The best transfer saga ever said a poster on Burnley’s premier website referring to the curious incident of the Pole in the night. We were still down south, now in Westport, a fishing village on the Jurassic Coast and the stories were coming fast and furious about how and why the Grosicki deal had fallen through.

West Bay was filled with holidaymakers; families and their children hung over the edge of the harbour with buckets on strings catching crabs. There were long queues at the wooden kiosks on the other side of the road that dispensed fish and chips or ice cream or pasties. The harbour was filled with brightly coloured boats with the towering Jurassic cliffs to the left. There we were sat like OAPs on a bench in the sunshine eating our ice creams but then we remembered; we were OAPs.

We were still amazed at the drama of the night before, jets and airports and delegations dashing to Manchester. A dashing winger was just what we wanted but he had flown back and Kamil had the hump. The last time this sort of thing happened if memory serves was back in the days of John Bond and the trek across the Atlantic that he and John Jackson made to sign Steve Daley. This is the bigtime we thought; this is the glamour side of football. And then we saw him play. Steve Daley had been a million-pound footballer at Man City and now he was flying over to play for us. Sadly, Steve’s touch had deserted him and one director described his first-touch as more like a five-yard pass. Bondy admitted he clearly wasn’t fit and there was huge disappointment; so as soon as they could he was moved on.

The plot thickened; did Rennes hike the price, was an agent trying to extort better terms, did Rennes owe money to Grosicki that they reneged on, did Grosicki think he was signing for Barnsley, or was a new tweet correct that Grosicki and agent wanted Burnley to settle gambling debts and the tweet said that the source of this info was a board member. The Guardian had referred to his gambling in profiles they ran on Polish players prior to the Euros.

By the time we got back to Beaminster an interview had appeared in the Burnley Press in which Grosicki had spilled the beans about the whole thing. My agent made mistakes he said… there were complications… we couldn’t reach an agreement… I am disappointed with some people… it was my club the big problem… promises had been cancelled.

There were more questions; who paid for the plane, did he go back home on the train, how last minute was all this, who were the people he said he couldn’t trust, what were the broken promises, and had Ladbrokes in Nelson already barred him?

Eventually, the chairman, Mike Garlick referred to it with the explanation that he, Sean D and Dave Baldwin CEO, had made the decision not to sign him on the grounds that this was a signing that could damage team spirit. Meanwhile in Beaminster there was shopping to do.


It’s a lovely place, a sort of Dad’s Army Warminster if you take away the traffic. It’s a throwback to a distant age with a slow, easy pace of life. Deer wander round the fields, badgers are likely to come scuffling round the back door looking for handouts at night and as we strolled down Crooked Lane one day a plump Peacock appeared from nowhere sauntering along. There used to be two, but one disappeared, no-one knows who they belong to. There are farms with quaint names like Shatcombe and Pipsford. There are quaint customs such as if the window cleaner does your windows and you’re not in, you leave the money at the cake shop. And everyone says hello.

A stroll around the square (actually a triangle) is like having a lesson in good manners. You could well imagine Captain Mainwaring having his morning coffee in the Art Deco Tearooms. Mr Tett the butcher pops his head out of his shop doorway, “Good morning Mrs Collier.”

“Good morning Mr Tett,” says Mrs Collier. “I’d like to buy a nice piece of beef; well hung please Mr Tett.”

“My dear Mrs Collier,” replies Mr Tett with the faintest of smirks, twirling his moustache, “everything here is well hung.”

Pass the village bakery: Out pops Mr Bunn the baker. “Good morning Mrs Collier,” says Mr Bunn.

“Good morning Mr Bunn,” says Mrs Collier. Mrs Bunn appears, “I have some lovely baps today,” she says.

At last we reach the Post Office and the general store. “Good morning Mrs Collier,” says Mr Stamp the postman. “Good morning Mr Stamp,” Mrs Collier replies. In we go to buy the newspaper that reminds us all too easily of the outside world and Big Sam’s first England squad. Mrs May has had her first cabinet meeting and is about to jet off to China where she will most certainly meet Obama ready to say Britain must go to the back of the trade queue.

In places like this it’s the little news that’s the big news: Winston the retriever was rescued by the coastguards after falling 80’ down the cliffs. In Bridport a pavement had been closed for 53 weeks causing great upset. The village of Bettiscombe was without phone lines for 11 days. Bridport lost 1-0 in the Tool Station Western League. Beaminster had been bowled all out for 93 against Sturminster. Wimborne were top of the Funeral Plan League. Top sport down here is Nine Pin Pub Skittles and the Dorset Flop technique in the Bridport League is apparently quite unique. Competitions and leagues are fierce and 90-year old Dorset Floppers are not uncommon. For the bigger football teams you have to get to Yeovil or Weymouth or Bournemouth miles along the coast. You don’t see too many football shirts in deepest Dorset.

Southampton is a different story of course with nearby Netley Abbey on our visiting list. As its name suggests there are the remains of an old abbey but apart from that the only other things on offer that might be of interest to visiting Burnley fans willing to make the detour before the game down there, are the Prince Consort pub, and the Jolly Friar Chippy. The latter is quite superb with an extensive menu from which I selected an absolutely scrumptious Cornish pasty, chips and gravy with Pineapple Fritters for afters. Mrs T says I don’t eat enough fruit, so let’s go for the pineapple, I thought.

The drive to Southampton was dire; this is not the quietest of roads and you crawl along nose to tail with interminable hold-ups and roundabouts. But take any side road off this trunk route and within 100 yards you can be in another world of fields and woodlands and picturesque little villages like Piddle Hampton, Blandford Scrotum and Nether Fartinge. At one such village we pulled in and headed for the restaurant of the local garden centre. You’d think it would be hard to ruin a prawn baguette but they surely did. As it was brought to the table and I surveyed the soggy mess the woman at the next table slowly keeled over into her soup. We never did find out if she had merely overheated or had fainted at the sight of the prawn baguette and the gloop that encased and drowned the tiny prawns.

The Netley expedition turned out to be quite an adventure. In the Coop next to the Jolly Friar I watched one of the staff tearing round the aisles in hot pursuit of one of the local winos he’d seen hiding a bottle of vodka in his long coat inside pocket.

“Oi bin watchin’ im since ‘e came in,” said the shopkeeper with a pronounced local twang. “Not many folk come in ‘ere wearin’ a long overcoat when it’s nigh on 70 degrees outside. You can tell ‘em a moil away. ”

Back home in Leeds there was a mini Indian summer to enjoy and a game at last with the visit of Hull City. Things seemed to have gone quiet over there, at least on the surface, between the Egyptian owners and the supporters, adamant that Hull City was Hull City and not the Tigers. More than once Assem Allam threatened to take his bat home and not until the very last minute had Hull added to their depleted squad of just 13 first-team players. In protest at the goings-on (or lack of them) Steve Bruce was now gone and Burnley old boy Michael Phelan was in charge. Against all the odds and all expectations Hull had been winning with Phelan so far working minor miracles. But, he and the owners still couldn’t agree on a deal to make him manager and a takeover deal involving a Chinese group fell through leaving the Egyptians, keen to sell, still the owners.

Egyptians at Hull, Indians at Blackburn, and the Chinese keen to hoover any club they can lay their hands on. At Burnley the cobbles, clogs, mill chimneys, flat caps and whippets may have gone, but this club remains a bastion, a last outpost of local ownership and flat northern vowels with accents exceedingly rare. Let’s be honest though: in the great scheme of things we are the small fry, not part of the establishment; who cares about Burnley?

It was Lancashire versus Yorkshire, Dyche versus Phelan but as far as the press were concerned all that mattered was the Battle of Manchester, Guardiola versus Mourhino. It was as if nothing else mattered. Page after page of it, day after day, feature upon feature; but as far as Burnley fans were concerned Mourhino disgraced himself with the palaver he made after the Stamford bridge game against Burnley in the last Prem season. Age or his enforced temporary absence from the game hasn’t mellowed him; he appears to be as surly and dismissive as ever. But even so, just every now and then he comes out with a pearler. In Spain when he was at Real Madrid and Guardiola was at Barca, the games between them were frequently marred by unpleasantness and red cards for Real players, prompting him to say: “Every time I play Pep I end up with 10 men. It must be some sort of Uefa rule.” Once again he was trumped by Pep, poor chap losing 1-2.

It was 1-1 at Turf Moor. On the messageboards the grumbling was rampant, though I couldn’t quite understand why. We are what we are, egg and chips not haute cuisine. Dyche said he was pleased with the efforts and the increased belief, especially after the mauling at Chelsea. Every player gave his all: they always do. Sure the same problems remained – the lack of pace and width and flair out wide. Gray and Vokes were well held up front.

All three of the new players were involved, Bamford, Defour and Hendrick although only Defour of the three started the game, and what an impact he had. He was by far Burnley’s outstanding player scoring a goal that will be talked about for years.

Yes a pedestrian Burnley with little to offer in the first half were outplayed for long spells and Hull shaved the post with a cross shot; but in the second half there was a spark and zest that eventually produced a 1-0 lead. Defour took the ball in his own half with his back to the Hull half. With as deft a piece of skill as you will ever see he controlled the ball on his laces and as he spun round the ball came round with him as if glued to his foot and he left the marking player for dead. Suddenly he had made yards of space and took off at speed for the Hull goal. Then, from 35 yards he let fly with a strike of such power that it was in the net before you could blink. A tour de force is defined as a piece of true ingenuity or virtuosity. This goal was a tour Defource of sublime skill and artistry.

Hull fans would argue that this was so against the run of play that it was ridiculous. They missed an open goal from just yards with the culprit placing the ball accurately just past the post. They hit the crossbar with a header. But Burnley held on, and on, and on, as the game went into injury time. The second half performance might have merited the win but overall the draw was fair enough. As we willed the referee to blow the whistle Mee went into a blocking tackle and appeared to slip; in so doing he brought down the opponent. Reckless challenge or genuine mishap, some referees might have given Mee the benefit of the doubt, this one didn’t. Snodgrass curled the ball up and over the wall bending it into the corner of the goal with Heaton diving despairingly.

Two of Burnley’s four games so far have been decided by referees, the first against Swansea missing the blatant shirt pull and penalty for Burnley. This one decided that Mee’s unfortunate slip was a deliberate foul.

“Decisions like these cause big problems and lose you games,” said the guy behind us as we exited the concourse down the stairs.

“Yeh, they’ve cost us 5 points so far this season,” his mate replied.

“Hmmm,” I’m thinking, “Sod the referees, if you’ve got a defender at each post for a free kick like this, they head the ball away and the points are safe; so why nobody on the posts?”

Shortly after I wrote that, my pen pal Gunnar emailed from Aalesund. ‘We all knew this was going to be the last kick of the game, so why didn’t the entire team line up on the goal line, they wouldn’t have had a chance of scoring then unless the ball sneaked under the bar. The shot that did go in would have been saved by the player nearest the post.’

Few people were suggesting that Burnley merited all three points, but this was a cruel way to lose two of them when all three were just 30 seconds away.

Hunters Chicken with mash at the Shepherd’s Rest above Todmorden eased the sense of deflation, hunks of chicken in a barbecue sauce with a layer of bacon and cheese. To hell with the calories, there was need of a morale booster and a glass of Blanc. That plus a bit of reflection and a bit of homespun analysis – they didn’t lose, they got a point, we saw one fabulous goal, the sun was shining, we were not in the bottom three, joint tenth in fact, below us were Leicester City; in the morning Master Joe would be making his debut for Farsley Celtic U10s, and in a few days off to Tenerife for a couple of weeks. What Was there to complain about? 



Mrs T and moi were due to go away down to Dorset for a few days, but first there was the Chelsea game after the embarrassment of Accrington. Glass half empty folks thought of the night at the Wham, glass half full thought of the stunning Liverpool result.

We frittered the time away on Saturday before the Chelsea game, a bit of shopping, M&S, a bit of gardening, digging up some taties for tea, and went to Majestic Wine Store in Headingly. We like it there, there’s always half a dozen different whites laid out to taste so of course we do. By the time you’ve tried all six you’ve had the equivalent of a full glass. Mrs T would go on all afternoon but there’s always the worry the staff are watching.

Anyway, we tried a Chardonnay which I can drink quite happily but Mrs T prefers Sauvignon.

“Hmm don’t you think it’s a bit oily,” she asked with a slight grimace having swished the Chardonnay.

Sometimes I surprise myself with my speed of thought and verbal jabs. “Yes it is, it’s only half past two.”

Dany Robson, Jimmy’s daughter, posted on Facebook to say her dad had gone down to Stamford Bridge, apparently the only Burnley player ever to score two hat-tricks there. Without being an anorak, you have to wonder if he is the only away player ever to score two hat-tricks there. Jimmy banged these goals in on Feb 21, 1959 and October 22, 1960. It was when Burnley were at their peak between 1959 and ’62 and scored goals for fun in the last two of those three seasons. Jimmy Greaves and Danny Blanchflower always maintained that Jimmy Robson would have played for England but for the fact that there were so many great players back then. When Burnley beat Chelsea 6-2 in October 1960 they won four consecutive games that month and scored 20 goals, of which 7 came from Robbo. It was Jimmy’s second hat-trick of the month. The five goals I remember are those in the 8-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest in the title season.

Meanwhile all was quiet on the Patrick Bamford loan story. The press and internet were adamant a deal had been fixed but then all went quiet. The closing of the window was but four days away with not a sign or report of any deal, or even renewed interest in Stephens from Brighton or Hendrick from Derby. The story of an interest in Check Tiote seemed more fantasy than fact. Another Icelander’s name cropped up – Birkir Bjarnasson.

It was a defeat at Chelsea, any hopes of a repeat of the Liverpool performance evaporated on 13 minutes when Hazard skated through and fired home. It was simply too hazardous for the Clarets. From then on it was damage limitation and a long, long afternoon beckoned. Chez nous we found a decent internet site and watched the game in crystal clarity. While the rain bucketed down in Leeds it looked tropical in London. The first message on Facebook seemed to sum up the afternoon, ‘lack of ideas, giving ball away, again and again and 1-0 down.’ Any game plan presumably went out the window especially against a superb and rampant Chelsea side back to their silky best, many of them the same players that downed tools for Mourhino.

Sean D said he wouldn’t be going to London to park the bus, and in fairness he didn’t but the front two only had scraps to feed on as Chelsea showed class, movement, found the spaces, ran amok out wide and had the players to run at defenders and take them on. Burnley do not have that luxury. The ball goes sideways, backwards and then today there was just the hoof from the back more often than not. Much of the time they were rabbits caught in the headlights, to be fair, very unlike a Sean Dyche Burnley side.

Alas it was Merson viewing the game on SKY almost foaming at the mouth with his admiration and exhilaration at the Chelsea performance. The second goal was inevitable. A five or six goal drubbing seemed on the cards. The Burnley fans sang and chanted away; is there nothing that can shut them up someone asked on twitter. No there wasn’t and in the second half Burnley had better possession but it was all either in their own half or in the middle third. Swift forays and incisive thrusts into the Chelsea box were few and far between. Chelsea had four or more players who in a one-on-one situation could beat a man. Burnley had none. An Arfield cross shot was the nearest thing.

Defour went off on 55 minutes or thereabouts, having had little influence. Marney went off injured. Arfield giving a quiet performance was also taken off. On came 18-year old O Neill who not for one moment was overawed, Johann the Icelander came on with a bit more bite, but then when Marney went off the paucity of the squad was revealed for all to see when a centre-back Tarkowski was drafted into midfield. Why not shift Johann inside and play Darikwa with pace out wide, I muttered at the screen. At 2-0 down what was there to lose?

But there we had it: for half of the second half there we were playing one of the finest teams in Europe at the moment, with a rookie and a centre half in midfield. How do you cope against a side that played irresistible football – in fact O’ Neill and Tarks didn’t do too bad.

It looked like Burnley would keep it to a respectable 2-0 and come away with some credit, but then with just minutes to go with just three swift passes Chelsea cut Burnley open, crossed the ball, there was a parting of the waves and Moses was in the right place.

Beaten easily then and Heaton was by far Burnley’s stand-out player with four superb saves to keep the score respectable added to which Mee cleared one shot off the line. Shame about that third goal but by then you could argue that this game was simply a lost cause with Burnley totally outclassed and chasing shadows. On the other hand there was that spell in the second half when Burnley forced four corners in quick succession and you wondered if there might be a reward and a shock Burnley goal. We remembered Mee’s headed goal from two years ago but there was no repeat this time.

Before the game, Conte had made references to Dyche’s comments about overseas managers being thought of as geniuses and English managers as dinosaurs. It’s the players that make managers’ reputations, he said, not the media. One of the Sundays had this:

On the pitch it was like a pack of velociraptors, with Hazard leading at the front, eviscerating a diplodocus for 90 minutes until all that remained were a pile of bones. It was swift, ruthless, deadly, and hard to watch the mismatch of predator versus prey.’

But this wasn’t a game between geniuses and dinosaurs, it was a game between the haves and the have nots. Chelsea purred like a Bentley whilst Burnley phut phutted like a struggling Trabant. The gulf was cavernous and blatantly obvious. Reactions were broadly divided between two camps; those that simply shrugged it off as the expected defeat and that there were plenty of winnable games to come, and those who were quite angry at the lack of investment and shortage of players with pace and flair. The majority were agreed though; this was another fine game from O’ Neill with Dyche after the game singing his praises. But: oh for someone out wide with pace who can take a man on, most if not all of us thought. Dyche was candid:

They had far too much for us today. There is a massive gulf between where they are as a football club and us, both on and off the pitch and it was on show today. If you add in really poor decision making and a very poor first half, which is not like us, then you have no chance of winning games like this. We gave the ball away far too often against a team who have changed. They are a fine side and they fill the pitch, they sit and absorb a bit more and allow you to play rather than coming after you. But we didn’t use the ball well and there was no will and demand to go and get the ball, to use the ball or keep it. There were too many sloppy passes and you just can’t make decisions like we did today against teams of this quality. Chelsea were never really in trouble. You have to come to places like this with real belief and I thought we were lacking that, in particular in the first half.

So: it was good to get away on tour and have a break from the hurly burly of the transfer deadline and all the wild rumours, the stories, the leaks and media fantasy. It was time to hit the road and head south to Middle England and Shakespeare country and head for a first stop at Bidford on Avon. As we journeyed deeper into rural England it looked like the Bamford deal was going all quiet and the Hendrik saga was fading to nothing. Claret websites had been in a frenzy of anguish and ire at the lack of signings.

Bidford is a twee little place that straddles the Avon; grand houses line the river with gardens that lead to the water, willow trees hang over the rivers edge and tethered boats betray the fact that folks have money round here. Their biggest worry in life round here is will the boat start. Will Shakespeare wandered the lanes around here and sometimes popped into the Bell Inn at nearby Welford on Avon on his way to watch Aston Villa. Welford is even more twee than Bidford with beautiful thatched cottages and fine houses. The Bell Inn is sixteenth century with beams, oak timbers and ancient stone floors polished by centuries of use. The menu is superb. No wonder Will called in. Framed bon mots adorn the wall such as: I read that drink doth you harm, so I stopped reading. Maybe old Will himself wrote that.

I chose Steak and Cracked Black Pepper Pie with shortcrust pastry. Any pie worth its salt must have shortcrust not puff pastry and this one was exemplary. It came in a large white oval dish and I swear the golden crust smiled in anticipation of being eaten. I’m not one for diving straight in with knife and fork; a pie as grand looking as this has to be savoured and admired for a few short moments. And it has to be carefully removed from the dish. You do this with surgical precision inserting the knife tenderly under the pastry lid, slowly cutting in a gentle sawing motion, and gently teasing the lid away from the dish. You place the complete lid in its perfect shape undamaged at the edge of the plate. Next you lovingly ladle out the meat and gravy and arrange it neatly beside the pastry. Only when the last scoop has been removed do you then place the pastry over the meat.

I did all this and sat back and admired the view. The waitress had been watching from nearby and whist doing this not once had I spared a thought about Bamford or Hendrick. This was pie time.

‘Behold,’ I said to the waitress who was clearly impressed. ‘Does anyone else do this? Have you ever seen this done before?’

‘Why no sir,’ she answered. ‘Truly you are a marvel.’

And so too was the transfer window news. Both Bamford and Hendrick signed on the dotted line and not only that, a Pole, an international winger, was jetting in if the news was to be believed.

We’d been down to Portland Bill and had returned to Beaminster. In a Portland tea room we’d had what are lovingly called Dorset Doorstops, thick slabs of fruity brown loaf, toasted, and then lathered with best butter. Two arrived and I managed to eat just one. I defy anyone to eat two.

Back in Beaminster the clock was ticking towards the final closing of the window but round about 7 there was mention of Burnley on the iPad and to our amazement a link with a pacey winger from Rennes and a current Polish international. Peter Stevenson was reporting live from Turf Moor reporting that a delegation of officials were dashing to Manchester Airport to meet the incoming Kamil Grosicki who was flying in by private jet. Wow I thought: who the hell is Kamil Grosicki?

What: a private jet, a delegation, a dash, an international, a fee of £7million. Bloody hell this was unheard of; this is Burnley, we have nosebleeds at the mere mention of anything as exciting as this. Such things might happen at United, or Chelsea or Liverpool – but Burnley – gerraway. Names like Balotelli, Wilshire, Nasri, Alonso and Ngong (now there’s a name that rings a bell) had been bandied about all night and now Burnley were up there in this hallowed group.

Someone posted a picture of Grosicki at Warsaw Airport by the plane… next someone was tracking the flight on Flightradar… someone saw it over Doncaster as he looked out of his window. The excitement on the messageboards was incredible, the clock was ticking, the deadline was approaching, could they do it in time; our nerves were fit to bust. At 9 o clock the plane was over Manchester. Two hours remained.

And then all went quiet.

We assumed it had landed. We assumed he was having his medical, we wondered if he would be whizzed to Turf Moor on the X43 from Manchester or in a motor bike and sidecar like Wallace and Gromit. What could possibly go wrong? He was here. He had landed. A flying winger to add to the squad, just what we needed; there was still plenty of time to seal the deal.

And then deflation, we felt like burst balloons. The first negative tweets started. And then Chris Boden – the deal was off. Peter Stevenson reporting from Turf Moor – wasn’t. The conjecture began, the inquests, the conspiracy theories – the French had put the price up, it was revenge for Brexit. It was all too good to be true. Words like ‘private jet,’ ‘delegation,’ and ‘Burnley’ all in the same sentence. We should have known. The truth would emerge in the coming hours and a sorry story it would be, a story of skulduggery and deception, of intrigue and broken promises. Will Shakespeare would have done it proud. It turned out to be Much Ado About Nothing.

It was all such a long way from half-times with the Fancy Pants Dog Troupe, attendances of less than 2,000, and humiliating defeats at home to Rochdale, but it was great while it lasted.