seconds remaining from the deep cross that came over. Their number 17 hurled himself at the massed Burnley defenders like a bull in a china shop, down they went en masse, crumpled in a heap of bodies, legs and arms as a whole bunch of them went down like ninepins. You waited for the whistle for the wildness of the challenge, but no; the ball broke free to the right and the big ex-Blackburn lad, Matty Pearson, came up, stroked it home. Like many others that probably thought the same, all I could do was shake my head and ask: dear God have I really sat through 2 hours of that, for this. I could have been painting a ceiling or something useful.
They talk about the romance of the cup; but for Burnley there was nothing romantic about it at all, just a harsh reminder that a cup game is a great leveller and that a winner in the last seconds is just an absolute sickener.
The one ray of light: the display by O’ Neill, a class act and a star in the making; the two grumbles of the night, the vile challenge by McCartan on O’ Neill and the Gray goal that was chalked off. Unimpressive as Burnley were, they’d done enough to have won this game. Sometimes football is impossible to work out; Accy had done a Burnley – on Burnley; and this time it was they who showed the Olympic never-say-die spirit. Whilst Burnley plodded, and huffed and puffed, but nevertheless had the several chances to win the game, none better than the Jut diving header that flashed wide, or the miss by inches from a Kightly cross; Accrington plugged away, defended deeper and deeper, and got the final lucky break that so often decides a cup game.
Shock result? Perhaps so but there was another eye-opening surprise on the night when celebrity bread-maker Paul Hollywood dunked a Jaffa cake in his tea. Now: that was a real shock and left Mary Berry speechless, although she did manage to say: “Oh… we don’t do that in the south.”
Dunking Jaffa cakes: the nation was shocked, twitter was in meltdown. It kind of put the Burnley defeat into a proper perspective.