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.





They were calling it Sensational Sunday, the day GB hauled in a whole load of medals – golf, sailing, cycling, long distance, tennis and gymnastics, just one after the other. If you like sport it was a wonderful day, if not it was hard luck if you wanted to watch something else on TV.

The golf was totally enthralling, a nail biter that went right to the last hole with Justin Rose triumphant; the gymnastics magical. The tennis was simply exhausting, not just for Murray and Del Potro, but for all of us who sat up into the small hours watching and marvelling at the stamina of these two guys. They make footballers look like what they are – pampered and cosseted. Wenger was prattling on about recovery time for his players after they had lost to Liverpool. Football is so far up its own a*rse these days it’s untrue. Four hours those tennis players slugged it out, both of them dead on their feet by the end; epic, monumental, herculean, spell-binding, you run out of words.

It was at the end of the contest that there was one of those great sporting moments; moments that live on in the memory, and this one was the way these two exhausted contestants held each other in a long embrace, Del Potro towering over Murry but burying his head into Murray’s shoulder. Each of them knew that they had played in a memorable game, driven each other to the brink of collapse, tested each other to the limit; their embrace was one of mutual admiration and respect – and it was an Argentine and a Brit to add to the moment, two nations not exactly on the best of terms thanks to the Falklands. It was a moment when sport transcends politics as so often we know it can.

But no gold medals for the linesman and referee after the Swansea defeat as the row simmered on and the press more or less all agreed that it looked like this would be a season to mirror that of the last one in the Prem when Burnley all too often did not get the rub of the green and the decisions they ought to have had.

As Sophie Hitchon from Burnley won bronze with her hammer throw, she belied the rule that women hammer throwers must look like they’re big enough to lift a tractor and brutish enough to curdle milk. Nor is the Hammer one of the glamour competitions as the Daily Telegraph pointed out; whilst those take place in Rome, or Monaco or Shanghai, Sophie Hitchon can be found at less salubrious places such as Szczecin a place where the main attraction is a cemetery.

The Defour deal wasn’t quite finalised after the weekend, Belgium was shut for the day thanks to a national holiday and then I suspect we were all caught napping at the news that David Jones signed a deal that took him to Sheffield Wednesday for a reported £1.8million. The Jones deal really was so sudden and such a surprise, especially as his contributions to two promotions had been so immense. Underrated and undervalued, the quiet man of the team, praise for him poured in from Facebook and twitter.

Burnley have picked up some bargains over the years and Jones has been one of them. One-footed and mono-paced, he still managed to pull the strings, link the play, make goals with his set-pieces, and was the perfect foil for Dean Marney or Joey Barton. Some players influence a game in a quiet, understated way, they don’t stand out, they don’t make flying tackles, but they do the unseen work, rarely lose possession, they make the simple pass, they cover a huge amount of ground, and they prop up the back four. Add all that together and that was the supremely professional David Jones, a player that demonstrated all the Dyche virtues and core principles. Funny how football works out for players; only in his last interview did he say that at last he was at a club where he felt at home. It’s a transient life for so many of them as they move around.

Just a few miles away, whilst we seemed to be back on the market for Hendricks, things at the Wovers were going from bad to worse, and words like bad and worse are understatements. Recently revealed documents seemed to show the huge mess they were in was even bigger than imagined; their fans, or what was left of them, were going frantic. Blackpool, Bolton, they seemed well on the way to joining them in financial meltdown and chaos. Football fans are generally sympathetic to the plights of clubs that have had incompetent owners, or dodgy owners, like Portsmouth who were taken to the brink. Such fans are now looking at Wovers in a similar light; but not the Burnley supporters. Perhaps here and there, there is an odd Burnley fan that might feel just a smidgeon of sympathy for their demise, but if the Burnley fan sites are anything to go by they were few and far between. Memories of the derogatory banner that was flown over Turf Moor many years ago will not go away.

For Rovers fans living in Blackburn along Parsonage Road, then life took an even worse turn. The fed-up residents had waited a year to have all the potholes mended and were delighted when at last the work was carried out, their cars at last safe from ruined tyres, their necks safe from whiplash. Blackburn is already famous for the Beatles line about the town having 4,000 potholes. But the very next day along came another set of road workers and dug up the road again to re-lay it with traffic calming humps, wrecking the new tarmac and areas that had just been repaired. Add to that, the Wovers losing again, this time at Cardiff 2-1 with Coyle chasing one of his angry players down the tunnel after he had stormed off, and it was a good day all round for anyone who finds all things Blackburn amusing.

Gotta say I was thrilled to see the Brownlee brothers win gold and silver and can truthfully say I had a part to play many years ago in their rise to fame. Their mother is our family doctor, the surgery is just a 10-minute walk away, and many years ago on the morning that I thought I’d had a heart attack I went to see her at the surgery and said “doctor I think I’ve had a heart attack.” She asked the usual questions including what was my occupation. “Headmaster,” I said at which her ears pricked up because it’s one of the jobs where stress levels are high and headteachers are thought to be prime candidates for an early fall off the perch. However, in this case it was the prompt for an impromptu discussion about the two young boys.

“Oh,” she said, “I’m really worried about my two boys and their reading.” And she explained that it seemed like they had dyslexia. I would like to have said “doctor I’m f***ing dying here can we get on with the diagnosis and if possible an ambulance.”

But no: I explained that there was no known cure and really it was just a fancy name that made parents feel better because it gave them a label why their kids couldn’t read very well. It kind of made it respectable. But anyway, I said, all kids are good at something, so if they can’t read very well at the moment, they probably have other talents that will compensate. And how right I was. There have been some iconic sports photographs over the years. The picture of the two brothers lying on the ground after the race, arm in arm, is one of them.

And then I continued: “And doctor about my heart attack…”

And if the Brownlee brothers weren’t brilliant enough, next we sat glued to Nick Skelton and the show jumping. That was on the IPad whilst out of the other eye we watched the women’s golf and Charlie Hull. Only the Olympics makes you do this. Skelton is an astonishing 58 years old with a hip replacement, and there he was careering up and down and over and round the fences at breakneck speed and to make it more difficult, all this was while he was on the back of a horse. At that age I went dizzy climbing a flight of stairs.

With Liverpool due next, there was no real anxiety, but there was just the small question of how would we fare against a side containing so many galacticos. A Dyche side would never roll over but would Dyche grit be sufficient on the day to put up a good fight? It was perhaps too much to expect any repeat of the 1-0 win years ago when the gangly Traore twirled on his goal-line and somehow plonked the ball in his own net in one of football’s great comedy moments. It’s an image that remains vivid to this day. Sean D said they’d all been watching the Olympics and it was where the finest detail could make a difference between winning a medal and losing out. But more than that, what the Women’s Hockey team showed were all the Dyche principles of effort, guts, resilience, willpower, team spirit and determination. Outclassed and outplayed for 75% of the game, nevertheless they won against the superb Dutch side.

Whilst the Dutch wept, the Brits whooped and hollered. These Olympics were just getting better and better; Murray, Justin Rose, the Brownlees, the show jumping and next up the hockey girls. What an epic game, drama, the penalty shoot-out, the girls cut, bruised, battered and stitched up. This is no game for cissies, those sticks hurt; elbows fly in, shoulders barge, fingers are cracked, collisions are jarring and frequent. The ball can travel at speeds of 100mph, top players run more yards in a minute than any footballer. It’s where Mrs T first saw my legs when she watched Saturday games at college 50 years ago and when I found out just what a painful game it can be. The legs meanwhile are still pretty sexy, it’s the rest of me that’s not too good. Watching the Final on Friday night was as good a two-hours of sport as you could see anywhere. And if GB found a way to win, why couldn’t Burnley beat Liverpool?

By gum they tried and by gum they DID. They only went out and won. I had the header already planned – ‘Klopp clipped’ in the morning and that’s just how it turned out. And it was without Christian Benteke who tweeted that he was proud to be a Burnley FC player. We looked in vain for him wondering where the money had come from… but apparently it was just him thinking that’s how you spelled Palace. It was an easy mistake to make; Burnley and Crystal Palace are only 250 miles apart. And Liverpool: in their bright yellow kit we thought it was the stewards who had turned out to play.

James Mortimer posted “that’s right up there with Burnley 2 Northampton Town 1, 1986.” Anyone who saw any of the games in that era will know what he means.

“Jurgen Jurgen what’s the score,” the crowd sang.

“You’re not Danny Ings, you’re not Danny Ings,” the crowd sang when a Liverpool shot went high and wide.

2-0 Burnley won despite the astonishing stats that recorded 26 Liverpool shots and 81% possession. Yet despite those stats Burnley never looked like losing, never looked truly threatened, never looked like losing. Liverpool for all their pretty play and intricate passing, never played a killer ball, never seriously breached the Burnley wall, never looked remotely like scoring.

And the Burnley defence: impregnable, dour, unbreakable, dominant, robust, simply magnificent. For all those Liverpool shots only twice was Heaton seriously in action.

And the two Burnley goals: both of them superb, the first from a Liverpool pass intercepted by Gray who slipped the ball quickly to Vokes. Vokes beats his man gets on the edge of the box, pirouettes as if he was on ‘Strictly’ and fires an unstoppable bullet 20-yarder wide of Mignolet. The ground erupted, perhaps not quite on the same volcanic scale as that when Blake scored against Man United in 2009, but still a roar that probably echoed as far away as Skipton.

And if we thought this was a minor miracle then even better was to follow when Defour (Marney with a beard) won the ball and powered forward into the Liverpool half. Halfway in, he released a pass to Gray and Gray did the rest from the edge of the box, beating one man, beating a second, firing through a third defender’s legs, the ball eluding Mignolet’s despairing dive. It took TV replays to show just how sumptuous both goals were.

With the wind swirling, Klopp stony-faced and the crowd roaring, if we thought Liverpool would up the second-half tempo and put Burnley under the cosh, we were mistaken. It was just more of the same, tip-tapping around as if it was some kind of training exercise without one jot of penetration.

The rest of the game was Liverpool trying to unlock the Burnley padlocks but never once was there even a close thing, or a near miss. Not one Burnley player could be faulted, each one magnificent, Mee and Keane utterly immense, over and again Burnley were quick to intercept, quick to tackle, to block and hassle, harry, force Liverpool back and then retaliate with occasional swift counter-attacks.

We’ve had some memorable games at the Turf in the last few years. This was one of them; seventh in the table and who’d have thought it, on course for Europe.


Hallelujah and Praise the Lord


There were ten transfer targets sitting on the wall, ten transfer targets sitting on the wall… and if one transfer target should accidentally fail… there’ll be nine transfer targets sitting on the wall…

The info that Dale Stephens was on his way turned out to be duff; on Monday night he was allegedly on the M6 travelling north for a medical the next day. “It will be us supporters that need a medical before long at this rate,” fans tweeted.

Being Chris Boden at the Burnley Express or Suzanne Geldard at the Telegraph must be hard work. Just what do they write about when there is no news? It’s a testament to their ability to tell the same tale a different way each week, that somehow they cobble together a story. The new one was that the news that Sean D didn’t want to put the club’s future at risk by over-stretching the budget. He didn’t want to leave the club in a state of rack and ruin. He didn’t want to just throw all the money on the pitch and if it didn’t work, sail off into the night leaving a mess behind him. Oh to be Phil Hay at the Leeds based Yorkshire Evening Post with a never ending reservoir of tales to tell about the latest Leeds mishaps and Cellino.

Hats off to the reporter at the Derby Bugle or whatever it’s called; this guy made a scoop out of nothing when he reported in his weekly feature that there had been no further developments in the Kendrick to Burnley saga.

I went to the wedding of an African friend last week in Leeds and what a wonderful afternoon it was. Colour, costumes, dancing, music, and a Bishop in resplendent crimson robes with a wry sense of humour that he badly needed seeing as the bride was 2 hours late. It was an afternoon of non-stop “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” and “Amens” every 30 seconds. It was infectiously smiley and exuberant. The two-hour wait just flew by especially with all the music.

It left me wanting to write we’ve signed somebody praise the Lord… we’ve signed somebody Hallelujah… we’ve signed somebody Amen… sadly no… all I can write is Dear Lord please can we sign anybody, even Lansbury.

The Sun distinguished itself yet again when it headlined an article with Dyche Fury. At the press day of a few days earlier he had discussed with journalists from several of the dailies his view on how unfortunate it is that English managers and coaches get no credit for doing just the same work as foreign coaches – and the foreign coaches are seen as geniuses. Be it diet, training routines, or formations, foreign coaches are seen as ground breakers, but in truth there is little that is new in football and they are merely doing what has been done by English coaches, including himself, more often than not. Sean D claimed that he had been using methods used by Klopp and Guardiola for years. Conte, he said, was doing 800m, 400m, and 200m runs and is commended; Dyche does it at Burnley and he is labelled a dinosaur.

Everything he said was measured and considered. It was all prefaced with how much he respects the work of ALL managers. There was not one ounce of disrespect or annoyance; everything was perfectly reasonable. Where the ‘fury’ came from is anyone’s guess. There wasn’t one shred of it. This was journalism at its worst; you could only wonder if this particular Sun writer was even there.

Accrington: the draw for the League Cup produced a wonderful tie, Accrington versus Burnley, you couldn’t help but smile. “A carnival and family affair,” said Stanley owner Andy Holt. They were so close to promotion last season, 2015/16 but didn’t quite make it as we willed them to do it. How can you not feel affectionate towards them, whilst we feel intense scorn of all things Blackburn? Ex-Burnley players, Steven Hewitt, Chris Eagles and Shay McCartan were now Stanley players.

There was that old 1980s Milk Board TV advert where two little lads in Liverpool shirts, scousers, proper scallywags, were in the kitchen. One of them is asking is there any lemonade, the other takes a pint of milk and swigs a few gulps down.

“Milk ugh,” says the one drinking the lemonade.

“Yeh,” says the one slurping the milk. “It’s what Ian Rush drinks and ‘e sez if I drink lots er milk I’ll be good enough to play fer Achhrington Stanley.”

Accrington Stanley resigned from the Football league way back in 1962 with old Bob Lord somehow involved in their demise. The new one dates to 1968 and slowly clawed its way back to the Football League. Lord Bob’s role in their demise was never totally clear and amongst the oldest supporters who remember those dark days, their opinions of him are edged with bitterness. Lord told the press he was ‘helping’ and there was talk of him buying shares. That never happened and at the final creditors meeting it was Lord that recommended that the club should resign from the league. His bitterest enemies have always supposed that it was his intention all along to see the club go out of business and thus ‘see off’ a nearby rival freeing up their supporters to come to Burnley. The national press showed little sympathy for Accrington’s plight, their unpaid electric and gas bills and the total debt of £62,000.

The 1980s Milk Board advert and the two little red-shirted scousers was a nice reminder to the nation that the football club was still twitching.

There were 9 transfer targets sitting on the wall… nine transfer targets sitting on the wall… and if one transfer target should unfortunately fail… there were 8 transfer targets sitting on the wall… The Hendricks saga seemed well and truly over.

There were 8 transfer targets sitting on the wall… 8 transfer targets sitting on the wall… and if one transfer target should unfortunately fail… there’ll be 7 transfer targets sitting on the wall… Pacey winger Yeni Ngbakoto went to QPR. People were asking what would happen first a Burnley signing or triggering Article 50?

And then the news that stunned us all especially after the latest information that Belgian international Steven Defour preferred the riches of Qatar to the murk and drizzle of Burnley; he WOULD be coming to Burnley after all. This too was a deal that seemed doomed to end in failure but apparently he and Sean D had talked face to face in Belgium a few days earlier. ‘My Belgian contacts say he is on his way,’ tweeted Chris Boden. The official Anderlecht twitter account was wishing him luck. Four years, said those in the know.

Swansea: the opening game, a spring in our steps after the Defour news, Theresa May was on a walking holiday in Switzerland, Putin and Erdogan were cosying up (worrying), swimmers were turning green in the Olympic pools, GB had 7 golds so far, one of them went to Colne’s Steven Burke in the cycling on a fabulous night, bookies made Burnley the favourites to sign Patrick Bamford, and the name Ashley Westwood had cropped up again.

An attendance of just under 20,000, expectation and hope, immaculate stadium, the portakabins had gone, but deja-vu, the final score was exactly the same as 2 years ago when Swansea were the visitors, a 1-0 defeat. And once again we left wondering just how we lost that game. It could be the first of many occasions when we think that.

It goes without saying that every Burnley player put a shift in, gave their all, did the best they could and made themselves damned hard to beat. There were several periods in the second half when Swansea were on the back foot. But this the Premier League now, and what worked a season ago, they learned, would not work at this new level, as good shots were saved by Fabianski and the officials missed a clear penalty. In a game they might have won 1-0 in the Championship, at this new level it was the reverse.

Burnley upped their game in the second half and the game became watchable and engrossing as each side showed more verve and commitment. Fabianski kept Swansea in the game, but Burnley’s limitations remained what we have always known them to be and Leighton James summed them up after the game.   No imagination, he said, and lacking a game changer, like Swansea’s Montero who from the minute he came on ran Lowton ragged, ran with pace and flair, and sent the cross over that led to the goal. Burney simply did not have anyone who could do this. It was hard to think of a single cross at pace that came over from Boyd or Arfield; two players who inevitably when they have the ball wide, turn back and lay the ball off.

The first half was one to forget, low key, timid, quiet, was this really the Premier League we were watching; Swansea marginally the better side in terms of neatness, approach and passing, Burnley with the same side that won the championship, but minus Barton. New man Gudmundsson was on the bench and remained there until 15 minutes from the end. Did he bring anything different? No he is simply another version of Arfield, a willing worker. Kightly, the one player that does possess pace and does attempt to take a man on, remained on the bench. On came the Jut for a cameo five minutes, the lad with pace, Long, now farmed out to Fleetwood.

The big talking point was the shirt pull on Keane. How could the linesman with an uninterrupted view not see it? Or did he simply ignore it. Anywhere else on the pitch and that would have been a free kick. This goes on game after game, as does the wrestling, pushing and shoving at corners. We are all sick of it; the hierarchy do nothing to solve it. Dyche fumed and rightly so; Swansea were well versed in the subtle arts and crafts of Premier football, the diving, the shirt pulling, and the theatricals. Burnley were not. They are brought up differently. You could argue it cost Burnley the game.

If the shirt pull on Keane was a game changer, then the ‘dive’ by Fabianski right below us when he and Arfield went for a 50:50 ball well outside the penalty area almost by the touchline was a disgrace. It was close enough for us in our seats to see it perfectly. Arfield actually held back, there was minimal contact, but down went Fabianski like a sack of spuds, rolling, clutching, rolling a bit more, play-acting, then a bit of writhing for good measure, face etched with ‘pain’ and then finally inert on the floor curled up holding his legs. Poor Arfield looked bewildered. The referee clearly decided this was play-acting, ignored the whole thing and gave a throw-in. Why was Fabianski not booked; it was deplorable, the more so when he sprang up and ran back to his area like a spring chicken. The blessed Harry Potts, Corinthian to the core, scourge of all cheats, never afraid to dash onto the pitch or throw a cushion at a referee, would have been out of his seat in a trice, and dragged Fabianski back on his feet by the armpits.

MOTD confirmed what we all knew, that it was a blatant penalty plus the need to spend more money if Burnley are not to end up bottom of the heap. If memory serves there was talk in the summer of a £60million fund but perhaps they need to add to that the £30million left over from the previous season. And from that there has to come an injection of real pace and width.

And the Swansea goal: there was a sort of grim inevitability that they would pinch a goal; they had the nous and that electric burst of pace from Montero. Heaton made the save from the header but alas palmed the ball to the lurking Fer who scored. You could argue he should not have been on the field if the ref and linesman had spotted his shirt pull on Keane. But, alas, this is football and we went home thinking just how did we lose that one, just as we did so often two years ago in the Prem season of Ings and Trippier.

“You get your pocket picked,” said Sean D post-match. “That’s the harsh reality of the Premier League.”

Brave displays and gallant efforts; defiant losers yet again, Keane and Mee coped well, Marney buzzed, Gray was a real handful. But Groundhog Day was here again.

But not all was gloom, they did themselves proud in the second half, we couldn’t have asked for more. Then there was more gold for Great Britain, tons of it, Nigel Farage sporting a ‘tache now looking like a dodgy second hand car salesman, Blackburn were trounced again and by Sunday teatime after the next games, Burnley had moved up a place and were third from bottom.

Reasons to be cheerful then: Hallelujah, Praise the Lord and Amen; there, I managed to get them in after all.






Thursday August 4: and Sean Dyche was buoyant in a SKY interview despite the lack of signings. The last time this happened he knew something that we didn’t, that Andre Gray was on his way. We wondered if something similar was in the offing, maybe that Flanagan was about to sign.

In the meantime it was Chairman Mike Garlick in the firing line on twitter, Facebook and the fan sites for the seeming inertia. Who’d be a chairman? One fan set up a poll – who is the best chairman, Mike Garlick or Barry Kilby? The point of it escaped me as it seemed to be asking who you would want in charge of spending the jackpot money. But Barry K was never a big spender, in fact it was Barry that so often used the phrase, “not betting the ranch.” Of the seven directors there’s probably only Brendan Flood that you might describe, on past evidence, as a ‘spender’; so if six out of seven are ‘careful’ men, it seems a bit unfair to point the arrows at just Mike Garlick. Over the past year they have spent big money, but it’s been on infrastructure. Spending money on players this time round has been the topic in pubs, clubs and websites.

In a very lengthy thread on one website there was a good comment – that spending money is a state of mind and after years of caution, and even parsimony, is there a mindset that means there is a genuine nervousness about spending large sums of money on players or raising the maximum wage level now that there is such a large sum available.

     “It isn’t hard; it’s a state of mind. I really believe that they have been so used to counting the pennies for the last 40 years, they are actually frightened of spending money. It’s not that they don’t want to, they don’t know how.”

It might fit in with a thesis I once read about the nature of change and adapting to the new needs that change brings, be it in business or anywhere else. The financial situation at Burnley has changed significantly and the Premier League money flooding into the club, especially a club with no debts, enables a change in thinking. The club has changed to a new higher level and the thinking must evolve to match that level.

A week earlier there had been as good a Burnley article as I’ve read – this one in the Guardian by Nick Miller. It was impossible to find anyone that disagreed with it. The salient points were all true enough:

Winning the second tier does not necessarily mean you will be any good in the first especially if you have a “short arms, long pockets” policy when it comes to buying players… they have a curious view of the transfer market (a reference to the low first offers for Jeff Hendrick)… The big problem is that Burnley need to spend money not simply to progress but merely to tread water… modest additions might be financially prudent but you have to wonder about the intentions and dare we say it, the ambitions of a club who stick to their parsimonious approach so consistently. It goes without saying that the sums demanded by players, clubs and agents passed the “absurd” level some time ago. But at some point you surely have to hold your nose and pay up. What is even more curious is that they were perfectly prepared to splash out whilst in the Championship… you could forgive Sean Dyche for wondering if promotion last season was worth the bother.

     ‘With Gray in the team they should at least score more than their puny total of 28 goals in 2014/15 and if their defence stays together they should be fairly solid. In some ways being sensible with one’s money is to be applauded in a football world that so often wantonly sprays cash around, but the purse strings have to loosen and pretty soon. Otherwise Burnley and Dyche could be in for another season of admirable failure, when they are potentially capable of so much more.’

   If the transfer incomings weren’t providing too much to smile about (Flanagan was still undecided at the beginning of the week) then a few more tales from Roy Oldfield’s memory bank did the trick when I went over to see him again. He recalled the time in the days of Paul Fletcher when he was often the butt of their humour or the victim of a prank or two, and then laughingly recalled the day he gained a measure of revenge when he went into the dressing room while they were training and re-arranged and jumbled up all their clothes so that when they went back to change there were puzzled looks when they all found someone else’s socks or underpants, shirts or trousers on the other side of the dressing room on someone else’s peg. Not one of them ever suspected Roy but he says he took great delight being nearby and listening to the reactions:

“Where are my f***ing underpants:” “Whose bloody socks are these?” “Hey that’s my shirt.”

Then there was the referee who shall remain nameless who more often than not brought a woman with him to the game. Roy didn’t bother much about it or think it odd, until the time he took a tray of tea after the game to the ref’s room, knocked, went in and was aghast to see a stark naked woman. His mouth dropped wide open, his eyes came out on stalks but he did manage to hang on to the tray of mugs. The woman didn’t bat an eyelid and the referee cheerfully said to him: “Just put the tray on the floor Roy, thanks very much.”

He reckons ex-player Tommy Cassidy owes him a few bob as well. “He was a smashing player,” said Roy, “but he couldn’t run much because he ‘ad a bit of a belly on ‘im. Anyway he asked me one day could I look at his garden. So I did and it was like a jungle but anyway I did a bit of what I could for him, did three visits if I remember but Tommy was always the same and told me “he’d see me right, later.” He never did of course and if ever I ran into him at the club it was always “oh Roy I’ve nowt on me at the minute.” A lovely Irishman but he still owes me money to this day.

And Leighton James: ‘He came off the pitch at halftime in one game, Burnley were losing and Taff had had a bit of a stinker. “This pitch is crap,” Leighton said to me and stormed off. Then in the second half he had a better game and scored. I think we won as well. “This end of the pitch is fine, much better,” he said at the end of the game as he came off looking well pleased. “But that other half is still crap.”’

Even taking into account it was ‘only’ a friendly, we came home from the Sociedad game thanking goodness for two things. Firstly the steak baguettes at the Kettledrum and secondly the goal poaching brilliance of Andre Gray.

The Kettledrum steak baguette is I have to say, a thing of wonder. I didn’t have a tape measure but the baguette was maybe just short of a foot long, packed with succulent steak, caramelised onion, and melted blue cheese. Cooks and chefs are an amazing breed; in theory putting blue stilton cheese on a steak would seem to be a daft idea but in fact it produces a taste sensation that makes you go oooh all over. Then when the juices of the steak drizzle into the crusty baguette giving it a wonderful steaky taste with the added blue stilton to give added zing, you have something to set you up for any misfortune heading your way – in this case Burnley versus Real Sociedad.

Yes it was ‘only’ a friendly, a game with little meaning but it was not without some significance inasmuch as we saw a limp, lacklustre, leaden-footed Burnley given a bit of run-around by the Spanish side for the whole of the second half and much of the first, once they had weathered the Burnley storm of the first 20 minutes or so.

Mind you, perhaps storm is a bit of a misnomer, it was more of a strong breeze than a tornado, but nevertheless Burnley were dominant in the early stages, had two good chances to score (Gray and Mee) and had umpteen corners. And then they vanished from the game allowing Real to score from a free kick with a headed goal courtesy of some iffy defending and marking.

From that point on Real had all the possession, were nimble and fleet of foot, delicate and accurate with their short passing and slick running, bored the pants off us from time to time with pass backs to the goalkeeper or theatrical falls and head-clutching, but overall seemed well set to take all three points if there had been any.

Sure it was only a friendly (we all keep saying) but it was abundantly clear that dark days may well lie ahead if Burnley continue to lack pace out wide, and flair anywhere. Plus it was unnerving to see the number of occasions when Burnley got themselves in a real tizswoz, or were at sixes and sevens in their own penalty area as Sociedad buzzed around and forced them into errors and got into situations where they just had to score – but somehow didn’t.

And then enter Mr Gray in the dying moments latching onto the ball on the edge of the box from a knockdown by the Jut, finding himself bursting through and calmly firing into the net. The 13 Real Socieded fans in the away end, each with their own personal steward, must have wondered just how Burnley had managed to equalise and how their own team hadn’t won. And thus they joined the ranks of many an away group last season that left Turf Moor with similar thoughts – how on earth did we not win that game. The answer is simple; Burnley may play badly, but they are just a damned hard side to beat.

Whether this will suffice in the months to come is debateable. As long as there is Andre Gray there is always the chance of a goal; what a magnificent pre-season he has had, but surely more is needed. The side is full of dependable workers (Gudmundsson is another) and whilst hard work is admirable, any side needs a couple of players with real magic in their boots to really compete and do more than just put up a good fight.

Sean D in his latest interview pointed out that they had the money to buy players, but not the money to pay huge wages, the biggest challenge. Belgian Steven Defour, if reports are correct, seemingly prefers a big payday in the sweltering deserts of Qatar to something less remunerative in the hills and vales of soggy east Lancashire. The Spaniards certainly got a taste of the vagaries of Burnley weather, sun and shirtsleeves one minute and a soaking the next, when the heavens opened during the game.

Gray’s goal was (as far as I can remember) only the second meaningful Burnley shot on goal of the game. Until that moment, Sociedad had been in complete control with the Burnley midfield chasing shadows.

It was the penultimate weekend, the weekend when the real hype starts, the TV features, the Sunday paper features and the pull-outs and supplements. I couldn’t resist buying a few things, the MOTD magazine that had a big chart and things you can stick on, the Sunday Mirror had an Andre Gray feature and a Premier league supplement. There was an even bigger Andre Gray feature in the esteemed Sunday Telegraph. Tom Heaton and Sam Vokes were on the SKY Sunday morning sports Goals on Sunday programme. The Championship had started but Burnley weren’t in it. Like Tom Heaton said, it felt weird. The talk of Leicester and Michael Keane wouldn’t go away, now they were said to be ready to offer £17million. If it is anything above £15million the decision to stick or twist becomes a tricky one, sell him or fend them off again.

Two other bright spots were nowt to do with the players or the game or food. Firstly there were the sparkling new slimline, space-age floodlights which left me wondering how they change a bulb when one goes faulty; and secondly the advertising boards that you don’t notice until someone says aren’t those electronic advertising boards bloody distracting, and then yes, they immediately become distracting because you can’t take your eyes off them. The distraction of goal music has gone, but I never minded that. But the pitchside flags – for goodness sake if we are going to have flags let’s get some real whoppers like they had at Rangers. Now they were proper flags.



Season 2016/17 Looking for Rab C Nesbitt

1: Looking for Rab C. Nesbitt


If there is such a thing as the perfect football weekend, then you’d be hard pushed to find a better one than this one, the Burnley FC Supporters Club weekend in Scotland for the next of the pre-season friendlies.

Summer break was over, batteries re-charged, interest and enthusiasm building nicely; you wonder where the time goes. The England performances at the Euros had been dreadful, booted out by tiny Iceland. It was humiliating but the saddest thing was we didn’t really expect too much more from them. They landed back in the UK and I couldn’t believe that they had staff there to hold umbrellas over them as they got off the plane so that they and their headphones wouldn’t get wet. But Wales and Sam Vokes – brilliant we agreed.

Roy Hodgson resigned, what else could he do, he looked a tired, spent force on the bench during the Iceland game, bereft of any idea as to what to do. Only just this week he revealed that after the game he was deeply upset to see players already asking each other whether or where they were going on holiday for the summer.

But into August: Brexit the winner, Burnley certainly wanted out, Theresa May in charge, Cameron gone, Labour at war with itself, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, Lewis Hamilton taking charge at the top of F1; and now it was Premier League madness and hype taking over, new floodlights, new super-store, builders and workmen still cluttering the place with just days to go. Bookies already making Burnley favourites to go straight back down. Clubs like Man City and United and their super-star managers splashing money and making the whole thing more like a circus than ever before.     There was a joke going round that Man City had offered 50million plus Sterling for John Stones of Everton. But Everton had called their bluff and said no thanks just give us the 50million.

Thanks to SKY and the reams of pages in the press the build-up is relentless. Back in the olde days when Jimmy Mac pulled the strings, pre-season consisted of first team versus reserves; Probables versus Possibles they called it with just a page or two in the local press.

As we left Leeds Friday morning, however, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that this had the makings of a soggy three days as rain, drizzle, grey clouds and mist low enough to obscure the moorland hills as we drove through the valley from Todmorden up through Cornholme and then towards Cliviger, cast an air of drabness, gloomy enough to have us thinking we’d have been better off staying in bed.

But the football fan is by and large a hardy creature and lo and behold as we headed up the M6, the gloom lifted; the sky cleared, the sun emerged, and to our left Morecambe Bay appeared and even this looked quite appealing as the sun shone down and we began to think the world looked a decent place.

Morning coffee break was in Moffatt famed for its waters with healing qualities that are said to be particularly efficacious for those suffering from gout, arthritis and rheumatism. Alas it ceased being a Spa Town in 1921 when the Hydropathic Hotel burned to the ground. But, surveying the passengers bowling along in the Hodder coach, a defibrillator special, it seemed an apt stop. It was hard to spot anyone not of pensionable age, in fact the average age was probably heading towards the 70s, given a boost by Harvey O’ Hara now well into his nineties.

Harvey deserves special mention; he was a D Day commando leading the way when the allies landed in Normandy and there are few of these disappearing guys left. D Day took place 72 years ago and Harvey is still around to tell the tale; he was awarded the Legion d’ Honnneur quite recently.

‘I know exactly where I was on D Day,’ he says. ‘I was next to the end on the left.’

These breaks in the journey can be labelled or graded by the number of pints that chaps like Barrie Oliver and Harry Gardner can consume. Moffatt was a three-pint stop. Impressive: we were only there 5 minutes. Sensible people like me and Mrs T have a bowl of nourishing soup. Moffatt is a nice enough place, small, very Scottish, a sheep farming town nestling in the hills, and famed for the rustlers whose motto was why should I grow my own sheep when I can pinch somebody else’s.

And so to Troon by the sea but take away the Golf Links in Troon and the long, clean beaches, and there probably wouldn’t be much to write home about, except for the Chinese Restaurant on the High Street. This is the Jade Dragon, made famous now because it is where the newly married Scott Arfield dines with his in-laws when he is in town. A few of the group had gone in there on Friday night, some in their Burnley shirts of course, so the proprietor was immediately wondering if this was yet more of the Arfield family clan, but no, it was quickly explained to him that Burnley were in Glasgow the following day and these were just fans up for the weekend, but could they put the meal on the Arfield account.

The hotel, right by the 18th green, had carpets well worn by the feet of all the top golfers who have stayed there and by many of the rooms on the wall are plaques to say this golfer or that stayed in them if they were a winner or a runner up. Greg Norman had stayed in the one next to us. A very fine hotel though with views of the sea, the jets coming up from Prestwick airport and the backs of the huge scaffolding stands, tall enough to block out the sun and that take weeks to dismantle. Impressive though, the Open Championship had ended a couple of weeks before we got there but the sense of something big and special was still there.

Matchday and you can’t beat a brisk walk after a very fine breakfast, out past the 18th green, up along the beach into Troon and then along the Prom to the harbour and back again. On twitter Paul Weller was asking why we can’t spend 20 to 30 million, it won’t kill us if spent right, he adds. The £3.5million we have spent was on display at Ibrox, plus Jon Flanagan would be arriving from Liverpool on loan for the season. The Stephens and Hendricks sagas seemed to have gone quiet after a series of increased bids had all been rebuffed.

‘I’m like a broken record,’ says Sean Dyche as for the umpteenth time he says how difficult the transfer market is unless you want to spend silly money. It’s in the chairman’s hands, it’s down to the board, he says pointedly but politely. Does he mean that the chairman is doing his best and they would spend a lot more if other clubs were cooperative; or that the problem is that the board isn’t bold enough, finds it difficult stepping up to the next level, and won’t think big enough?

Last year’s profit was the £30 million that Paul Weller is talking about and on top of that is the Ings money.

“It needs that magic big cheque to get signed,” Dyche added. “It’s up to the powers that be… it’s their job now to get the deals over the line.” You can read into that what you will, but it does seem it could well be a very gentle challenge. Not quite an ultimatum but almost and the messageboards went into overdrive as folks analysed and dissected what he’d said. But the general message from fans was clear, that the current level of spending was totally inadequate.

But: if there is over-caution in the boardroom maybe it is based on director memories of near disasters in previous seasons. They will well remember the Orient game of ’87, in fact Clive Holt was a director as far back as that; others were certainly fans and will remember how bad things were. Then there was the ITV Digital collapse of 2002 when suddenly the money dried up that had been made part of projected budgets. There were bucket collections and requests for donations of £1,000 and the tale is told that at one point the club was within 30 minutes of administration. The club was most certainly insolvent at the back end of the 2009 promotion season and if there had been a defeat at Wembley the abyss of administration would most certainly have beckoned. And for how long did Barry Kilby keep the wolf from the door with his canny handling of the club’s financial problems during the Ternent and Cotterill years. If they are careful it is simply because none of them want to be responsible for anything that takes the club back to those precarious times.

Burnley directors will be well aware that poor decisions and dodgy deals killed Rangers, a club that simply imploded and then had to be re-invented. What a stunning ground Ibrox still is, the old tenement blocks that surrounded it, streets and streets of them now long gone, replaced by open spaces and shopping centres. Rab C. Nesbitts are hard to find these days in the Ibrox area. The welcoming greetings were friendly from people who were proud of their club and ground; they’ve had some tough times and this club not that many seasons ago was the classic financial basket case. It was a club that went into liquidation, had to be re-born and ended up in the Scottish basement league from where it has had to claw its way back to the top table. One assumes they are still not that well off, otherwise why sign Clint Hill, given the run-around all afternoon by an on-fire Andre Gray.

The whole thing was very much a stroll in the park for Burnley, two up by half time, and it could have been three after Vokes hit the post after some scintillating Barcelonaesque approach play. Gray got his third early in the second half and then Burnley relaxed (Dyche not best pleased at their casual we’re-ready-to-go-home-now attitude. A few changes were made but by and large the last 20 minutes or so was just a side going through the motions. They didn’t need to do much else.

As we slowly nodded off in our little corner it was the seagulls that woke us up as dozens of them appeared out of nowhere cavorting all over the place with spectacular skill, swooping and diving and mobbing one poor creature that had managed to snaffle a large crust from the streets below. The poor thing had no chance of eating it and the real fun began when it dropped it; it was caught in mid-air by the next bird, which then likewise dropped it as it was pursued by the mob, and so it went on until presumably one of them managed to swallow it down.

Heaton, Mee (despite his o.g) Keane, Gray and Marney impressed; new man Gudmundsson was neat and tidy in his cameo appearance. Marney in fact was outstanding and if this form continues into the proper games when they start, then Joey B will not be missed.

By and large Rangers could find no way through the impressive defending and Barton was very quiet. Of course he was given a grand reception by the Burnley end but other than pinging a few long passes from inside his own half he was restrained and almost casual. Dyche and he had coffee on Friday afternoon and it’s not rocket science to suppose that Dyche was disappointed he didn’t choose to stay at Burnley.

The pitch was immaculate and there’s something splendid about the lush, pristine condition of a football pitch at the beginning of the season. The green is just right, the lines where the mowers have been are perfectly straight, the groundsmen have been out manicuring; the height of the blades set scientifically, the amount of fertiliser needed per square metre worked out by computer. It’s an absolute science these days at the top level a far cry from years gone by when the grass was gone by the end of November.

Old groundsman Roy Oldfield said he only ever cut the grass diagonally just the once for a change. It was when Terry Cochrane was at Burnley but Brian Miller took Roy on one side to have a word with him.

“Don’t do it that way again Roy,” Miller told him. “If you do it that way, Terry Cochrane won’t know where he is and he’ll just run and follow the lines into the corner and he’ll end up by the flags every time he gets the ball.”

When Roy left it was Arthur Bellamy who took over and Arthur was never shy of yelling at players for a sliding tackle that dug a deep furrow, or when someone kicked up a huge divot. Arthur in an old programme feature said that he and his team would sit on the bench watching and pointing where the divots were appearing and it could take them a couple of days to repair them when conditions were really bad.

Divots and long gouges are a thing of the past now at Turf Moor although it might be fun to hear Paul Bradshaw bawling at Pogba or Ibrahimovic “Oy yer great lummox put that divot back.”