BURNLEY 0 LINCOLN CITY 1 (FA Cup) and yes you read that right.

The conditions on the day of the Chelsea game brought back to mind the curious expression ‘the matchday experience.’ Way back but not that long ago, when it was a bit of a test being a Burnley supporter; Stan Ternent was manager and then Steve Cotterill, and the club was struggling to find a shilling for the gas meter, plus the Jimmy Mac stand had this embarrassing void where there are now classrooms, bars and corporate areas. The CEO was Dave Edmundson and if memory serves it was Dave that coined the phrase back then of ‘improving the matchday experience.’

Up until then the matchday experience was frequently pretty grim in a ground that was often barely two thirds full and Dave wracked his brains to make it better, although many might argue he racked his brains. We always used to wonder just what was meant, in fact, by ‘the matchday experience,’ but whatever it was he didn’t have much success. At the end of the day there is only so much you can do. Brendan Flood tried parachutists and we all know how that ended and the Fancy Pants Dog Troupe simply inspired widespread derision. The Christmas Street Market that took place down Harry Potts Way was a great success but let’s be honest, the best-ever matchday experience was being witness to Bertie Bee upending the naked streaker.

The Chelsea matchday experience was defined by the weather. The image of the Chelsea subs sitting beneath layers of blankets will remain for a long time. My feet thawed out about midnight.

Be it SKY or Match of the Day, they just can’t help it. Fortress Turf Moor, but always the views of mill chimneys, terraced rows and wet rooftops beneath skies that are always grey. If the weather is bad, they love it even more. Stereotype is alive and well. But we all love a bit of praise; whenever Mrs T tells me I did a good job of the hoovering, life takes on a rosy glow. It’s the same when the spotlight falls on your football club and the compliments rain down, even if they are preceded by views of grimy streets.

The focus on Burnley both pre the Chelsea game and afterwards was inevitable. Dyche, ever the pragmatist, was filled with all the homespun wisdom that comes from grounded feet, not head in the clouds. ‘There are no gimmes at this club, we don’t bet the ranch; we have to work hard for everything we’ve got. The players know the value of that. We don’t do blind faith here.’   The game always eleven versus eleven so on any one day anything is possible and Burnley always have a chance.

Thus it turned out exactly so against Chelsea and whilst they were shivering in the weather and huddling beneath blankets, we were rubbing our hands telling ourselves that there was just a bit of a nip in the air, and that ‘aye, it were a bit parky.’

The one dissenting voice amongst the universal praise came from the Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke who observed of Burnley: ‘This was a physical bombardment, with plenty of tackles and elbows that are the far side of legal in 2017. Eden Hazard got his usual kicking while Ashley Barnes laid out Cesar Azpilicueta with an elbow which was not even punished with a booking.’ We can only assume that Pitt-Brooke is a Chelsea supporter.

Dyche was quite pithy about Conte’s confession that he had never heard of Barton. ’That surprises me. I thought everyone on earth knew about Joey Barton and if they don’t, he will make sure that they do.’ Kante certainly knows who Barton is after the thudding challenge that left him on the deck, so admirably described by Jamie Carragher as ‘a scouse kiss.’

Jim White in the Telegraph came up with perhaps the best one-liner: ‘This sub-zero Sunday lunchtime in Burnley, with sleet falling on the mill chimneys behind the Bob Lord stand, made a wet Wednesday in Stoke look tropical by comparison.’

Ex-footballer Pat Nevin was eloquent in his description of the afternoon as he imagined the Spanish and Brazilian players so used to having the sun on their backs in their native lands on warm summer evenings: ‘Then try to imagine how different that all feels to an absolutely freezing, wet, windy February day at Turf Moor, Burnley. With threatening, leaden, grey skies overhead and a gritty northern realism oppressively surrounding the entire occasion ; from the local skyline, to the opposition manager’s voice and his team’s harsh, unsentimental style of play.’

And just 24 hours later it was almost as if spring had arrived when the sun shone, a blue sky appeared and we could see how many snowdrops were appearing by the roadsides and daffodils were just starting to appear in the garden. It was Valentine’s Day too.

I hadn’t bought Mrs T a card on the grounds that every day is Valentine’s Day in our house. As spin goes, it’s a good line and if you average a decent card is £2 a time over the years, it’s saved me the best part of a hundred quid. But: I did take her out for a meal a couple of days later. We spent one Valentine’s in Brussels many years ago. They are all memorable and special but this one in Brussels was even more so. I don’t know why, there was just something about it, something different; maybe it was the candlelight, the romantic music, the soft pillows with the chocolate underneath, the ambience, the steaks. Or it might have been that we’d just signed Ian Wright.

Thanks to our friends who then had a travel business, it was Business Class on Eurostar with all the trimmings. It was a 5 star hotel in the centre of Brussels; it was splendid breakfasts and fine dining. It was seeing all the landmarks, shopping in the flea-markets and those very special Belgian Hot Chocolates. It was seeing lots of Eurocrats before they became arrogant Eurofatcats. All of these things made that Valentine’s weekend so memorable. But largely it was the signing of Ian Wright.

Funny the things you remember; the first evening meal we had in a charming little restaurant down a narrow, cobbled street was perfect. The second was defined by the most obsequious yet simultaneously haughty little waiter we’d ever clapped eyes on. He was terribly short yet did his best to look down on us. His crisp white starched apron alas came right down to the floor so you couldn’t see his feet and he seemed to just glide around the room as if he was on castors. He fawned but was sneering. He raised one eyebrow each time he spoke to us. He was attentive of course, yet managed to be condescending. All this was way back in February, 2000. All that time ago but I still remember it well. I’ll never forget it; we’d just signed Ian Wright.

Without looking it up I can still remember the score on the Saturday afternoon, Burnley 0 Wigan 0 and a crowd of 20,000. Some Valentine’s you just never forget. This was one of them. Cardiff fans won’t ever forget winning 4-3 at Derby on Valentine’s Day. ‘We’re only here ‘cos we’re single,’ they sang.

Sean D rotated the squad just a bit. In came Darikwa, Tarkowski, Gudmondsson and Flanagan. It was a strong cup team with Vokes and Gray up front. Lincoln had sold out all of their allocation, leaving the question just how many home fans would turn out, the club maximising the possibility that this might be the last home game for six weeks, unless the sixth round was another home tie. The FA Cup is great at this stage and we wondered if Fulham might beat Spurs, Millwall could upset Leicester, could Wolves surprise the Chelsea second X1? Surely Burnley would beat non-league Lincoln. Of course they were the underdogs, but we too remembered the times when Burnley had been in Division Three and Four and had been underdogs. These were the days when even Rochdale could stroll along and win.

It was another first for the club and in fact for any football club in the UK. Mascots for the game were pensioners organised by the Community Department. The jokes came out fast and furious. They’ll be setting off at 12.05 for a 12.30 kick-off. They won’t be holding hands with the players; they’ll be held up by the players. Zimmers were forbidden as they would damage the pitch. Wenger walks out with his players every week. Defibrillators would be positioned in each corner of the pitch. St John’s CPR medics would be on standby with one handily at the back of the line.

Much was made in the build-up of Lincoln’s centre forward Matt Rhead, very much portrayed as a human bulldozer on account of him once working for JCB. ‘He’s comin’ to get yer,’ was the basic message on the Lincoln messageboards. The puns rolled out – the JCB worker who wants to dump Burnley out, was one. The rest were even worse. Lincoln trained at Blackburn’s training centre at Brockhall and were allegedly exhorted by Blackburn players to spring a surprise result. We wondered if Anthony Stokes was one of them. According to press reports he had been fined 230,000 euros for head-butting an Elvis impersonator. Simon Jordon, once chairman of Crystal Palace, was quick to tweet: ‘That’s roughly what I paid Anthony Stokes for impersonating a footballer.’

When the two teams took to the field, those with a memory for history might have contemplated the year 1987. Burnley and Lincoln were lowly Division Four equals, had met that season twice, and at the very end it was Lincoln City that exited the Football League and not Burnley on the very last day of the season. It’s a year that is etched deeply and painfully into the psyche of the supporters of both clubs. One went down and one stayed, albeit by the skin of its teeth. 30 years on, one club is non-league again, but battling to return; the other is light years ahead, has progressed hugely, seen life in the Premier League three times, is wealthier than it ever dreamed it would be, and can pay £14million for a player. But none of that mattered one jot. On this day to our utter astonishment and embarrassment, Lincoln City won.

In truth Burnley were rank awful on the day. ‘A day to forget,’ said Dyche, with no positives. The first half was so dire that this could have been a throwback to 1987 and the football that Burnley played then. The pensioners that led out the team, and everyone else of a certain age, were disbelieving. We’d seen such a result once before in 1975 and never thought we’d see it again, a non-league side winning at Turf Moor against a side in the highest division. Both came with a game plan, both worked and Burnley just did not know how to cope, did not have the guile to cope, did not have the technical ability to cope, and on top of all that it was a day when too many individuals simply had a poor day. Nothing they tried worked as Burnley bumbled and fumbled for the entire first half. Tis true they created shots and odd chances but none were dangerous. Pat Nevin on BT was saying he was struggling to come up with new ways to describe it.

Of course Lincoln grew more confident, as they realised that they had the measure of a side that could do nothing right in the box and rarely able to get down the flanks at pace and behind the defence. Meanwhile Lincoln never once looked like scoring at the other end.

At last as the second half went by Burnley showed a tad more urgency as though it had just sunk in that they hadn’t actually scored yet, but the Lincoln ‘keeper, last ditch defending, hoofed no-nonsense clearances and sheer willpower, plus Burnley shots that placed spectators in more danger than the goal and a wild swing and miss when in a great position by Gray meant Burnley got absolutely nowhere. By now Barton seemed more and more wound up; whatever was going on, on the sly, was working. He and Rhead were at each other more and more: Rhead’s arm with Joey running under it, lightly touched Joey’s head, hardly enough to ruffle his hair. He went down like a sack of spuds. The scrimmage and ruckus that followed a later incident was the first real entertainment of the game, the only thing missing – half a dozen handbags. If JB was aiming to get Rhead sent off, who could blame him, Barton was the victim of a horrendous and quite brutal elbow in the face (the evidence on film on twitter). Make no mistake this was a red card offence. MOTD made no mention of this one, or the cynical foul on Gudmondsson that took him out of the game early on.

This brutal game in its death throes, the magnificent Lincoln hordes baying for the whistle: 0-0 seemed the inevitable result but then it was horror time with a shambles of a goal to concede. A deep corner went to a player in 10 feet of open space and he headed it back across the goal to the far post. Five defenders plus Heaton somehow allowed Raggett to head home, or at least clearly over the line. It was the last minute, so creating the classic fairytale for one team and nightmare for the other, a repeat of the scenario in the League Cup at Accrington early in the season. The luck of the Cup indeed: replays showed it was not a corner.

‘We dragged ‘em into a battle, that was the game plan,’ said the Bulldozer after the game, his elbows bruised and reddened. And so exited Burnley, beaten at their own game; once again in the record books, but alas for the wrong reason. We trudged away wearily, the matchday experience utterly forgettable, not best pleased as Lincoln enjoyed their revenge for the events of 30 years ago.



A Sapphire Jubilee… Watford was Burnley’s 100th game in Prem… Bercow says no more trumps…goodbye scriptwriter Alan Simpson…hospital corridors re-designated wards… Robbie Savage hairstyle the worst ever…

Next up Chelsea, the big one, the kind of game that makes us want to be in the Premier League and the world from Singapore to Seattle looks at Burnley and asks, can they pull off another huge result at home against the side currently romping away with the Premier title? It sounded like the world was indeed focussing on the club, the media department saying it was their most manic week yet.

They don’t come much bigger than a game like this. This was Bank of Dave versus Coutts, Boohoo versus Calvin Klein; David versus Goliath. And: with Hendrick suspended for three games, Defour injured, Marney a long term injury; we hoped that the FA would not be in touch with Joey Barton just yet. Could Burnley squeeze maybe three more games out of him?

Burnley nine points clear of the drop zone, plus a better goal difference worth another point. The Watford result hugely frustrating, this was a fixture we’d hoped to get something. But just 2 points separated the bottom 6 clubs and Burnley were not one of them. Burnley with one of the best home records in all the top European leagues and with the goalkeeper who tops the lists for saves in the top five European leagues with 103 saves. In 25 games Michael Keane had committed just ten fouls, an astonishing stat for a centre-half.

If the Watford result had done one thing, it had galvanised the Burnley team. It was clear they felt hard done by and if some results can undermine morale and sap resolve, this was not one of them. An Al Pacino team talk couldn’t have fired them up more and Dyche was dismissive of Burnley suffering any mental hang-up.

14 games remaining so that pub and club talked centred around how many more wins were needed to stay up. General talk was that just two might do it, plus the odd draw since this would mean the bottom three teams would need to win half of their remaining games; and seven games seemed a tall order for them. It seemed so clear and simple; two maybe could do it, three definitely. Such is the football fan, forever working out permutations, variations, combinations and suffering palpitations. SKY analysed who would go down from the bottom seven clubs and Burnley were not even mentioned.

Chelsea fans might well have been having palpitations too, when they heard the news; their charter train would be arriving in Burnley later than planned. National Rail, bless them, were suffering from delayed engineering works at Northampton so that no train could pass along that stretch of the line before 9 a.m. Not even Chelsea and Abramovich have any sway over National Rail it seems and Chelsea were therefore faced with the problem that even if all else was on time, there were no leaves on the line, no bridges had collapsed, no snow on the tracks, they would not arrive at Manchester Road until just 45 minutes before kick-off.   You could well imagine them, all getting off the train in a mad scramble, close to panic. From swinging London and trendy Kings Road to provincial Burnley on a cold, grey, drab northern day; they’d need their gloves poor things, we could only mutter. Next up was a 0.9 mile walk to the ground. Let’s hope it’s pouring down as well, we wished. Add to that their news that Hazard was doubtful, or maybe that was codology and mind games, and we did begin to wonder if something was working in Burnley’s favour. Chelsea fans were certainly apprehensive judging by the number of tweets that appeared and Conte seemed a tad wary and had clearly looked at all the Burnley home stats and mentioned them in his press conference.

The questions poured out; would they all manage to squeeze into the tiny dressing room, who would start for Burnley, would Matic and Barnes be pleased to see each other, would sparks fly? Would Costa be up to all his tricks, a sort of Sonny Liston with boots on? At the Stamford Bridge game two years ago when it was 1-1 all the focus had been on Barnes and Matic, nobody picked up on Costa whacking Shackell when the ball had gone; it was miles away and the ref was looking elsewhere and Costa just belted into him. Lip readers nearby swore blind that Dyche had fumed at Mourhino and told him in no uncertain terms, ‘you’re a f*****g disgrace.’ I like to think it’s true. And Chelsea have got previous; way back in the 70s they came after a 2-2 FA Cup draw at their place and proceeded to leave Ralph Coates black and blue from head to foot. Names like Eddie McCreadie and Chopper Harris won’t be forgotten, and then there was Micky Droy, about the same size as the Statue of Liberty but not quite as mobile.

It was a long Saturday. Unloading the dishwasher might be exciting for some but it only takes so long. Sunday couldn’t come soon enough. Plans to pass away some time by doing a few odd jobs in the garden were abandoned as soon as we looked out the window and saw the dull, dank, dripping, murky drizzle. But a tiny Goldcrest that landed on the bird table and poked around seeing what was on offer had us glued to the window whilst it was there. We get a whole range of stuff, goldfinches, bullfinches, chaffinches, and all the other usual stuff, robins, blue tits and dunnocks, thrushes and collared doves; but a Goldcrest, that was a bit special.

So: it was up to the paper shop for an armful of papers; and the mystery of Warburton at Rangers. For a while he’d been the best thing since sliced bread up there, but now had he gone, resigned, been dismissed or just had enough of Rangers politics. No-one seemed to know. But stability was alive and well at Turf Moor. I’d been looking through back issues of the London Clarets magazine and what struck me was ‘pre-Dyche’, just how unstable it was, with a procession of managers, changes of chairmen, cries of no money, player sales, unsettled supporters and inconsistent results. Unstable: in the sense of so much change going on in the short space of time between Coyle departing and then eventually Howe heading home. But now the place rolled along, eventfully but smoothly, genuinely optimistic, successful, upsets and traumas in short supply, cash in hand, and all the new developments.

Even without Burnley playing it was a ‘big’ afternoon and if the bottom three all lost again we could breathe a sigh of relief if Chelsea won again at Turf Moor. Arsenal versus Hull was on TV so we sat and watched that one, but with Arsenal so inconsistent any result was possible. Up next to see Farsley Celtic versus Glossop in the Evostick Division One North League; would I be glued to my seat? The ground only five minutes from home and only four quid to go in (OAP concession) and if they won all their games in hand they could go top. And the pies up there (Growlers) were well recommended. In the interests of research I would need to sample one. And then, if the neighbours were back from shopping, it was Liverpool Spurs on BT Sport. He’s a Liverpool fan and was currently unhappy; he’d need moral support.

Farsley won 4-1 against Glossop North End. The steak pie filling was excellent, the texture and flavour of the meat would have been a credit to Fanny Craddock, the crust perhaps a tad on the brown, crisp side, but very acceptable on a bitterly cold afternoon; the Farsley ground, open to the wind, making Tow Law or Oldham Athletic seem like the Maldives. The crowd of 201 (the 1 was me) and five dogs (yes 5 dogs) was raucous and partisan. The claggy, bobbly pitch was similar to what Gawthorpe must have looked like in the 50s.

My neighbour was there and introduced me to his dad who to my great surprise had once repaired Jimmy Adamson’s boiler in Leeds when Jimmy lived in the Roundhay area. Leeds were playing away and the boiler needed emergency attention on this particular Saturday. His wife May was there and explained the problem whereupon my pal’s dad examined it, took it apart and then pronounced it more or less expired. He could, he explained, do a temporary repair until they got a new one. The phone went and back came May. It was a friend to say Leeds had lost again.

‘Just do a temporary repair,’ she instructed him. ‘We may not be here much longer.’

3-1 down and dusk falling, the floodlights just about illuminating the pitch in the gloom, Glossop made three substitutions all at once. The tannoy crackled into life. The announcer cleared his throat.

‘Na then, this’ll test me,’ he said, and went through the three slowly and thoughtfully. At last he finished. ‘Na then, are we done, are we reyt, ah ther anymoor, no, there’s na moor, ah think we’re alreyt then?’

Home in five minutes, feet like an iceberg lettuce, and saw that the bottom three had all lost. Burnley therefore had the equivalent of a free hit. Things could not have gone better.

Sunday weather perfect, the sort we say these southern boys don’t like, the expression it’s-grim-oop-north covers it nicely, not just cold but very cold, grey, overcast, damp and sleeting and snittering when anybody from Brazil might think they are on an alien planet. It gets right in me bones, my granny used to say; weather that even a brass monkey would avoid, Turf Moor at its inhospitable best. The word could have been invented for days like this. But us northern lads cope in our shirt sleeves and call it brisk.

There was a strong story that Chelsea brought more heaters for the dressing room from Argos. Then somebody said that was rubbish, it was Homebase. ‘Hurry up, ees cold,’ said Conte to an autograph hunter after the game. You got the same feeling about his players as they left the field. Costa when he got off the coach had a face like a bag of bad prunes. It was clear as day by minute 85 they’d had enough and by the end wanted a warm bath, although they’d have to queue for that and the bar of soap in the away dressing room. For the warm ups they were in snoods, mufflers, hats and gloves. The subs sat on the bench beneath what were either rugs or huge towels. There were suspicions they had portable heaters underneath. They were utterly shrammed. We were too, but we’ve had practice, we live with weather like this. We’re ‘ard in Burnley.

If Chelsea thought they would walk away with the points how mistaken they were. If we too thought they would be too good, how wrong were we? Taking the lead in the 7th minute we might have been forgiven for thinking that a tonking was on the cards, such was the ease they dissected the Burnley defence. But it was merely a flash in the pan. Sure they had the majority of possession but after that goal there was not one more Chelsea shot on target and Heaton, thereafter underused and untroubled, must have just stood and shivered in the cold wishing he’d brought his duffle coat or a heater from the Chelsea dressing room. It was the last real Chelsea threat and once Burnley equalised with a wonderful Brady free kick from 25 yards midway through the half, it was very much a question of not would Chelsea win, but would Burnley, with Barton in the thick of everything.

For all the pretty Chelsea patterns and passing, it was Burnley that fashioned the best chances. A ball played across the goal line by Gray that no-one was on hand to clatter home; a 20 yarder from Barnes that he hit as he was falling that whistled by the post, two blocked piledrivers, a Lowton shot after a passing move in the box that Courtois saved with his legs and then a wonderful chance for Gray played through by Barnes that he hit straight at Courtois. If Burnley had won this game by taking just one of those chances, only the Chelsea people could possibly have grumbled. The MOTD pundits drooled with appreciation.

Enthralling, intriguing, compelling, this was a game that you couldn’t take your eyes off and all the more riveting for the way in which the little team never really looked like losing once the equaliser had gone in. In fact it was a measure of how well Burnley played that as we left, there was more than a tinge of disappointment that Burnley hadn’t taken all three points. Chelsea fans were in the main, in agreement. They had gained a point, not dropped two. They knew they could have gone home with nothing.

Conte’s delightful explanation for the result was that the pitch was small and helped Burnley to defend. ‘You have less pitch to defend.’ It was actually enlarged in the summer to meet Premier League specifications. But no-one begrudges the Italian’s eccentricities. Whatever he says, he says with a twinkle in his eye, with charm and appealing passion. Mourhino could learn a lot from him. Courtois meanwhile blamed the weather and the snow and the pitch for making things difficult. Burnley don’t need a good pitch, he said, for the long ball game they play. WHAT! Did Costa really say it was too cold to play? He was largely anonymous. Matic and Barnes never even got close to trading snarls or glares.

There was praise for Burnley from everyone. They were held up as the example of how to stop Chelsea. There was praise for the togetherness, the spirit, the never say die attitudes and huge praise for Dyche who was described as having out thought Conte. A tactical masterpiece, said Keown; Dyche and Conte the two best Premier managers.

‘Absolute privilege to be part of such a selfless group,’ tweeted Barton, ‘real team on many fronts.’ After this game, all of us felt much the same.



     Storm Doris on the way…Brexit begins…veg rationed in supermarkets… Diane Abbott has a migraine…City saved by Jesus…no claps for Klopp

The press were pretty much agreed; Vokes handled the ball when he scored against Leicester. We could live with that except that the press were pretty much the same about how unlucky Leicester had been to have lost to this goal. What twaddle, they declined to mention the definite penalty that Dean missed when Drinkwater clattered Keane in the box with a forearm into his back. They declined to mention how Burnley piled shot on shot at them, tore into them, had them on the back foot and then at corners reduced them to the most shameful display of humping and heaving that Dean was unable to control. Leicester got what they deserved, and after a season so far of decidedly dodgy decisions, so did Burnley.

We’d promised Joe a long distance game and we’d go in the car and make a day of it. Watford seemed the obvious choice, motorway almost door to door, a picnic for him on the back seat going down and MacDonald’s on the way home.     Preparations for a road trip were doubled with Joe in mind. Food was the key to success and peace. A tote box was retrieved from the garage and scrubbed out so as to accommodate the sandwiches, fruit, bags of quavers, hula hoops, assorted crisps; bottles of Fruit Shoot, cheddars, small pork pies, crusty buttered bread, chocolate chip cookies and Scotch Eggs. And then we put a few things in for Joe.

Twice we’d navigated the labyrinth of the Watford one-way system already, and if we could remember it again, we’d find the car park we’ve used before. In midweek the town had been brought to a standstill by the funeral and the cortege for Graham Taylor. Sean Dyche was there following his Watford connections and friendship with Taylor. Elton John described their chairman/manager partnership as Batman and Robin. Together they had transformed the small-time, Fourth Division outfit with tin-pot stands and crumbling open terraces into what it is today. In their last game Watford had surprisingly won 2-1 against Arsenal at the Emirates. If Graham Taylor was watching from above it was a fitting tribute to him and he must have smiled his trademark smile. There are managers in football that you wouldn’t cross the road to speak to (Mourhino anyone) and a handful that are good guys. Taylor was one of them.

Experts have believed for some time that ‘the south’, land of prosperity, focaccia, café society, stock brokers, rolled umbrellas, hooray-Henrys, begins at Watford. But: other than accents and geographical flatness it is, a small town, surprisingly, in some ways not dissimilar to Burnley. Once industry based, it now isn’t, the big traditional employers have folded. The once interesting town centres are now concrete, the Watford town centre shopping mall rising like a daunting medieval fortress as you enter from Junction 5. Like Burnley it is easily stereotyped and mocked. Like Burnley, the question is often asked, who would know about it, without its football team. And were it not for football, why would outsiders ever think of going there? It is a place that you zoom by on the nearby M25 as you head for more interesting places, London, or Kent to the left or Dorset and Cornwall to the right. There are no real reasons to visit Watford unless you have relations there. There is perhaps one thing in its favour. It could be Milton Keynes or even worse, Luton, but isn’t. Nor, as far as I know, does it feature in any of the Crap Town books top ten lists. That may be a tad surprising; but to the great delight of Watford folk, Luton does.

To be named in the Crap Towns books usually has local dignitaries and worthy MPs frothing at the mouth. Jack Straw, a great admirer by all accounts of Blackburn’s shopping mall, was outraged to see Blackburn named and said the book should be treated with the contempt it deserves. But we Burnley folk simply choked with laughter as we tucked into our plates of cowheel pie with marrowfat peas and praised the architectural virtues of the St Peter’s Medical Centre.

And so to the ground: along one end is Watford General Hospital. Within two minutes’ walk is the splendid Vicarage Road cemetery. This may be by design or just coincidence but it was in the cemetery amongst the leaning headstones that we sat and ate our picnic before the FA Cup quarter final game in the days of Stan Ternent. It’s the kind of graveyard that at dusk on a foggy night you half expect Michael Jackson to come out and do his Thriller routine. Burnley lost in as dire a game as you could wish to see and Sean Dyche was an unused Watford sub. We would have had more fun staying in the graveyard. It was a game broadcast by the BBC and the tale goes that afterwards there was a clear spike in the graph that showed people wanting their licence money back.

Since then the stadium has been transformed and today was blessed by warm sun bringing out the best in all the plastic flowers in the cemetery as we wandered round it once more. One bunch was a bright claret and blue, an omen we thought; alas it was just wishful thinking as the end result was yet another away defeat. The bunting, the fireworks, the bubbly stuff can stay in the cupboard then a while longer. But the nature of the defeat was hard to take.

It all felt good in the sunshine pre-match; in our seats we wallowed in it turning our faces into its warm embrace as the players limbered up. We wondered, too, which Watford side would turn up, the one that was so abysmal at Turf Moor and lost at Millwall, or the classy Italian team that beat Arsenal.

This is a decent ground with a good feel to it, the pitch close up and personal, perfect for Harry Hornet the mascot to do his stuff, annoy the clarets and throw a few shapes. Last time we saw him he was in an outfit so drab, filthy and grubby it needed putting through a car wash. Clearly he’d had a makeover, the costume today was either new, or had been sent to the dry cleaners. And some idiot had bought him a drum, a big drum. Thud, thud, thud it went the whole game and there he sat in the second half on the wall near to the away end banging away.

‘If you can’t bang a woman, bang a drum’, the Burnley end sang. ‘If you can’t bang a woman bang a drum.’ Who thinks of these instant slices of wit?

It was a rare moment of humour on a frustrating afternoon and the frustrations began with the sending off of Jeff Hendrick. There had been an earlier incident when Stephen Ward was clattered by a desperately wild lunging challenge, the offender Niang being yellow carded for an offence that could well have merited a red for its utter manic ‘out of control’ dangerous, recklessness. Ward went flying six feet up in the air and came down flat on his stomach, legs and arms akimbo in the shape of an X. Apt enough, it was an X-rated assault. When he got up there was a 6-inch imprint in the turf. Not everyone deemed it a red; in fact the Red Brigade seemed in a decided minority. Shearer and Wright seemed to laugh it off dismissively on MOTD. ‘He just slipped,’ said Wright. We’ve heard some tripe in our time but that took the prize.

But it was Hendrick that got the red for what was an over the top challenge just minutes later. Deliberate and malicious no, such thoughts are drilled out of them at Burnley; wild and reckless yes, it was the first red card given to any Burnley player in 80 games. And from what we have seen of him so far, very un-Hendrick. Perhaps he was miffed that Niang was still on the pitch. But where is the consistency; 24 hours later Mata committed a similar tackle plum on Vardy’s ankle. He got a yellow.

If that had been Barton executing a tackle in the same style as Niang it isn’t rocket science to suppose that a red would have been produced faster than Farage can sink a pint. Then there was a scything Cathcart tackle on Brady in the last minute as he was speeding past him with an open space in front of him. Cathcart simply and callously took his legs away without a thought. It was only a yellow. This in the footie world was a professional foul, taking one for the team. So that was alright then.

So: just 6 minutes had gone by when Hendricks was sent off, and even worse was to come four minutes later when Niang sent the cross over that Deeney headed home whilst Lowton and Keane seemed to just stand and leave it. After the game, Dyche asked the referee why he had not red carded Niang, not for the crazy challenge on Ward, but with a second yellow for his goal celebration when he ran to the crowd behind the goal, Niang having scored the Watford second just seconds before half-time, again unmarked from a header. Game over, we assumed and groaned. Niang was running riot.

The first half, and down to ten men for most of it, had given us no reason to believe that some kind of miracle was on the cards. Best we can hope for is to hang on and keep the score to 1-0, but the second goal scored with a minute to go, put paid to all that. To add to the general gloom, Hull were winning, Sunderland were winning and the comfortable points gap was being whittled away.

But the second half, what a half, what a fight, what pluck, spirit, resilience, determination, bravery and resolve to take the game to Watford and go down fighting, if not even snatch some kind of result. Dyche made no immediate changes leaving both Gray and Barnes up front and it was Barnes the essence of what Burnley were all about.

Years ago, far too many for me to care to remember, we had to learn poems at Junior School. This was over 60 years ago, Roomfield Junior School and Harry Wilson the headteacher. One poem was Cargoes by John Masefield. And it was watching Barnes putting himself about the pitch that made me think of one of the lines of this poem and an image I’ve never given a thought to in 60 years.

   Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack, butting through the channel in the mad March days,

     He isn’t skilful, he has minimal finesse, but he’s rough, he’s tough; he barges his way through, nothing stands in his way. His skill perhaps is in his backside, shoulders and elbows. There isn’t the beauty of a Quinquirime from Nineveh. There isn’t the elegance of a stately Spanish galleon. He’s just a battering ram and an unstoppable force butting his way through the Watford channels. So it was Barnes that led the charge and so nearly scored at the very end but was denied by Gomes yet again. It could so easily have been 2-2.

You’d think that driving back 180 miles after a defeat might have been a gloomy journey. But it wasn’t. You could only be proud of that 10-man performance. You can’t question or criticise a team that gives its all, that doesn’t lose heart, that doesn’t lie down, that keeps going to the last second. And Barnes did get his reward for his performance. A cracking shot was deflected by an arm and Michael Oliver had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Barnes with 15 minutes to go and side-footed it home into the bottom corner.

Now the Burnley away support pumped up the volume so that any patients in the hospital at the bottom end of the ground needing rest and quiet would have had no chance of an afternoon nap. The roars and cheers were now deafening, non-stop, frantic, frenzied, every supporter doing their bit to be the extra man. It was so loud, even the drum went quiet. Players will say they know and appreciate it and it almost paid off. Barnes was through in the very last seconds, the Watford defence in a state of panic, but Gomes was in the right place. Kaboul had played his part for Watford in defence, a no-nonsense, get rid type of player who pretty much had Gray under control. When in doubt hoof it out, a Kaboul in a china shop.

And so Master Joe, mesmerised by the game, had his fix of long distance support, and we sped north talking of the fightback and Barton and Brady and Barnes. Barton was here, there and everywhere, another all-action performance and in Brady at last there is a wide man who actually does have some pace, can get past a defender and cause a threat. Arfield and Boyd are workers, runners but at this level you need more than that. With Zarate, Watford had attacking players that had pace and flair and in Niang a raw talent that Burnley couldn’t hold in the first half. Maybe this was a game that contrasted two managerial philosophies, and the type of players that each side had was a clue to those beliefs and requirements.

We decided too, on the way home, that Burnley had given new meaning to the words heroic and resistance. A Heaton second-half miracle-save from Deeney was testament to that, his body going one way and his arm the other at point blank range. Maybe you can have a mini grumble sometimes at the lack of panache and flair, but for a never say die spirit, and a Churchillian ‘we shall never surrender’ attitude, there can’t be a finer team in the League.




     If anyone shoots at Trump…agents will yell Donald duck… he and Theresa seen holding hands… chaos at airports around the world…Nicola Sturgeon to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall… killer arctic blast on way says Express…

Cup weekend was over and two days remained to the closing of the transfer window. Now it was king of the scoops, Alan Nixon, saying Burnley were after Dan Gosling from Bournemouth. Jason O’ Connor, someone who claimed to be in the know, tweeted that the Brady to Burnley deal was very close and on the 29th Brady had met with the club and agreed terms. All of us dashed to the salt pot and took a pinch. Yeh right, we said, with a wry grin. Who’s Jason O’ Connor when he’s at home? Next we were said to be offering £10million for Hull City defender Andy Robertson. Dyche was still saying that deals were pending. So far there had been 22 links to players. At Watford it was 42.

Much as we looked forward to what might be a pulsating night when Leicester City arrived, it kind of detracted from the fun of the last night of the transfer window. Last time we’d sat glued to the webs as the Grosicki story broke, club officials were dashing to Manchester, we were about to sign the Polish international, his plane was being tracked, his plane had been spotted from someone’s bedroom window, his plane had landed, and then he was sent packing when his gambling debts were figuring in the equation. Sitting watching the hectic final hours has always been one of the highlights of the football season as Jim White works himself up into a gurgling lather and one of the lackeys stands at, and works the moneyometer. Then, of course, all the SKY bimbos with their revealing décolletages decorate our screens and Mrs T always asks is it in their contracts to wear these low-cut outfits. Personally, I don’t mind.

The news was good and for the first time that any of us could remember, Burnley was the first ball out of the FA Cup hat. Number 12 and we relaxed a bit, a home game; anyone will do if we were at home, we thought. A big name would make for a glamour-tie; a little name would make it easier to progress, though none of us took anything for granted. Burnley 0 Wimbledon 1, when Wimbledon were a non-league side, and Burnley were then a top side of the mid-70s, would always be a reminder of the shocks of football and the magic of the Cup. So: when the name of non-league Lincoln came out, of course we thought surely Burnley will progress to the sixth round, but not without just a smidgeon of caution.

Lincoln folk were not too chuffed if twitter was anything to go by. If they wanted Arsenal at home then that plum fell to Sutton. ‘You got to feel for Lincoln. Hope they like going back in time,’ was the first of the predictable responses.

‘Of all the teams Lincoln could have drawn it had to be Burnley. All there is is a Tesco, a football ground, a cricket field and a bookie.’

‘Do visit the pride and joy of Burnley – the bus station.’

Got to feel sorry for Lincoln, Sutton get Arsenal and they get Burnley away.’

‘The cobbled end of the M65…’

‘Lincoln now have to travel to Burnley away. No fan deserves that.’

‘No buzz of excitement at Lincoln, more like the thud of disappointment.’

‘Worst draw for us, I said Burnley away, and that’s what we got.’

‘BBC trying to polish a turd and pretend Burnley is an exciting draw for Lincoln.’

Lincoln City fans might well be amused by something Tony Adams said way back in 2010. He was, at the time, manager of Gabala, a far flung outpost in faraway exotic Azerbaijan. When questioned about where the hell this place was and what on earth he was doing there, he replied: ‘It’s not perfect but it could be worse, it could be in Burnley.’

The insults made us smile. ‘No-one loves us, we don’t care,’ is a well-founded truth. The image remains of a manky East Lancashire town, frozen in time. It remains the subject of denigration and stereotype. From 50 miles away, anyone would think it still consists of cobbled streets, terraced rows, back to backs, brass bands, thick fog, grey sheep, mill chimneys, pie and peas, fish and chips, and nothing but pound shops and charity shops. For charity shops you should try Otley.

But how wrong can they be? Burnley might feature in any top 50 lists of poorer places to live, but the regulars in the top ten over the years are places like Morecambe, Milton Keynes, Watford, Hull, Blackpool and Middlesbrough. In a recent ‘crap towns’ survey, Blackburn was well in there but no mention of Burnley. Jack Straw to our great delight was outraged.

‘Compared to Blackburn, (mill chimneys replaced by golden domes and minarets), Burnley is Biarritz,’ was one observation. And wasn’t Burnley recently awarded the accolade of ‘most enterprising town?

Prior to the game, those of us who could were sitting glued to the SKY Sports transfer desk. At 11.35 a.m. their man at a wet Turf Moor reported that ‘slowly but surely it was all falling in to place,’ when asked about Robbie Brady. There was no mention of Robertson or Westwood having a medical, an earlier claim on twitter. That came later, yes Westwood was having a medical, we assumed it would be more thorough than the one that Joe Gallagher had years ago when he had to run up and down the stairs; but Robertson would not be leaving Hull. It was at halftime in the game versus Leicester that the announcement came; Brady had signed for a record fee and he saw out the game from the directors’ box. In his flimsy coat he presumably didn’t know about Burnley rain.

It came down in buckets, a groundsman’s nightmare; there is a limit to even Desso durability, and this was the seventh game since Boxing Day at Turf Moor. At the end of the day, despite all the advancements, science, seed that germinates all year round and sun lamps, a football pitch is still vulnerable grass. The long gouge marks that now appear regularly are almost Kindonesque. No-one made deeper ruts than Stevo with his size 12 boots. The wear and tear in the corner between the James Hargreaves and the Jimmy Mac quite clear, made worse because this is the corner where the team does its pre-match intensive training routines. And then at half-time out come the school teams to play their games. With such short gaps between games, recovery time has been short-lived, the gantry lights have not been used because the pitch has been so sodden that wheeling this heavyweight equipment around the pitch every three or four days would do more harm than good with the ruts they can cause. Every time I met Roy Oldfield I left with the feeling ‘who’d be a groundsman’ and battle with soggy English weather. 30 years may have passed by since Roy was there, but the weather is much the same.

But if the pitch glistened with the wet, then so did the game. This was a pulsating, high octane, no holds barred confrontation that Burnley deservedly won with their best performance of the season so far. Of course Leicester showed glimpses of class, moments of pace, but their threats came only from breakaways and a handful of long shots comfortably held by Heaton, bar one. But on this wet and skiddy surface to spill the ball just once was understandable. Barton was simply immense, Hendrick not far behind; all of the others gave their all. But at corners the wrestling and grappling by Leicester was simply appalling, the back-street brawlers Huth and Morgan in particular, Mike Dean seemingly with no idea how to control it. West Brom were once the chief culprits, now it was Leicester taking it to a whole new level of blatant wrestling, pushing, jostling, mauling, elbowing and shoving.

The partnership between Barnes and Gray is developing. The partnership between Gray and Vokes continues to develop. But it is the partnership between Barnes and Vokes that impressed. Barnes starts the game, puts himself about, roughs ‘em up, snarls and roars almost in preparation for Vokes who then continues, maybe with just a little more finesse and politeness, and in this game scored the winner. Was it a deliberate handball? No: this is Sam Vokes, a player so honest he doesn’t do dives or faking. So honest, if an Asda checkout girl gave him just one penny too much change, he wouldn’t sleep that night, and he’d take it back the next morning. A player so gentlemanly he feeds the birds in winter and helps little old ladies across the road. A handball, maybe; deliberate never.

We came home damp, delighted and disbelieving at what we had seen – and the news we had heard about what we had spent. For once a referee’s poor decision-making did not cost us three points and if the winner was controversial because of an alleged handball by Sam Vokes, then it was no more than Burnley deserved on the night, having peppered the Leicester goal with 24 shots, had 60% of the possession, and had a nailed on penalty claim (maybe two) ignored in the first half, Mike Dean showing again that with him it is pot luck whether or not any team is awarded a penalty.

So, whilst Ranieri tut tutted and shook his head afterwards, we Burnley folks had not one shred of sympathy. This was a totally deserved win against the Champions of England. ‘Are you spending any more?’ asked a reporter at the end of the game. ‘Yes on a takeaway,’ said Dyche.

‘If the goal was a suspicion of handball, hopefully we get the balance with decisions, then c’est la vie,’ he said wryly, ‘but I think it hit his chest and then his arm. We’ve had enough decisions go against us.’

We drove back to Leeds through the murk and rain and spray on empty roads thinking, is this is the club that 30 years ago on the night was playing at Hartlepool in the old Fourth Division, that had bucket collections to buy players, that once couldn’t pay the electric bill, that used soil from molehills to repair the pitch, that 30 years ago played the Orient to stay in the Football League and skipper Ray Deakin drove the team coach to save money. But now SKY were describing Burnley as deadline day’s biggest spenders.

The stats were trotted out – and why not, on such a heady day. This was the first win against Leicester in ten attempts. Leicester had beaten Burnley at Turf Moor on the last three visits. This was the best home run of wins in the top division since 1966. And this was a minute 87 winner, almost Arsenalesque in its lateness and controversy. £18million poundsworth of new players were in the stands watching. And: the really eagle-eyed had spotted that in 2009 Burnley beat the champs Man United 1-0 at TM. In the next promotion season they beat the champs Man City 1-0 at TM. And now they had beaten the champs Leicester 1-0.

How does that song go? ‘Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.’ And better yet, the pitch was due 10 days respite and sunshine from the lamps before Chelsea arrived in town.







1957 was the happiest year of the century so far… goodbye ‘allo allo’ Rene…Morris Dancers facing extinction…Waxwings descend on Burnley…Trump to build his wall…asteroid heading for earth

January: hectic and busy with seven games and transfer window rumours and stories; and so far Burnley had been linked with a dozen+ names. All that, plus the pulsating game at Arsenal with so many talking points, and as a little bonus there was an embryonic cup run. There was barely time to sleep amidst and tracking the football gossip columns, the rumours and stories.

The month began with West Ham wanting Andre Gray for £10million, we put in an £8million bid for Dale Stephens, we wanted Henri Lansbury for £3.5million, West Brom and Wolves wanted Tarkowski, Dyche wanted Tom Cleverley on loan, Yuto Nagatomo was on his way from Inter, we were interested in Danny Ward from Rotherham as well as keeping tabs on Max Gradel at Bournemouth. Michael Keane was on his way to Everton for £25million, or was it Chelsea or even back to Man United; Liverpool, Man City and Everton wanted Tom Heaton; we bid £13million for Robbie Brady from Norwich (a story that did seem to have some substance) and allegedly £7.5million for Snodgrass from Hull. Marc Roberts a defender from Barnsley was coming for £3.5million, we’d bid £8million for Alex Pritchard from Norwich.

And the best of all was Burnley were keen on Ross McCormick from Aston Villa. He was well out of favour there on account of not turning up for training and on the last occasion his excuse was he was unable to leave his gated mansion because all the gates were jammed. Alex Bruce said he’d driven out to his house to check the gates and found them to be just 4’ 6” high.

‘He could have climbed over them,’ he thundered. ‘He’s having a laugh.’ Reports said that Bruce had publicly “scalded” him and had also identified Ashley Barnes as a ‘cheap’ alternative to Jordan Rhodes.

First thoughts were that if McCormick came to Burnley he’d have a helluva time in pre-season training when Dyche had the players climbing trees and shinning up telegraph poles. But: with just a week to go Burnley had only signed Joe Barton and it seemed likely that at the end of the month he’d face a lengthy ban that at its draconian worst could see his season ended.

It looked like any deals would go right to the wire with the window due to close on the same night as the home game against Leicester City. What a mess they were in in the League. There had been suggestions that a Ranieri statue was merited after his title win of the previous season. Now there was talk of the sack such was their lowly league position. A statue and the sack in the same season: Eric Morecambe sprang to mind: ‘Now there’s a novelty.’

Thursday January 25: We were so excited. Burnley had signed Snodgrass, folks on the websites were proclaiming. £10million accepted by Hull. What a coup, we agreed, absolutely thrilled, there it was in black and white. Yet: it seemed too good to be true and indeed, the waters got slightly muddied in the next hour or so. Not quite a formality said the Hull Mail as West Ham and Middlesbrough were expected to increase their bids. It was clear it was not signed, sealed and delivered. Any joy we felt was a sort of premature ejaculation. And meanwhile to rub salt in it, there were reports that Brady was going to Palace for £9million.

‘£9 MILLION,’ we yelled. ‘But ‘ang on, we’ve bid THIRTEEN, what the F*** is going on.’

The fact that we were now linked with AC Milan’s Nbaye Niang was of no consolation. Who the hell had ever heard of Nbaye Niang? Who’s he when he’s at home, I said to Mrs T? As someone remarked on one of the webs, Nbaye Niang sounds like what you mutter when you stub your toe on a chair leg.

Next up, we groaned when we heard that Middlesbrough had matched the Burnley £10million which meant that if it was down to the player he would no doubt head to the highest wage offer, and we all knew where that road lead. But ‘ang on a minute, the next news was that Boro Chairman Gibson was fed up of Kranky Karanka, and shelling money out, and that Kranky had upset him by criticising the fans. Perhaps there was some hope remaining. Who of us could forget that exquisite left foot that had curled home the stunning free-kick early in the season at Turf Moor and denied us the win? You can keep yer Nbaye Niang I mumbled at the computer screen, severely piqued. And better yet, someone had seen Snodgrass at the Turf for a medical.

Dammit: The Northern Echo was next, scotching any story that Gibson was fed up. Middlesbrough ready to do battle with Burnley over personal terms, it reported. Our hearts sank further when it was claimed that Snodgrass was keener to discuss terms with Middlesbrough. The deal seemed to be heading just one way, north to Teesside, as reluctantly, with a heavy heart I did a search on Nbaye Niang. It sounded more like a Thai noodle dish than a footballer.

But we football supporters will cling to any snippet so that just when the day seemed at its darkest and spirits had sunk to their lowest, SKY Sports reported that Hull had NOT accepted the Boro offer. It was a Viagra moment, a real boost; once more we could suppose that the deal might happen and it would be a niet to Niang.

We retired to our beds with nothing resolved save to say that Hull reportedly had now accepted bids of £10million from Burnley and West Ham, and the Middlesbrough bid was ‘on the table’; and the Irish Times was saying that Burnley were now favourites to sign Brady. The January window – you can’t beat it, because the next thing we heard was that there had never been a Palace bid for Brady. ‘By January 31 I shall be a gibbering wreck,’ wrote one Claret. We knew what he meant but the gibbers were slightly eased with the news that Niang had gone to Watford. But now, Snodgrass had allegedly told Burnley he had no intention of signing for them.

We had looked for confirmation but sometimes it was difficult to differentiate between confirmation and speculation. Was it confirmed speculation or just speculation that was confirmed, or, just mere speculation. Sometimes it seemed that we were just speculating about confirmation; or were we speculating about mere speculation, and confirmation remained unconfirmed. It was hard to tell.

With nothing happening, there was a distraction; an actual game took place, the FA Cup game against Bristol City. But the glum news was that Marney would not feature having suffered another cruciate ligament injury in the game at Arsenal. Having recovered from the one suffered two seasons ago, he had been back to his best form and instrumental to the promotion season and all the wins so far in the Premier League. This was beyond bad luck.

Snodgrass had gone to West Ham and Brady was still at Norwich. But Arfield and Gudmondsson were available again for a game that on paper appeared to be not quite a formality but almost. The Dyche dilemma was to rotate things but pick a team that could beat Bristol; in came Arfield and Gudmondsson with Vokes the one striker. The win was comfortable; the whole thing rarely rose above gas mark low, the first half almost sleep-inducing, despite the atrocious weather with players and lower tier spectators getting a drenching. The goal was a relief, a Vokes stroke, rolling the ball into the corner from Defour’s cut-back after he had mugged one defender and megged the next. ‘Thank goodness for that,’ we said with relief, rather than exploding into volcanic jubilation, almost numbed by torpor. Save for a point blank Bristol header that Pope saved, Bristol were content to play with little risk so that Burnley were only threatened the once. Sweat was at a premium, everything low-key, neat and tidy, but little panache.

The second half was a tad livelier; not once did you ever think that Burnley could possibly lose and then when Defour scored his magical goal, the game was well and truly over. Taking the ball in his own half, he exchanged passes with Gudmondsson at ‘breakneck speed, ’said the Mirror, two words you don’t hear that often in a Burnley game. Bursting into space and veering left he took the return pass and continued to motor forward and in the same motion at speed from the edge of the box flipped, chipped, scooped the ball over the 6’ 7” goalkeeper’s head and into the net. I swear I saw his boots twinkle like tree lights in December. ‘Genius’ said the Sunday Telegraph. We have seen some great goals at the Turf and this was one of them. It was a reward for his best game in Claret so far with a first touch, speed of thought, deft skill and energy that separates the truly gifted special players from the merely good. It was as if this was the game where he finally announced ‘I have arrived, this is what I can do.’

‘It was really nicely done,’ said Defour in a masterpiece of understatement. But was it a scoop, flick, chip or lob; we’ll be discussing that for some time. Whatever: he left the field to a standing ovation. Had this been scored by Rooney, Costa or Aguero, TV would have shown it a hundred times over the weekend.

‘Sublime, marvellous and fantastic,’ said Dyche purring with pleasure and pride, a pride that came from knowing that he had nurtured Defour into the English game, slowly and gradually, so that here was the end product, the Defour that was man of the match and had us all enthralled. The game petered out, Burnley might have had one more but Vokes clattered the post with a mighty shot on the turn. In the pervading damp, thoughts turned to a warming bowl of chili and rice with a bowl of chips at the Queen on the way home sitting by the roaring fire. This was a quiet game (only 12 fouls in all) and a routine win settled by a unique goal, with just under 15,000 privileged to have seen it.

It was nice to think that Defour might have received a text from Fergie, who, years ago was keen to take him to Old Trafford, recognising him as a special talent. Alas, Defour was badly injured and any move was put on hold. But Fergie wrote a letter of huge encouragement to him and said he would monitor his progress. It came to nought but Fergie no doubt saw clips of the goal maybe on MOTD. Burnley were on at the very end (no surprise there then) but the pundits waxed lyrical about the goal and also expressed more admiration for the incredible home record.

The airwaves hummed with mentions of Burnley’s best ever goals; a Blake free kick from 35 yards years ago, was it 2007, Gudjonnson’s 35 yarder that looked like it was heading to row Z until it arced down, another Blake special against Man Utd in the first game against Man United back in the Premier League, Elliott’s goal at Wembley and the first goal in the game against Wigan that clinched promotion back to the Premier League; maybe my own favourite, because of the slick passing, the speed, the sheer panache and the clattering finish by Barnes. Then there was Hendrick’s wondrous volley after he had controlled it on his thigh and smashed it home from 25 yards. It was the goal of the month but somehow MOTD chose an offside Man Utd goal instead, a scorpion kick that should have been disallowed.

There’s this idea that all goals are good goals and maybe there is some truth in that, but the great ones are those that we remember for years to come, the ones that take us back to the day and the occasion. Whenever I think of Elliott’s the whole magical Wembley day and experience comes back to me. There was nothing magical about the game itself against Bristol City, but the goal most certainly was. Maybe, it too, was another football Viagra moment.

And then Leeds United lost at Sutton to our astonishment on the day that Robbie Fowler reminded us they were a sleeping giant. Sleeping giant or not, if you send half the youth team to play the game, you get what you ask for. Dyche too, made several changes from the side that lost at Arsenal, but at least it was still a team of seasoned pros. Lincoln beat Brighton, Wolves beat Liverpool, and Oxford beat Newcastle reserves. All in all not a bad football weekend was it?