It’s the People’s Game


There are different ways to win games, Sean Dyche has said several times. The win over Bolton Wanderers was the perfect illustration and as it turned out it was not the banana skin game that we might have expected.

Play badly for a bit, let the other team have the ball as much as they want for the first 15 minutes, keep ‘em out, slowly find our way, then move up a couple of gears, enjoy a 30-minute blistering spell and score a couple, then let the other team back into the game and spend a testing final 10 minutes. We’re getting into the groove, he said after this game.
Bolton of course the team that Owen Coyle said was 10 years ahead of Burnley when he toddled off to the grass he thought was greener. Five years down the line they were bottom of the division after the defeat at Burnley.

What Coyle actually said was: ‘The best way to put it is that Bolton is probably five or ten years ahead of what we are trying to achieve at Burnley.’ Well Burnley has certainly caught up those first five years and are thriving and solvent. I’d have given more than a penny for Gartside’s thoughts as this fixture approached and then afterwards.

Apparently he was on his best behaviour in the boardroom and the Burnley directors were as ever polite and courteous. But who can blame them if, like us, they chuckle and chortle a bit after he has left the building. ‘He’s certainly a little more reserved these days,’ was one description. There’s not much scope to bluster when you’re nearly £100million in debt, no longer a Prem side, and propping up the division.

What a difference a striker makes, what a difference one player can make. You could argue that had Gray being playing for Sheffield Wednesday they would have won. For long spells they played the better football and piled on a fair bit of pressure. But in front of goal they were toothless although one Sunday paper had Heaton as goalkeeper of the week. Burnley huffed and puffed for maybe 60 of the 90 minutes but in the other 30 Gray took centre stage and scored twice, one of them a belter. On a day when everything goes right he could have had four quite easily and the signs were there that a real partnership with Vokes was emerging.

The Tony Kay versus Bob Lord story nudged a few memories because of the betting scandal involving Tony Kay, Peter Swan and Bronco Layne. The bets that Sheffield Wednesday would lose at Ipswich were laid in November 1962, in the 1962/63 season. The season before Ipswich had pipped Burnley to the title when Burnley ran out of steam over the last 10 games.

Did those guys deliberately throw the match? Only they will ever know but they certainly broke the rules by betting on themselves to lose and stood to gain a handsome profit from the bet. It was a massive story at the time. Foolish, gullible, naïve, even stupid, seeking to profit on the sly, they were eventually caught out and paid a draconian price. It was a betting scam pure and simple, instigated by fixer Jimmy Gauld, with the story related by Swan in his 2007 book, PETER SWAN.

His manager when all of this hit the headlines was none other than Alan Brown formerly of Burnley both as a player and manager. Nobody was more morally upright than Brown, a hard man who ruled with a rod of iron. At Sunderland, Brian Clough was in awe of him and confessed later to modelling himself on him. Brown tolerated no poor behaviour and was like a very strict headmaster according to many players. Brown, Swan writes, told him to go home and start praying to God for forgiveness for what he had done, adding that if he trusted the Lord, he’d have no problems. Would that life was so simple.

In all of this, the only certainty is that Sheffield Wednesday players bet on themselves to lose. Only they know if they deliberately lost the game. It’s all well over 50 years ago and us old-timers can still bring it to mind. For others it’s now just a historical footnote. Would the punishments be as severe today? They suffered time in prison and were banned for life from the game although after several years that was lifted and Swan was able to play a handful of games for Wednesday again.

Years later Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh placed a bet on England to win at 500/1. That was when England were seven down and almost 100 short of making Australia bat again. Cue Botham and Willis. It wasn’t part of a wider betting scam, Lillee and Marsh were not banged up, just reprimanded and were picked for the three remaining test matches.

My neighbour Stuart’s face was glum and despondent. He’d bought a Leeds season ticket this time round wondering if this might turn out to be a good season. Alas what chance is there, he asked yesterday, with that clown Cellino in charge, as he fired yet another manager, this time Uwe Rosler, the fifth to be given his P45. In Leeds they don’t count the days to Christmas, they count the managers. My pal Garry Edwards, the Leeds equivalent of Dave Burnley, was apoplectic. It strikes me as a miracle that Cellino is still alive. There’s a brutal, psychopathic hard core of Leeds fans, descended from skull-crushing and warlike Ancient Britons. I’m amazed one of them hasn’t done him a serious mischief.

And Steve Evans the new manager: the press are having a field day finding things he allegedly said of Leeds on April 13, like this gem. ‘Leeds are not a big club. Don’t get me wrong, they used to be; now they’re just a circus run by puppets, watched by blinkered seals. If they ever offered me a job, I’d turn it down; I want to be the captain of a Cruise-liner, not the Titanic.’

Way to go Steve.

On the same day as the appointment was confirmed, next up in the comedy procession was the news that Cellino was now banned from running a football club on account of failing the fit and proper owner’s and director’s test. He had known about this since October 14th. It used to be Man City known as the Theatre of Base Comedy. Now it is clearly Leeds United. Evans we may assume will be quietly pleased. With Cellino now banned he can’t sack Evans for at least a few weeks.

It was difficult not to keep a straight face as on SKY Sports News Evans declared himself to be honoured, humbled and proud to be the next er manager er head coach… he really didn’t know which… by a man barred for tax evasion. I couldn’t wait to buy the next day’s Yorkshire Post.

Chief writer Richard Sutcliffe began by saying he is often asked about Leeds United on his travels by people who are either fascinated or just plain amused by the events unfolding at a club that is currently beyond parody and where things now border on the farcical. The pantomime season has begun early this year, he wrote, with the latest turn of events once again leaving the club as a laughing stock. What stuck out the most, he wrote, was that in the types of managers appointed there seems no logic, no common ground between them, with each of the six so far, so different, so disparate, as if to suggest that Cellino has no real idea what he looks for in a manager. Of Rosler he said he wanted someone who could produce heavy rock but all he was getting was country music.

And the good news: as soon as Cellino has faced or served this ban, another one for something else just is round the corner waiting for him.

We were having new windows fitted, the day chaotic, the noise of drills, saws, banging and clattering incessant. The three blokes here drank enough tea to float the Titanic and gave me a repetitive strain injury from lifting up the kettle over and again. One of them had a Leeds shirt on. What’s with all this Burnley stuff, he asked with a cheeky grin when he came out of grandson Joe’s bedroom, a room lined with Burnley shirts and pictures and shelves piled high with programmes. I retaliated with ‘and what’s Cellino up to at the moment?’ He laughed; what else could he do. They worked nine hours without a break of any kind and by the end of the day as dusk was settling had done a whole house. One word came to mind – relentless.

With all that going on we’d hardly given a thought to the game at Nottingham. Having grabbed a quick Indian (he didn’t arf look surprised) we sat back and watched Sky Sports News and groaned when Forest scored. It had seemed reasonable to expect a win down there; Forest had been none too clever of late and we seemed to be getting better each game. The minutes ticked by and it seemed that Forest were going to get an unlikely win, especially as one-time target Henri Lansbury had been sent off for a crazy stamp on Ben Mee. With Mee on the ground Lansbury whilst running simply stamped him in the chest and then feigned ‘what me ref, why ref, what have I done?’ Quite what possessed Lansbury to do that only he knows and in the football world it caused barely a ripple. It left me thinking if Joey Barton had done something similar it would have been headline news for a week with his previous record of flying off the handle. A 3amp fuse in a 13amp plug; could blow anytime, impossible to read, said Sam Allardyce who managed him at Newcastle.

Even minus Lansbury a defeat seemed likely. But step up Matt Taylor who finished off a bout of rapid passing with a blistering left-foot shot from 25 yards. Does anyone have a sweeter shot from distance than this guy? Cue jokes such as Matt-finish and Taylor-made but this was in the 90th minute so they were worth a chuckle.’ I haven’t seen a ball go in that quickly for a long time,’ said Dyche. To say it was spectacular is an understatement.

By all accounts it was a game that could have been won, Barton hit the post and there were other decent chances. Darikwa was taken off and on came Lowton originally first-choice right back. Lowton got a mention the next day by a guy who wandered across to the house from across the way while I was taking the rubbish out.

‘You’re a Burnley supporter,’ he said having seen the sticker in the car. ‘I’m a Villa fan.’ He was one of the two guys painting and decorating the house opposite.

Heck: you must be thinking we all have loadsa money around here, me with new windows and the neighbours having their house decorated. His accent was broad brummy which seemed out of place in our neck of the woods. He was on his fifth or sixth cig break and it was only about 10.30. The day before, he must have finished a whole packet he was outside so often while his mate inside carried on working.

‘You’ve got one of our boys playing for you… Lowton, e’s class, we should never av sould ‘im,’ he continued whilst the other bloke was inside still slapping paint on.

He was amazed to hear that Lowton had barely featured this season. He was equally amazed to hear that the window guys had done the job in just one day. I could see the wheels turning and the light coming on as he figured it out: while he had painted a couple of doors and a window ledge, they’d fitted 14 windows and a door.

With just two days to go all tickets were sold out for the game at Blackburn despite the obligatory bus system. On the morning of the game I showed Mrs T the latest research that Bacon was good for you because it contains Choline a nutrient that improves memory and brain development and helps fight Dementia. But no I couldn’t have a bacon sandwich for lunch.

‘It’s the People’s Game,’ said Sean Dyche looking ahead to Saturday. Er is it? If it was the People’s Game we’d all be making our own way there instead of queuing up for buses, although by all accounts things have been improved, and the lucky ones were even on pleasant comfy coaches. Nevertheless the people’s ownership of this game has been taken away by safety committees and the police despite the best efforts of Supporters Clubs.

Me and Mrs T stayed outside the bubble and watched at home in comfort. It was a weekend when there were several high profile local derbies including West Ham versus Chelsea, Man United v City and Sunderland v Newcastle. The night before there was Rotherham v Sheffield Wednesday. Over the weekend the Ewood game was the only ‘Bubble’ game; maybe for many who are now used to it, it all adds to the fun of the day out, especially after a win.

In truth, things have seemed fairly quiet and stable of late over at Ewood; no sackings, no turmoil, no controversy, and as a result not an awful lot to laugh at although the Venky’s are still there and the Jack Walker statue was enhanced with a turban recently. It actually looked rather smart.

‘Don’t boo Joey Barton,’ said Robbie Savage, the fount of all wisdom, advising Rovers fans not to wind him up. Rovers according to the bookies were marginal favourites to win the game; quite why wasn’t clear especially as Burnley snatched it with a 1-0 win. We switched off the TV and waheyed. The afternoon shop was in M&S. We can be there in just seven minutes and we smiled all the way there– and we didn’t have to go on a bus with a police escort.

Stumps Runs and Rock and Roll

Can’t grumble I suppose. The UK weather wasn’t too draconian when we got back from the blue skies and sun of Kalkan. Images and memories of the taste sensations of Marbled Steak at the Wapiano, Steak Minions at the Zula, Steak Tornado at Soprano’s and harbourside breakfasts slowly faded.

A couple of days after we left there was an earthquake over there that was felt in the town, only a few shakes, the centre of it was a 100 miles away; so just after midnight as people wandered back to their hotels and apartments they could be forgiven for thinking they’d just had few too many drinks.

M&S was already full of Christmas stuff already, most Garden Centres were filled up with Christmas tat, Blatter was suspended, Qatar won the bid to host his leaving do, Rodgers was sacked at Liverpool, Advocaat left Sunderland; it was all happening. And that’s even before you mention the Tory Conference. On a local website a guy was asking where he could get good manure from. The Tory conference was my immediate reply. Continue reading Stumps Runs and Rock and Roll

Sojourn in Kalkan

With the nights drawing in and autumn settling over Yorkshire and Lancashire and our brains still tingling after the win over Sheffield Wednesday, within a couple of days we were back for part two of the double-header.

This time it was against that team from Milton Keynes. MK Dons have been around for a while but it’s still a name that seems false and artificial. I couldn’t help wondering what the hell they were doing in the Championship at Turf Moor. They were formed under false pretences it always seemed to me.

But here they were so all that remained was to continue the good Burnley work and send them packing. Never mind the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, we thought. We need hot sun. So straight after the game we were off to Kalkan to meet a new chum as well, Mehmet (pictured above) the owner of the Café Zula who bit by bit I was converting to Claretianity and the good news was that with the Derby game on SKY we’d be able to find a bar and see it. Continue reading Sojourn in Kalkan