11: Thank Goodness for Harry Hill


The pound was tumbling. Creepy Clowns were stalking the streets. Putin was recalling people back to the motherland. He was threatening to shoot down any interfering US planes. Petrol prices were on the up. And Marmite had run out on supermarket shelves.

Trump and Clinton were still at it, hammer and tongues, the Trump tongue lashing out at all and sundry. Clinton serenely smiled and said when others aim low then she would aim high. And England were as depressing as ever in Slovenia.

It was the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, BBC news announced that Nicola Sturgeon would be initiating another Scottish Independence referendum and that a large gorilla was on the loose at London Zoo. Unfortunately they got the pictures mixed up and for Nicola Sturgeon showed the gorilla happily munching on a snack.

Against that background it was a relief to get back to Burnley and the Premier League battles. If the world outside was looking decidedly wobbly, then a Times report named Burnley as the friendliest place; an oasis of warmth in a gloomy north. It seemed all to do with neighbourliness, how many people could you count on in times of need. In the olden days the test was could you leave the back door unlocked all day and could you nip next door and borrow a cup of sugar.

Back then it might even have been a footballer who lived next door; they might even have delivered our milk like Jimmy Mac or Arthur Bellamy.

I’d been to see Roy Oldfield again after a summer break. Jim Thomson had come round as well; he was the club commercial manager in the Orient Season when Roy was groundsman. The official attendance that day was given as 15, 686 but anybody who was there has always thought it was more than that.

Jim reckoned it was maybe nearer 22,000 as things approached pandemonium level outside the ground with long queues and milling crowds with serious dangers developing. Jim recognised that things were approaching crisis point and it was decided to open the large gates. Open them too much and there would have been a mass stampede so two policemen opened them just enough for one or two people at a time to get through. A whole lot of people therefore got in for nothing. And meanwhile the decision was made to delay the kick-off. Brian Miller was not best pleased, said Jim.

Roy remembered that after the game Brian Miller hugged and squeezed him so tightly that he feared his ribs would be crushed. Just one corner flag was recovered, the nets were ripped and the police ordered all inside doors to be locked at the tunnel end to keep the fans from getting inside into the corridors in their eagerness to share their celebrations with the players in the dressing room.

“We could hear them all banging on the doors to be let in,” said Roy.

Earlier in the season, with the club penniless, one of the directors saw that there were now five footballs up on the Bob Lord roof and footballs weren’t cheap. It was decided they must be rescued. Jim was commercial manager but that made no difference, he was instructed to erect the scaffolding and get them down. Jim did all kinds of odd jobs as well as avoiding people calling to have their bills settled.

“Tell them I’m not in,” he’d say which was exactly what Bob Lord used to say only a few years earlier.

Anyway: as well we know, it may not be the tallest stand in the world but nevertheless that is one helluva high roof. Scaffolding on wheels was duly trundled out and erected by Jim and a couple of apprentices long before the days of Health and Safety and mandatory tin hats and training days about how to climb up a ladder.

Jim looked up and uttered just two words, “Bloody hell.” Then he added a few more, “No way am I going up there on this rickety contraption.” But he did… just the once and swaying about in the breeze and nearly ill with vertigo retrieved one ball. The apprentices called out, “We’ll move the scaffolding along while you are up there and you can get the next ball.”

“Oh no you won’t,” he called back down and inched his way back down the fragile contraption and said a silent prayer when he reached firm land. It was at this point that Director Bernard Rothwell appeared.

“You got them all then,” he asked whereupon Jim said no he only had the one and there was no way he was going back up again.

“Bernard looked at me and told me I was soft, amongst other things,” said Jim, “and said he’d go up himself. And he did. When he got to the top I couldn’t believe that he actually got off the scaffolding and climbed on the roof and threw the balls down and all the while I’m thinking hell he could go straight through the roof.”

Roy Oldfield too had his own share of adventures with scaffolding on wheels, this structure the one that was used in the gym with its high ceilings and bulbs that needed changing every time players took accidental pot shots at them and scored a direct hit. He hated it but did allow himself to be wheeled about by the apprentices from bulb to bulb when enough of them needed replacing to warrant the ride of death with Roy clinging on for dear life and shouting at the likes of Phil Cavener and his mates to slow down before he fell off.

“It was a long drop,” said Roy, “and those daft lads thought it was a huge joke while I was up there hanging on for dear life.”

“How times have changed as well,” said Jim. “Today you can’t get near the players, there seems no connection, no closeness; no real contact between them and fans apart from the odd exception. Back in the 70s when we played as many as 9 of us used to meet up every Monday for a drink somewhere and we’d always mix happily with the supporters. Most of us lived in or near the town so we were always being invited to open this, or present a prize somewhere or just make an appearance, and we never refused. It was the captain, Martin Dobson, who sorted them out and organised a rota so that we all had to take part. There’d be a list of names and when it was your turn there was no refusing, it was expected of you, you just did it and enjoyed it, unless you had something really important that took priority but that was rare. We went round the supporters clubs and there was never any ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There was something most weeks. But now: when do supporters get the chance to meet, spend an evening and chat informally and really socialise in the week on a regular basis?”

“Meeting them in the pubs and clubs we actually made some decent friendships with supporters and they’d tell us where they stood on a matchday. When we ran out or in the warm-up we’d look for them and give them a wave. Do you see that anymore?”

It was a Sunday game for Burnley and in mid-October against pundits’ predictions they still weren’t in the bottom three. The Division was propped up after 8 games by Sunderland, Stoke City and Swansea. Bookies and hacks had indicated that Dyche was one of the favourites for the vacant Villa job. You wonder where they get this stuff from; they didn’t even approach him.

The last league games between Southampton and Burnley in Southampton had certainly favoured the home side but Sporting Life guru David John was optimistic about Burnley’s chances even though Southampton were unbeaten since the middle of September in all competitions; manager Claude Puel had got them organised and Austin was scoring goals again but nevertheless he saw Burnley creating problems and would certainly be no pushovers. Dyche’s side was evolving all the time he argued, had a fine attitude and a display close to that which they gave against Arsenal would make them a tough assignment. Steven Defour and Jeff Hendrick were steeling up the midfield with drive and energy. Defender Michael Keane was the newest hottest talent and attracting covetous glances from other clubs. Tom Heaton was a class act. Their solidity at the back was a tough nut to crack with one of the best goals-against records in the division, just 9 goals conceded.

The game was on SKY in the afternoon but first there was the small matter of Master Joe playing for Farsley Celtic Colts under 10s in the morning. Farsley have a great set-up having been ‘reborn’ in 2010 after the ‘old’ club went into administration. A tidy little ground covered on two sides, an all-weather pitch and two adjacent training areas, one of them another full-size pitch, plus an indoor playing area. The youth set-up is hugely busy and superbly organised with teams that start at under-10 and go right up through the ages. The social club serves Growlers (Yorkshire pies) and mushy peas. What more could you want on a cold wet Tuesday night when it’s training for the Colts? For Clarets in Leeds, Wilson’s Pie Shops in and around the city are highly recommended having won several prestigious awards. Their Jiffy Pork Pie van is a regular at Leeds Rhino home games. Imagine driving a pie van for a living; some blokes have all the luck. Way back in history, pie shops were the original fast food outlets. And the old nursery rhyme – four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie – they really did used to put live birds inside a pie for a laugh and then when the pie was opened out they flew to amuse the diners.

The Farsley Colts game was in a drenching downpour that lasted all morning, cold rain as well with no shelter other than umbrellas. All of us were soaked and shrammed, none more so than the lads playing their hearts out and getting frozen to the bone and coming off shivering uncontrollably and looking like mudlarks. This was a long, long way from Premier League billions; and while Burnley fans were heading towards Southampton and the glitz of the upper echelon, we were at the very bottom rung of the ladder in the mud, or maybe ever lower, grass roots stuff, where it all starts with volunteer coaches and team managers giving up their nights and weekends to get it all organised, and parents and grandparents devotedly turning up to support the lads. I remembered how I did this for 12 years on a Saturday morning running the school team. They deserve a medal. Then, with that level of cruelty that only comes with the capriciousness of English weather, as soon as we got home and Joe into a warming bath, the rain stopped and there was blue sky.

At Southampton, Dyche like the rest of us was baffled by Dean not awarding the penalty when Gudmondsson was brought down in the box with the score at 0-0. Yes it might well have affected the course of the rest of the game; but it wasn’t given so that after that the result of the game reached its predictable conclusion with a defeat that could well have been an absolute tonking if Heaton had not been in superb form, with one save bringing Gordon Banks in 1970 comparisons from the SKY team.

Where Southampton were slick and dominant, always a man in space for a quick forward pass, Burnley were pedantic and laboured struggling over and again to find anyone forward with an accurate pass. There was just the one forward, Vokes, so that time and again the ball simply went back to Southampton who mounted yet another attack. When a Burnley player did receive a pass it was more often than not played backwards. Incisive movements and quick forward runs were at a premium, pace was non-existent.

With the score at 0-0 at half-time you speculated that Burnley might somehow just scrape a point, it had that feel about it; hey they might just do it we wondered. For all their possession and dominance and despite Burnley’s poverty going forward, Southampton seemed to be having one of those days when chances went begging and Heaton was saving everything. Defour had gone off with what looked like a hamstring injury long before this. On came the young O’Neill.

But come the second half they scored with a scruffy scrambled goal from a corner and all you could do was humph and sit back and groan at the impotence of any Burnley response. And then the second was fired home following a corner and then a third from a penalty decision far less blatant than that which Burnley were denied in the first half. Later on, maybe Dean thought he had to redress his error and did indeed award Burnley a penalty for an obstruction on Mee in the box. Vokes converted. 3-1 and the commentary team optimistically decided it was now “game on.” But it wasn’t.

At St Mary’s 0-0 at halftime and holding on; so it was in Joe’s Farsley colts’ game but they ended up on the end of a 6-1 drubbing. The Harry Hill show consigned the memory of the games to the dustbin. Burnley still not in the bottom three and maybe this was a game that was never going to yield a point. Others games might, we assured ourselves afterwards, especially at home.

Meanwhile Russia was provocatively planning to sail one of its fleets up the English Channel. The USA was raising its defence levels to Defcon 3 with comparisons being made to the Cuban Missile crisis of the Kennedy era.   But at Burnley there were bigger problems; away from home again they were not even mildly threatening; just how do they make a better fist of these games was the question.

It was a good job Harry Hill was on for half an hour with his new Teatime programme to lighten the gloom of the performance at Southampton. Hill, daft as a brush, is a bit like Marmite, an acquired taste; boy did we need something to cheer us up.


10: He was known as Burnley Dave

There have been, still are, and will continue to be many Burnley Daves. This one was from Skipton, moved to Bradford and sadly died in January 2010. He possessed a claret and blue scarf. And it is the old scarf that prompts this tale, for the scarf was precious and one of his proudest possessions.

Because he couldn’t drive he didn’t get to many Burnley games from Bradford and was in fact very much an armchair supporter. He used to sit at home on a Saturday listening to football with a Walkman plugged into his ear and he would wear a Burnley shirt with the old P3 Computer logo on it. He did in fact watch Bradford City sometimes, and was always there when Burnley were in town. Armchair based he might have been, but Burnley was his first love and passion, the scarf the symbol of that love.

Dave was born shortly after his parents moved from Bradford to Skipton in 1955 and his parents were prominent people in the town. His father was once Mayor of Skipton and his mother was a magistrate. Dave and his parents loved each other dearly and he too, like them, was a diehard socialist. However he didn’t really fit into his parents’ mould. His main interests were women, smoking, beer, and Burnley Football Club. Nothing much changed for the rest of his life. I guess there are lots of blokes like that.

Skipton was then a hotbed of Burnley support; it still is a claret town basically but support has perhaps diminished over the years since the 60s and 70s. He was only 5 when Burnley won the title in 1960 but grew to appreciate the great side of 65/66 and then the Team of the Seventies.

He was a bright lad and went to Grammar School but chose not to go to University; instead he joined the Inland Revenue and was posted to Bradford. Bus trips to from Skipton to Turf Moor ended and regular attendance faded. But he still had the scarf that signified his unending support for the Clarets. It’s an old scarf, hand knitted, woollen and it is most likely that it was his mother who knitted it. Many years ago mothers used to do that kind of thing lovingly for their sons if they were football mad, or knit garish sweaters if they were not, sitting by the fireside listening to the radio whilst fathers would sit and read the newspaper. Maybe she also knitted socks for her husband or even a cardigan. This was before television, and the comfortably-off family with dad smoking his pipe, sitting together in the living room in the evenings was the happy norm, or so the pictures in the history books suggest.

Dave married at a young age but didn’t wear the scarf to his wedding. That would have been frowned on and would most likely have annoyed his new wife. His wife was an officer in the Civil Service and they moved into a swish house in Wibsey a suburb of Bradford. Astonishingly his wife walked out on him after just 3 weeks leaving him with an unaffordable mortgage. But, he was always clever with money and dragged out the sale of the house until its value had risen and made him a tidy profit. That was 1-0 to Dave. Maybe his wife had said it’s the scarf or me, although that’s highly unlikely. But you never know.

For a wife to walk out on a husband after just three weeks is highly unusual even in today’s whacky world but back then was unheard of; wives back then were dutiful and obedient; there to be seen and not heard. (Just watch that old black and white film Brief Encounters.) Maybe his new bride by now after just three weeks was upset by the scarf seeing it as a symbol that he perhaps loved Burnley more than her.

That reminds me of the couple I knew who divorced bitterly with the wife proclaiming angrily, “You love Burnley more than me.”

And he (another Dave) was quick to reply, “Darling I love Blackburn Rovers more than you.”

Dave, with the scarf, moved into a back to back property that was his home for the rest of his life. At first he attacked the upgrading of the house with missionary zeal including new kitchen cabinets. He wasn’t sure where to fit them so stood them on the floor under a thin chipboard top. Twenty years later they were still there.

He and his great friend Hywel met in the early 80s and each with a broken marriage enjoyed having a good time in the pubs and clubs of Bradford and had many a scrape with the ladies, having many a successful tryst and getting into all kinds of bother with jealous boyfriends and husbands.

Armed with the gift of the gab and a new job, now a Chartered Surveyor, Dave had a fine reputation as a valuer but knew he was too much of a maverick to ever become a manager. By day he was a serious and diligent hard worker, in the evenings he was devoted to having a drink, a good time and lots of laughs. Maybe he wore the claret scarf to work when he travelled to London. Unlikely perhaps, but you never know.

At age 52 he took early retirement and was always at any game involving Burnley at Bradford City. In retirement he took up two hobbies, turning round the fortunes of Wibsey WMC and betting on the gee gees. He was better at the first than at the second. He loved sport and his small house was often filled with friends watching the Super Bowl or World Snooker.

For several years he had an Old English sheepdog, Bonnie, and used to comb her and save the hair hoping to have it all spun into yarn to make him a jumper. Bonnie died sometime in the early 90s before he had enough. He couldn’t contemplate throwing the clippings away and the great bag of Bonnie’s hair was still there in the house when Dave died.

In 2008 when his mother died his own end was not too far away. He developed an aggressive throat cancer, in next to no time struggled to speak and eventually had to be fed via a drip. He poured vodka into the drip because the burps tasted better he wrote, unable to speak. He died within 18 months.

Shortly before he died his friend Hywel made the journey to Burnley struggling in the thick snow to buy him a new shirt. The staff were just packing up but went out of their way to get the shirt but alas it was too late to get Dave’s name on the back. He loved the shirt and he was cremated with it in his coffin.

There were several games involving Burnley at Bradford in the 80s and 90s and Burnley Dave would always be there but the two memorable ones took place in September 2002 and March 2004 with Dave probably too ill by then to attend the latter. It was the one where Brian Jensen made so many world-class saves that Bryan Robson was shaking his head at the undeserved 2-1 Burnley win that eased relegation fears.

But it was the one in 2002 that had Burnley Dave and the rest of us who witnessed it absolutely open-mouthed. It’s all there in It’s Burnley Not Barcelona, that weird and wonderful season when scores of 6 and 7 were not uncommon, unfortunately the goals slamming into the Burnley net. Entertaining it may have been (for away fans) but grey hair in Burnley grew in direct proportion to the number of goals conceded.

I dug out an old copy off the shelf and re-read the account of that 2002 fixture when Stan was manager and the club lurched along with Stan and Barry Kilby trying to resurrect it from years of dross and penury.

‘The facts are these. On Saturday the sun is shining, the sky is blue; the ground is colourful and bright. Two sets of bedecked supporters are in good voice and there is a fine spectacle in prospect. We draw 2-2 which on the surface seems a good away result and we watch the game from the privileged comfort of a warm, food laden, drink filled Bradford City supporter’s corporate private box.

     Bradford score first, first half did we have a shot? Two Bradford players are sent off. The crowd is incensed. We score two and lead 2-1. In front of us sit the non-playing Branch, Weller, Armstrong and Payton.

     “You’re not playing then?” I ask which has to be the dumbest question of all time as they sit there in suits. I tell them I once taught Dean West.

     “Ah that tight buggar from Yorkshire,” one of them replies. Another says, as the conversation hiccups and stutters, that a couple of days earlier the club was close to administration.

     We began with the traditional hoofer style and got nowhere giving away the by now customary sloppy goal to give ourselves a challenge. The second half changes as the artists come on Alan Moore and Robbie Blake and we play football. Blake transforms things and Bradford are handily reduced to 9 men .It became a game we were on the way to comfortably winning 2-1 but then disgrace, embarrassment, derision set in roughly with about 15 minutes to go and every Burnley supporter left that ground baffled by what we did at the end. Burnley elected to play showboat keepball in their own half with the inevitable slip that gave the ball away and off Bradford go and score with 5 seconds left on the clock. We threw away the chance of three gift points by spurning the chance to play the ball in their half and going for a third goal.

     David Clark wrote: Clarets preference to showboat, play ridiculous keepball patterns and try to run the clock down led to their downfall snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. Totally unprofessional over the last 15 minutes in their conduct rather than putting the game well and truly beyond a depleted and dead-on-its-feet Bradford side left many Clarets in states of bewilderment and embarrassment. Amateurish tactics allowed 9-man Bradford to equalise in the dying seconds.

     You don’t need to ask what the Bradford websites say… everything damning that you would expect about the nasty, cheating, physical Burnley.

     If you were there you might remember that one man was sent off for leaving Papadopoulos in a heap on the floor but this was seen as diving by all home fans. The other was sent off when a Bradford elbow gave Dean West a fat lip. But no the Bradford folk said, it was the ball that did it not an elbow. When the final whistle went you’d have thought Bradford had won the FA Cup their fans went so wild. Burnley fans slunk away including me and Mrs T. At least though, we were full of top-notch chicken, salad and moussaka.

I like to think of Burnley Dave sat in the sunshine that day, there in the Burnley end rather than his usual home-end seat and wearing his claret scarf. Much as he might have come to support Bradford there is some truth in the notion that you never forget your first girlfriend so that his loyalty to Burnley always came first.

The controversy raged on during the following Monday with the Bradford manager fuming at Burnley’s alleged antics that saw two of his players sent off and Stan Ternent responding by telling him his comments were slanderous. Nicky Law duly apologised after Stan’s broadside. What he didn’t know was what we had come to learn, that dear old Dimi had legs like Bambi on ice, and was always falling all over the place. He could fall three feet outside the penalty area but somehow land in it just like the great Harry Potts used to do.

Say what you like but that was one eventful season. Predictions were impossible; you never knew how many cricket score games you would see. A gallows sense of humour was essential so that you could laugh at things like someone from Bradford who wrote: ‘Burnley is a bit like Keighley but minus the sophistication and culture.’

As people sorted out Dave’s house and belongings the scarf was found and lovingly gathered by his executor Hywel and his trusted friend of so many years. It was one of the first things he took home as a memento of a deep friendship. He knew so many people in and around Wibsey who all knew him as Burnley Dave and the Crematorium was packed to overflowing. Hywel visits his grave in Skipton to this day and still chats to him and sheds a tear. It’s what we do. Perhaps he chatted one day and reminisced about the time they went to the re-opening of a pub and there was a Hawaiian theme. Two 14-stone barmaids were dressed in grass skirts, but the landlord bizarrely was dressed as a French onion seller.

Hywel kept the warm and comfortable scarf until very recently but then decided that it should at last be passed to another true Burnley fan. It was thus handed to James Brunskill whom Hywel knows, and if at Burnley you see a bloke wearing a claret and blue banded scarf that clearly belongs to a long gone decade when things were made of wool and hand- knitted; and players like Ralph Coates and Andy Lochhead graced the Turf, then that will probably be the scarf and if it is, that will be James Brunskill its new custodian, wrapped inside its warm and comforting embrace.

I don’t know about you, but the scarf I treasure the most dates back to 1972, machine made and striped lengthways in the college-scarf style, and I still wear it. Its age gives it special meaning. It has seen an FA Cup semi-final, Wembley twice, relegations, promotions, triumphs, drama and near disasters like the Orient game. It has been to Austria, Scotland, Ireland and all four corners of England where Burnley have played. I have a dozen scarves in the drawer but it’s this old one with its frayed ends that fits me like a glove and feels exactly right.

We had two of these old scarves, one each, but flying one from the car window back from a game one day, when the window was carelessly wound down out flew the scarf and was last seen crushed under the wheels of an articulated truck a hundred yards behind us. The word upsetting is inadequate. I knew in that instant exactly how a small child feels when they lose a favourite Teddy Bear.

We probably all have something Burnley related, something precious that we value so much. Burnley Dave’s scarf, old, woolly and made with a mother’s love; is now somewhere near its 60th year. How can you put a price on such things?



You ran out of words coming down the stairs after the game… robbed, cheated, gutted, stunned, gobsmacked, bereft, angry, astonished, mugged, dumbfounded, fuming; then you thought of more as you drove home listening to the radio pundits who thought just the same as you, having seen a game that was decided by a goal that came after the two minutes added time was over, a goal that we thought initially was possibly offside and involved a clear, blatant handball that diverted the shot that was heading over the bar.

So exactly what happened? Referee Pawson was playing two added minutes. After those two minutes were over he allowed Arsenal to play on from the short corner. He found more time for a cross to come over from the edge of the box. By now the whistle should have been blown for full time.

Scenario 1: Walcott headed the ball onwards. It looked like Oxlade Chamberlain was on the end of it and shot with Koscielny very close by him. By now the whistle for full time should have been blown. The ball was ballooning over the bar. Centre half Koscielny was in an offside position immediately to the side and in front of him a couple of feet from the post. By now the whistle should have been blown for full time. Koscielny put up his arms and diverted the ballooning ball into the net.

Or: scenario 2. It was Koscielny whose foot made contact with the ball so he was not actually offside, but nevertheless the ball was sailing over the bar until his flailing arms diverted it. Referee Pawson unfathomably still does not blow for time or disallow the goal; a goal that we’ll talk about for a long time to come. But whatever the scenario, it was heart-breaking and in no way did Burnley deserve to lose. But the question remained; just how on earth was Walcott one of the smallest players on the pitch allowed space to head the ball onwards? Why did Arfield suddenly leave the back post and race away out of the 6-yard box? In doing so he left Chamberlain and Koscielny totally unmarked.

Ex-referee Dermot Gallagher said it was a fair goal, that Koscielny was raising his arms to aid elevation. What nonsense. Ex-referee Keith Hacket said he would have disallowed it without hesitation.

Pawson then found more time for Burnley to take the kick-off. Marney slammed the ball goalwards in frustration. It might just have worked with Cech still off his line. Pawson blew his whistle. We stood there just open mouthed at the brazen injustice. Koscielny said afterwards he wasn’t sure if he’d handled it. Well he would wouldn’t he? Wenger said he’d seen neither the handball nor even the replay yet. Well he always says that. But, he later agreed they ‘had got a bit lucky,’ and was fulsome in his praise for Burnley and the ancient old stadium and passionate support.

What made the result just so rank awful was the way Burnley had handled Arsenal during the previous 92 minutes. They’d played superbly, tied them up in knots, defended wonderfully, kept their shape, kept Arsenal out of the box other than occasional intrusions; they’d run, harried, intercepted, headed, and restricted Arsenal to only one real clear chance. The game plan worked to perfection until that fateful 93rd minute.

Before that they’d certainly created their own moments of menace with Arsenal certainly not having it all their own way. Vokes, the lone striker, was awesome once again up front but missed a glorious heading chance in the first half, sending the cross wide from a perfect position. In the second half a thumping Burnley header by Gudmondsson had Petr Cech sprawling to make a fingertip save. Then Keane hit the crossbar from a corner with Arsenal all over the place until they eventually cleared the danger.

At the end of the game referee Pawson was booed off the pitch. It was Pawson who had missed Keane’s header crossing the line at Brighton -funny that. But the team received thunderous cheers and applause for this outstanding performance against one of the best teams in Europe. They were tired and jaded, said Wenger. Actually, they were made to look tired and jaded as they found it impossible to get through the Burnley ranks until that nightmare final minute. For all their possession they were restricted to just two attempts. Throughout the game Keane was outstanding making his omission from Southgate’s initial England squad at best a mystery, at worst a disgrace, although Southgate would rectify that a couple of days later. Gudmondsson too was excellent, MOTM perhaps, having his best game by a mile for Burnley. ‘Tough little sod,’ someone described him perfectly.

Defour was again taken off early with a knock it seemed, but was admirable until then. Keane and Mee enhanced the statistical evidence that they are the Premier League’s most effective pairing with Heaton topping the goalkeeper charts with the most number of saves. Hendrick covered every blade of grass. Marney was a contender for MOTM. Boyd was back to his irrepressible best.

What a glorious day though, the ground bathed in warm sunshine, warm enough to make us think we were still in Tenerife as we peeled off layers of coats and sweaters.     Meanwhile we wondered if we’d got away from Tenerife just in time as there were fears that the old volcano, Mount Teide, might well blow very soon. No end of seismic activity was being recorded in the immediate vicinity with mini quakes recorded on 92 occasions in the past few days with one an almost respectable 1.5 on the Richter scale. This was at Vilaflor reported the Express. The name’s familiar I thought and then realised, hell this was where we went to the Bodega to do some serious wine tasting and have a spot of lunch only a few miles from the summit of Mt Teide. Ey oop, those wine bottles on that shelf are wobbling, I noticed, but put it down to having just had a fifth glass of red.

Wenger came out to huge applause from all sides of the stadium in recognition of his 20 years at Arsenal. Tributes paid to him during the week had mentioned his love of the local sausages from the region in France where he had been brought up and where his brother still lives. If he was Burnley manager the local butchers would have been falling over themselves to make a sausage in his honour. Ian Wright said he still remembered the first week at Arsenal when the new manager had arrived. It was like black and white turning into colour, he mused.

Way back in Tudor times monarchs every so often set off with all their retainers on a Royal Progress around the country stopping in the major towns and cities receiving adulation, homage and especially gifts wherever they stayed. Wenger this season is doing much the same and at Burnley Craig Pawson presented him with the gift of a goal. He has produced teams for two decades that follow his philosophy of beautiful football and fast and intricate passing skills. It was with supreme irony that the goal they scored was as scruffy and messy as you will see anywhere. How any referee could allow that goal remains beyond my comprehension.

He has overseen the building of a new stadium and continually promoted young players. You cannot help but admire what he has done and achieved. He summarised the game neatly: ‘we could have won 1-0 and we could have lost 1-0. Burnley makes everybody suffer here.’ That last bit raised a chuckle; he should have been here in the 80s. Unfortunately it was referee Pawson who made us all suffer and we haven’t even asked what on earth the linesman was watching.

After two weeks away there was a garden to sort out, a greenhouse to empty, grass to cut, veg plots to clear. Never have I hoed so venomously. The Arsenal goal still rankled; the point lost could be the one we pointed to in May as being the one that was so crucial along with the two points lost when Hull equalised in extra time at Turf Moor. Every point lost is cumulative if the worst happens and relegation looms, but some end up so much more significant.

The Joey Barton book had arrived, on Amazon from £20 down to just £9. It was a toss-up between that and two others, the ones by Ray Parlour and Ian Wright. We’d been wondering how much of the Burnley season he would include. There was plenty – and utterly engrossing.

His portrait glares at you from the front cover; presumably that’s the image he wants to portray, a sort of look-me-in-the-eye and you don’t mess with me Robert de Niro kind of thing. It’s a philosophy that for sure dates back to his childhood and upbringing on the mean streets and estates of Liverpool, infested with drugs, crime and violence, with a father who preached the necessity of being able to look after yourself with either fists or a bat. Without the focus of football it’s a life he would have drifted into full-time. His father was a handy footballer himself who played at a respectable non-league level. Barton’s life was therefore immersed in football from when he was a toddler.

The end cover pages of the book consist of more portraits of himself, presumably from the same photo-shoot. You might just flick straight past them without giving them a thought, but their inclusion is revealing, they are in fact what the book is all about – who is Joey Barton, who is the real Joey, which is the one he wants to be; and can he ever really like and respect himself.

     ‘This book can attempt to make some sense of the person I was,’ he writes at the very end.

This is undoubtedly one multifaceted and complex individual; highly intelligent, driven, perfectionist, ambitious, ruthless, determined, blunt, in fact he even includes in the book the lengthy results of the psychometric aptitude and attitude tests that he completed at Burnley. They are incredibly positive. Whereas some players kept their own close to their chests, he pinned his up on his locker door for all to see as if to say ‘right lads this is who I am, this is what you’re getting from me.’

You hear on the grapevine that ‘the lads’ bought into his mentality at Burnley, the senior pro, kicking ass, never settling for second best, geeing them up, saying what he thought in the dressing room or on the training field, the gobby shop steward as he says. Maybe at Rangers they didn’t like it. It looks like there it backfired. His performance in the pre-season friendly up there was strangely lukewarm, almost disinterested; was he already thinking have I come to the right place.

Lord knows how many football books I have in the house, in the office, grandson’s bedroom, the spare bedroom and down in the basement. But this one: reading it is like being hit on the head with a shovel over and again with its pitiless honesty, revelations, brutal self-analysis and the gory details of his fuck-ups (his word), the St John’s estate in Liverpool where he grew up with its rampant crime and drug scene, and all his confrontations over the years. The tone is stark, humour is hard to find; blunt honesty pervades every page and frothy bullshit (his words) is non-existent. He can’t abide slackers, posers, wasters, football’s parasites; he is tough as old boots, has never backed away from a fight but by his own admission has been a monumental idiot in the past because of an inability to control his inner demons.

He goes through each of the clubs that he has been at, the dressing rooms, and each of the managers he has worked with and after some of it you just think wow because it is so candid. You begin to appreciate why the title is ‘No Nonsense’ when in a couple of sentences he can witheringly disparage another player.

He comes to the Burnley section and begins with ‘Burnley was a balanced environment, in which I could learn from the sort of manager I aspire to become. Sean Dyche saw through the tat and the tinsel.’ But Barton is candid; in their first meeting he was as much interviewing Dyche, as Dyche was interviewing him.

He focuses on two games; the title winning game at Charlton and before that the 5-0 demolition of MK Dons. The MK Dons game had fans purring as the goals went in but behind the scenes it was an occasion when JB let rip at half-time. He says that he had been quiet up to then, ‘pretty low key’ in his own words but he ‘showed his teeth’ on Tuesday, 12 January for the first time and ripped into the back four because he’d deemed them slack and casual ‘And I wasn’t having it.’

‘His teammates had been wondering when the explosion would come,’ he writes. ‘The atmosphere was expectant.’

Sean D backed him up. ‘He’s right. Joe is on the pitch. He can smell what I can see.’ Burnley went out and rattled in four more goals.

The Charlton game was the second when he went mad at half-time. Burnley were winning 1-0 but playing without energy or drive. Heaton was keeping them in the game with a string of saves. At half-time he goes mad (his words) kicks the skip and then loses it. He wants that title. Second place is no good. Nobody remembers runners-up.

The gaffer comes in, let’s me finish and then loses it. The bollocking works. We fly at them; confirm the title by scoring twice more in as many minutes, and ease off as the circus cranks up.’

He had a memorable season at Burnley and joined Burnley because of Sean Dyche. He says he was offered a two-year deal to stay, on a more lucrative contract than at Rangers. But Rangers was a chance to grow, improve and learn more.

Burnley was the perfect football experience; I was overwhelmed by positivity and by a lack of suspicion. The fans took to me and I made lifelong friends from Daisy the tea lady to a group of proper professionals.’

     But he admits to not wanting to be worn out by the worry beads of merely consolidating in the Premier League. There was temptation to remain but Rangers offered something different and compelling. He was at the peak of his powers, he writes.

He has offered few tweets about life at Rangers since his 3-week expulsion. When the three weeks are up, what next? Will Rangers even want to keep him at all? Plus, the SFA is now after him for betting on football matches which is banned in Scotland. If he found some kind of peace and satisfaction at Burnley, at Rangers there seems only turmoil.

This is a terrific book, one of the best I’ve read. There aren’t many books I’ve read and finished and thought damn I’ve finished. This is one them.