Manchester United hadn’t lost for months in a run of more than 20 unbeaten games. Mourhino’s tactics had stifled Chelsea and seen them off 2-0 so that Chelsea were no longer runaway leaders. The biggest club in the world were in Burnley; their home at Old Trafford a mecca for foreign fans on package tours; all the skips, staff and equipment they brought, enough to fill two dressing rooms. Yep, the circus and Mourhino was back in town.

Meanwhile: Mother Theresa had called a snap general election. It was the welfare cruelty and heartlessness of the Tories versus the economic and internal chaos of Labour. It was Theresa May (a sort of genteel Erdogan) and Boris, versus Jeremy Corbyn (a sort of quiet version of Jerry Lewis) and Diane Abbott. Corbyn and Abbott had a nice ring to it, like Morecambe and Wise, Cannon and Ball or Flanagan and Allen. We’d chuckled at the choice the Americans faced with Trump versus Clinton. But now it was our turn to choose between the lesser of two evils, May versus Corbyn. And that was even before you factored Brexit into the equation. Plenty of folk were wondering if the world would actually get to June 8. And: if Burnley had survived for another season in the Prem it would be just their luck if Trump did indeed press the destruct button.

In two previous Premier visits Man U hadn’t managed to score at Turf Moor, the first occasion in 2009 being a night to remember that none of us there will ever forget thanks to Robbie Blake’s thunderbolt volley. The second game was a bit of a let-down, a not particularly thrilling 0-0 draw, with the one memorable incident when Angel di Maria was given a touchline clattering that lifted him three feet in the air and turned the clock back to the 50s, when wingers were kicked out of the game as a matter of course by the likes of Harold Matther and Arthur Woodruff.

The game at Old Trafford this season was another 0-0 thanks to a superhuman display by Tom Heaton where he pulled off what must surely have been the save of the season. It was disappointing to see that he was not a nomination for the players’ player of the season having made more saves than any other keeper, well into three figures. Of Burnley’s 36 points at the start of the Sunday game, you could argue that a significant percentage of those points were solely down to him. His value was therefore undisputed but goalkeepers rarely become galacticos.

There used to be a story about an overseas goalkeeper called Fokine. By all accounts he was not very good at all and after one game there was the inevitable headline: ‘More Fokine rubbish.’

One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time was Bert Trautmann who signed for Manchester City in 1949. Formerly a German prisoner of war, a paratrooper in the Luftwaffe, served in Russia, and then staying in England on his release as a prisoner, played for St Helens Town. Burnley had expected to sign him but City got there first when they went to his lodgings one evening, stealing a march on Burnley who had arranged to see him in Burnley on the following Saturday. Trautmann’s ‘adviser’ and friend Jack Friar was not there. In the heaps of old 1950s football books down in the cellar I found a tiny, battered paperback that had the story.

Burnley had even arranged for Ministry of Labour representatives to be present at the interview that was planned as Trautmann as an ‘alien’ would need a job as well. Burnley did everything possible for him and fully expected to sign him. Burnley’s vice chairman, George Tate wrote to him afterwards, hugely disappointed, but these were courteous times and the letter sent to him was restrained and polite, a far cry from what might have been said angrily via the press in today’s climate.

I feel you would have been highly satisfied with all we had done and the good prospects for yourself. I had also arranged for the financial aspect for the St Helens club, yourself and all concerned, in the best possible terms. In addition, if so desired, I had arranged to provide a goalkeeper for St Helens. Whatever City have done for you, we could have done better if you had given us a chance, and I honestly feel that had you come on Saturday you would have been very pleased and satisfied. And there would not have been any unpleasant publicity. I was relying on the assurance that you would not do anything except through Mr Friar, or believe me I should have come over again last night.

   However, we’ve ‘had it’ as they say but the invitation to come over here on Saturday, or at any future date, is still extended to you. With best wishes for the future etc etc…

     The reference to ‘unpleasant publicity’ was based on possible reactions to the club signing an ex-Nazi paratrooper. This was still only 1949 and the evidence of war was still visible and tangible. Bitterness and hatred of Germany was still intense. As politely as possible, Tate suggested that it was not too late for Trautmann to change his mind, Tate probably mindful that subterfuge had already taken place. Trautmann’s guide, Jack Friar, had been decoyed to a meeting at the Kingsway Hotel in Manchester to meet City officials but no-one turned up. Friar sat there waiting until nearly 9 o’ clock but meanwhile the City manager and a director arrived at Trautmann’s home and literally wore him down so that he eventually signed for them a little before midnight. Skulduggery in football is nothing new.

Man U along with Everton and Chelsea had all been linked with Michael Keane with Everton currently making the loudest noises. Sean Dyche seemed none too pleased with all the public statements being made about Burnley players and after the Everton game it was apparent that the Keane/Mee partnership and its dependability and strength had been well noticed. Keane might have been the focus of attention, but it was Mee that took the honours, colossus one description of him.

But Dyche, clearly referring to Koemans and Everton, made his feelings clear that when other managers complimented his players or made it clear they were looking at them, it was almost recruitment by stealth, and this was yet more pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. Yes, it was a compliment but it was the bigger, more financially powerful clubs that were the ones that were involved.

Manchester United had played just days before, a Europa League game against Anderlecht. The ideal scenario for Burnley was the game going into extra time and a few injuries that knocked their players out of the Burnley game. The game indeed went into extra time producing a United win and Ibrahimovic and Roja went off injured. Mourhino had been long faced before the game moaning that it was not possible to play his best players in all the games coming up but that as long as they were in the Europa competition and fighting for a top four place he could not play weakened teams. One could almost have felt sorry for him but then you remembered this was the sourest man in football speaking. Within days they had a Thursday game against City in the Manchester derby.

Meanwhile if it was good news for Burnley that Ibrahimovic was out, it was not particularly good to hear that Marcus Rashford was back in top form having scored in three of his last four games after a barren spell that began in September. Mourhino had been recently critical of him (most Man U players had been singled out by him at one stage or another). Much as we wished for a few Man U injuries none of us, however, wanted the bad news that Ibrahimovic suffered cruciate ligament damage and would be out for months. There were stories that he might even decide to retire.

Meanwhile, the day before the game there were only four Premier games but they involved Hull, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Bournemouth. If we thought and hoped that Burnley’s favourable position might be cemented, how wrong could we be? Middlesbrough were clattered 4-0 but they were so far behind anyway it was an almost inconsequential result; but Hull and Swansea both won to take 10-man Hull within three points of Burnley and Swansea within five. However, no need yet to panic Captain Mainwaring. The Swansea result could so easily have been 1-1 but Stoke missed a penalty. This was not Burnley’s day.

Mourhino was still whining about losing players and other players being tired, but Dyche, unfooled, quickly put it in perspective; they have so many good ones anyway and several who can step in and play in various parts of the field. The night before the game the team checked in at the Lowry Hotel in Salford with increased security, extra police and sniffer dogs checking for explosives. The blurb says it’s where things happen for the ‘modern, indulgence generation’ and this is where luxury meets style and vibrancy along with seductive northern fun. The latter in Burnley is a pie and a pint in the Miners. The whole image of the Lowry is elegance and class. Pogba sauntered in, in a hoodie, although no doubt it was top of the range, definitely not from George at Asda. For the Burnley game he elected to go with a sort of mute gingerbread hair tint.

April 23: St George’s Day and thought to be the birthday of William Shakespeare. The heart said a George Boyd winner on his name day, the head said more likely to be a Man U win. Unfortunately it was a game where George had left his sword at home. It was re-union time with United for Keane, Heaton and Robbie Brady. Ben Mee’s family was littered with City fans desperate for Burnley to win, but some of his cousins would be in the United end. Sadly for Ben (and for us) it was a comfortable United win and he was withdrawn at half-time injured.

They could have been two up in the first ten minutes following a weak Rooney shot that possibly Mee got in the way of and a Fellaini rocket header from a corner. They settled for being two up at half-time, both giveaway goals that could have been prevented, the first when Martial burst through from his own half, shrugged off a despairing Barton; should have brought him down and taken the yellow said one of the Nevilles in the pundit role, a view spoken simultaneously by the normally virtuous Mrs T who in her other life as a football expert knows exactly what should be done in situations like this when a player is breaking away. If you were a betting man you’d have backed Martial. Time and age was visibly catching up with Joey as Martial duly won the sprint.

‘We have to make a foul on that one,’ said Dyche. In other words bring the buggar down.

The second was sort of scored by Rooney, sort of because it seemed to be a shot that bobbled between Keane’s legs after involving a half-save from Martial somewhere along the route. We sighed, shrugged, moaned and groaned. It was as good as game over. From that point United kindly allowed Burnley to come into the game in the second half as they strolled around at an almost leisurely pace, whereupon Burnley huffed and puffed but were unable to blow the Man U house down, such was the ease with which they were swatted away. Too often the ball was hoofed up front from the back four, particularly Keane, or whacked up by Heaton, Barnes grappled manfully but little came from this tactic. Only when the ball was played to Gray’s feet or in a way that he could latch onto it, was there any real threat. Meanwhile, United passed and stroked the ball around neatly with technical skill, great first touch and tactical superiority.

‘Huff and puff,’ were in fact Dyche’s description of Burnley’s attempts to compete against this.

And yet, there, sat on the Burnley bench was the most technically gifted player the club has, scorer of two of the best goals seen at Turf Moor, possessing the vision to see an instant pass, create an opening, ping a ball long or short, but not seemingly in the Dyche mould. It cried out for him to be brought on at half-time to provide that bit of class, to provide that bit of the unexpected and flash of creativity. Where we sat, the talk was of what was there to lose, and if you’re not going to use him, why have him on the bench in the first place?

In truth, Burnley were outplayed, out passed, outskilled, outclassed in fact by a side that never really had to get into second gear with Fellaini dominant and Bailly outstanding. It was a game where Burnley failed to get one single shot on target. Many folks were hugely critical coming down the stairs afterwards or on the websites.

But should they be?

‘You can’t always get above where you are,’ Dyche explained as if anticipating criticism. In other words we are what we are, have got as far as we can, and have reached a level, the irony of course being that Burnley were now sliding down from where they were.

‘The current crisis club, slowly sliding down the division’, one website described Burnley with just one win in 11 now and teams below slowly getting them within range. Four games remained after this one. Swansea only needed to win two of them to put Burnley in the bottom three if this poor run were to continue. On the other hand just one win or a couple more draws would see Burnley home. A point or more from the Man U game would have been a bonus. Probably nobody really expected a win.

36 points at one stage was seen as a probable survival total; maybe now it was 38. But survival was still in Burnley’s own hands with winnable points in the final four.







     We were in Tenerife. Trump was squaring up to Assad. Trump was squaring up to Putin. Trump was squaring up to North Korea. He was just one side short of a full square. But worse still, in Golf del Sur, the Russians were after our sunbeds.

Must admit that when we booked this holiday we never thought we’d be heading for safety in the Premier League. It seemed a fair bet that we’d be marooned in the bottom three by Easter. All the pundits thought the same back then and who were we to argue with Merson and Le Tiss and the expertise of Garth Crooks. It didn’t seem to matter, back in September, that we’d miss three games. But astonishingly by the time those games had been played we were on 36 points, well clear of danger, and barring Trump’s gung ho politics and fleet of ships just off North Korea, we’d be effectively 9 points clear with just five games to play and safe for another season.

When we touched down at an arctic Leeds Bradford Airport, Burnley had four points from the three games they’d played. We were in fleeces but others were in just shorts and T-shirts. It never ceases to amaze me that the British holidaymaker comes back in mid-April and thinks it will be warm.

At the time of the Stoke game we were in Zachary’s Restaurant, having arrived that day in the afternoon and already had a couple of hours in the sun and pool. It was Flamenco Night on the small outdoor stage, so between mouthfuls of dinner, stomping feet and clacking castanets, we followed the game on’t internet. With the Flamenco background and stirring music it actually became quite bizarre. As the game wound down, tension increased, the music intensified, the volume was pumped up, the castanets became deafening, and the dancing feet were just a blur.

The heart wanted the win, the head said a dull draw 0-0 maybe, but then George Boyd scored. Allegedly he drinks two cans of Red Bull a day and eats ‘loads of pasta.’ We stared at Mrs T’s phone with a definite degree of incredulity. There was good reason for jangling nerves; the poor spell had dragged on for 7 games. Paul Merson and Jamie Carragher, newly converted Clarets, and Sean Dyche disciples, were worried that Burnley were on the slippery slope down the glass mountain towards the bottom three. But what was truly surreal was that just as the last dramatic guitar chord was struck, the last castanet clacked, the last foot stamp nearly split the stage, the dancers struck their final pose, and the small audience roared and whistled, with perfect timing up flashed the final score on the big TV screen, Burnley 1 Stoke 0. Dancing and football finales perfectly choreographed.

The little shop in the village has all the papers by 8 o’ clock. The routine is the same each day. Pull back the sliding veranda door and smile at the clear blue sky and rising sun. 8. 30 and go down to the shop; get the paper, warm crusty baguettes, and a sausage roll for Master Joe. But the key part is, on the way to the shop, dump towels and gear on the sunbeds by the pool for the day. I am not proud of this. It shouldn’t be this way. The signs say do not reserve sunbeds but these are ignored. By 8. 30 towels are festooned on most of the beds by the water and the bar. And Germans have been replaced by Russians.

There is no shortage of sunbeds but a plumb position is where you can literally roll off the sunbed and into the water, or halloo a passing waiter. Some of them are beneath a bit of shade (even better). Staking out such a bed is therefore a ritual and the Brits are always in there first, masters of the pin a towel to the sunbed technique.     There was never any intention to appropriate sunbeds at 8. 30 but it was when I saw one guy laying towels on 8 beds that I thought right, two can play at that game.

In the days of old we used to stand and chant ‘You’ll never take the Longside,’ at raiding away supporters. At Sunningdale it’s ‘You’ll never take the sunbeds’ to the Russkies. They are reasonably easy to spot. The men are mainly muscled; shaven headed, square faced and firm jawed. They don’t smile much. The women are not particularly attractive, tending to be thin and pale. It is rare to see more than one offspring. The men tend to have a larger than average bulge in their swimmers. I always assume this is either a small Beretta or padding.

So on the Sunday after the draw at Middlesbrough, we lay on our sunbeds and Joe spent a happy 2 hours careering down the inflatable water slide, Sunderland lost and then Leicester. It was a Carlsberg Sunday. We’d been through all the permutations on the Saturday about what might be the best results. A Burnley win at Boro would be perfect and then they’d be within a spit of the winning post. The pundits were assuring us by now that Burnley were well safe but as my pal Joe Mac always says, ‘But we know different.’ Then we worried that Burnley might lose, a natural thought after years of practice. But Hull would lose, we decided, Crystal Palace would lose, Bournemouth ought to lose. And thus on that basis, what did it matter if Burnley lost?

A Saturday morning coffee in a comfy chair by the bar confirmed all our decisions. A win would be too much, we’d settle for a draw but then a most curious thing happened. A Eurowings plane flew over, one of the dozens of different airlines that land just a mile away, and it was the first time we’d seen one, and the tailplane logo was a distinct claret and blue. Does this mean a 1-0 win? Is this an omen? And then blimey another one flew over and the reaction was to think that the signs were pointing to a 2-0 win for Burnley.

A group of West Ham fans had commandeered the telly in the bar. They loved everything about their new stadium until they sat down and saw a game 200 yards away. A Man U fan was in there, a diehard, but confessed he loved the Man City stadium more than Old Trafford, and everything they had done in the surrounding area. ‘I’d never say that back home in Manchester,’ he said. ‘I’d be locked up.’

The Eurowings omen didn’t quite work out but the 0-0 draw was good enough. Reports indicated that not winning was not for the want of trying with Vokes, Brady, Boyd and Mee all going close. Ward was rampant down the left. Lowton made key clearances. It took them to the 36 points that many of us had thought for a while would ensure another Prem season.

John was a US army colonel we met, attached to NATO and based in Brussels. He had his three young kids with him. We exchanged opinions on Trump, Brussels, Brexit, the Italians and the French. Brussels he described as a giant clique of privileged diplomats riding the gravy train and living in splendid luxury; the Italian army the best in the world at running backwards, and the French – ‘I guess we know why they wear brown trousers.’ And the Brits: ‘how on earth did you guys win two world wars?’ All of this was of course said with disarming good humour.

Every so often he said they had Brit nights in which they pretended to be British using the lingo… I say old chap… toodle pip…Bob’s your uncle, and all that stuff. I offered to do a training day if I got some expenses and they flew me over, and teach them some proper stuff – by thi eck… ee by gum… ah’ll sithee … well we mun do summat abart that… what’s up withee thart just a barmpot… where’s mi kecks, and up the Clarets. If someone comes in and says dear God, Trump has just nuked Korea you could look wide eyed and reply, ‘well ah’ll go ter foot of our stairs.’

We were sitting in the deckchairs conveniently placed for parents and grandparents while the kids disappeared in to the wonders of the Lost City in Siam Park, one of the top water and splash theme parks of Europe with 101 ways of getting drenched and paying for the privilege. The Lost City was a huge fun filled place of climbing, sliding and getting soaked. It was a kid’s only zone and a chance for some serious recuperation for exhausted grown-ups after we’d trudged round various other activities with cheerful names such as the Tower of Power or the Mekong Rapids. And it was heaving: just a shuffling mass of crowds meandering from one activity to the next. You might have expected to see at least one Burnley shirt amongst the crowds, but not one did we spot.

‘I’ll sure look out for Burnley results then,’ he said as we parted an hour later, lunch beckoning.

A win at Goodison against Everton was probably too much of a wishful think. Everton had won all their last home games for weeks. Lukaku had scored in every home game for weeks. While they kicked off we were just boarding the flight home so we had no news until landing at 7.15.

‘3 – 1,’ said Mrs T glumly as she looked it up. But: by the time we’d seen a few snatches of the game on TV, read the reports and scanned the Everton websites it all seemed that yet again we’d gone away, played well but failed to get anything out of the game. Everton goal number one was one of those wibbly wobbly things in a crowded 6-yard box that pings around and just about gets over the line despite frantic efforts to clear. The Everton second had Dyche scratching his head at the sheer bad luck involved, that Heaton would undoubtedly have saved but for the shot from Barkley skimming Keane, then glancing Mee and even then going in off the post. In between those two goals Burnley had equalised with a Vokes penalty and on the evidence of the first half the 1-1 scoreline at that point was well merited.

An Everton pen pal, Becky Tallentire, who has written some excellent Everton books, said that in the first half it looked like Burnley had 4 extra players as they simply strangled Everton. Two Burnley headers were cleared off the line by Barkley who chose this game to show his talent and Vokes had other good chances but lack of pace let him down. It was Vokes and Barnes preferred as the two strikers in this game. One could only wonder what Gray and his extra pace might have done with those same chances.

An Everton site (Obstructed View) said nice things about Burnley admitting at the same time that only Vokes’ lack of pace had saved them as he tried to move through the gears away from the last man with the 0 to 60 acceleration of a Toyota Prius that you could outrun in your slippers after a night on the ale. Presumably this was a sample of Scouse wit. And then Obstructed View became really complimentary:

The first half by common consent was pretty dire – by Everton. Their excellent travelling support that yesterday won the ‘Best Away Fans’ award this season were treated to a display that that only served to mystify why they are winless on the road and have only scored 10 goals in the process. This can’t be down to just Vokes and his startling lack of pace. Yesterday, from the first whistle, they harried, closed down our full-backs, especially Baines and gave Schneiderlin no time at all on the ball. Some might say that Barton’s harrying was a little close to the mark but he wasn’t booked. And Clattenburg continued to prove that however much we erm, ‘love him’, that he’s the best ref in the PL by a country mile.

     You have to give credit to Burnley for their performance yesterday and frankly we could have been 2-0 down by half-time easily, had they had a little more quality up front. Why they didn’t start with the pace of Gray I’m not sure. And Barkley extended his floor show to clearing off the line, a feat he managed in the second half as well. I was impressed by Keane but just as impressed by Mee and I’d happily see their double act take a turn down the East Lancs to Goodison next season.

If there was a grumble it was only at the coverage of the game by TV and press. The latter was all about Barkley and not much else after his torrid week following the city centre incident he was involved in and then the Sun article about him. The 30 minutes SKY highlights showed largely Everton and little of Burnley’s chances or their contribution. But the much criticised Barkley was fired up which turned out to be rather unfortunate for an unlucky Burnley. Dyche rarely moans about the lack of luck but he did after this game and who could blame him.

And meanwhile: it turns out there is a pie shop in Seattle, well if not actually in Seattle, in nearby Belle View where the British Pantry does a great pork pie amongst others. This info came from Andrew Wood, an UptheClarets follower from the US. Belle View is about 10 miles from Seattle which may well be a fair trek to get a pie for those living in Seattle. Andrew gets over here every now and then, (two daughters living near London) and lives a complicated life clocking up air miles between the Seattle area and Philadelphia where he works, plus hopping over here to get a game.

He didn’t say if he ever used UNITED airlines, by all accounts the Friendly Airline that if overbooked will just drag you off by the arms and legs if you are the unlucky random chosen one. Mercifully we chose Jet2. This is an airline that has no qualms about throwing groups of 20 off…but only when they’re drunk and disorderly.



It was an astonishing seven weeks since the last home league game. There was a decided absence of Burnley April Fool’s day jokes. Perhaps it was because the day was too serious with the visit of Spurs and Premier League safety so tantalisingly close.

The run of four away games over and two points gleaned. It could so easily have been four. The winner for Swansea in the final moments should have been chalked off by the referee for the blatant push on Mee. How Burnley lost at Liverpool remains one of those just how-did-we-lose-that games?

And as for Sunderland, the point was welcome, but if you ever wanted a fixture to make you squirm then you’d choose Sunderland versus Burnley at the Stadium of Light. It is for good reason that this place has been re-named by observant fans the Stadium of Sh**e. MOTD cameras clearly showed owner’s wife Mrs Ellis Short gently nodding off, eyes closed during the game. Was she embarrassed? Probably not, just miffed she’d actually woken up, I’d imagine.

Jamie Smith in his column was scathing overall: ending with ‘people have spent a fortune travelling to watch the Clarets, they deserve better.’

But Matt Griffin tweeted: ‘Scary to think how much I’ve spent watching Burnley away – but absolutely no regrets.’

Immediately after a game and in the next few hours emotions rule and the mood on the Supporters Club coach was mixed. Some were disappointed saying if we can’t beat a club as poor as Sunderland we won’t win away all season. Others were happy with the point. Underlying it all was frustration that with Sunderland under the cosh in the first half Burnley couldn’t capitalise. One or two were incandescent. Most were just numb and quiet.

Overall: travelling to away games is fine, but the moral is ‘just avoid Sunderland.’

In the cold light of day, anyone with a degree of realism was thankful if not pleased though. At the break there was an 8-point gap. Before the away run it had been 10 but to retain such a healthy distance was a relief. If criticisms after the game had been plentiful then it was still sensible to remember that it was a sort of minor miracle that Burnley weren’t in fact actually rooted in the bottom three. But here they were defying the odds, pundits eating their gloomy, pre-season words, and if we’re honest, surprising us as well. If the game at Sunderland was a stinker (Shearer’s words) then every now and again it’s just a reminder that this is not a team of geniuses. If they were they wouldn’t be at Burnley. Players at Burnley are a mix of the good, the bit better than good, plus Michael Keane and Tom Heaton. To be mid-table, albeit not quite comfortable, at this stage was some achievement.

This is a collection of parts that Dyche has gelled, got them working, gets the maximum out of them, makes them work for each other and gets them grinding out results. Every now and then they put on an away show that has been better than average, one example being at Liverpool, so that then we are disappointed if in the next game they have not got the win. But we shouldn’t be; because the reality is they are not world beaters and never will be. Staying in the Premier League if they pull it off will have been a triumph of over-achievement and just as surprising as Leicester winning the title. It will have defied all the laws of finance and resources.

The measure for me and Mrs T was did we sit down, tuck in, celebrate the point, and enjoy the M&S Chinese banquet dinner we had. And yes we did. We munched and chomped away contentedly, but the abiding image remained, Mrs Short slowly nodding off in front of 40,000 spectators at Sunderland.

Scott Arfield had a particularly good game there and an in-depth, full-page article about him in the Times by Henry Winter was revealing. Burnley fans knew some while ago about the death of his close friend Craig Gowans in the youth team at Falkirk, the result of a training ground tragic accident. He still can’t get the images out of his mind and as a tribute wears the 37 shirt. But less well known, wrote Winter, is the suicide of his best friend Chris Mitchell, the result of depression just two hours before the triumphant 3-0 win at Charlton that sealed the title. Arfield’s wife knew but kept it from him until the day after so that he would play the Charlton game unaffected. Somehow he then forced himself to do the open top bus parade and awards night but he was in bits, he says. It took him a long time to get his head into some semblance of normality.

We, the fans, watch the players on a Saturday and never know why they might be having a bad game. They’re just like us. If we’ve had bad news, been up all night with the bairn, had a raging toothache, got worries; we can all have a bad day at the office. Footballers are no different.

There couldn’t have been a Burnley supporter anywhere who wasn’t delighted to see Michael Keane get his first England cap against Germany. He looked as though he’d been a regular for years rather than a rookie making his debut. Critics were agreed this was an assured and polished performance with some of the pundits making him England’s best player on the night. With Chelsea, Everton and then Liverpool linked with a summer offer of £20million, his time at Burnley looked even more limited after the England game.

But £20million: derisive we said, especially bearing in mind that John Stones went for £50million from Everton to Man City. Added to that is the mystery of is there a sell-on clause or not, payable to Man United in the event of a sale? One day it’s yes and the next day it’s no. Somebody somewhere knows, the ones who made the deal in the first place, but nobody is saying owt.

The Stones price was ridiculous and the result of a cash-happy City going mad with such an inflated price. But if that was the yardstick then all of us hoped that the negotiators at Burnley would demand something similar, not because any player is worth that artificial amount, but because rightly or wrongly this was the ‘value’.

‘Best ever Burnley centre-half’ was one proclamation on a website. That’s arguable and his partnership with Ben Mee is one reason why Keane has looked so good at Burnley. They complement each other and fit like two gloves, or like a pair of comfy slippers in the way they just match and dovetail. Ben Mee is the unlucky one of the partnership, gets less of the plaudits, less of the publicity and fanfare. Keane came from Man United which gives him an immediate leg up in the commodity market. There have been constant reminders that this is where he came from and Rio Ferdinand has been his mentor. It gives him the aura of a bit of glamour.

Tottenham next, second in the table, silky smooth football, Dele Alli, only three defeats; we looked for omens and portents to help decide would this be a good day or bad. One Spurs game was the last game in Burnley’s first Prem season when Spurs took a 2-0 lead, and then Burnley won 4-2 after a second-half performance that made us ask why the hell they hadn’t played like that in other home games they’d lost after Coyle left. It left feelings of ‘what might have been’ if they’d just won one more of those games when they just didn’t turn up.

Long before that in the days of Stan Ternent, a pal and me had sponsored the matchball in the game against Gillingham and the dog, Scamper the Scottie, we thought had ruined the day. There we were, all dressed up to the nines, about to set off, when what did the dog do but hoik a large dead, smelly fish out of the pond and carry it triumphantly to the back lawn. On the lawn he patted it around, played football with it, lobbed and tossed it in the air, juggled with it, jumped on it and then rolled all over it wallowing in the pong. For good measure he then ate most of it. The entrails when we examined them would have given any witch doctor hallucinations for a fortnight, as well as what we thought was a Burnley defeat prediction. In fact they won, so that since then I’ve always looked for remains of dead chewed up animals on the lawn on a matchday morning hoping for a repeat omen, but since the demise of the Scottie that fish was the last one. We’ve had foxes chewing up pigeons and cats disembowelling mice, but none on a matchday.

Without entrails them, on the Tottenham day, there was therefore only guesswork to go by. It seemed best to predict a draw with the realisation that it was perfectly feasible for Burnley to survive in the Premier League without actually winning another game. All they possibly needed was just five more draws, maybe six, from the remaining nine games. This would lead to a regular quiz question: which was the team that never won a game after the end of January, and still weren’t relegated.

40 or so Dutch clarets picked the wrong game to come and see Burnley. John Gibault over from Seattle picked the wrong game to see Burnley. One could only hope he’d see a better result when Stoke turned up for the next game.

At half-time a draw in front of a packed house seemed a reasonable prediction. Tottenham had been neat, tidy, smooth and classy but other than Alli missing an absolute sitter had created little. Heaton had been a spectator whilst Lloris at the other end saw a fair bit of action although to be fair nothing too threatening. With Spurs playing well within themselves and Burnley players lacking real threat, nobody could have called it a humdinger of a half, but nevertheless it was absorbing and well balanced.

Sean D played safe and chose the reliable but pedestrian Arfield and Boyd, willing workers we know, happy to run and track back, but as well we know creating goal chances with wing play, getting to the by-line and pinging crosses over, and flair is not in their locker. Meanwhile the skilled and creative pair of Brady and Defour were sat on the bench. With the score still 0-0 after 45 minutes it all seemed justified, sensible and safe. Just keep it up lads, we thought, a point will do against a side like this and second in the table.

And then it all went wrong. Barnes had been well held, he had posed little threat, and Tottenham feathers remained unruffled. But it was Andre Gray that was hooked. Frankly, many of us were puzzled. Rough and raw that he might be, nevertheless he had stretched the Spurs back four; he had visibly worried them and kept them playing deep. We shook our heads when he went off and allegedly neither was he best pleased according to Bob Lorders.

Maybe this means we’ll go 4 – 5 – 1 we wondered and Defour will come on, with Barton and Hendrick. This was a game that seemed made for him and his clever passes and subtle intelligence. But no: on came Vokes, something more robust to affect the game, said Dyche afterwards, To make a twin battering ram double spearhead seemed logical. But spearhead implies something sharp. Sadly he and Barnes were mostly blunt.

With neither Arfield nor Boyd able to get crosses over that might have been nodded home by the twin centre-forwards, the word lumbering sprang to mind. And then, with little to occupy them at the back, Spurs pushed up more and more, applied more pressure, and took a 1-0 lead. From that point on, the game was over; in truth it was a poor first goal to concede with Hendrick getting into a bit of a mickle and muckling the clearance in schoolboy fashion. Thank you very much, said Eric Dier and slammed it home.

It changed the whole feel of the game, said Dyche. In fact the airwaves and websites in the evening crackled and hummed with the general view that the game was changed the minute Gray was hooked. SD was articulate as ever after the game with his interpretation of events but the bottom line was simple enough; that Spurs were at a different level and so were their silky-smooth players. What the Sunday Telegraph called ‘brave resistance’ was simply not enough.

Far too late, on came Brady and Defour. To yet more puzzlement, Brady was on the right and Defour was on the left. China must look more and more tempting to the Belgian. And by now, Spurs were simply making merry in the wide open spaces, old-boy Trippier more and more influential, with Barton and Hendrick were almost invisible. When Spurs went 2-0, Barton losing the ball in midfield, it was as if Burnley had given up as Spurs began to provide a football lesson, could have scored at least two more, and the away end sang louder and louder. The Turf Moor fortress myth was well and truly shattered.

What had once been a ten point gap; then had been whittled to eight, was down to five. The last win was the end of January. The media was almost joyful in its ‘I told you so’ voice that Burnley were now back in the relegation scrap.

John Gibault joined us for Steak Baguettes (recommended) at the Kettledrum and described how over there they don’t do Christmas Pud or pie shops. It put things in perspective. I couldn’t decide what was worse – the Burnley defeat or a land without pie shops.