Mysterious pyramids have been found in Antarctica… Farage would like to be the US Ambassador… 25 years since Freddy Mercury died… George Best would have been 70 this weekend… outbreaks of Christmas decorations had been spotted and were said to be spreading uncontrollably… but there won’t be many in Bradford.

Football fans are resilient creatures, gluttons for punishment; we were humbled at West Brom but the chance to make amends was uppermost in our heads. A home game against Man City was next, what’s not to look forward to, we thought. This is what it’s all about.

But before that, there was a bit of a jolt, the name of the school where I was head for 14 years cropped up quite out of the blue. Poor Joe while we were away in Hornsea had suffered a 13-0 defeat. ‘But they fouled us all the time,’ he said.

‘Ah well,’ I consoled him, ‘you had a moral victory,’ and then tried explaining to a 9-year old exactly what that was.

But the email that came stopped me in my tracks: next game against Carlton Giants, at Dolphin Lane, Thorpe Primary School. Hell I thought, if I had a pound for every time I drove there for 14 years I’d be a wealthy man.

At Easter, 1982, as Burnley were heading towards promotion with that last harvest of home-grown young players; I was due to leave leafy lane, St Margaret’s where I’d been Deputy Head, to be head of Thorpe on the Hill Primary School. The name gives it a pleasant, rural image. A better name would have been Thorpe in the middle of the old abandoned coalmines and engine sheds. The idea of being the head of a little village school had always appealed, except this was no picturesque, picture postcard village; this was an ex-industrial area, grey, dilapidated, with an old deserted quarry thrown in for good measure. The M62 dissected the village; in between it, and the school, lay the allotments from which hens would often wander over to the school and hop up into the hall. Another guy kept rabbits to which one errant pupil helped himself on his way home and kept his new pets under his bed feeding them chips until his mother noticed the strange smell emanating from his bedroom.

It was quite ironic that this little school of under 100 pupils out in the semi-rural boondocks and spoil heaps, but with Leeds just a few miles away, should produce the one professional footballer I ever had in a school team. At the interview for the job one of the things I said I’d do was get a football team going. This I duly did. I remember for that interview I’d even polished my shoes, something I hadn’t done for years. I noticed one of the interviewing panel peering at them as I sat in front of them arranged in a horseshoe. I like to think it was the shoes that got me the job; it was either that or bad luck.

Anyway: the ten-year old was Dean West and even then he snapped and snarled and launched into tackles in every game he played. We had so few lads to choose from we had a girl in goals long before women’s football became a big thing and in macho south Leeds it became an eye opener. If you could kick a ball you were in the team but this motley bunch of ragamuffins were second in the local Wakefield League playing against schools four times the size of little us. That was solely down to Dean West who covered every blade of grass with complete and utter fearlessness and competitiveness. After one memorable game in mud and rain against the crack top school that we won 1-0, I jokingly said to him and his dad, “I’ll get you a trial at Burnley one day.” That went down like a lead balloon seeing as his dad had eyes only for Leeds United.

So indeed he did sign for Leeds as a youth but eventually played for Stan Ternent at Bury, and then when Stan joined Burnley he brought Dean along with him. Lo and behold the lad did play for Burnley. Funny that

Three years trickled by, Burnley had gone up, then down and John Bond came and went. We didn’t know there was even worse to come. Thorpe School meanwhile was stuck in its time warp of peeling paint, heating that failed in winter, plus two staff who had been there far too long and had both feet fixed firmly still in the fifties. One, the ageing Deputy Head ready for retirement was memorable for his Ralphie Coates comb-over hair style. The other was the school’s pianist and used the nuffnote method; that is to say if you hit enuff notes you eventually get the right ones. The first secretary was a lovely elderly lady but could only type with one finger and was deaf in one ear. Her replacement was a clairvoyant and could see dead people – or so she said. This was in fact quite unnerving. Sadly, by now, Dean West had left and the school team found its proper level losing games by huge scores on a regular basis.

One day I heard the sound of pattering hooves coming across the hall floor. It was only 8 o clock and all was quiet until I heard little voices as well. “You tell ‘im… no you tell ‘im… you knock… no you knock.”

Two small lads came to the open door and with them was a goat on the end of a piece of string that had left puddles all over the polished hall floor. The two boys looked at me:

“We found this goat sir outside in the road,” said one of them as if I would have a solution.

The goat and I looked at each other. Burnley FC’s problems suddenly seemed insignificant. I’d been to few if any games in the last few years but looked at the results and stuck reports in my page-a-day diary.

To cut a long story short the news got round that the Head had a goat in his office and eventually an old guy in a battered ancient car turned up, took it out, shoved it into the car on the back seat, and drove off. As he did this another car turned up with an LEA adviser inside who looked askance at the old man and the goat and then stared at me with a dumbstruck look. I, meanwhile, didn’t bat an eyelid as if it was quite normal. It was that kind of school. You never quite knew what might happen next, unlike Turf Moor when every day was in the wilderness of the old Fourth Division you knew what to expect, just more misery and false hopes.

If humour and laughs were in short supply at Turf Moor in the wilderness years, there were plenty at Thorpe. There was the Christmas that Santa in the grotto got slowly tipsy. The mums had been down to Leeds market to get cheap sweets. The brought half a ton back and Santa was giving them to the children as they left. Most of them pulled a face and said they were horrible. The mums had unknowingly bought bagloads of chocolate liqueurs upon which Santa was happily snacking. One lad called David had the happy habit of running out of the classroom and sitting either on top of the piano or on the shed roof. I could never persuade him it would be helpful if he ran straight home. Sports Days were fun. We had them for parents as well until the time they were stopped because two dads had a fight because they both said they’d won. The kids didn’t bat an eyelid; it was quite common up on the estate.

For all of the 80s that I was in this little school Burnley were pants other than the one promotion year. Whilst I was the wasteland of Thorpe, Burnley were enduring the backwoods of the Fourth Division. It seemed kind of apt.

Burnley versus Manchester City: funnily enough there was no sense of apprehension or trepidation. A defeat would be nothing less than expected; anything else an absolute bonus. The email about the game at Thorpe had been a reminder of times past when not a person in the world would have forecast that one day we’d have a third season in the Prem and the next game would be against Man City in front of an absolute full house. OK we lost badly at West Brom, but just think back to games at Hartlepool or Maidstone or Exeter many of us thought, knowing which we preferred.

We wondered if Sean D would make a few changes. His words after West Brom, more blunt than usual about his players, suggested some kind of possible epiphany, a road to Damascus moment perhaps when he had realised that some of his players were just not up to the task and there’s no way to make a silk purse out of just running, resolve and digging in. Defour it seemed could still not last a full game. Hendrick seemed no better than the loaned-out Ulvestad; Arfield looked to be running on empty. The lack of pace was blatant. Meanwhile: Joe (he prefers it to Joey) Barton was back training at Gawthorpe, albeit not with the first team; “hmmm,’” we hummed wondering what that might bring.

“Don’t write us off this weekend,” the manager said referring to the unpredictable marvel of football. And we didn’t: anticipating at least a fightback if not a win. There’s always something special about a game like this when the millionaire, super-power elite are in town and all away seats are sold out and filled with raucous, away fans. There’s a kind of carnival atmosphere; Harry Potts Way heaving, the world watching, crowds building at the turnstiles, the samba band, an atmosphere you could bottle.

Pep Guardiola was quick to praise Burnley for what they had achieved so far. Among his compliments was: “Their legs are faster and cleaner than ours.” It reminded me of the old Paul Fletcher joke when he said as an older player he had a hot bath before every game to help him loosen up.

“I was never fast but I was always clean,” he said.

The plus of a lunchtime kick-off is a 10 am Weatherspoon’s breakfast messaged Garry Ingham; wrap up warm messaged Eddie Rawlinson with a fabulous picture of white, frost covered Cliviger fields and hedgerows. In Leeds there was a blanket of fog with a pale, hazy sun just visible through the grey murk. The car took an age to de-frost. Out came the old flask for its first appearance of the season and the old heavy overcoat that weighs a ton. Driving across the moors the view of Ingleborough and Pen Y Ghent white with snow 40 miles away on the horizon was breathtaking beneath the clear blue skies. A stunning drive and a great game in prospect; what more could you want? An upset was maybe on the cards.

But Burnley lost and the more I looked at the scoreline back at home, the more miffed I felt that they hadn’t got a deserved point from a battling performance. Of course City were the more skilful, Toure back in favour was hugely impressive pulling all the strings. Two years ago he hardly left the centre circle, today he was everywhere.

Today was light years away from the dross of the West Brom performance which was no surprise; no one doubted that they had all had a Pep talk but the surprise in fact was Heaton’s absence. Robinson took over. Not bad when you can replace an England international with another and Robinson had a fine game delighted no doubt to be playing in a Premier game again.

The abiding images: Burnley taking the lead with a Marney piledriver not unlike the Boyd goal of two years ago. Referee Marriner’s refusal to award a penalty when Hendrick was sent flying in the first half. The two city goals as scruffy as you will see. Marney and Gudmondsson departing with injuries within minutes of each other. The quickness of petulant, snarling City players to surround the referee at every opportunity complaining about decisions; the pressure Burnley applied in the final 15 minutes forcing Bravo into saves and defenders into hoofed clearances, the save from a great Barnes overhead effort crucial. THAT splendid crunching but perfectly fair tackle by Mee on Sterling that put him out of the game. The splendid contribution of Tarkowski in the makeshift midfield role, and the huge encouragement and roars of support that came from the Burnley fans when it was clear that this team, thrown out of its stride by the two injuries, was refusing to lie down and capitulate.

City knew that they had been in a game; Burnley knew that they had deserved something. It left us all at the end with that empty feeling that you get when you know you had not deserved to lose, especially when the second of the goals was simply a comedy of errors. In a crowded box with the ball set up to be comfortably cleared, two defenders went for it and made a total hash, crashing into each other so that the ball ran free. In a trice it was gathered up, taken to the by-line and crossed where the comedy continued as it bounced off Aguero’s knee with him barely aware of where it was. It was just a cruel way to lose. It left us with that same feeling that we had losing to that ridiculous last minute Arsenal goal.

We trudged down the stairs, disconsolate and irked. We shook our heads. We asked each other just when will a Premier ref recognise a blatant penalty and award it in our favour. All the BT pundits including Howard Webb were agreed; this was a penalty. On MOTD it looked impossible not to give it. How many is that so far this season, we wondered. Maybe Sean D lists them in his Filofax; who can blame him if he does.



The Queen is going to get the builders in… Brexit could mean Santa is barred from entering the UK… Blair threatens to take up politics again… Ed Balls was still going strong on Strictly… England walloped by India… not many laughs this week and certainly none at West Brom.

With Mrs T I moved to from Hebden Bridge to Leeds in 1969; it’s an age ago and I really can’t remember exactly which year it was. The Turf Moor roots were and remained sound enough; they had to be. I was entering Leeds United country at a time when they had a cracking side. In between the kicks and bruises they inflicted on other teams, along with small dogs and stray old ladies, they did actually play a superb brand of football.

The kids at the school I joined, St Margaret’s Horsforth, were all disciples which set an immediate problem when, overseen by the dictatorial Head (Old Jack who we met in the last diary) and with no school kit, I asked them what kits they had at home, and of course they all said white Leeds United shirts. There was nothing for it but to say that this would have to be the kit we played in. What made all this worse of course was the fact that we could see two Leeds landmarks quite clearly from our upstairs windows, one was Armley Jail and the other were the Elland Road floodlights. And then as if to underline the predicament, Burnley were doing far from well at this time, in fact were heading for relegation from the First Division.

Anyway: Jack Prince did two things that have always stuck in my mind; one of them involved Gilbert and Sullivan and the other the FA Cup when Leeds United won it in 1972. We never ever saw his wife, Mrs Prince, who was said to be as portly as he and six inches shorter to boot, but then, one Christmas, he insisted that the older children accompanied by their teachers, one of them me, should attend Yeadon Town Hall to see his wife in a Gilbert and Sullivan production. Up until this point she had seemed like the wife of Captain Mainwaring – just a figment of the imagination.

If I say that this was the musical equivalent of watching Burnley 0 Hereford 6, you will appreciate just how awful it was until a wonderful moment arrived when someone stood on his wife’s long gown. She turned to walk offstage, you could see the foot on the bottom of the dress, you knew what would happen, and just as a Jimmy Mac penalty kick might slowly but unerringly trickle across the line, the dress slipped slowly down and half of it stayed on the floor whilst she exited stage right. It was the only and last time he ever dragooned us to Yeadon to see Gilbert and Sullivan. It was the last time we saw her.

And then he insisted that the school football team should see the FA Cup that would be on display in a church hall down Horsforth Town Street one weekday evening. This meant that I would have to be there as well. And the old head being the tyrant he was, you didn’t dare say, “No I’m a Burnley supporter.” You were told to be there and so you dutifully turned up.

In my hazy mind I can half see Peter Lorimer coming on the stage and saying a few words and then some lackey in attendance lifted up the Cup and the lads cheered whilst I sat there thinking what on earth am I doing here. How is this happening? The lads all went up and made a queue and were allowed to touch the Cup but I thought NO, no way am I going up there to touch a Cup won by Leeds United. It was a defining moment in which I convinced myself that in this act of defiance I had stood symbolically up to old Jack Prince as he glowered at me with narrowed eyes for not accompanying the boys.

In 1974 we were there at Elland Road to see that memorable game when we trounced Leeds on their own pitch 4-1. We had tickets in the home end behind the goal and were very close to the front. In went that delightful chip from Doug Collins right in front of us. In went Nulty’s goal that sealed the win with him somehow on his hands and knees as he scored. But we also saw close up that vile challenge on Casper by Hunter after the ball had gone that left him writhing on the ground. Were we already 4-1 up at that point I seem to think we were, but the recollection is not of the score as Hunter made the tackle, but how delayed it was and then the look of sheer venom on Hunter’s face as he looked down at the stricken Casper on the floor. It’s over 40 years ago now. I doubt Hunter remembers it but Frank certainly does.

And so since all those years ago, we have trudged back and forth from Leeds to Burnley, save for a lull in the 80s when job and offspring interfered, the journey becoming more and more fraught as delays, roadworks, speed cameras, plus more and more traffic and traffic lights, have slowed us down more and more. But, the stretch between Todmorden and Burnley through the Cliviger Gorge has barely changed one bit since the old Ford Prefect in the late 50s chugged to Turf Moor from Longfield Road.

Somewhere, somehow, there’s an alternative Leeds United history. What might have happened if they’d stood by Brian Clough instead of showing him the door after just 40 days? It was the very same day that now doing supply work at a school in Beeston; I’d taken a group of lads and dads on a tour of Elland Road with one of their old pros as host. We got there to find cameras, lights and a whole sea of action, of photographers and reporters and microphones.

What might have happened if Jimmy Adamson had got his way, the directors had backed him and he had been allowed to sign Kevin Keegan from Hamburg and Keegan had transformed a whole city as he did at Southampton. And then I stopped wondering what might have happened and thought, who cares, I’m a Burnley supporter. But, having said that, I felt real sympathy for Adamson because it was then he lost what little love he had left for football.

World Cup weekend was over and Burnley players were back in the fold, Heaton and Keane England, Defour Belgium, Hendrick Ireland, Vokes Wales and Gudmondsson Iceland with no injuries to report. The game against West Brom scheduled for a Monday night so it was a Hornsea weekend for Mrs T et moi.

Tom Heaton had a fine game at Wembley and until the madness of the final five minutes could have been well pleased with his performance. But 2-0 up, the defence went gung-ho, Heaton was dreadfully exposed for both goals, the first of which he had absolutely no chance. The second was of the sort that is embarrassing for all goalkeepers, through his legs. But: where was the left back, where was the cover; there wasn’t any leaving the scorer in oceans of room to streak forward and fire home from close range. The press were kind asking questions about the defence rather than Heaton. Unlucky was the general consensus in those papers that I saw. Southgate meanwhile preferred to give the ageing Jagielka 45 minutes rather than a debut to Michael Keane. We scratched our heads and then groaned.

We were in desperate need of some football of our own. We’d watched the weekend games and most of the results had been pretty favourable to Burnley with Hull, West Ham, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace all losing. The Burnley game on Monday night TV: and the last time they had played at West Brom in the Prem it has been a 0-4 catastrophe.

Sean D in a huge Sunday Times feature briefly compared the two Prem seasons; the first had been ‘a rolling wave of emotion, this time it felt like business.’ SD is nothing if not consistent and even the huge full page feature had little new to say, homing in on his belief that all these new and overseas coaches that have flooded the Premier League and lauded for their ‘innovations’ are doing nothing that hasn’t been around in football for some time.

‘Horrible journey and bloody freezing,’ wrote Paul Weller as the rains lashed down and the motorways in several places ground to a halt. There were flood alert warning sirens in Padiham, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge as if they hadn’t had enough a year ago. Roads into Whalley were closed. In Leeds the rain was biblical, lashing down in horizontal sheets driven by the winds and running like a river down the drive below our house. Wheelie bins were seen floating down roads that were now rivers.

But all the while the news was that at West Brom the pitch was fine and things had abated down there. The Hawthorns, pitch fine, drizzly, traffic grim, tweeted Henry Winter. It would have been a mercy if the Hawthorns had been flooded but we weren’t to know that prior to the game.

‘Horrible night,’ one tweet summed it up, and not just the weather. Somehow Burnley contrived to make West Brom look like Barcelona on a night when all the shortcomings we knew were there surfaced again. West Brom: a side of no great brilliance, no galacticos, nothing outstanding, bang average – or so we thought.

Gifted two early goals they took complete control of the game and made Burnley look like mugs. They were everything Burnley were not; quick on the break, powerful, strong, springing attacks like sprinters off the blocks. Burnley passed it around, backwards, sideways, more sideways, back again, getting nowhere and when they did reach anywhere near the West Brom area it all faded to nothing. Impotent was the only word to describe it; plenty of possession but not a clue what to do with it.

Just one good chance fell Burnley’s way with the score at only 1-0. The ball came to Hendricks who had a perfect opportunity to lob the keeper (which he tried to do) but the attempt was way off target. After that I guess we all knew this was going to be a long and painful night.

Defour as ever did not play the full 90 minutes in fact was taken off after just 45. On came Barnes to make a 4-4-2 formation, Gray again left on the bench looking morose. Things picked up a little but by this time West Brom had gone 3-0 up all too easily. Gudmondsson was the pick of the bunch but was taken off when it would have been a kindness to have replaced the toiling Arfield.

As bad as anything I can remember under Dyche, tweeted Chris Boden. Did they all go out ‘til 5 in the morning partying with Rooney, asked someone else; in Accrington Julian Booth’s Facebook message was TV GONE OFF. He was one of the lucky ones. ‘We should have our fares and ticket costs refunded after this dismal show,’ said many who went. On the touchline as the debacle continued Dyche looked on quite shell-shocked, frequently consulting, hand over his mouth, his henchmen as to what to do next. If he was bemused who could blame him; how on earth was this the same side that dug in at Old Trafford?

After the game he lamented that West Brom has always been a bad ground for him since he broke his leg there as a 17-year old when he was at Nottingham Forest but whilst the results against Man United, Everton and Palace had given us all cause for some optimism, this West Brom result was a painful reminder of just how fallible and limited this Burnley side is and that the result had little to do with bad grounds or bad luck. This was a result down to rank bad defending at one end and a lack of any ideas as to how to get forward at pace at the other, or what to do in the final third. If West Brom were ‘sensational’ as one report claimed, it was because they were allowed to be – or because the wily old Pulis pulled off a masterstroke.

Quite simply West Brom sat back and allowed Burnley to have possession and this as we know is an alien game for them. This time they passed and passed and then when they lost the ball in the final third as they inevitably did, the West Brom counter attacks at speed were all too much. Time and again they were helplessly exposed and with Keane and Mee having nightmare games against the rampaging Rondon, a centre forward with terrifying pace to match his physical presence, the night was set for an abject defeat and all too sadly shown on SKY for the nation to see just how tame and weak-willed Burnley could be.

This was a gloomy and chastening result but a wise old man once said to me no matter how down and despondent you feel, always try to end the day with a chuckle and this I did. As sure as apples is apples someone will surely one day take a pot shot at President Elect Trump. But just think, how would we keep a straight face when his bodyguards all shout “Donald duck.”

It seemed moderately amusing at the fag-end of the evening as we headed to bed desperate for something to lighten the gloom. In the cold, grey light of the following morning, however, it was anything but, as images of the sorry capitulation returned and news of rain and floods dominated the news.


Andy Murray worked his socks off to become world number 1, Blackburn lost again to stay in the bottom three, the first snowfalls in the north, Leonard Cohen and Jimmy Young passed away, Joey Barton was signed off with stress and left Rangers. Brexit now Trumpit, but the biggest shock, M&S will close 60 stores and the new Toblerones will have fewer sticky-up bits.

Sean D doesn’t blow his own trumpet, he doesn’t do elation, never has, chooses words carefully, never overplays things, hyperbole is unknown, pretty much the total opposite of the new US President. He’ll credit others, usually the players, but after the Palace game even Sean D, whilst as undemonstrative as ever, allowed some of his satisfaction and pleasure to show through. He talked of the outstanding and superb mentality that created the winning goal.

The previous week we’d seen one of the most astonishing goalkeeper displays of all time by a Burnley keeper when Tom Heaton defied Man U over and again. Colin MacDonald in the 1958 World Cup, Adam Blacklaw away against Reims in the very early 60s, Harry Thomson away at Naples in the mid-60s were probably the yardsticks for truly great goalkeeping up until Heaton’s gymnastics at Old Trafford. But afterwards, true to fashion, Dyche didn’t really single him out for any special praise or go into meltdown with effusive tributes.

But after the Palace game, for once, his jubilation just kind of crept out; the mask slipped just a fraction. He just couldn’t help it. Barnes had come on in the 85th minute and deep into injury time sent supporters into raptures with a goal that was reminiscent of the one he scored against Wigan in the previous promotion season. It was the scenario we thought might have been in the script at Old Trafford in fact, but it wasn’t to be. But it most certainly happened at Turf Moor. Donald Cooper described the winning goal:

     When Dean Marney, Gudmondsson and Barnes combined to score that 94th minute winner we were watching poetry in motion. Artistry created by masters of their profession. From out of nothing, while defending against a determined opposition seeking a last gasp winner for themselves, Marney’s quick thinking and vision triggered a 30-second masterpiece of soccer science. No amount of transfer money can buy a goal like that.

The game plan had worked to a treat, the choice of Barnes over Gray might have been a hunch, but it turned out to be masterful. And Ashley Barnes: is there just a touch of the Steve Kindons about him, the sheer size and power of the man; picture him bearing down on you at full speed, motoring like a juggernaut, frightening. This is a beast of a man that knows how to put himself about, a throw-back to a different era perhaps. Sean D deserved a bit of a preen and the warm glow of a bit of inner self-satisfaction. The Dyche legend grew just a little more.

A win that will go down in folklore, he said and surely in that was the clue to how good he must have been feeling, though doing his best not to be too histrionic. Klopp maniacal fist-pumps, high jumps in the air and uncontrolled demonstrativeness is not his style. Mourinho melodramatics are mercifully absent. You can’t even imagine Sean Dyche being sent to the stand; grappling with a spectator on the floor a la Nigel Pearson – heaven forbid, unthinkable.

What a glorious feeling to see us ninth, even after the Sunday games that’s where Burnley stayed for the next two weeks with 14 points and two players in the England squad, Heaton and Keane. Comparisons with the previous excursion into the Prem were inevitable when the first ten games were near-barren and the seeds of relegation were planted in those early weeks. But after game 11 this time round there was the foundation for survival thanks to the home form.

The stats people had noticed it was an age since we took a lead and lost, and months since any away team scored at the Jimmy Mac end. The perennial plucky underdogs might, we wondered, be on the edge of becoming something a little more than that. Barnes’s return made a huge difference, Gudmondsson was a revelation, Vokes was developing twinkle-toed skills with every new game, Mee and Keane simply immense, Marney like a fine wine getting better with age, Defour sheer class whilst he is on the pitch; and Heaton, the icing on the cake with real claims to be England’s number one.

So just when you couldn’t wait for the next game it was the international break and kicking heels time for us rank and file. But Joe had another game and this time it was Saturday morning and not the usual Sunday. Alas the lads received a lesson in the cruelty of football (just like Liverpool, Everton and Palace) that you can have 80% possession and 20 shots and still lose to breakaway goals and an unbeatable opposition goalkeeper. But off came Joe, well pleased with his cuts, bruises and covered in mud and well versed in the arts of grappling at corners.

Saturday morning: like back in the 70s when the school team always played on a Saturday before teachers got stroppy and worked to rule and stopped being ‘nice’ when they realised that saying “no” sometimes gets you what you want, in this case a decent pay rise. But part of the not being ‘nice’ included saying we’ve had enough of giving up our Saturday mornings doing football and as far as I know it’s now a rare thing these days.

Under the watchful glare of the irascible, plump, old Head, Jack Prince, I ran our junior team at Horsforth St Margaret’s for several years. If you thought Bob Lord was a tyrant then Old Jack was worse. He was only about 5’ 4” but glared at you with narrow eyes and a cig dangling from his lips and he smoked anywhere inside the school when it pleased him. You could follow his trail round the school by following the little piles of cigarette ash on the floor. Every decision was his and the symbols of his iron rule were the ten sets of classroom door keys. I’m sure it pained him to hand them over in the mornings and we had to personally hand them back every evening; there was no asking someone else to do it.

On the one occasion I entered his room before hearing the word “enter” I was soundly reprimanded for my sin. Apparently Bob Lord did just the same according to someone I met who worked in his meat factory. Anyway, as Jack cursed me the ash from his cig fell off the end and plopped with a sizzle into his cup of tea. I was straightaway cussed for that as well.

We’ve probably all met someone who with one stare can set us into a dither; like Andy Lochhead used to give opposing goalkeepers the mean look and set their knees knocking, and there was one particular teacher there who turned to jelly just thinking about Old Jack and who continually for good measure forgot to hand in her keys at home time. With the bravery of youth I suggested to Mr Grumpy that he could solve this by fastening the keys to a piece of elastic so that when she unlocked her door she could just let go of the keys and they would fly back to his desk. Like Bob Lord he had no sense of humour at all; not even a flicker of mild amusement crossed his face. In fact he went red in the face with wrath and I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It was my one and only attempt at being light-hearted with him and I remember waiting for him to say “you stupid boy” like Captain Mainwaring.

The head of another school ran the famed Pudsey Juniors set-up in the area, a club that at one stage was almost a feeder for Leeds United and a couple of my lads joined this club. Years later working on Roger Eli’s book the name Cowley cropped up again. Roger too joined Pudsey Juniors with Alan Cowley one of his early mentors and it’s funny to think that I might well have watched Roger playing as a kid. Only one kid I ever taught went on into the professional game, Dean West, and as an 11-year old he stood out a mile from the rest going on to play over 350 games at Football League level. The right wing trio he made up with Glen Little and Paul Weller at Turf Moor was often a joy to watch. I can still see the 30-yard screamer he scored at Stoke City.

With all the fuss about West Ham’s stadium going on at the minute, it made me appreciate a little more just what a good old traditional football ground we have at Turf Moor. We might have our grumbles every now and then; the roofs are not much use in really bad rain when the wind is blowing up your trouser leg. The facilities for the disabled are poor. But over and again in the media it is described as a traditional old-fashioned football ground and all the more intimidating for that. Walk from the town centre and then along Harry Potts Way to the ground and it’s a proper football walk, shoulder to shoulder with fellow fans, past the pubs, and fast food outlets, along the club frontage and then to the crowds filling the Park View pavement and then funnelling into the ground.

West Ham’s new stadium is turning out to be a bit of a disaster and Paul Fletcher has said umpteen times it should have been demolished and rebuilt if it was needed as a football stadium. A Stokie wrote disparagingly about it. I read the piece by the Stoke guy, Anthony Bunn, and could identify with everything he said. If things are right, then where a team plays, feels, smells and sounds like a football ground, he argued.

     ‘Narrow streets, terraced houses, pubs, the bustle and the floodlights; ah the floodlights standing proudly as a civic beacon, I’ll never lose the buzz of seeing the hazed splendour of proper floodlights in the distance…. But I wouldn’t give a stuff if I never returned to the London Stadium ever again.’

The community feel has now gone, he says, whereas at Burnley that’s a huge part of the location of the ground, nestling in the streets and fitting like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. West Ham have now lost their identity he writes. The London Stadium feels more like a part of a Theme Park and inside is so sanitised that cleaners pick up the ketchup sachets as fast as they hit the ground. Away fans are so far away from the pitch that the opposite end of the ground looks a mile away. ‘The nearest goal looked like it was in another post-code.’

The West Ham fans he spoke to say they hate it. The old ground was truly representative of the area, the authentic, good old East End, a real pie and mash ground. But the new ground: ‘a glorified fruit bowl sat in the middle of nothing, the new gaff the football equivalent of going in a brothel and asking for a hug.’

The Donald Trump election TV coverage on the actual night was almost as entertaining as the final day of the transfer window and Jim White. In fact I kept waiting for Jim and his yellow tie to put in an appearance amongst the cartoon graphics. What emerged was that Trump by virtue of a Scottish mother is eligible to play for Scotland. His idea of a wall to keep the Mexicans in could easily be adapted over here. There is a certain attractiveness about the idea of building a wall around Blackburn. The new guy (his victory said to have been predicted by Nostradamus and the Simpsons) could surprise us all; let’s face it, is there anything more satisfying than a really good trump.

Reaction to his win seems to have bordered on the hysterical but look how good Ronald Reagan turned out to be despite huge reservations about his capabilities when he was elected. “You need a strategy to handle the Russians if they attack,” said a condescending aide.

“I have a strategy,” he replied as he saddled up his horse. “We win, they lose.” The aide slunk off, his ego crushed by those four simple words.

Bill Shankly once said much the same on the eve of a European game in the days long ago when I was at college and did a teaching stint in Liverpool. Bootle docks it was and I still shudder at the thought of it. Football back then in the 60s was still very much a simple game; the only instruction was to pass the ball to someone in the same colour shirt, or as Clough told his players ‘treat the ball with care like you would your girlfriend.’

What are your plans, the press guy asked Shankly.   “It’s really simple son,” said Shanks in that characteristic gravel voice. “We win, aye, they lose.”

All Burnley fans were probably hoping to see either Heaton or Keane, or even both, in the England team to play Scotland at Wembley. Common sense, however, said that Southgate would pick neither of them for this game despite Heaton being currently by far the top goalkeeper and Stones decidedly iffy at times. But Southgate is nothing if not cautious and conservative and all the same familiar faces were in there. With a 3-0 win under his belt Southgate though could feel well pleased although England were hardy dazzling and better Scottish finishing might well have produced a very different result .

Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, said she would not be accepting the result of the England match, it was not in Scotland’s best interests, and would be demanding a replay.



UKIP decided to raffle the party leadership, Bill Wyman turned 80; it was the last Brown Bin collection day in Leeds. Killer Ladybirds were invading East Lancashire. The Trump, with just 7 days to go, was only one point behind the Clint in the US election polls. Halloween became yet more unbearably over-the-top and at posh houses scary kids were offered something from the cheeseboard. And what a wonderful autumn it has been, walking along scuffing up the mountains of crisp, dry leaves on the pavement (come on; don’t tell me you don’t do it too).

At 3 0 clock on Saturday afternoon we were at Old Trafford and part of a 75,000 crowd but it wasn’t the stadium and its magnificence, or the galacticos, or the heaving super-store, or even the snarling Mourinho that provided the most memorable image of the sheer scale of the club on show; it was the sight of a line of SIX identical, glistening, immaculate, dazzling, white mowers that appeared immediately after the players had left the pitch. I swear they’d all been given a polish. And behind them was a small army of groundstaff in matching track suits with forks attending to the precious, barely scuffed pitch. It was quite surreal. It was the first time I’d seen synchronised lawn mowing.

At 9.00 the next morning, in utter contrast, I was with young Joe at Garforth Cricket Club where a small junior size pitch had been marked out in the outfield. It was a cool, grey morning with rain threatening, the pitch was uneven, lumpy, covered in flattened worm casts; but you couldn’t fault the effort that had gone into making a useable surface on which these 9-year olds could play.

Two groups of parents and grandparents huddled in their separate groups most of us thinking how nice it would have been to have had an extra hour in bed on this drab morning. For the away team, Farsley Celtic, it was a drive from one side of the city to the other and an 8 o clock departure from home. It was a journey from the glamour of Old Trafford to football’s grass roots where small groups of dedicated adults give up their time to run these teams for nothing other than the satisfaction of bringing these kids on. And it was a cracking game as well, the odd thing being it was just like watching a Burnley rear-guard action as Farsley repelled wave after wave of Garforth attacks.

With minutes to go Farsley went ahead via a penalty. It looked like a Dyche performance; resilient, gritty and determined would win the game. But then another penalty was awarded this one to the home side. And that was it – 1-1. It was ironic that penalties decided the game after Clattenburg ignored at least 56 Man U claims the day before. The two sets of parents and grandparents shook hands with each other. I think Joe and I felt kind of smug. “I bet nobody else was at Old Trafford yesterday,” said Joe. “Nobody else has Burnley season tickets.”

But when Joe said his favourite player was Pogba, I told him he ran the risk of seeing Christmas cancelled. Joe’s forte by the way is the sliding tackle which on a day of mud like this one gave him extra satisfaction. The ball and opponent might be five yards away but in he goes revelling in the sheer pleasure of it. The great Denis Law when he became a commentator, having a brew in Roy Oldfield’s room at the Turf, told Roy that as a player he loved the mud and snow and sliding about; it made him feel like a kid again, he said.

One kid stood out playing for the Garforth side. Whatever ‘it’ is that makes a footballer, he had ‘it.’ Strong, well built, balanced, instant control, able to beat his marker, powerful running, awareness, bravery; he had them all. The old football coach in me (from years back running school sides) wanted to find out who this kid was but I didn’t bother. I’ve no idea what his name was, but I wondered if one day, ten years on, he would make the grade.

It all starts here, I thought, at grass roots, on cold early Sunday mornings when devoted parents and grandparents ferry these kids round and then stand shivering on the touchline flattening the worm casts, getting muddy shoes and desperate for coffee. Huh, and there’s still January and February to come, I thought.

If the Celt’s kids gave a defensive masterclass there were different opinions about the memorable display at Old Trafford. Whilst some said this too was a defensive masterclass others differed citing the 37 shots that Man U had and the number of clear chances they made inside the box. How it could be a defensive masterclass when they got into the box so often was the question. Against Liverpool earlier in the season on the other hand you could count on one hand the touches Liverpool had inside the area. Goalkeeping masterclass was a universal verdict at Old Trafford and individuals performed above and beyond the call of duty; but 18 blocks, the woodwork twice, miracle saves, Ibrahimović’s misses, on another day they could in fact have been on the end of a tonking. But they weren’t and it was one of the great, great, extraordinary, unforgettable days to be a travelling Burnley fan.

And how true is this?

In football as in life some people start off with an advantage. Others have to fight for everything but there’s no doubt which category Burnley Football Club belongs to. They are natural ‘fighters’ and it seems that no odds are too great for them to overcome. They’ve proved this time and time again throughout their history and they’re still proving it.

     ‘When Burnley were relegated there was a large body of opinion that felt that this small town club was finished a football power by the Clarets have taken them little time in proving them wrong by bring First Division football back to Turf Moor. Burnley’s population is only 74,000; there is no smaller town in the division. The attendances are moderate, the financial problems are unending, the club has had to sell its best players and top class players who come onto the market are reluctant to move to Burnley when they can choose a big city club. Yet Burnley succeeds because they are arguably the best run club in the country.

       These are words that could have been written last week, but they weren’t; they were written in 1973 by Peter Higgs in the celebration banquet programme after the ‘72/73 promotion. The club’s history is remarkably consistent inasmuch as it has strived incessantly to reach the top and when it falls down, it gets back up again.

Crystal Palace: known as the Glaziers until they changed their nickname to the Eagles in 1973 with apparently Malcolm Allison having something to do with this. I love the name ‘Crystal Palace’, it’s different, very unfootball, very ‘south’; not a name you’d find in Batley, or Heckmondwike or Ramsbottom. Turf Moor on the other hand; a name that’s dug out of the rough earth, northern, gritty, tough, it does what it says on the tin and harks back to the days long ago of peat cutting when life was hard and a daily struggle. This part of town also hosted a horse race track years ago when a military garrison was stationed in Burnley to keep unruly workers in check. Thatcher did much the same in Yorkshire but used the police.

The military however, the Fifth Foot and Mouth, needed somewhere to stable the officers’ horses and somewhere where they, the gentlemen, could race and pass away the time whilst rank and file were out shooting the peasants. So, a race-track developed and in time even a small pavilion. Prior to all this it was an area for grazing livestock and horse sales.

The good news was that Defour was fit to play but Sean D said a strange thing though that there were no guarantees that the Belgian would ever meet the levels of physicality and fitness needed in the Prem. In seven games he had yet to last the full 90 minutes. SD was also honest enough to say that whilst this latest promotion side performed less effectively than the previous one, it had amassed the most points. This group was the more solid, he added; in other words it ain’t as attractive but it sure can defend.

We came down the stairs in raptures afterwards. What a game… best game we’ve seen for years… it had everything… my nerves are in shreds… just a few of the comments. Clichés perhaps, hyperbole maybe, Cheshire cat grins on every face – unless you were from Palace.

But the minute’s Remembrance silence impeccable, then a game to savour, a result to relish, ninth in the table, Dyche like the rest of us wallowing in the satisfaction – and hundreds who left early expecting this to stay at 2-2 missed the finale of all finales and a goal that was sheer Premier League class from start to finish; from out of the Burnley area into the back of the Palace net in just seconds. A goal of blistering pace, one end of the field to the other, a slide rule pass, a pin point cross and a goal thumped home with a force that almost broke the net from Ashley Barnes.

At half-time you might have thought that we were doing another ‘Liverpool.’ You score twice in the first 15 minutes with swift and incisive moves, one a poacher’s goal from Vokes who stabbed it home from about 6 inches, and the other from Gudmondsson firing a bullet shot from 20 yards that the goalkeeper could only parry so that it looped over him and bounced into the net. And then you keep the buggars out. It was working a treat with Burnley at last looking like a Premier League side. Yes Palace were good with Townsend on form but Burnley gave as good as they got and created some delightful moves. At last we looked at home in this division.

But the second half was totally different. Now it was Palace dominant with sporadic breaks from Burnley; although admittedly on another day might have seen them go 3-0 up but the wily Pardew had changed things and Zaha, average in the first half, now began to run riot. His superb cross was hammered home giving Heaton no chance. The inevitable equaliser came when Lowton handled another cross that was whipped in. Benteke anonymous in the first half but now having a fine second half, stroked it home.

We groaned and remembered the scoreline of two years ago when Burnley had gone 2-0 up and lost 3-2. It’s happening all over again we told ourselves and resigned to our fate sat grim and stony-faced and waited for the inevitable winner. Palace dominated, poured forward, pinned Burnley back, moved forward with pace and menace; it seemed just a matter of time before Burnley wilted and conceded. We clung to the hope of a 2-2 draw and a point, disappointing though that might have been. Zaha was running riot, Benteke inspired by his goal; Palace seemed just too good.

But Dyche made his brilliant substitution. Those who wanted Andre Gray were disappointed for on came Ashley Barnes, Dyche explaining afterwards that he was brought on as a hunch, that the game seemed right for him. Not many might have backed the hunch but how it paid off. Out of the relentless Palace pressure the ball broke clear out of the box. Marney raced out, Dyche super-fit, to take the ball onwards for a stride or two and then to Barnes inside his own half; he played a perfect through ball to Gudmondsson racing away ahead of him to the right. Barnes sprinted forward to keep up and get in line with the Icelander by now steaming down the right to collect the ball. The Icelander whipped it over low and hard and from 8 yards Barnes was on hand to slam the ball home. Blink and you missed it; leave the ground with five minutes still to go and you sure as hell missed it. Some of these folks came running back in to see the replay on the concourse TV screens. This was a truly magnificent goal, a goal of exquisite, wonderful quality, a goal that left us delirious at the sheer unexpectedness of it deep into injury time.

Surely to God that’s three points we told ourselves, surely that’s it, blow the whistle for God’s sake; but Palace came back in the minute remaining. Zaha again whipped a ball over, it broke out to the edge of the box and we held our breaths as Townsend drove a beauty of a shot from 20 yards that slammed against the post. But instant prayers were answered as we uncovered our eyes; it hadn’t ended up in the back of the net and ricocheted away to safety. Near heart attacks are parts of football.

Barnes was ecstatic and disappeared in the scrum of players just below us, all of them as joyous as he, celebrating his return from the months of injury nightmare he has had, the on-loan Flanagan leading the charge. Who says loan players don’t show passion for their new club?

England manager Southgate was at the game but this time it was Mee who took the eye rather than Keane leaving some pundits to suggest that a pairing of Mee and Keane at England level might be no bad thing. Heaton added to his list of saves. Gudmondsson MOTM was a revelation. Defour was just class but again left the field well before the end signalling that he needed to come off.

Last season at Leicester Ranieri was saying they were dilly dong games. Dyche was now saying this one was ding dong. It’s the new language of football. The whistle went, the roars of acclaim reached the sky, the points were won, the football Gods had been with us, and we knew we had seen something very, very special.

So too was the exquisite steak and the crisp baguette at the Kettledrum and it seemed fitting that we drove home against a background of bonfire night bangs, explosions, rockets, starbursts and sundry fireworks as if the world was celebrating this stunning victory with us.

The guy from Luanda, Angola, who had sent super-polite emails to directors offering to buy the club for £300million, was now no doubt doubly disappointed by their lack of interest. At least he wasn’t a prince from Nigeria.



China ordered its citizens to prepare for WW3. Bill Wyman turned 80. Jimmy McIlroy was 85 and the tributes flooded in. Bobby Vee passed away. His hit record Rubber Ball about bouncing back could almost be a Burnley anthem. Jimmy Perry the genius writer of Dad’s Army and other shows died. Man United were thumped 4-0 by Chelsea and we were due there next. But the Daily Mash had downgraded Mourinho from Special One to just adequate.

     When Burnley play Man U it always takes my mind back to days long gone. I’m back in the days when my father used to drive the little Ford we had up through the Cornholme Valley and we’d watch the champions’ team, Jimmy Mac and Jimmy Adamson, and we could go to Old Trafford and win 5-2. At home we could beat them 5-3 and in that game the goal that stands out to this day is a Walter Joyce 20-yard header that rocketed in; in an age when a goal from a 20-yard shot was difficult enough with a ball that weighed the same as a small cannonball.

Close my eyes and I’m back at Tod Grammar School and I spent one season actually going to all the home games at Man U there with a lad called Tim Greenwood and another called Podge. It was a season of Dennis Viollet, Albert Quixall and a young Bobby Charlton and we’d get the train from Tod and then the bus to the ground along Deansgate. The allegiance to the Reds was short-lived though and trips to Burnley became the norm. But the dashing Albert Quixall, dazzlingly blonde, was probably my first football hero, quick-witted, sharp and deft; he always stood out from the rest, not quite Denis Law but almost. As the years went by he ended up at Oldham when Jimmy Mac was manager there and Ken Bates was chairman. By then, ageing and filled with the aches and pains of football, he was going through the motions I suppose and Ken Bates bemoaned the fact that he was always either ill or injured when an away game beckoned. But at Manchester United he was electric, played for England and stood out a mile.

Close my eyes and I’m back in the Milky Way coffee bar in Todmorden and next door was Parker’s Record store an Aladdin’s Cave filled with those old-style 78s, LPs and CDs. For several years that coffee bar was the centre of our universe where we went after school and talked of Juke Box Jury, Burnley, Bobby Vee, Adam Faith, Frankie Avalon, Elvis, the Drifters, Ray Charles and Roy Orbison. The milk shakes I drank in there would have floated a small battleship. I can see us now, satchels strewn all over the floor upstairs in the café in the corner by the window smoking our first cigarettes, Ed Cockroft, Jammy Fielden, Colin Walker, Winston Sutcliffe, Kathryn Collinge and Pamela Crabtree. We really did believe ‘you’re never alone with a Strand.’

The bone shaking Morris 10 that we had was retired. A rather swish black 1954 Ford Zephyr arrived next with a front bench seat and a steering column gear change. It guzzled up the petrol and so it too went. Sad: this was a car that had heads turning in provincial Todmorden where most of the mills were still standing and cobbled streets lined the three valleys. It was still an age where you could play football across the street without any fear of being flattened by traffic. The replacement was the Ford Prefect that was staid, reliable and just chugged along.

After the season trekking to Old Trafford, the Turf Moor bug bit and three or four of us would pile into the Prefect and head up the valley through Cliviger and then along by the old Fighting Cocks (now a swish Italian) and the Kettledrum. We alternated between the Longside or behind the goals. The first time I saw Jimmy Greaves and barrel-chested Dave Mackay was when they came with Tottenham. I was awe struck. Mackay did something we’d never seen anyone do in the warm-ups before. He showed off. He strutted his stuff. He did tricks with the ball; a few dozen keepie-uppies, landing it on the back of his neck, controlling it on his thigh, balancing it on his head and then something that we’d never ever seen before. He received a practice pass and kicked it back in such a way that when it bounced, it then spun and rolled back to him. Now that was magic. It might be commonplace today; even kids can do it, but back then, by an away player in front of a hostile crowd, it was unheard of. Mackay was announcing hey I’m here, I’m special, and I’m better than you lot. But they weren’t and we beat them 2-0 but I loved Dave Mackay from that day on.

Jimmy Greaves in a later different game did something memorable, something so subtle, so clever (so obvious in hindsight) that I remember it still. It was a Spurs throw. Blanchflower took it and Greaves was several yards away facing him with Brian Miller breathing down his neck behind him close enough to make you wonder if he was glued to him. With a hardly discernible gesture Greaves indicated with a finger on his left hand that Blanchflower should throw the ball just slightly to Greaves’ left. This he duly did whereupon Greaves headed left as the ball was thrown and was away round the side of his marker in a flash and blur that left Miller floundering and gawping at the empty space in front of him. Before you knew it Greaves was in the box and had scored with a ploy that was so simple but devastating.

For years, as the 80s and 90s went by, we believed that playing teams like Man United would never ever happen again, but here we were at Old Trafford for the third time in 7 years. On the first occasion Coyle had just left the ship and taken his crew with him. The club, supporters and the town sneered at his previous honeyed words. But the deafening response at Old Trafford from supporters during that game was emotional, powerful; the roars were of defiance, the sense of togetherness in adversity was overpowering.

On the second occasion we had dazzled and played with such dynamism and flair that it remains impossible to this day to think that we actually lost. It was the game when Ings played out of his skin; he was untouchable, uncatchable, with feet so quick he was sending opponents dizzy. Van Gaal had got Man U competing again in a messy kind of way and they had a team filled with stellar names. Van Gaal had his flow charts and ring blinders, pie charts, slide rules, set squares and folders. Sean D had the back of an envelope. It was the game where we all sang, “We only cost three quid,” as we ran rings round them.

It was the time Burnley had this ghastly strip in all silver, a kit so awful you just shook your head in disbelief that someone actually put it on the shelves in the shop. Yet, despite this abomination they produced a first half display that oozed class, slick passing moves and pace, the latter provided by Trippier and Ings who produced a goal that was simply stunning. The move came down the right in a blur and the cross that came over was met by a diving Ings and the ball rocketed home. Yet despite playing like Barcelona, Burnley somehow contrived to lose 3-1 because of poor defending at corners and the usual bad luck in front of goal. It was a display that produced a wonderful accolade: ‘If Burnley are eventually relegated, it will be to a standing ovation.’ It turned out to be prophetic when they won the last game at Villa and we cheered them off the pitch with lumps in our throats and memories in our heads of goals that might have been and games that should have been wins, when we came away thinking just how did we lose that – like the game at Old Trafford.

This time it was Master Joe’s first trip to the Theatre of Dreams, although at the moment dreams might not be quite the right word. Theatre of sullen faces might be more appropriate since Mourhino’s team in the league had performed worse than any that Van Gaal ever produced. The annihilation at Chelsea was simply humiliating; Mourhino’s face a picture, bereft of any answers and looking like a busted flush. But the young lad was in awe of the place, the size, the scale, the statues, the milling crowds and the numbers of foreign faces. The whole place reeks of being a money factory. The statue of Charlton, Law and Best is iconic, but my mind went back to when I went all those years ago; it could just as easily have been Charlton, Viollet and Quixall. Nostalgia was doing overtime. I knew Podge was now in South Africa; but of Tim I had no idea.

In the mid-week cup game Man U had salvaged some respectability by beating Man City; they hadn’t played particularly well, Ibrahimovic had a stinker. In the back of my head thoughts were lurking that Burnley might just pull off a backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win but then we saw the United team sheet and all those million-pound names. Dear God I thought just how do you compete against this lot unless they have a bad day?

There was the faint possibility that Ashley Barnes might figure in the squad and we wondered what his role might be; sit him on the bench next to Mourhino to wind him up was my first thought. The perfect scenario would be to come off the bench in minute 85 and score the winner in minute 89. Mourhino had been playing the sympathy card all week in the press saying how he was lonely and marooned in his hotel penthouse unable to escape from the paparazzi waiting down below.

It was the Less-than-Special One that made the news during and after the game, his behaviour as bad as anything ever seen before. But the news that was the best news was the magnificent point that the Clarets came home with after a display of goalkeeping and defending that surpassed anything we have seen so far this season. Logically, a club like Burnley has no right to expect anything other than a defeat at a place like this. The Man U teamsheet was awesome with names so illustrious and costly that what else could you think other than how is it even possible we are on the same pitch. And before the game the announcer rammed down our ears that this was The Theatre of Dreams, the home of the greatest football club in the world.

But football doesn’t work like that so that we even harboured faint thoughts of stealing a win. What Burnley came away with however was a point, only one point but its significance so huge that it was like coming away with a win. In fact it could indeed have been a 1-0 win when one of the best chances of the game fell to Arfield but alas the shot went high over the bar. This was no exercise in parking the bus with a starting line-up of two up front with the return of Andre Gray later replaced by the bustling Ashley Barnes. Gray too might have nicked the win when he was through one on one but for a last ditch intervention.

The Holy Trinity statue stands outside the ground, Best, Law and Charlton, a magnet for the hordes of tourists that swell the 75,000 crowd week in and week out. You can barely move for them with their infernal selfie sticks and huge bags bulging with over-priced merchandise. 30,000 people pass through the shop every home game said the attendant as if we should feel inclined to be open-mouthed. But back at Turf Moor we could erect a Holy Trinity statue ourselves of Mee, Keane and Heaton. Their display of courage and determination was the best yet. There cannot possibly be a better ‘back three’ at any other club anywhere was the consensus.

37 Man U shots the stats said and 12 Heaton saves, the one that will go down in the annals of the club being the point blank from Ibrahimovic that had Peter Schmeichel tweeting that this was surely one of the best ever in the history of the Prem. It was a save so extraordinary that Heaton feared initially he had broken his arm. But the man is made of strong stuff; his arm is possibly bionic, maybe with Halloween supernatural qualities. Or maybe he is just Superman without the costume.

How many talking points did this game have; the penalty claims, the red card, the Mourinho histrionics, the saves, the misses, the woodwork, the Ibrahimovic bloopers, the close shaves, and to be fair the slick play and passing of a rampant Man U side that did all that could be expected except score. And above all what was referred to on MOTD as “brilliant Burnley.” If there has ever been a better 0-0 draw than this one in the Premier league, I’d be astounded. Thrills and spills, it had everything so that we sat with hands over our eyes sometimes, hearts in our mouth on others.

We almost lost count of the Man U penalty claims but when Clattenburg ignored strong Burnley claims for a shove in Barnes’s back, we knew that this was a game when he must have got up in the morning and said to himself: “today I am ignoring all claims no matter how strong.” In our little row of seats we couldn’t think of any other logical explanation.

“Sssssssh” the Burnley crowd kept hissing at the United fans as three silent sides of the stadium made it more like a church than a football stadium.

And we taunted them mercilessly: “you’re just a ground full of tourists.” Meanwhile the away fans sang, roared, chanted non-stop for the 90 minutes obliterating any tannoy announcements. After the game the enigma that is Mourinho went into the Burnley dressing room to congratulate Burnley and reportedly shook every player by the hand. This unfathomable man, the scourge of referees, and for whom the word unsportsmanlike could have been specially written, confounded us all with his magnanimous gesture afterwards, from crass to class. A sports psychologist would presumably have a field-day analysing him.

For Dyche what you see is what you get, and it was the fourth anniversary of his reign at Turf Moor. Four more years of the same success rate will do us nicely thank you.



Chuck Berry was 90. A Good Housekeeping survey says the best mince pies and the best Christmas turkeys are from Iceland. Theresa May cracked a risqué joke in PM Question Time. Who will exit Emmerdale after the spectacular pile-up the nation asked? And at Southampton Burnley had run 113 miles.

Of all the stats that were churned out after the Southampton game that was the one that stood out. Burnley had run 113 miles and had in fact covered more miles than Southampton. But with their running Southampton had accumulated 34 shots. Burnley had just 6. It made you think. In the penalty area Saints had 46 touches, Burnley just 12. Exactly where were Burnley running to?

You wondered just how a side could run so much and do so little and it certainly wasn’t the running that had kept the score down to something respectable, it was Tom Heaton’s goalkeeping. The media raved about it the day after; the save from Austin’s fifth minute header was miraculous.

’34 attempts an astonishing figure,’ said Henry Winter. ‘The outstanding Tom Heaton prevented a complete rout.’

‘Embarrassing but for Tom Heaton,’ said another report.

‘A poor Burnley side,’ said the Express, although most papers wrote of how good Southampton were rather than being critical of Burnley.

Much was made again of the Boyd stats. He’s run the furthest this season of all Prem players. He’s made more sprints than anyone; fair play to him; but what’s the good of that in any player without pace and an end product? It’s as if his role now is one of damage limitation and it’s a negative role. Without Gray in the side and Darikwa not even on the bench, there was absolutely no pace anywhere.

Totally outplayed but Dyche was right to highlight the blatant penalty that Burnley should have been awarded. One photo showed Van Dijk’s leg clearly wrapped round Gudmundsson’s. It always sounds like sour grapes or clutching at straws when managers of any side talk of refereeing errors and penalties. But this one of Dean’s was bad, utterly bad and if there are moments that affect games, this was one of them with bells on.

Mention the name Everton and a whole bunch of memories come flooding back. They are a team that dates back to childhood and Uncle Arthur, a staunch Evertonian. Arthur had trials there and might well have made it but along came the war and that ended that. We often visited Newton le Willows, where they lived, regularly trundling down the East Lancs Road in an ancient Morris Ten, three gears, boneshaking and no heating. Further up the road lived another aunt and uncle, George and Mary, but George was a Geordie and another decent footballer.

Arthur used to give me all his Everton programmes and occasionally took me to a game; there’s a hazy memory of a game against Arsenal sometime in the 50s and the name Joe Haverty springs to mind, a pint sized winger for Arsenal, he was only 5’ 3”, whom the crowd barracked mercilessly because he had such a stinker that day. I can picture the Everton toffee lady who used to come round with a basket and lob sweets into the crowd. Today in our cotton wool world, it would be a health and safety risk. It was a time when wingers were expected to dribble past a man, get round them and cross the ball. Fine when it worked but when it didn’t and the winger looked useless he soon became the target for abuse and catcalls.

A game in the 70s at Goodison was only memorable because Keith Newton gave away a penalty when he raised his arms to protect his face when a vicious shot or cross, I can’t remember, was heading straight for his head. I thought of that when the Arsenal goal was allowed to stand the other week. Koscielny raised his arms to protect his face but that was OK the referee decided, assuming he even saw it.

But the game that made the biggest impression was at Christmas 1960, December 27. Burnley had lost the Boxing Day game at Turf Moor 3-1 in front of a 44,000 crowd. Ray Pointer got the Burnley goal. It was the team of Billy Bingham, Jimmy Gabriel, Bobby Collins and Roy Vernon. The next day we went to the return game and were part of a staggering 78,000 crowd. I don’t think I saw a thing from where we were behind one of the goals and Burnley won an improbable victory playing with a virtual 10-man team after Pointer (I think) shuffled about after an injury. Jimmy Robson scored twice and John Connelly in a 3-0 win that silenced the scousers when they had all turned up assuming this would be a win.

Over the years there have generally been good relations between the clubs although this was punctuated when Willie Irvine had his leg broken there in an FA Cup game; Bob Lord went mad in the boardroom afterwards and was asked to leave. As far as he was concerned Irvine had been deliberately crocked by Johnny Morrissey, a view that Irvine himself has always maintained. Afterwards Everton manager Harry Catterick pronounced that it was Irvine’s own fault, he’d been asking for it. Maybe that was what incensed Bob Lord. Hurt one of his players and the irascible old growler was instantly up in arms.

Tommy Lawton, Martin Dobson, Dave Thomas, Geoff Nulty and Trevor Steven all ended up at Everton although Dave Thomas went via QPR. Former director Derek Gill remembers the sale of Steven well. John Bond tried to take credit for a £25,000 add-on if Steven played for England, but it was all done and dusted before his arrival and the fee of £300,000 agreed plus the add-on was a Derek Gill initiative. Everton were a pleasure to deal with, he added.

At the beginning of the Bond season the club, largely due to the work of Derek Gill, was comfortably in the black, and that was even before the Trevor Steven sale. By the start of the next season, the sacking of Bond, the appointment of John Benson, the dwindling crowd, money evaporating; the place was in turmoil and discontented supporters were asking serious questions. It lead up to a very nice Derek Gill pie story which he called A Shortage of Pies is No New Thing.

   ‘P for Plymouth day arrived and we set off with five players making their debuts and the ground in a most unusually subdued state. Having once told the local press that I would never feed them a bad line I went back on this undertaking on a little matter which seemed harmless at the time but had its amusing consequences. Like my own boys, John Jackson’s son preferred to watch the matches with the real supporters and in his case he enjoyed standing behind the goals where one of the delights was to indulge in a half-time pie.

     Amongst the more important issues discussed at board meetings was the seriousness of the pies being either cold or even unavailable on some occasions. Nobody dreamed that this was a matter of interest to the press but we were actually aware there would be more than a passing interest in the size of the crowd after all the sensational publicity we had attracted during the week (the sacking of Bond). Clever sods that we were, or rather I, with the chairman’s connivance, decided that the miserable gate we expected would fuel the discontent still further.

     As if to prove we did not get everything wrong, the gate on a perfect day was a derisory 4,644.

     Aghast at how low this was it was decided to add an extra 2,000 and to report the gate to the press as 6,644. Now: as luck would have it pies were short that day and John’s lad and Derek’s lad were unable to obtain their half-time treat. Such was the dire game; a pie would have been the undoubted highlight. Afterwards, on learning that pies had run short the chairman duly spoke to the catering manager to let him know in no uncertain terms that every penny was vital at the club and to enquire as to why there were so few pies and why had they run out. We may presume the poor bloke was told in no uncertain terms to buck his ideas up. But: the catering manager looked at him for a moment, thought, and then slowly explained that the gate of 6,644 was more than they had expected and would be the reason why the shortage of pies had occurred. Game, set and match to the catering manager.

Somewhere in this there must be a moral, wrote Derek.

Everton, one of those clubs a bit like Fulham, they’re just kind of there drifting along, nothing to really dislike, nothing objectionable, they don’t upset anyone, trophies few and far between in recent years, had gone four games without a win. Burnley, we felt, could surely not be as poor as they had been at Southampton. There was therefore that slight frisson of anticipation that maybe we could get something from this game. The last time they had been to the Turf it was Samuel Eto’o that gave a striker’s masterclass of such brilliance you could only applaud and then with supreme irony that was pretty much the last time anyone heard of him again.

Matchday: a beautiful autumn day with the sun shining on the ground, trees changing colour, a beautiful drive across the moors from Hebden Bridge; a drive that’s usually beneath drab skies or even in low misty cloud but this time the landscape at its best with views for miles.

There was no Boyd as well as Defour. The running stats would be slightly down then we agreed. But this time the running paid off and Burnley ‘did a job’ on Everton as they had done with the other car-minders from the city. Uncle Arthur, an honorary scouser, always said that the worst thing that ever happened in Liverpool was the invention of the locking wheel nut.

Everton and certainly Koemans might have argued that this time it was Burnley guilty of nicking stuff when they walked off at the end of the game with all three points. We knew the feeling; Arsenal did it to us a few weeks ago. Koemans said that football isn’t fair; but it remains a simple game, it ain’t rocket science, the team that scores the goals wins and Burnley’s 90th minute winner certainly surprised and stunned us as much as it deflated anybody connected with Everton. And the nice thing was it was such a corker of a goal. Gudmundsson smote a terrific shot from distance against the bar; the bar was still twanging when it rebounded to Arfield maybe 12 yards away and he gleefully hit it home. Not the easiest of shots either coming to him on the half volley at just a slightly awkward height, enough to make it less than straightforward to control and hit cleanly. Arfield set off on his celebratory run at Olympic speed, but this time only to the halfway line to be buried beneath a pile of ecstatic claret bodies, one of them Flanagan doubly delighted no doubt from the other side of Stanley Park.

If improbable, unexpected, surprising, perhaps nevertheless it wasn’t quite astonishing because this is a Burnley side that we knew from the Liverpool game could provide this kind of result. They can be over-run, out-thought, outplayed even, but can still find a way to win. And it was exactly that kind of game when artisans can beat artistes.

Everton were slick, quick, filled with forward movement and panache. ‘Pleasing on the eye,’ as a former manager once said whose side now lies once again in the bottom three of the championship. For clear spells waves of attacks bore down on the Burnley defence, they could have been 2-0 up very early, but Tom Heaton was providing another goalkeeping masterclass. It was to everyone’s surprise when Burnley then took a first half lead following a delightful sequence of passes out of their own half, a fabulously clever subtle layoff, the ball caressed with finesse by the Icelander, a run at pace from Arfield suddenly in oodles of space, a shot on the run, a slight defection, a goalkeeper save and then a VOKES POKE, a superb bit of poaching and opportunism.

Everton equalised early in the second half, of that we will say little, better to say what was good about Burnley. At first we groaned, perish the thought but I did wonder at that point would we ever win again as Everton continued to pour forward. But Mee was outstanding, Keane was getting the plaudits but Mee was again the unsung hero along with Ward at full-back. Lukaku was more Lukakwho.

Another save by Heaton, a tip-over from Bolasie’s 20-yarder, was another worldy; Bolasie cost them £20million. For that we could build a new Cricket Field Stand, on two other occasions Everton just a whisker from scoring. We willed the time away to hang onto the point, a point that would have seemed a bonus at that time, but then out of nothing, came triumph. Gudmundsson struck, the bar quaked, Arfield lurked, and that was that, the ball nestled; the earth shook. This was Custer’s Last Stand but with a happy ending.

Piggy in the Middle at the Hare and Hounds Todmorden on the way home, that’s a burger with cheese and tomatoes and a thick layer of pulled pork, oh and chips, recommended. At home a couple of recorded episodes of Victoria, that’s Downton with crowns on; then a few compliments on MOTD. What’s better than a day when you win?

Incredulous might be a slight exaggeration but elation certainly reigned supreme, Burnley were up and running again – and knew where they were running. And more good news from the channel as well; the Russian fleet did indeed sail through but it seems that their giant carrier is just a rust bucket with loos that don’t flush, prone to breakdowns and was accompanied by a tow-ship just in case. Ten points nestled in the bank, just ten points behind the leaders, and not even the end of October. We could all sleep a little easier in our beds.