Brian Miller would be 80… Garry Glitter did not sing at the Trump inauguration… stall on Todmorden market sells four candles and fork handles…Winnie the Pooh Day… brown toast is bad for you say experts…Game 200 for Sean Dyche at BFC… number 150 for Tom Heaton.

All of us were desperate for the first away win. But: we were only playing Arsenal at the Emirates. 28 of us were on the Supporters Club coach travelling down for the weekend and our host now, and chief bottle-washer, was Mr Barrie Oliver following the retirement of the esteemed Haluks; custodians of the front seat (and tickets) for more years than they cared to remember.

We travelled however, with high hopes, following all the recent good results and home wins, the immensely respectable 10th place and the 26 points leaving Burnley 10 points above the twilight zone. And not only that: the club hierarchy were showing real statements of intent and ambition with bids in place (we were told) for Brady at Norwich. This is a top player. The Venerable Arsene waxed lyrical about Burnley before the game.

‘For 90 minutes of our clash against the Clarets in October the newcomers looked destined to hold us to a draw. They play at home and basically beat everybody there. It’s what they have repeated for 20 games. It’s not a coincidence and every time you see them play at home against a big team you think “this time they might not do it,” and they do it almost every time. That is just down to quality. There is a special atmosphere at Turf Moor, they certainly have the needed confidence, and they are very efficient at home. They know very well what to do at home, they defend very well and they do not conceded goals. They are a top-ten team in the first half of the season, so what they have done is absolutely unbelievable. We have to make sure they do not find a solution away from home on Sunday and we have to prepare well. Even away from home recently they have been a bit unlucky in some games. ‘

    Unfortunately, the Venerable Arsene made a real arsene of himself during and after the game, as yet again Burnley lost to a 98th minute highly controversial goal after equalising themselves in the 93rd minute. It was therefore a sombre coach that journeyed home, crawling through Highbury and Highgate to the M1, after a performance that deserved the reward of a point and but for a dim linesman they would have certainly gone home with one. Why is it that the little teams suffer so often from decisions (or lack of them) like this?

Until that 98th minute, what a weekend it had been in London. The coach trundled down on Friday whilst The Donald was installed as the 45th US President. The hair was immaculately impressive, never straying an inch from its carefully combed almost floral arrangement. The Blessed Hilary with husband Bill by her side looked on with a face like a bag of prunes. But, just round the corner demonstrators in masks and hoods re-arranged shop windows and set fire to cars. We meanwhile, pottered around Banbury in the cold sunshine and then de-camped to Wetherspoons for a warm. Banbury is such a sad place; it always feels like it ought to be a thriving tourist centre, buzzing with attractions, but take away M&S, W H Smiths and Wetherspoons and it would be totally asleep.

Whilst The Donald up on the podium pecked Mrs Obama on the cheek with a delicate kiss, the coach was snarled up in tailbacks on the way into London. Close one traffic lane and the place grinds to a halt. Whilst we stuttered and lurched an inch at a time, The Don, newly crowned, went walkabout pretending that these were the biggest crowds ever.

Hugh and Peter were unconcerned. Their eyes were firmly fixed on the 20+ Real Ale pubs they had earmarked for weekend visits. “From the front steps of the hotel, 20 are just a spit away,” Hugh explained. They actually visited 22; on the Saturday setting off from Highbury to the north and then meandering back south to the Thames. “Just a half pint in each,” Hugh further explained. If my maths is correct this is 11 pints each. The mind boggles. The Donald is apparently tea total and he’s a billionaire and the US President. Perhaps there is a moral in there somewhere.

Trump, unexploded bombs in the Thames, test missiles flying off course, demonstrations, Brexit, were of no great concern to us however as we unpacked in the hotel and all of us planned our Saturday rambles into the city. The weather ideal, crisp, sunny, clear blue skies, just perfect for the Women’s Rights and anti-Donald rally and demo in Trafalgar Square that same Saturday afternoon. But tourists on the top decks of tour double-deckers looked frozen to the bone.

We’d wandered via Trafalgar Square back to the hotel just minutes after the women’s rally had ended. The crowds were thick, litter and debris ankle deep; progress along the pavements was slow and in front of us, three young women battled their way through the milling pedestrians carrying a banner in lurid colours so offensive it was a wonder the three of them hadn’t been arrested. Let’s just say it had the F word in three different formats.

I sidled up alongside the nearest girl. “Listen luv you’re gonna lose all support or sympathy with that banner. It’s just offensive.”

It (the girl) turned to look at me. The eyes were glazed, the face festooned with rings and studs, the lipstick and Bovver boots were black and already I’m thinking ‘Oh Gawd Dave, you’re on a football weekend, what have you done, why’ve you opened your mouth.’

The glazed eyes suddenly turned vicious and narrowed and a voice shrieked. “WE DON’T WANT YOUR F*****G SYMPATHY.”

Funny how things work out: By 5 0 clock the following day on Sunday I was thinking much the same as we exited the Arsenal stadium having been robbed of what would have been a terrific point. Every pundit and media expert was agreed that the Arsenal winner should never have happened and a hapless linesman was simply not doing his job. But like the girl in bovver boots, we didn’t want sympathy, just the point that we felt was rightly ours.

We’d laughed and laughed at the Show we went to see on Saturday ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong,’ two hours of slapstick and daftness a few streets away from the big demo. We weren’t laughing at The Emirates and 1500 Claret fans there seethed and fumed at the way things had turned out. Arsenal’s own fans and the hundreds if not thousands of ‘occasional’ one-game, tourist hangers-on were ecstatic of course. They knew they’d been in a game. They knew that Burnley had been mugged so that the roar they produced was as much relief as anything else. Wandering around the stadium before the game every other voice you heard was from overseas. The little café a few hundred yards away where we had a big breakfast the last time we went was gone, now a Spanish Deli. The number of street food stalls had doubled but none did Cowheel Pie.

Other than the pure joy of watching and appreciating Sanchez, there is little to love about this current Arsenal side, a side that takes its lead from the pinch-faced and unpleasant Wenger. He’d said nice things about Burnley but then reverted to his normal self when things didn’t quite go his way and the goals didn’t pile up. His side had now beaten Burnley twice with the most dubious of last minute decisions and had they gone against his side we would have seen him incandescent and accusing refs of being cheats. Dyche meanwhile retained his dignity but if he’d kicked a few doors down back in the dressing room who could have blamed him.

The events piled up through the game, the Sanchez trickery, Marney stretchered off, Xhaka red carded, Wenger jostling with the fourth official and sent to the stands (he’d called Moss a cheat), then Burnley’s equaliser in injury time, and then the sickening linesman error that led to Arsenal’s last minute penalty. With the win under his belt Wenger afterwards was almost amused by his own sending-off, grinning like a sheepish, naughty little schoolboy when quizzed.

The first Arsenal goal had been gifted. Across comes the corner, Mustafi, a distance out, rises in clear space to head home and the ball heads for the far corner where there is no defender on the line. What a soft goal to concede bearing in mind the Herculean defending that had preceded it through the first half with Mee and Keane outstanding although every player rose to the occasion. Organised, tough, gritty, determined, courageous, all the usual qualities were there with Heaton making the saves when called on; and then to throw all that away with such lax marking. In the second half and Dyche brings Barton on (Arsenal boos totally expected), Tarkowski and then Vokes.

The extra-time minutes had accumulated so that the number 7 went up on the screens. It was as if the fates were being kind to Burnley giving them the extra time to get some kind of result. No-one could possibly say that Burnley had come to shut up shop and park the bus, starting with two strikers. They ended with three and piled the pressure on. Into the last ten minutes, the game now breathless, the margin narrow and the hope growing for some kind of divine intervention. Nothing divine at all about it, just Coquelin rashly upending Barnes in the box. In truth we were astonished to see Moss pointing to the spot. We’d got a big decision at last. Were we going to get a magnificent point? Gray strode up, blasted the ball and in it went; 1-1 and surely, we thought, that was that and we could play out the game.

But little clubs and little teams, it can be argued, seldom get the rub of the green. And so it proved yet again. An Arsenal cross into the box has us screaming for the whistle, the ball slung over, Koscielny a clear foot offside, the linesman looking elsewhere, the cross deep and high, Koscielny goes up to head, Mee’s foot goes up to clear and the foot and head connect, or at least Koscielny clutches his face and falls dramatically. Mee is looking at the ball; Koscielny on his blind side, the linesman presumably had his blind eye closed when the cross came over, or, he had missed his appointment at Specsavers, and Moss decides penalty. We, at the other faraway end, are simply staggered and aghast. Football is cruel, so bloody cruel. It’s happened again, we moaned.

We willed Heaton to perform the miracle and make the save. But Sanchez is cool and crafty and while Tom dives to his right, Sanchez gently plops the ball down the middle into the empty space and we hold our heads in a state of disbelief and denial before our howls of our rage mix with the jubilation of the equally disbelieving Arsenal fans. No doubt Wenger smirked an enormous smirk.

Back in the good old USA, The Donald was insisting that his inauguration turn-out was the greatest ever. It was far from it. But his claim wasn’t a lie; lies and untruths can be seen as ‘alternative facts,’ an aide said. We’d witnessed our own ‘alternative facts’ at The Emirates. An offside goal was deemed not offside and Wenger in ‘alternative fact’ had not jostled the fourth official, he said afterwards with a gentle smirk.

Given the chance perhaps Mrs T and me might have nipped back to St Paul’s to say a prayer for an away win and light a candle. Our Saturday walking tour of the city had taken us past it from the hotel. We’d headed inside and saw it was £18 to go in – EACH. Astonished, with a 180 degree smart about turn at pace that would have been a credit to little Sanchez, we exited the building.

Ludgate Hill, Fleet Street, the Strand and onwards to Trafalgar Square we strolled where a Spanish guitarist filled the place with amplified perfection. The Art Gallery was free so in we went for a warm. Trust me, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers is a huge anti-climax in real life up close; but the Canaletto Venetian paintings are absolute masterpieces, the detail astonishing; you need to look at each of them for several minutes to take it all in. As we came out, the Spanish guitarist was competing with Michael Jackson hits, a ghetto blaster and street dancers. He was forced to surrender. Class replaced by crass.

As indeed it was at Arsenal the following day. There was a time when this was a club that stood for what was good in the game. It was a side with its perfection passing football that you loved to watch. Now, it is a club that stamps its foot in pique when things don’t go to plan and a little team arrives and refuses to lie down. Within Wenger there is a meanness of spirit; he is almost a French version of Victor Meldrew.

‘Harsh on the players,’ said Dyche afterwards. ‘At home we had the farce of the last minute, and in this one their man is offside and I expect that one to be given, he’s clearly offside.’

So: we left, still waiting for the first win, but in this game the scoreline was an unjust reward for a magnificent performance. No-one could ever say these Burnley players are blessed with sublime skills or blistering pace but playing to the absolute maximum of the strengths and talents they do have, they were just 30 seconds away from a deserved point. We’d seen a splendid pantomime on Saturday afternoon. In the last minutes of the Arsenal game, we thought we were watching another.


Trump struggling to find someone to sing at his inauguration…thundersnow forecast and not just the Daily Express…NHS ordering extra corridor trolleys… Graham Taylor passes away…what happened to the blizzards int north…

The passing of Graham Taylor maybe took us all by surprise. He was one of football’s good guys and what he did for, and at Watford, was a true football fairytale. He was a gentleman, honest and dignified and on the same day that he died there was the incredibly talented Dimitri Payet refusing to play for West Ham again, driving away in his Ferrari and demonstrating all that is appalling about the game today. Payet’s rise to stardom too was a bit of a fairytale but whilst his name is now tarnished and deserving of contempt, Taylor’s name is celebrated and revered at Watford. He found his role as England manager a cruel place but his place in club football’s history is assured.

Matt Rowson a Watford supporter and writer in his tribute maintained that everyone he met had a good story to tell about him. Roy Oldfield has one of the time Graham Taylor’s team was at Burnley and Roy was out there pre-match working like a navvy to make the pitch better with his fork and sand and filler after bad weather that morning. Graham Taylor, he remembers, saw Roy and took his coat off and went out and worked with him for 30 minutes helping to sort out the pitch. No other visiting manager then or since has ever done that with just half an hour to kick-off.

A bit of faith in modern-day footie was restored the day after the Cup game at Sunderland. It was an away game for Joe at Crofton and Crofton was a proper away game, not just at the next club just down the road from Farsley but a real journey, an hour away, a few miles south of Wakefield where every village was once a pit village but now there’s not a sign of them as the old tunnels and shafts lie buried beneath land that is either green farmland or new housing estates, and not a scrap remains of anything above ground.

‘Pop Pop (preferable to Grandpapa),’ he said. ‘It’s just like being a proper footballer.’

It meant loading up with sandwiches for us, and a picnic of pork pies and Oreos (though I don’t suppose that’s what proper footballers eat) and cheddars for Joe and it was a throwback to the mudbaths of the 50s and 60s. And we enjoyed every minute of it. These ten-year olds ran, chased, passed and played neat football as best they could. It was pretty much Farsley versus the Crofton goalkeeper, a little scrap of a lad that gave the performance of a lifetime, diving, tipping, catching, leaping, scrambling and pouncing on everything that came his way.

Farsley won by just the one goal but without that little goalie it might have been ten. On another day three of them would have been slotted home by Joe but on this day this tiny goalkeeper was everywhere. All of us wide-eyed and open-mouthed were spellbound by his dives at feet and plunges in the mud. All of them came off that mudbath black from head to toe like little Brian O’ Neils.

We grumble a lot about football these days: overpaid players, surly, scowling faces buried beneath headphones, high prices, technicolour boots, the dictators at SKY, there’s a long list we could cobble together. But the other day I came across a little book, only pocket sized, only 145 pages put together by Daniel Gray. In Saturday, 3pm, he identifies 50 things that still make football attractive and magical, and we’re not talking about great games of the past or old legends like Jimmy Mac or Bobby Charlton, or how it was once affordable and the ‘working man’s’ game; we are just talking about the little things that still give us a buzz and a sense of enjoyment, that still make the game so special.

In a previous book, Hatters, Railwaymen and Knitters, Gray wrote about his journey re-discovering English football, an odyssey during which he chanced upon Burnley and a game against Bolton Wanderers. He once worked in a psychiatric hospital, surely a job that helps if you’re writing about football.

In Saturday, 3pm, he finds a host of things that symbolise the appeal of football. If some are a bit tenuous, others are easily identifiable like seeing a football ground as you pass by on the train. Your head turns immediately. For others of us it’s more likely to be seeing a stadium as we speed by on a motorway, Walsall, Bolton Wanderers or Leeds United.

The way the away end erupts when their team scores: Years ago when Burnley beat Chelsea away in the League Cup and 6,000 fans filled the away end, it was a stunning sight to watch that crowd erupt like a volcano when Akinbiyi equalised. We were sat in the Chelsea seats with a friend who had got the tickets and spent as much time watching the Burnley end as we did the game. When that goal went in, the sight of that crowd exploding, with raw, raucous, tribal noise, has stayed to this day.

Getting the new fixture list: how we look forward to it, the day before; and when it comes we study it avidly, we look for the ‘big’ games, the Christmas games, we look who we play first, will it be home or away, we look at who we play last, we look at the games we think might be good for a weekend away with the Supporters Club, and we look at the Easter games and if we have an Easter holiday or an August or a September holiday and then we see how many games we will miss. And how many of us tick off the games we think we can win? The new fixture list: it ranks with the first sighting of the Christmas Radio Times.

Spotting a fellow supporter when we’re miles from home on holiday; you can only do this of course if they’re in a Burnley shirt. There is a definite effect. You don’t know them from Adam but there’s an instinctive urge to go and say hello and have a chat. It might be in a motorway service station. It’s happened a few times but the one time it stuck in the mind was in Kalkan; it was in the weekly market when an acre of stalls was filled with tourists and locals. But some distance from me was a bloke in a Burnley shirt, gone by the time we reached the spot where he’d been standing. “Damn,” I thought and looked out for him all the rest of the week.

The ball smacks the crossbar. It always seems so much more spectacular than a shot hitting the post. It seems to have more of an impact. There’s a groan and a grimace, it’s just as much a miss as a shot going wide but somehow we don’t see it that way and sometimes it’s even more spectacular than a goal if it’s a thunderous free kick from 35 yards that clatters that narrow bar. Maybe that’s why they have these ‘hit the crossbar’ competitions in training or at half-time. And it’s inspirational, don’t we roar them on even more in the minutes after.

If we’ve won, isn’t a treat to listen to the other results on Sports Report as we drive home. It’s kind of comforting. It’s almost a ritual. We wait for the round-the-ground reporters to describe the Burnley game. We revel in the praise and the description of how well we’ve played. And many a motorway journey has passed by almost without us noticing as we listen to the game on the radio. We lost but what a game it was in the FA Cup at Southampton when Burnley lost 4-3. Another was a 2-1 win away at Stoke and we’d gone 2-0 up and then endured a Stoke aerial battering for the rest of the game.

We make a point of a wander round the shop at an away game. The glossiest was at Arsenal. The one that was filled with every language and nationality and where you had to push and shove and barge just to move just a couple of inches was Old Trafford. Southampton is the only shop where we found every book on the shelves had been signed by a player. (Memo to Burnley Club Shop, it sells more copies). But the best ever shop was at lowly Yeovil on a day that Burnley won 2-1 and one goal was an Ings screamer. It was no bigger than a shoebox but somehow they’d shoehorned miles of shelving and there was more stock and variety in there per square foot than any other shop we’ve been in. This was a treasure trove of a shop.

Is there anything better than settling down with the Sunday papers after a win? I must have more money than sense because if it’s a win, especially against a top team, I’ll buy an armful. And then on Monday I’ll buy more. Then the page is cut out for the scrapbooks. For some reason it’s all the more pleasurable if it’s pouring down outside and you’ve got the Sunday SKY game on as well. You read with one eye and watch the footie with the other. And then Mrs T says “dinner’s ready,” maybe roast beef and Yorkshire pud, loads of veg and gallons of gravy…some Sundays are made in heaven.

That’s just a small selection; Gray has 50 including the first day of the season, sliding tackles, diving headers, floodlights, getting soaked, standing terraces and collecting programmes. So there we have it: reasons to still love football. And that’s before you experience the special thrill of seeing the team bus.

This is especially magical when you find yourself behind it on the motorway and overtake it. You peer upwards and see who you can see. Here’s me and Mrs T in our 70s and we stood at Glasgow Rangers to watch the team get off the bus like schoolkids. Ayr United was another years ago. We had an excuse then, we were only 65. And better yet: staying in the same hotel as the team. Twice this has happened, once for a game against Plymouth and the second against Cardiff. Not many people can say not only did they have breakfast with the team, but actually showed two of them how to use the toasting machine. Does life get any better? Well, only, maybe, if Joe Barton scores the winning goal in a 1-0 win after he’s only been on the pitch 5 minutes in his ‘first’ game back at Turf Moor.

We wondered if the Saturday game against Southampton would go ahead. The midweek gales wreaked havoc in the north. Roads were closed in Hebden Bridge; there’s an old factory that we pass every time we drive through. It’s just before you get into the town, Maud’s Clog Soles, at least that’s what it was years ago when clogs were standard footwear for cotton town workers. Now it’s derelict and forlorn and the howling gales were whipping of the old stone roof tiles and the whole place was even more unsafe than ever. The winds died down, planes no longer had to land sideways at Leeds Airport; I managed to find the length of drainpipe that had blown away down the street , but next up were the tons of snow forecast by the usually inaccurate Daily Express, but sadly this time most other weather channels. They didn’t seem to materialise – quelle surprise.

Burnley: the tenth most profitable club in Europe, the fifth in the UK, said a EUFA report into finances across Europe. Good Lord we said, although the caveat was that this was the end of the 2015 financial year so maybe we are now not quite so flush with higher wages plus the stadium and training ground re-developments. The stadium offices may well have been upgraded and extended but that didn’t stop pantomime scenes on the day of the great gale as supporters queueing up outdoors at the windows saw their tickets and money being blown up into the skies, along with scarves, hats, caps, umbrellas and small people. I was in Burnley the next day so called to get cup replay tickets cursing and humphing as rain and sleet dribbled down the back of my neck, arriving too early to benefit from the shelter of the marquee that was erected later.

The Maud’s Clog Soles factory was still standing in Hebden Bridge, it leans a little more every time we drive by; it can soon be re-named The Leaning Tower of Hebden. Southampton had just beaten Liverpool in the EFL Cup. Burney had injury problems so that Defour was on the left and Marney was playing with a niggly niggle that has niggled him for a while. The day dull, the sky leaden, the air dank, the prospects only so so; this had all the hall marks of a tough afternoon in prospect.

The drive over from Leeds marred by an M606 accident that saw Bradford gridlocked, with us in the middle. The air was blue, tempers frayed, face grimacing as we inched forward with every possibility of missing the kick-off. 2.15: two hours after setting off and only in Halifax when normally we are parked up and reading the programme. Somehow…we made it…just…skidding on icy roads over the tops from Hebden Bridge… cursing every slow driver in front of us…no time to admire the distant snow covered views of the Dales far away… parking a mile away, the nearest we could get and me running to the ground after I’d dropped the others off as close as I could get. And well worth it; a fantastic win 1-0 and the artful dodger himself, Mr Joe Barton, who else, scoring the solitary goal from a cunningly canny free-kick.

‘It is incredible to lose this game,’ said Claude Puel afterwards clearly baffled.

Diddums, welcome to the ‘how-the-hell-did-we-lose-that’ club Claude, the club whose members have all come to Turf Moor over the last season and a half, and been sent packing by this Burnley side, from this far flung outpost in the bleak Lancashire hills, wondering just how they have lost; and all of them probably wondering now just how the hell this group of scrappers and scufflers lie tenth in the Premier Division.

Tenth, it’s worth saying again… TENTH… and the Sunday papers still to read.



Brian O’ Neil turned 73…Mickey Phelan sacked at Hull…Man City beat West Ham 5-0 int FA Cup at West Ham…The Queen’s cold is better…

Back to normal, back to work, back to school, down with the trimmings, the baubles, the cards, the lights and the tree. Pack them all away for the next 12 months. What do people do that haven’t got a loft? New Year’s Resolutions – I didn’t make any. Just take each day as it comes, make the best of things, maybe just calm down a bit during a game when referees drive you insane, or things get really frustrating and without realising it you’re up on your feet gestyicuklatyinmg, cursing, spittle flying and going red in the face, blood pressure rising by the second.

But so much to look forward to: what a great chance there is, we said, to survive this season and stay up. Do that and it would be as great an achievement as getting promoted in the first place, maybe even bigger in a league of such inequalities.

In the Etihad there was the perfect example. Strung along a balcony was a long, long banner: ‘Thankyou Sheik Mansour,’ it said. This guy is a billionaire, more money than Croesus maybe. City’s place in the football hierarchy is down to him and his money. The wealth involved is so great that the numbers become almost meaningless. At Burnley we had Barry Kilby funding the club in the decade when that famous jam jar was empty on the mantelpiece and keeping the club solvent was a constant juggling act. BK isn’t short of a penny or two, but pales into insignificance when set against the Mansours of this world.

Whilst Mansour took City to a whole new level, Barry Kilby could only make sure that Burnley survived and lived to fight another day. Does Mansour have his heart in Manchester City? Barry Kilby’s heart is embedded most certainly somewhere inside Turf Moor. Images of the stadium and the game at the Etihad returned. This was the classless, money-no-object millionaires, complete with gold taps in the newly acquired stately home bathroom, versus honest working lads from a two-up, two-down. Bill Shankly once referred to Burnley as ‘that village team.’ Set against the riches of Manchester City, now a billionaire’s plaything, he wasn’t far wrong.

Hampshire Claret summed what a lot of us felt: ‘When I first got off the tram for my first visit to the Etihad I was impressed by the facilities and the ‘family friendly’ feel around the place, a live band playing, plenty of places to get a drink, supporter interviews around the players’ entrance but it quickly began to morph in my mind into some sort of football Disneyland. This was only reinforced by the arrival of the City players on their coach, greeted by a blaring PA but with little enthusiasm by the surrounding fans, rather just a sea of mobile phones. Sullen looking ‘stars’ with headphones on, ignored the fans around them and in return were silently stared at. Inside, the atmosphere was no different, largely silent fans sat on their hands waiting to be entertained; the whole thing felt like some artificial experiment to kill the spirit of football and was a huge disappointment to me.’

There’s an old Manchester City story: ‘When Les McDowell was manager in the fifties and City were bang average he was once spotted carrying an old gramophone into the ground. An ageing fan spotted him and called out to McDowell, “What on earth is that for?”

McDowell called back, “I got it for the team.” The supporter fell about laughing: “Tha’s bin robbed,” he called back.

The first thing about this tale is that back then a supporter could have a bit of banter with the manager as he walked by; probably over his garden wall as well. But today, replace Les McDowell with Pep Guardiola in the lead role and it just doesn’t seem funny. Football was once filled with funny and nostalgic but affectionate stories about idiosyncratic players and chain-smoking managers. Will anyone look back 20 years from now and remember anything remotely funny and affectionate to write about Ya Ya Toure or Bachary Sagna? Have any of today’s cosseted players had the same experience as the Barnsley player years ago who used to open the dressing room door at Oakwell by head-butting it; only to find one day that the new doors had the hinges reversed so they opened outwards. With the next head-butt he only managed to knock himself out.

Back on the coach travelling back from the Etihad we talked about the number of points needed, 40 maybe to stay up; the number of wins needed by May, five more maybe. Surely there must be an away win one day, we decided. Burnley were written off before the season even started by the experts but here we were at the beginning of January, 8 points clear of the bottom three but with a far superior goal difference worth an extra point. March we concluded might be the key, the deciding month; all fixtures would be away from home but three of them against the bottom three, Hull, Swansea and Sunderland. Hull and Swansea had just sacked their managers.

Football fans everywhere play the ‘what if’ game, we can’t help it, and we wondered ‘what if’ we won all those three games in March, or failing that took a point from each. You can argue it’s just wasteful thinking but it’s compulsive and easily preferable to wondering about Trump and Putin, or will we ever get on with Brexit.

The playing surface was of course immaculate at City so I remembered Roy Oldfield’s book ‘Mud, Sweat and Shears’ is due out in June. What a pleasure it has been to work with him and listen to all his tales of managers and players. What a tribute too to man’s ingenuity, making ends meet, thinking it’s Christmas when he finds a sack of old fertiliser, and finding Heath Robinson solutions to all that the weather could throw at him, and the hundreds of pigeons that sat on the Bob Lord roof after he had re-seeded the pitch just waiting for him to turn his back. His rule of thumb was use three times more seed than you need because a third wouldn’t germinate and the pigeons took another third. When we took him to Turf Moor to take some pictures of his old favourite spots Head Groundsman Paul Bradshaw even found the ancient brown bench that he sat on over 30 years ago by the old players’ entrance at the Cricket Field end, a bench so old it deserves to be on Antiques Roadshow.

Like so many other people, Roy long before he was groundsman and when he worked down the mines loved to watch Jimmy Mac. Mac’s first ever away game was at Sunderland, Burnley’s next opponents in the FA Cup. In an ancient fanzine I found a short interview with Jimmy and in it he revealed that his favourite part of the Turf Moor pitch was always down the Longside:

     ‘It’s true that I used to hold the ball for some time but there was one occasion that I’ll never forget. On this occasion I was down in front of the Bee Hole terrace and we were playing Bolton Wanderers. We were leading the game and I got the ball with just a couple of minutes to go. I was holding the ball up and I remember someone saying “just hold it Jim.” But the strange thing was that I was looking at this enormous shadow which was coming closer and closer and I was thinking this looks like a monster or even Frankenstein. In fact it was notorious Bolton full-back Tommy Banks so I didn’t hang around. The funniest memory from the Longside is maybe about Billy Morris. He was a Welch international and was in the Burnley side before me. The story was that Billy kicked the ball over the Longside wall and someone shouted to him, “Tha needs a spade lad.”

     “Why?” shouted Billy. “To bury theeself with,” came the reply.

Banks’s’ partner on the other side was Roy Hartle, the better looking of the two. Banks was craggy, square jawed, short cropped hair, a stare that frequently turned a winger’s knees to jelly, and a face that would curdle milk. He was stocky and broad, square shouldered and made of granite. A tackle from him was the equivalent of Fred Dibnah demolishing a chimney. But Hartle’s good looks didn’t make him any less fiercesome. He would shout across to Banks:

‘Hey Tommy, when tha’s finished wi’ yon winger toss ‘im o’er ‘ere for me to ‘ave a go.’

Sunderland away in the Cup: there was talk of Joey Barton maybe featuring in the game. There was the possibility of fringe players starting – Tarkowski, Kightly, Darikwa, Robinson perhaps. There was conjecture that the next Premier League game against Southampton would be the priority. Dyche had hinted that whilst the FA Cup might provide memories and emotional highs, it was the Premier place that paid the bills and was the real business. Jermaine Defoe was quoted as saying that there was unfinished business; the defeat at Burnley had left its mark and since then they’d drawn 2-2 with Liverpool. It was the kind of game that Burnley could easily lose along with all the others so far in the season. But said the gaffer, ‘If we can get a Cup run we’ll take it.’

Meanwhile David Moyes at Sunderland was claiming he had just about 11 senior players available with a number of players injured and that half a dozen of his U23s would be involved. But Moyes, currently so naturally gloomy, could make a carnival sound like a funeral so we took all that with a pinch of salt. Whilst Dyche in fact made several changes, Moyes put his strongest team out.

Mark Lawrenson had Burnley down for a defeat, but then he usually does and whilst the 0-0 scoreline was probably the last thing anyone imagined and some such draws can be as exciting, gripping and nerve-wracking, this was most certainly not. ‘Bored really,’ said ex player and radio pundit Paul Weller.

‘Yawn…not much going on…the game has utterly died (Talksport)…not much to report at all…magic is in short supply…dull stalemate…a forgettable 90 minutes…drab…lifeless…bore-draw…a shapeless scrap..’

Only 17,000 or so turned up for this sad game in which Burnley it was said ‘were resolute at the back, ‘ but this was more Wearyside than Wearside. Tarkowski replaced Mee, Darikwa replaced Lowton, Gudmondsson replaced Boyd and the midfield-two were Defour and Barton. Both of them played the full 90 minutes with Barton heavily booed by the sparse Sunderland crowd although they got bored of even doing that as torpor descended. A career as a pantomime villain is yet another option for him when he does finally hang up his boots. It looked like he would survive the game without a booking but alas referee Stuart Attwell waved the yellow in the final minute. Maybe that was his cunning plan.

On chances and opportunities it did sound that Burnley could and should have won; Vokes had a great chance early on, a Tarkowski effort hit the post and in the final 15 minutes or so it seemed that Burnley were the team that looked like winning whilst the Moyes team was only succeeding in putting its supporters to sleep, said one report, the same report suggesting that if both teams had played all night they wouldn’t have scored.

On SKY Soccer Saturday: ‘And is anything happening at the Stadium of Light?’ Stelling asked a couple of times. ‘No’, was the inevitable answer.

‘I’m not bothered about having another fixture to play,’ said Dyche, explaining that this had been normal life in the Championship and all part of the challenge. He was delighted, too, with the performances of the players brought in, particularly Darikwa at full-back and Pope in goal, the latter in fact as good as replaced by Robinson as Burnley’s second ‘keeper. Defour had his first full 90 minutes for the club and Dyche was clearly delighted with Barton’s contribution. Gray, meanwhile, hat-trick hero of the league game at Turf Moor, hardly got a sniff in this game

‘Barton breezed through his first 90 minutes on his return to English football,’ said the Sunday Mirror. ‘But the bad news for fans is they now have to sit through another 90 minutes at Turf Moor.’ The club immediately announced it would only be £5 for pensioners at the replay. ‘Hmmm after that game, perhaps they ought to pay us £5,’ was one prompt reply.



2017 and the New Year began; the last year, 2016, was one of the best at Turf Moor. Outside of football the year had its downsides and tragedies but for us footie fans that follow a club, whatever club it might be, football is the glue that holds things together and matchday is the marker in our week. Win and the next day is a treat of a day to enjoy. Lose and there is flatness, who wants to read the papers when your team has lost?

     A treat for Master Joe and his third away game; he’s always nagged us about wanting to go to Manchester City. We were there the first time we were in the Prem and saw the 3-3 draw. In the last visit it was 2-2. In theory this should have been 1-1. You can’t begin to find any similarities between the two clubs now in terms of finance. But it wasn’t always so; City went down to the Third Division some years ago and were once comedy gold for any comedian. How things have changed.

Burnley has been a success story based on painstaking hard work, progress inch by inch, shrewd management, cautious spending and careful planning. At City, money is no object, wages astronomical, and facilities second to none. A state of the art, new stadium, leased by the club, was as good as gift wrapped by the city council, its success and conversion as a football stadium in direct contrast to the problems at West Ham. If you are Man City you can summon allegedly the best manager in the world. But Guardiola hasn’t found it all plain sailing, in fact far from it. The Premier League is a different beast to what he has known in Spain and Germany; the Premier League is where a bottom club on its day can beat the top.

Burnley didn’t manage it and lost 2-1 but most if not everyone after this game must have been thinking the same; that Burnley blew it. They more than held their own in the first half and then when Fernandino was sent off for an atrocious tackle on Gudmondsson that could have broken both his ankles the game was set for a shock result. At half time along with everyone else in our little corner the general opinion was that this was the best opportunity so far to win an away game.

City in so many ways were a disgrace; petulant, argumentative, frequently surrounding and berating the referee, and at every opportunity doing what Dyche and the rest of us abhor, falling, rolling and theatrically feigning serious injury. Silva in the second half provided the perfect example dropping in agony over the goal line after a perfectly fair tackle and lying on the ground holding his leg as if it was seriously damaged.

Then it must have occurred to him that he would need to roll back onto the pitch in order for the ref to stop the game for him to get treatment. And so he did. It was one of many sad examples of Oscar winning performances in the ‘I’m really injured’ performances.

What is it with these divas and prima donnas we wondered? Do they expect the ‘little’ teams to arrive and surrender? Do their huge wages and inflated egos make them think they are above the rules of football? The tackle on Gudmondsson was horrendous; the red was more than merited, but City players surrounded the referee and argued and bullied him and behaved appallingly.

It was the same when Burnley scored. It took nearly two minutes to re-start the game because of the melee, the jostling of the referee and linesman, the bickering and total lack of any professional restraint and sportsmanship. Dyche was adamant that in the aftermath of the goal that another City player should have been sent off, Sagna for kicking at Boyd. There it was in the post-match highlights, as sly a kick at Boyd’s ankle as you could wish to see.

The goal spurred and fired Burnley but as much as it has to be said that City were dislikeable and repugnant in their behaviour; Burnley were simply not good enough to beat their ten men.

Probably all of us were astonished that Defour was on the bench. Hendrick was back but Marney was out so it seemed odds on that Defour would slot in with his silky, cultured play. He stands out in a Burnley shirt because of the time he creates for himself, the space he finds, the intelligence of his passes and above all else his beautiful first-touch.     When he did come on for most of the second half and displayed his vision and touch it made us wonder all the more why he hadn’t started.

Dyche later explained that he had been left on the bench having picked up a minor injury in the previous game. ‘For him it’s a big shift from playing bits of football over the Christmas period to two games in three days. I asked him and he said he’d never done that and he still has a couple of niggles. He came off Saturday with a tight hamstring and it’s one of them. We’re still trying to inch him along to full fitness.’

You couldn’t fault any Burnley player for effort and determination but the difference in skill level was abundantly apparent when Guardiola brought on Aguero and Silva for the second half. Once they came on, City never really looked like losing and with Sterling, de Bruyne (when not falling, rolling and acting), Silva and Aguero able to break so quickly, twist and turn with such speed, and above all else think so quickly and instinctively to make a pass; the Burnley defence was all too often sliced open on the break.

And that was exactly how the City second goal was scored with a break at lightning speed and Aguero evading Mee’s stumbling tackle. Four City players broke forward at a speed of which we can only dream at Turf Moor. Heaton made the diving interception at Sterling’s feet, but how oh how did Aguero then manage to score with a shot from the goal-line that flashed across and hit a mesmerised defender, Lowton, on the line and ricocheted into the net. It was a simply ridiculous goal to concede and this against a ten-man team. Heaton had taken the ball cleanly from Sterling but the latter went to ground as he stubbed his foot on the Turf. But was it genuine or was it a dive? No matter, if it was a dive it went unpunished allowing Aguero to strike the bullet shot that kissed the post before it hit Lowton.

It was rotten luck on the outstanding Heaton who had done his job at Sterling’s feet. It was ironic; in the first half he made some superb stops. In the second he had little to do other than pick the ball out of the net twice.

Burnley had chances enough in the second half; Arfield blasted high and wide, Vokes headed wide, Gray sliced a shot from a great opening, Bravo tipped another effort over the bar when it seemed certain to loop in. All in all it’s easy to say we gave them a run for their money, made them work, made them ‘win ugly’ and certainly there was the full range of the ugly side of football in this game. Toure was by a long way the man of the match, but what a sullen, grumbling temperament he displayed throughout the game, resulting in a deserved yellow for his continual mouthing at referee Mason.

Nor did it end with the final whistle. Guardiola took up the role of being chief misery-guts during the post-match interview that according to many showed the full range of tetchy petulance, rudeness and lack of respect. Reactions to it in the media were maybe a bit over the top and reports of his disrespect were hugely exaggerated. But clearly he had been knocked for six by the unrelenting physical nature of Premier football. Tika taka football was in short supply at the Etihad in this game and it was obvious that coming to terms with new demands had taken its toll. In fact things were more tacky tacky than tika taka. The effect on him was clear and already he was saying his coaching days may be nearing their end. In that interview we were looking at a man who was relieved to have won but clearly disillusioned by what he had seen and I’ll hazard a guess disheartened at his players’ behaviour; their shirts may be blue but red is their favourite colour with 7 red cards this season so far.

Any lingering sense of affection for this one homely, family oriented club drained away. We once had good friends there and when Burnley played there we’d join them back in the good old days. It was once a club that you really felt belonged to its supporters, had a human side to it, was never pretentious in any kind of way. It was Manchester’s back-street club set in a world of grimy terraces in a run-down area. Now it is re-located and re-invented. Back then you felt it was Manchester’s ‘proper’ club. Now there is none of that; it belongs to the prawn sandwich brigade just as its rival across the city does; the by-word now is corporate. It is the world of the nouveau riche, the tradesman now a millionaire, with pretensions to grandeur, all gloss and gold-framed mirrors. Their new supporters joining on to the bandwagon think it is all normal, the older ‘real’ supporters still blink and rub their eyes and wonder how it has all happened as the old identity has been replaced by the new.

Despite the defeat and the disappointment it brought; a dose of reality and sense came in a mail from a chum. He needed a picture of young Joe on mascot day and along with the request put things in perspective. Here we were, having come away from one of the richest clubs in the world with possibly three or four of the world’s best players and we were feeling a tad down because we hadn’t got a point, in fact at half time it seemed reasonable to think we might actually have won. But Phil wrote:

I was just thinking about how kids roughly Joe’s age are growing up as Burnley fans watching all this success. I didn’t see a winning side from my first game in 1976 until the 1981/82 season when Miller improbably found a system that worked. And the football in those days was rubbish. Watching Trevor Steven was like marvelling at an alien that had suddenly alighted on earth wearing a Burnley kit.

And Phil was right. Here we were having endured the dross of the 80s and then the struggles of the 90s and all the financial lurches and splutters of the next decade, but since Joe got his first season ticket for the first Dyche promotion season it has been highs and climaxes all the way. Even the relegation season was a joy to watch as Ings and Trippier came so close to keeping Burnley up and the football was a treat to watch. But for City, it was Aguero who looked like an alien alighting on earth to bring class to this ugly, snarling City side.

For Master Joe, despite the defeat, this was a magical day; the coach trip, the picnic on board, the first sight of this awesome stadium, a huge shop on two floors. We looked at prices and quickly moved on. He couldn’t wait to get inside to our seats. Our seats were right next to a City section and alas he learned a few new words as abuse and bile were hurled back and forth as the game went on in the second half. What is it that makes grown men curse and swear and stand and gesture towards others just a few yards away?

Meanwhile the news came through that Barton had been signed for the rest of the season in time for the City game to count as his one-game suspension for betting in Scotland. The conversations and debates were instant – would he play at Sunderland in the cup game or be on the bench – and where of course would this leave Defour. And surely there would be things in the contract to safeguard the club if the FA slapped a longer ban on him.

In the criticism of City there were no sour grapes; even with ten they outskilled Burnley with players who are the crème de la crème. But one thing was for sure; their antics and complaints left a distinct sour taste.



     2016: that was some year, Brexit, Trump, a procession of stars of stage, screen, music and sport passing away leaving us mere mortals saddened, but enjoying their memories, Carrie Fisher and Richard Adams the latest. You can put that into perspective by remembering that 55million people die every year; but some we miss more than others and a little bit of our youth and growing up goes with them.

Arnold Palmer was one them and it made me remember my father who was a really keen golfer, and a good one too. Alas a tumour meant the removal of an eye and that was as good as the end of his golfing. He made valiant efforts to continue once he had recovered and his glass eye was in situ but one-eyed golfers tend to squiff most shots and he was no exception. He did have one or two moments of fun with the eye though; one party piece being to remove it on the green and look closely at the ball and the length of the grass with it. The committee, not known for its humour asked him to stop when a lady member passed by and fainted. Then at mealtimes at home his favourite habit was to take out his eye, place it on top of the mash and say:

‘By gum mother the potatoes look good tonight.’

It’s a fair bet that not every Burnley supporter, either in Burnley or the world in general will have heard the name Charles Sutcliffe, let alone knows of the contributions he made to football. Born in Burnley in 1864, he played for Burnley, became a director, joined the Football league Management Committee, eventually to become President, and was the man that organised the football league fixtures for 24 years, long before the days of computers. He died in 1939 having spent a lifetime devoted to football. 11,000 people filled Turf Moor and sang Abide with Me at his funeral. It took 5 cars to carry the wreaths. The minister summed him up: ‘he lived and died for football.’ One story summed up his devotion and tireless efforts, it also happens to be a Christmas story.

When he was in charge of referees and their appointments he received a Christmas Eve call from a referee who had fallen ill. Sutcliffe had only just stopped refereeing games himself but knowing he couldn’t find a replacement at such short notice for the game on Christmas Day all he could do was decide to referee the game himself.

His plans for Christmas Day, being at home with his family, were therefore cancelled and on a cold, drab day he set off early to get the 9 o clock train that would take him to the game. He arrived at noon and with time to spare all he could do was while away the time wandering slowly through the cold, empty streets. Sadly there were no pubs open on Christmas Day back then where he could warm himself and have a reviving drink.

He refereed the game and afterwards the club secretary thanked him profusely especially when Sutcliffe said he didn’t want any expenses and the money could go in the players’ Christmas collection box. As a thankyou the secretary invited Sutcliffe to have a bowl of hotpot with them. He gratefully accepted having had nothing to eat since early morning. Feeling warm and refreshed Sutcliffe then left the club and followed the path that would take him to the railway station. Occasionally the lights of a house would illuminate his way and inside some of them he could hear the merriment from Christmas parties.

He felt well pleased with himself for the sacrifice he had made, giving up his Christmas Day and a hearty dinner at home, in order to make sure that a small club had played its fixture. The hotpot had been delicious, he told himself; it was nice of them to spare me some. At this point however with the station in view, he heard the sound of footsteps chasing down the street behind him and a voice called out. It was the club secretary.

“Er Mr Sutcliffe,’ he gasped puffing and panting. ‘It was so good of you to come all this way and referee our game when tha could ‘ave been enjoying the day at ‘ome. But I’m glad I caught thee. Tha’s forgotten to pay fert thotpot.’

Those of us with long memories and a bit long in the tooth can still remember a time when games were played on Christmas Day. The last such game was at Blackpool on December 25, 1965, when Blackpool beat Blackburn Rovers 4-2. Blackpool clung to the tradition because they got bigger than average gates due to the number of people who spent Christmas in Blackpool. Back then and certainly in the 40s and 50s women’s lib and their emancipation hadn’t been invented yet and whilst the mum dutifully cooked Christmas Dinner the husband would happily and without a second thought head for the match. Or it would be an early dinner so that the man of the house could attend the game afterwards. Times have changed; it’s just as likely these days that Christmas Dinner was cooked by Dad and mum came to the game on Boxing Day. Burnley’s last ever Christmas Day game was in 1957 with a 2-1 win over Manchester City.

These were good times for men and husbands. They didn’t need to help with the ironing, the dusting or the shopping. It was an era when men were always right, and dinner was on the table when they came home from the factory or if they were a bit further up the ladder, they might be the manager of the local Co-op because back then there were dozens of little Co-op shops. Women were usually referred to as ‘mother’ and could often be found darning – an old-fashioned and seldom heard word these days that means mending old socks. It was a time when men felt free to go to the pub for a wet without fear of recrimination, in fact most pubs and clubs had ‘men only’ rooms that were free of stress and worry. Football grounds, too, were just about men-only, other than the chairman’s wife. A woman standing on the terraces, good Lord, what was that?

Interestingly it was Sunderland next at Turf Moor; Sunderland almost a last bastion of male superiority, allotments, giant leeks and working men’s’ clubs where you can still find the occasional men-only snooker room. Up there women are generally called ‘pet’ but to be fair men have stopped patting them on the head; although back in the day this was often difficult since the women usually had their hair in curlers under a headscarf.

Christmas well and truly over and the turkey remains made into a splendid pie for some future family gathering. Sweaters from M&S returned and exchanged for larger ones that fit (sad I know). A few sad-looking mince pies lingered in the tin; matchday grey, dull and overcast. The first of two games in three days: a throwback to the old days when such things were a matter of course; but these days, coaches, managers and fitness experts bemoan the lack of recuperation and recovery time.

‘We’ll have a bottle of Prosecco tonight if we win,’ said Mrs T. We were due to eat at the Hare and Hounds, Todmorden, after the game. Little did we know we’d end up having two and courtesy too of our good friend W who was feeling in a generous mood.

‘W is thinking of treating us to a bottle of Prosecco tonight,’ tweeted Mrs W, as we were driving to the game.

‘Well what a coincidence,’ Mrs T replied, ‘we’d thought of that as well but if W wants to treat us, all the better, we won’t say no.’

Now we know W well; let’s just say that throwing money around is not his forte; we’re not saying in any way his middle name is Scrooge, but just sometimes you can hear the sound of a scratchy pen nib in the candlelight when he counts his money in the front parlour and he treats himself to two extra bits of coal on the flickering fire; so the offer did indeed surprise us (in the nicest possible way), but when Mrs W tweeted during the game in the second half as the goals rained in, it seemed he might be having second thoughts.

‘W is quietly weeping as the Prosecco seems nailed on,’ she tweeted.

We needn’t have worried about whether there would be Prosecco or not, the game was won, in some style, Sunderland thumped, Burnley fans delirious, Sunderland fans aghast and there on the table when we got to the pub was bottle number one of the bubbly nectar. It went down far too fast. A second bottle was immediately ordered. And Gray, we hoped was on champagne by now, having scored a superb hat-trick and for added pleasure, the first to be scored by a Burnley player in the top division since Peter Noble in 1975.

To put it mildly Sunderland were the worst side to have visited Turf Moor for years but in no way should that detract from a superb Burnley performance once they got into their stride. It could so easily have been more than four but Arfield missed a golden chance to make it five. Burnley took their foot off the pedal once they were four up and allowed Sunderland to get back into the game so that Defoe was able to score a consolation goal.

Managers and pundits have this formula that if at least seven or eight of the team are at their best then a win is on the cards. This was a game in fact when every player was at his best other than Arfield leaving his shooting boots back in the dressing room. On another day it might have been him with the hat-trick. A shove in the back as he burst through and seemed certain to score earned the penalty that Barnes tucked away nicely.

Defour was in for the suspended Hendrick and ran the midfield with delicate, clinical passes, assured control and pure intelligence, possessing the priceless knack of always being in space. Biff Bang Barnes was just Barnes, making one of the Gray goals, all muscle, belligerence and fearlessness. Boyd covered every blade of grass, harrying, covering and tackling. Mee and Keane showed Sunderland what defending was all about other than allowing Defoe to score. Heaton had so little to do he could easily have brought an armchair and the programme to read. Ward (continually bursting forward) and Lowton were dominant, Marney was simply Marney, all energy and unlucky to be booked meaning that he would miss the City game.

And Gray: outstanding with a display of taking chances, bullying defenders, working the right wing, using his pace and demonstrating the power and fierceness of his shooting. Exactly a year ago he had scored a hat-trick against Bristol City in the Championship. His face, his smiles, the image of him holding the ball high above his head one-handed after his third goal, was iconic. His Little Mix girlfriend was in the crowd in the cheap seats watching him. Glamour and Pop show-biz came to Turf Moor for the day.

This, according to Sunderland manager Moyes was classic old-fashioned English football to which they had no answer. Oh dear Boro lost again, but no doubt it would have made the snooty Aitor Karanka sniff with disdain. But Sunderland had no answer to balls over the top, balls down the wings, and balls forward, simple, basic back to front football. The Sunderland defenders simply couldn’t cope. Funny really: play the game this way and lose and you might call it Hoofball; but play it and win and then you can call it classic, highly effective, retro style, power football.

In less than a week, in the space of just two games Burnley pulled away even further from the bottom three, in fact were actually nearer to the top seven. Hull had only drawn the night before, Swansea lost and of course Sunderland had been routed. On New Year’s Eve Burnley were in 11th place and few people would have bet money on that at the beginning of the season.

At the end of the day, one manager would be able to go home and celebrate the New Year in style with champagne. The other probably needed a large brandy. Much the same could be said for the fans of each club. Whilst Burnley fans preened and danced, Sunderland fans were humbled.

And for us, the two bottles of Prosecco at the Hare and Hounds went down a fair treat. That was some year, and we finished it in style.