In Praise of the humble Mince Pie

Joey Barton


January 6: Christmas officially over at Moorland View. The tree packed away down in the basement, the lights and baubles up in the loft, half of the Christmas cake in the freezer for a rainy day, decorations packed away in boxes, and the final ritual – the last mince pie eaten. The tin was empty. It was a sad, sad sight.

You can keep your Christmas cake, you can stuff your turkey; it is the mince pie, once called minched pies, with a hunk of cheese that is the spirit of Christmas. It is estimated that upwards of 10million are sold each year. I had twelve although to be fair this was not all at once. In olden days they were traditionally much bigger and oblong shaped; clearly a tradition worth reviving.

Mrs T cleaned the lounge, re-plumped the cushions, dusted and polished. I followed with the G-tech, not a crumb left on the floor, the house sparkled. That’s it, done, gone for another year. 11 months to go before I can scoff mince pies again. You wonder what will happen in that time – automatic promotion or top six, or maybe not even top six but just a top ten. Or will this turbulent world end up in smoke? The Middle East is a powder keg; North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, Donald Trump could become the next US President. And even worse, Paul Pogba and Balotelli could return to the Prem.

We used to feel excited on Third Round Day when it was one of the big football days of the year. I met up with ex-groundsman Roy Oldfield again and he was telling me how on Mondays on Cup draw day they would all crowd into his little room to listen to the radio. Any players at the ground, George Bray, Jimmy Holland, the laundry ladies, all of them would squeeze in and gather round. Roy had two rooms; the other was at the end of the Stand where he kept his mower and sundry equipment. His ‘office’ basically just a table, a cupboard and three chairs and on the table were the important things, mugs, teapot, and supplies of tea, coffee and sugar.

Some of the apprentices ate their sandwiches in there. Everybody called in for a brew or was invited including Brian Clough one day when he arrived looking for the secretary, Albert Maddox. He was then the manager at Brighton and Hove Albion after his 6 years at Derby County, was a household name, was never off the TV, and was looking to sign Harry Wilson and Ronnie Welch and was none too pleased there was no-one in the building. He’d heard the sound of Roy’s mower and went out to find him and when Roy saw who it was, did what came naturally to him – he invited him in for a brew.

‘Well, they’ve probably gone to get some lunch,’ said Roy.

‘Lunch,’ answered Clough, ‘I don’t get any bloody lunch,’ whereupon Roy went across the road and got them both pie and chips while Clough sipped on his mug of tea. Eventually Clough did get Wilson and Welch for a reported £70,000 which no doubt Bob Lord thought was good business for two lads on the fringe of things.

When Harry Potts returned to the club for his second spell as manager he too would frequently call in Roy’s little room for a chat and a brew. ‘A lovely man,’ said Roy, ‘I never ever saw or heard him lose his temper.’

If Roy’s bench where he sat during a match had been near the dugouts, that’s when he would certainly have seen Harry lose his rag, and Harry’s head was frequently cut or bruised when he had suddenly jumped up and hit his head on the dugout roof, frequently incensed when a Burnley player was on the wrong end of a brutal tackle.

‘When he came for a brew he would always say: “that’s just how I like it Roy.”

No matter how I made it, if I put sugar in he’d say: “that’s just how I like it Roy.” If I didn’t put sugar in he’d say: “Roy that’s just how I like it.” It didn’t matter if it was strong or weak, milky or hardly any milk, he’d still say, “Roy, lovely brew, that’s just how I like it.”’

Of late Burnley hadn’t been doing too well in the Cup and when Middlesbrough’s name came out of the hat, and to make it worse it was an away game, you could almost hear the resigned sigh of anti-climax.

January transfer-window madness started as well with all the associated rumours and gossip and within days Keane was going to Everton for £19million with next up a £5million bid for Tom Heaton from Swansea City. Agbonlahor was coming here from Aston Villa; Judge was coming from Brentford along with Tarkowski, and from Bournemouth Jann Kermogant was on his way. These were exciting times. And then the big news, it had to happen; the first mention of the elusive Henri Lansbury came on January 5th. The collective groan was heard as far away as Bacup. Jordan Orbita of Reading, Will Keane of Man United on loan at Preston, Slovenian international midfielder Urban Zibert, Paddy O’ Guinness from Sligo; the names came one after the other. Next was Luke Pennell of Milton Keynes, Paddy McNair on loan from Man United (but rebuffed according to The Times), Leon Britton from Swansea on loan…

Onto Friday 8 January: a bid of £2million for Derby’s Craig Bryson accepted… a bid of £3.5million made for Henri Lansbury (aaaarrrgh)… a swoop (love the word) for PNE’s Daniel Johnson… strong favourites to sign Patrick Bamford on loan from Chelsea…

Meanwhile amidst all this transfer exhilaration and anticipation and wondering which name would crop up next (Aiden McGeady of Everton actually), there was a small FA Cup game to play at Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough: where you can still find clubs that say MEN ONLY IN THE SNOOKER ROOM.

It was only the third time the two clubs had met in the Cup and Burnley had won both, in 1913 and 1947, the latter being hugely controversial when on an icebound pitch at Turf Moor, Burnley won a replay on their way to Wembley with a single goal that Middlesbrough disputed for the next two decades and more, with the strong likelihood that anyone up there in their 90s who might just have seen the game, probably is still grumbling about.

Snow on the top of Pendle Hill and it was the first of three away games in the space of seven days involving 1,000 miles of travel so that Sean D had suggested he would need to make changes to ensure that players got enough recovery time between games. Never one to complain about playing games close together, this time the fact that there were three, all involving travel and overnights, was a tad different.

‘Having a cup of tea in Middlesbrough before the game,’ Facebooked John S. ‘Suspect it might be the highlight of my day, why do I do it? For another group there was an even bigger highlight with a breakdown and a change of coach.

‘Awful, but somehow 1-1,’ Facebooked Martin B at half-time.

‘First shot on goal after being hammered for 44 minutes,’ reported Les L.

‘Playing rubbish, lucky to be 1-1 at half-time,’ messaged Janice C.

‘How the hell that’s 1-1 I don’t know, should be 5-0 down,’ Laura G tweeted at half-time.

Meanwhile just a couple of miles away from home, Farsley Celtic were winning 4-0 at half-time. I’d actually wondered about taking Joe along but thought no it had dull 1-1 written all over it. Tom Ritchie on the estate here and a big Farsley fan runs a twitter group for us experts who make our weekly predictions. I am currently joint bottom of the group of ten. Even his mum is above me.

Sean D had made changes. In came Darikwa, Ulvestad and Hennings. Barton and Arfield were on the bench. Gray was not in the squad having suffered a broken finger. SD had been true to his word about the need for changes with all the games coming up.

Funny thing tradition: we might only have played Boro just twice in the Cup since 1913 but the habit of beating them continued. Unbelievably, astonishingly, (the words of people there) Burnley scored a second at a ground where no other club had scored for months and went on to win the game. A mis-hit shot by Boyd was latched onto by full-back Ward and he smashed the ball into the net from somewhere over his shoulder. The 1,275 who had braved the rain and spray filled roads went wild. John S and his cup of tea were not the only highlight of the day.

Funny how things work out: Middlesbrough, invincible at home, only conceded two goals at home all season, top of the Division by four points, and they lose in the FA Cup. How predictable is that? It’s just the way football works but few if any Burnley fans could ever have been confident of a win. ‘A real coupon buster,’ said Dyche who said afterwards he had not been pleased at half-time and had a few quiet words, maybe a bit like Tony Soprano, just a word and a stare probably does the trick. Whatever he said or the way he said it, it worked. Everyone was delighted with the result which pre-match seemed about as likely as the new theory that Hitler escaped from his Berlin bunker to Tenerife where he lived ‘til he was 90.

‘Far better second half from Burnley,’ tweeted Chris Boden: ‘Looked more solid and kept Boro at arm’s length, through to fourth round for first time since 2011.’ In fact Burnley could have scored a third but Boyd’s shot was straight at the ‘keeper. Those that were there raved on Twitter or FB over the Ulvestad second-half performance. Heaton, too, was outstanding. But for him Nugent would have scored yet again against Burnley.

Fitting too, and justice, that the Hennings goal in first-half added time was thanks to the time added on for the treatment Darikwa had to receive when his head was clattered in a heavy challenge from defender George Friend. Just sometimes, justice prevails and football has a way of working out OK.

January 12 and MK Dons day: Tarkowski’s name came up again, expressing an interest in joining Burnley it said, and keen to return to his native north-west. ‘But clubs and owners play hardball,’ said Sean D, ‘selling clubs are powerful, people aren’t bothered about debt.’Burnley’s 1000-mile tour of the UK continued on Tuesday with the game at Milton Keynes whilst Swansea, allegedly, were to bid £12.5million for Andre Gray, said the Daily Mail.

Winter seemed to have arrived at last with snow and frost instead of rain. We woke on matchday to the news that Bolton Wanderers are looking to sell their car parks to raise some money; Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch are to get married and Van Gaal was still manager of Man United even after Paul Scholes’s withering comments after their last game.

Mrs T and I were in need of a quiet night having been to see the Quentin Tarantino film ‘The Hateful Eight’ the night before. It’s a 3-hour western, a sort of Agatha Christie slow-burning, who-dunnit (or at least who’s gonna shoot who at the end) with shotguns, six-shooters, close-ups of bloodied faces and exploding heads, cussin’ and glares and glowers, and all set in either a stagecoach for the first bit, and then a fixed scene like a stage set, inside the ice-bound Minnie’s Haberdashery, a sort of Wyoming frontier motel with stagecoaches instead of Cadillacs. With that special Dolby surround-sound we came home deafened but spellbound at the climactic blood-fest and gory hanging. By the end the walls were dripping with blood, the floor covered in entrails, people crawling around groaning, a bit like the Chelsea dressing room no doubt in Mourhino’s final days.

Andre Gray was back in the side; now it was Newcastle United said to be ready to make an audacious bid. However what we thought would be a quiet night snoozing with Sky Sports in the background and maybe a dogged 1-0 win became anything but as the goals thundered in at MK Dons. Five! Did anyone really expect a 5-0 turnover? There was no time at all for dozing off as the goals thundered in keeping us wide awake and Burnley moved up to fourth place. The biggest away win since 1947 said SKY. Result of the night said The Football League. There were a couple of away sixes in ’62 if I remember right but they conceded two in those games as well. The first 5-0 away win since ’47; that’s some achievement with five different players scoring.

Barton scored his first for Burnley robbing a dawdling MK player and then striding on to rifle home an unstoppable shot. The pick of the night was surely Vokes, dummying one player, skipping between two more, galloping on head down for the area, and then coolly slotting past the ‘keeper. Lowton, Gray and Boyd completed the perfect evening to make Burnley now the division’s top scorers.

‘Perfect performance… a brilliant night… ran them ragged… clinically put to the sword… a delirious second-half…’ were just a few of the comments on one of those nights that comes along if you’re lucky, just once every 70 years.

A game of trench warfare



We all have a few laughs at the expense of Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United on a regular basis. Now it was Man United. Will Van Gaal last the season at Man U? Who knows, this is a poor Man U side at the moment. But something about Man United that Denis Law said made me laugh as well.

‘Would the side that you played in beat the current side?’ Law was asked.

‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘1-0’.

‘Only 1-0,’ the interviewer asked, ‘you surprise me.’

‘Well we’re all in our seventies now,’ said Law.

Van Gaal then announced that it had been a good year at Man U if you ignored December. It was a bit like saying the 80s were a good time at Burnley if young ignored years ’84 to ’90.

In past diaries I’ve brought you reports from various eateries: The Queen at Cliviger, The Kettledrum, Nino’s (haven’t been there for a while now), The Stubbing Wharf at Hebden Bridge, The Shepherd’s Rest at Lumbutts up above Todmorden and The Waggon and Horses at Cornholme.

In Burnley, Palazzo seems to be the new ‘in’ place and the restaurant to be seen in. But we tried somewhere new on the way home from the Ipswich game – The Hare and Hounds at Todmorden. It’s just out of Tod centre on the Burnley road and when last we heard as we watched the QPR game, largely bored, the water was rising in the car park, the Fire Service was on the way, and diners were making their way to their cars and getting soggy socks and wet feet. Nevertheless, we’d heard good reports about it so in we were booked in after the Ipswich game.

The site dates back to the seventeenth century and developed into a farmhouse when Tod was just a marshy valley and folks scraped a rural living. The stone fireplace is original. ‘Todmorden’ allegedly means marshy valley of the fox. £150,000 was spent on refurbishment and the place was opened by the Mayoress, Steph Booth and the two Thwaites dray horses Wainwright and Bomber. Old Bob Lord in his much younger days once had a horse called Kitchener that pulled his meat cart around the streets of Burnley.

We can’t imagine now how important horses used to be in everyday life years ago. The wagonette that the triumphant Burnley Cup team of 1914 paraded in from Rosegrove Station was pulled by magnificent horses. The town was filled with stone drinking troughs, stables, cart sheds, hay lofts and steaming middens. The noise of horses and wheels on cobblestones filled the streets. There were fish carts, butcher’s carts, fruit and veg carts, cabs, wagons, vans, box carts. Many were railway company vehicles or belonged to the Coop and the breweries. Huge Clydesdale horses pulled the heaviest of them.

Even in the late 40s and early 50s when I was a nipper in Todmorden I can remember the CO-OP coal wagons and the stables round the back of the CO-OP buildings on Dale Street. My father kept his car in one of them for years. Above the car was the hay loft and on the wall the great huge iron hay racks. All of these buildings including the long row of CO-OP shops are now gone; the furniture store, the men’s clothiers, the butchers, the general provisions store and all the rest, and in their places is housing.

Home to Ipswich Town: one manager said it was a tight game. The other one, McCarthy, said it was a great game. His summary was spot on; a tough game between two tough teams, competitive, neither side giving an inch, few chances and even fewer shots on target. He didn’t mean it was a great game in the sense that it was filled with dazzling football; but in the sense that this was all blood and thunder, up and under, in yer face, no quarter given and none asked.

It was a strange game in fact, short on football, but never dull, short on class but never boring. This was trench warfare and all the more absorbing for that. Ipswich came with one aim and that was not to lose. They very nearly did, however. Gray in the first half missed a glorious opportunity to put Burnley 1-0 up but from roughly the penalty spot side footed Kightly’s splendid low cross wide of the post.

Then, also in the first half, Burnley had what seemed a perfectly good goal disallowed when Ben Mee headed home from the corner. Why this was disallowed will remain a mystery. If it was impeding of the Ipswich goalkeeper there was not a Burnley player near him as Mee headed the ball from the horizontal position just a couple of feet above the ground. Stephen Ward and Andre Gray are the only other Burnley players anywhere near and both are being held by Ipswich defenders. If anything the keeper was impeded by his own players.

The referee afterwards said there were two fouls. Mee could only imagine it was his follow-up to the header when the goalkeeper went to ground. But, if there was any contact between Mee and any defender as he scored, it was absolutely nothing in comparison to what Ipswich defenders had got away with the whole game.

If there was any touch by any Burnley player on any other Ipswich player the decision made a mockery of the continual obstruction of Burnley players throughout the game, particularly Andre Gray, by Ipswich defenders. We lost count of the number of times that Gray was manhandled, mauled and molested so that he ended up on the floor. We lost count of the number of times he was gripped, groped or grabbed so that he was clearly impeded. And on every occasion the referee simply ignored these obstructions. Twice he was set to break clear until an arm wrapped round him pulled him down.

In the second half there was another great opportunity to go ahead. Gray did all the hard work and tricked his way along the by-line to within a few feet of the post. Burnley players were lurking on the edge of the 6-yard box waiting for the pull-back. It never came, Gray wildly choosing to blast the ball straight against the ‘keeper with an impossible shot, in his own attempt at glory. All he had to do was lift his head and see the players in better positions. Maybe he did but chose to ignore them.

‘If ever Mick McCarthy is appointed Burnley manager I’ll throw my season ticket on the pitch. A display of anti-football if ever there was one,’ was one comment. Those of us who ever saw him play can be forgiven for thinking it was as if he was back on the field himself. Hard as nails, sophisticated he was not. Thou shalt not pass was his creed and he has instilled it into all of his players. Astonishingly not one Ipswich player was booked even though these obstructions were so regular you could have set your clock by them. Yet two Burnley names went into the book.

If in doubt hoof it out seemed to be the Ipswich ploy. Head tennis was continuous. Passing moves were at a premium. The ball was lumped, humped and pumped incessantly. It was frequently excruciating to watch (scruffy said Dyche) yet it was still compelling such was the level of commitment and effort.

‘I loved the game,’ added McCarthy. ‘It was an honest match, no whinging from either side. There were some robust challenges but the players just got on with it. It was like a blast from the past.’

In that respect he was spot on. We watched a referee allow Ipswich players to hinder and obstruct, to wrap their arms around people, and to be blatantly physical so it was like watching games from past decades when players were barged and wrestled without protection.

There was a classic example of what went on all game when it was either Vokes or Gray who received a blatant two handed shove in the back by the touchline that was ignored.   In this sanitised game that we watch these days it’s a surprise to see it allowed especially when the Burnley goal was disallowed for an invisible foul. Like many others I watched on the Youtube replays over and again and for the life of me could see no infringement. It would have been a travesty had Ipswich won; a crime against football. Thank goodness they didn’t. It would have been a miserable journey home.

It was referee Bankes who received the biggest cheer of the day when at last he gave a free kick against one of the Ipswich defenders deep into the game. It was a roar big enough that our chums the Sutcliffes might have heard way up the road at Towneley. It was an ovation that was a big as anything that greets a goal such was the abysmality of his consistently dire performance.

The point about the 89th minute substitutions escaped most if not all of us. The gist of several comments was that the use of substitutes is very much Sean D’s Achilles heel. Gray by fair means or foul was well held but to be fair to him he must have felt he was playing against an octopus. Vokes for a big man has minimal physical impact. We couldn’t help thinking, oh for a fit blood-and-guts Barnes to dish some of the physical treatment back to unscrupulous centre-backs, to make them think twice about getting too close. Hennings could have been brought on far earlier to make use of his quickness, pace and control. The one shot he had in the final seconds dipped too late. Taylor came on in the 89th minute as well, presumably in the vain hope that a free-kick opportunity might miraculously present itself on the edge of the box. With this referee that possibility was largely zilch, about as likely as George Osborne investigating the banks, or Iain Duncan-Smith being kind and helping the poor.

Dyche was pleased that this was the ninth clean sheet of the season, three of them in the last four games. I was pleased with the hearty and restorative pub grub at the Hare and Hounds. Three of us had the steak and ale pie with a thick pastry top that was manna from heaven with the extra gravy. Mash was my preference to chips, mash to absorb the meat juices and scoop up with the succulent steak. Others had the haddock and chips, the haddock the size of a small whale. And, under a tenner, which for me is outstanding for food of this quality.

Mrs T says my football stuff takes up too much room in the house. And then another parcel arrives and this newest one is a magnificent book, large A4 format, The Heyday of the Football Annual. Published by Constable it’s a beautifully put together tribute to the football annuals that many of us received as presents when we were kids years ago, and folk like me still collect today. The best remembered are the Charles Buchan Football Monthly and the Topical Times annuals. Border Bookshop in Todmorden on Halifax Road has an upstairs room with dozens of them.

It was Christmas Day in 1959 when legions of schoolboys up and down the country un-wrapped the first issue of the Topical Times annual. On the cover Bobby Charlton is smacking a leather ball out of a pillar-box red background. There had been other annuals before this but this particular book heralded the golden age of the football annual. Then, as the sixties progressed, shelves in bookshops, Woolworth’s and local newsagents began to bulge with titles reflecting the expanding and exciting world of football.

All of these annuals were educational and insightful taking us into changing rooms, onto the pitch, behind the scenes, lounges, boardrooms and into players’ and managers’ heads. Grainy photographs in the first annuals let us see the effort on faces, the power of tackles and the melees and scrums of the penalty areas. Hand coloured full page illustrations brought vividness and brightness to a game that we largely viewed in black and white back then. We might have been Burnley supporters but we learned about every club up and down the land.

We could learn about not just the big clubs, Arsenal, Manchester United or Tottenham, but the little clubs, Forfar Athletic or Doncaster Rovers. If one of these annuals contained a Burnley feature it was all the more treasured. As schoolboys we queued at the players’ entrance to get autographs from the likes of Ray Pointer and Jimmy Robson, Andy Lochhead or Brian O’ Neil. Into the 70s and it was Paul Fletcher, Colin Waldron or Frank Casper.

They took us to places like Dundee and Carlisle, Scunthorpe and Portsmouth. We read about which players grew Chrysanthemums as a hobby, kept budgerigars, went fishing or had tropical fish tanks, what TV programmes they watched, drank tea down at the local café, (speaking of which one of the pictures is of Dave Thomas, Steve Kindon and John Murray sitting at a table in a local café.) Pages were graced with pictures of Tommy Lawton, Billy Wright, Johnny Haynes, Albert Quixall, Albert Johanneson, Derek Dougan, Laurie Cunningham and so many others.

I have a basement with shelves filled with them – nostalgia at its very best.

A Boxing Day washout

Stamford Bridge


It was an email from The Forest of Dean that set me thinking. Martin Green had just been reading about the times we threw away a 2-0 lead in the last Premiership season. For some reason his mind went back to January 1978 and a game at Chelsea. It was an FA Cup game and Burnley had lost 6-2. Brian Hall was also a player at Burnley then and had played 51 games for the club, although he didn’t feature in that particular game. He sadly passed away in December 2016.

The 1970s: Hot Pants and Top of the Pops, Maxi Skirts, The Osmonds, Bay City Rollers, tank tops, flares and kipper ties, The Sex Pistols, Space Hoppers, Chopper Bikes, decimalisation and Margaret Thatcher the first woman PM.

Bovver Boys, bovver boots and platform shoes, Pan’s People, The Bee Gees, Lulu and Maurice Gibb, skinheads, Triumph Stags and Concorde, Band on the Run and playboy Best. Adamson and the Team of the Seventies, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, miners’ strikes and Saltley Colliery, hippies and rock festivals, Ronnie Wood and the Rolling Stones.

Mastermind, Mick Jagger and Bianca, John Conteh and David Bedford, Simon Dee, Bob Stokoe dancing at Wembley, Revie and Leeds, Kevin Keegan and Alf Ramsey, Jackie Stewart and Donny Osmond, Princess Anne and Mark Philips, James Hunt and Elton John, David Cassidy, Ford Capris, Joe Bugner and Muhammad Ali, The FA Cup and Chelsea 6 Burnley 2.

The Goodies and Tiswas, Labour and Harold Wilson, Chris Evert, Nastase, Borg and Jimmy Connors, European Cup and Liverpool, European Cup and Nottingham Forest, Punk and rebellion, striking firemen, test tube babies, The Sweeney, Seve Ballesteros, Morecambe and Wise, Johnny Rotten, The Troubles and N Ireland, murder and Lord Mountbatten, Fawlty Towers, Coronation Street and Hilda Ogden.

And the email from Martin reminiscing about a 70s game:

In the 70s we had an FA Cup-tie at Stamford Bridge in January 1978. I was in London on a 2-day midweek trip to the Hotel Olympia Exhibition with my year group from Blackpool Catering College and just by chance the Saturday postponed cup-tie was hastily re-arranged for the Wednesday. Most of our well-heeled group ventured to the West End for some culture in Theatre land but a group of four ventured to Stamford Bridge for culture of a different kind. There was Jonny Johnstone from Hapton (Claret), Fletch from Rochdale (Evertonian), and Ian the Manc (red land). We duly paid on the gate to stand on what was no better than a building site in foul conditions with a bunch of very hardy souls from NE Lancs.

Cumbrian Herdwicks would have risked sheltering in The Shed but not us, students dressed in jeans, polo shirts and fashionable nylon jackets resembling bin liners. The club had used the programme from the Saturday but by kick-off it was so soggy that it was consigned to the bin.

We did stay to the final whistle in true die-hard style but I do remember it took us two days to dry and thaw out. The only other time I can remember being so cold, wet and miserable with only a smallish posse of Clarets in attendance was a Friday night at Southend in the Bond era, when another programme disintegrated after another thorough soaking.

From the 70s I remember a 1-1 draw versus Hull City at the old Boothferry Park in the promotion season of 72/73 when this was supposed to be the Team of the Seventies. Since then there have been other significant games against Hull; the last day of the old Longside was the day Hull City came along. A dire game against them saw the end for Steve Cotterill when it was clear he had got BFC as far as he could. And since then, Burnley have won nine out of the last ten games against them, a quite phenomenal record. Today the Burnley team has players with names like Dave, Tom, Matt, Sam and Ben; Hull have Akpoh, Diomande, Odubajo, Elmohamedy, Jahraldo and Hernandez.

What a good job we had a cracker of a Christmas Day. And in said crackers were gems such as… what do you call a multi- storey pig pen… a styscraper. Why did the man sleep under the car… so he could wake up oily in the morning? What is the fastest fish – a motor pike? Why did the tomato blush- because it saw the salad dressing? These were in an expensive box of crackers; I’d hate to buy a cheap one.

Over Christmas we watched the final Downton, the Downton Christmas Special now having taken over the old Morecambe and Wise slot that we all sat glued to in years gone by. It was a masterpiece of beautifully crafted glossy TV Soap. Everybody got a happy ending except the old Butler, Carson, who discovered he had a severe case of the shakes. Burnley fans over the years will know the feeling. Carson was unable to pour the wine or the brandy so severe was his condition and the old chap was led out to pasture on a pension in his estate cottage. Barrow, he who was once such an underhand sneak but was now reformed, was instantly appointed Butler in a sugary ending that was just pure schmaltz. The only bit I couldn’t get my head round was snooty Mary happily accepting that her ex-racing car driver and new husband was to be a second hand car dealer in the town.

Boxing Day was an absolute washout with horrendous rain and floods throughout the county, plus a defeat at Hull. 2,400 supporters braved the weather and rising waters to get to there. Their journeys home were marked by diversions and lengthy delays as the Calder Valley slowly disappeared under the rising river and places all around Burnley finished up feet under water.

Having got there, their loyalty was rewarded with a display from the Clarets allegedly as bad as anything seen for an age although at half time one commentator said that this was a game that could have gone either way. The only other praise came from another commentator who described them as nice going sideways and backwards. It was another game where there were just two shots on target. This was now three defeats in five games, seven points from eight games, and was a tough one to take, said Dyche.

Comments were generally blunt… that performance was as about as bad as it gets… quite embarrassing… a horror show… I think this was one of the poorest matches I have seen Burnley play. They could have lost by six… Where the heck is Ulvestad – the wide players are producing nothing… the day from hell, floods, sinkholes, long tailbacks and a fruitless day… predictable inept tactics… second half like watching the Benny Hill Show…changes need to happen or we are looking not at top six but top ten… shocking at the moment, inept and dull to watch… we could have Suarez up front and we’d still hoof the ball… where was the Burnley that took Charlton apart…

One-paced and one-dimensional, the Clarets got what they deserved for a game plan that basically involved sitting deep and smashing it long. There’s nothing wrong with banking up away from home but the fact that Burnley were forced to adopt such rudimentary tactics is a worrying symbol of decline. When the Clarets went up in 2013, the pace of Trippier and Ings allowed them to threaten any side in the division, home or away. These legs have not been adequately replaced and with Andre Gray looking jaded, the dynamism that was once their hallmark is badly lacking. The resulting caution – intentional or not – suggest January reinforcements are essential. The Football League Paper

Monday: Common sense said keep clear of Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, places that were waist high in water over the weekend but were being cleaned up on Sunday; so we came round the Keighley and Colne way from Leeds. We came back late in the evening via Tod and Hebden and Mytholmroyd. It was a salutary experience, particularly Hebden Bridge.

Monday: and Boxing Day football blues well and truly banished. This was a super display and well rewarded; from the ridiculous of the Hull game to the sublime of well and truly whupping Bristol City. Dyche made changes and boy did they work. Kightly in for Boyd was like a little wasp constantly annoying Bristol with his forward movements and direct style. At last a winger who can run at people. It may not come off every time but when it does he creates havoc. Vokes against a couple of towering defenders won more headers that in the last few games put together. His gently caressed ball over the defender’s head to the lurking Arfield was utterly accurate and textbook. Arfield didn’t let him down and strode on to score. Mee was what we knew he would be in the centre of defence, tough as old boots, fearless and determined, constantly winning headers against blokes so much taller than himself.

Both full backs Lowton and Ward solid and dependable, Keane an absolute giant the whole game, MOTM on any other day. He didn’t put a foot wrong. Barton and Jones patrolled and controlled the midfield, Barton the master of the instant visionary pass; his 30-yarder zinged against the crossbar and had it gone in would have brought the house down. Arfield was his usual industrious self with a goal to reward his performance. Heaton looked impassable even though a little bit of luck did help him along once or twice.

And Gray: the hat-trick man and a new name goes on the hat-trick honours board; a hat-trick that was so well executed from a player enjoying one of those games when all goes well, the chances go in, the ball sticks to his feet, the positioning is just right, the little tricks come off, the acceleration leaves opponents for dead and when such a player is taken off with a few minutes to go the standing applause rings round the ground enough to bring a lump to the throat. The roar that greeted his hat-trick was even better.

His first was all slick trickery just inside the half to leave the opponent floundering, the run was at pace; the cut inside left another defender bemused and the strike into the net from just inside the box was perfection into the corner. The second was a true poacher’s goal latching onto a loose ball when it came to him in the six-yard box. The third was instinctive as the low cross came to him and he knew exactly where to aim into the other corner.

Whether all these changes were enforced because of injury, or because Dyche chose to make them, didn’t really matter. They were what many of us wanted to see and they worked. There was more directness, more pace and more urgency. Sure, Bristol enjoyed spells of play and possession but rarely threatened any real danger. On a day when the rain stopped and Burnley had just lost 0-3, a splendid 17,234 turned out of whom few were from Bristol.

Dyche was understandably cock-a-hoop and purred with satisfaction and pleasure as well he might. We all did. It was a reminder of how powerful Burnley can be, of how well they can play, of what a helluva striker Gray is, of how Keane’s potential to be a top, top, classy centre-half is most definitely emerging, and that on the fringe players like Ulvestad and Hennings are ready to step in and make their mark.

We left the ground on a high and returned to Leeds later in the evening through Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. All these three places during the rains have seen destruction and distress but it was in Hebden Bridge that the impact hit you most. We drove through a town centre that is usually vibrant and lively with restaurants and bars. This time it was in total darkness without power and lights. No street lamps, no Christmas lights and decorations, no shining café windows, few if any pedestrians, just heaps of sodden damaged possessions, shop fittings and stock, furniture and carpets and electrical goods all piled high on the silt and mud-covered pavements in the blackout. Looters had been arrested earlier in the day. As we drove by the Coop that 24 hours earlier had been inundated with water, we saw a group of people laden with bulging carrier bags, being faced by police officers. Another police car, lights flashing, was heading up towards them. The darkness was eerie; you couldn’t help thinking looters, what else?

Hebden is a place we know well and lived there for a few years in our early married life. We visit it often, drive through on every journey to Burnley and have a huge affection for the place. Todmorden is where I was born and grew up. Mytholmroyd too is a place where we have friends that we visit.

At one point, driving slowly, we passed a row of terraced houses, the pavements outside heaped high with furniture and peoples’ belongings, the houses clearly without electricity. Just a couple of candles lit one darkened room as someone inside just stood and surveyed their ruined home. Driving through these places on the way home was just utterly heart-breaking and at that moment football and the 4-0 win was the last thing we were thinking about.

All smiles on mascot day

Burnley Mascot


Funny things stats, you can use them any way you want. In mid-December Burnley’s were a wonderful example. Before the Middlesbrough game they’d lost just one in 11. They were unbeaten in the last 8 away games.

After the Middlesbrough defeat the stats were 6 games without a win and in these 6 games just three goals and one of those was a gift from a Cardiff defender.

Before the ‘Boro match there was some shock team news. One stunned supporter, a tad unkindly perhaps, wondered if Sean D had had a mid-life crisis. The standard 4-4-2 formation was abandoned for a 4-5-1 with Vokes dropped and Gray alone up front. Into the five-man midfield came Marney. The changes made sense but it was to no avail as Middlesbrough went top with a simple goal they scored far too easily early in the second half.

‘The goal given away would qualify for the softest goal of the season competition,’ said my pal Chris who was there. He added that Middlesbrough is particularly good for bookies, tattoo parlours and fast food joints. Burnley he added were probably the most stylish team in the division – when they are going sideways. It was clear that this was another performance when wing play, crosses, penetration and pace were sadly missing. Chris returns to sunny Tasmania shortly, lucky fella.

Most, if not all managers, ignore messageboards and fans’ forums. After this defeat the comments were harsh in their criticism of a poor display. Even normally reserved and positive people were critical after what they had seen. But the one or two calls that Sean D’s time was up were just ridiculous and unwarranted.

For articulate and positive comments, always supportive and considered, there is no better messageboard poster than JDRobbo but even he was moved to frustration. ‘Absolutely unacceptable display, a frightening and worrying display… set up for a 0-0 and allowed Boro to pass through a box filled with all eleven Burnley shirts to score the winner. Stop parking the bus, roll your sleeves up, make some positive changes and let this talented squad have a bloody good go.’

At QPR Burnley had just two shots on target; a statistic that was repeated at Middlesbrough. That’s just 4 shots on target in 180 minutes football. The word woeful on its own did not do this justice. It is not rocket science, supporters suggested, that if this continued there would be no top six-place let alone promotion. Watching Burnley for the last few weeks has been damned hard work, others added.

‘We lacked guile in the final third,’ said Sean Dyche afterwards but reminded fans of the spell of games when there had been 9 wins out of 12 and even in the promotion season there had been a spell of 12 games with just three wins.

Earlier in the evening at soccer school in Leeds grandson Joe in his Burnley kit had collected his trophy for winning the penalty shoot-out competition. A CLARET WIN IN LEEDS would have made a nice headline in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

How many books about Brian Clough are there? I bought another one and what a gem it is; I Believe in Miracles, the story of Forest’s first title win and then the European Cup win the season after. Told through interviews with just about every member of the team it is a wonderful and entertaining read. Eccentric or genius, he defied all the rules of so-called ‘good’ management to become one of the great managers. Many of those who played for him still can’t work out how he managed to take them to such great heights. His one-liners are legendary: this one on Garry Birtles – ‘Garry the half time Bovril was better than you today.’

He once turned up at Turf Moor in mid-week unannounced. It was a time when security was non –existent and you could just wander in through doors and entrances at will. The place was empty, not a staff member in sight, other than groundsman Roy Oldfield chugging up and down the pitch with his mower. Clough had arrived to talk about a couple of young Burnley players but the only person he could find was Roy on the pitch. He heard the mower and wandered over to see him. ‘Where is everybody? He asked.

‘Come and ‘av a brew,’ Roy invited him and they did exactly that chatting about life and football until Clough wandered off.

Saturday was grandson Joe’s big day, mascot at the Charlton game just a few days after his ninth birthday. It is traditional that grandparents are allowed to indulge their grandchildren. And then when we are fatigued and had enough we can send them home. It’s a perfect arrangement. He was agog when we told him that the training session they get as part of the package would be on the pitch because the gym was unavailable.

‘What was the best bit of the day?’ we asked him on the way home.

‘Training on the pitch,’ he said beaming. Isn’t that every little lad’s wish if he’s a Burnley supporter; to be able to take a ball out onto the pitch in your Burnley kit while all the team are out there as well. And for grandson Joe it really happened.

‘Who did you talk to in the dressing room most?’

‘Tom Heaton… and I gave Matt Taylor a high 5… Andre Gray asked me who was going to win… Burnley I said 3-0.’

‘Did you see Joey Barton?’

‘Yes he was in the laundry.’ And we didn’t really know what to say to that.

With the deal you get 4 comp tickets so Joe’s other grandparents came along as well. They too live in Leeds so it was their first trip to Turf Moor, indeed any football match for years. As the first half wore on, Dyche having replaced Darikwa with Lowton and Jones with Marney, with little of note in the first 40 minutes, I attempted to say it wasn’t always as bad as this. Those around us who had been at Middlesbrough assured us they were carrying on where they had left off.

But how a goal can change things and when Scott Arfield scored just minutes before half-time you could feel a ton weight being lifted from their shoulders. From that point on the crowd too came alive and as rain swirled down and around us, in the second half we sat back and watched Burnley rip Charlton apart with another Arfield goal, an Andre Gray goal and one from Sam Vokes.

The forecast had been for temperatures nudging 60 and Saharan Dust arriving from the south. Instead we got Burnley weather, cold, wet and windy. But the longer the game went on the football produced in these horrible conditions was exemplary. It was a performance that the players needed, that Sean Dyche needed, and for sure the supporters, to send us on our way home for Christmas with renewed optimism and faith and ready to get stuck into roast turkey and Christmas pud.

The midfield display of the season so far came from Dean Marney. Has he really been absent for nine months, we asked, as he covered every inch of the field in a superb performance; his energy, drive, tackling, covering, prompting and probing all there in a MOTM display.

The tackle of the season came from Barton in the first half. Charlton were by no means as bad as some folks made out and until Burnley scored they were for good spells the better side. A moment came in the Burnley box when we thought hell they must score as the ball came nicely to an incoming Charlton player who with on an on-target shot must surely have scored. His foot came back, we were ready to groan, but then out of nowhere in came Barton with a magnificent block tackle the sound of which boomed round the ground. If a tackle can change a game, then this was it. On any other day Barton would have been MOTM but for Marney.

Miss of the season came from Gray in the first half when the ball came to him just a couple of yards out in a plum position by the far post; and we waited for it to rip into the net and burst out the other side. He surely couldn’t miss. It ended up nearly hitting the Cricket Field Stand roof. To spare his blushes he was deemed offside anyway.

Save of the season must surely have been Tom Heaton’s split-second, reflex, instinctive stop in the second half when he got down like a cat to keep out a shot by the left-hand post. He had already made one stunner in the first half from a 100mph, twenty-yarder that he tipped over the bar and then in slow motion slowly keeled over backwards to add a bit more style and colour to the save.

Trickle of the season, if not the decade, was most definitely the Sam Vokes goal. Until this point you’d wondered if he would ever score again as luck seemed to be deserting him and headers had flashed just wide. After a bit of neat interplay involving Lowton the ball came to him somewhere near the penalty spot. It came to him awkwardly but with a piece of deft skill he flicked the ball and slowly it began to roll towards the corner of the goal. It had maybe 12 yards to travel and as we ticked off each yard it slowed down even more. With two or three yards to go it was assuming slow motion speed so that surely the goalkeeper must scoop it up comfortably. But no: the scrambling ‘keeper who must surely have thought it was going wide could only look in horror as it trickled over the line so slowly that we all held our breath and our eyes widened, and then we whooped and hollered as it dribbled over. It was like someone in snooker potting the final black with an inch perfect shot that agonisingly just makes it into the pocket. In the old days the mud would have stopped it in its tracks. The players mobbed him.

Kung Fu kick of the season came from Andre Gray after his goal. Corner flag posts these days come in for serious abuse from players who have scored as they race over to the corner and take a flying leap at the post and give it a good whack with the sole of their boot from three or four feet up in the air. After his first-half miss, Gray took this to a new level, racing over, taking the flying leap and not just whacking the post, but removing it clean out of the ground. He’s had a barren spell. Who could blame him?

Nice moment of the season was provided by Joey Barton whilst he waited to take a free kick as a Charlton defender lay in the penalty area receiving treatment. Joey whiled the time away passing the ball back and forth to the folks in the front row of the lower James Hargreaves with a huge smile on his face. If there is one moment in his Burnley career that will cement his cult-hero status, then this was it.

And mascot of the season must surely be grandson Joe Riddell. Of course we all dote on our grandkids. Of course we all think ours are the best. Of course they can do no wrong in our eyes. Sure it costs a pretty penny, but in this case I’m putting all that aside and looking at this objectively, scientifically and statistically. Joe has been mascot three times now over the last three seasons and Burnley have won every game that he has done this. That must surely be an unbeatable stat.

Just fewer than 16,000 people braved the weather, with just a handful from Charlton. Not bad for Panic Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas when husbands are dragged away to the shops for last minute bargains.

The street festival kicked things off in fine style. But the one salutary experience: as we waited with the mascots in the corner of the Jimmy Mac and the James Hargreaves, was getting a taster of what the disabled must endure in bad weather in that exposed corner without shelter. Every so often it’s a topic on the Claret websites and by coincidence it was mentioned in the evening on the Claretsmad Messageboard. It is without doubt a thoroughly unpleasant experience and totally lacking in anything resembling real shelter and protection. Those people must have been drenched by the end of the game.

‘Who was Jimmy Hill?’ asked Joe when the headline came on the TV News and up came a grainy black and white picture of a bearded bloke with the distinctive chin.

‘Someone who changed football in so many ways,’ I told him. ‘He was a player, a manager, a chairman, an ideas man and a TV man. People like me grew up with him and MOTD on our TV screens years ago when football was in black and white.’

He was even a fully qualified referee. Three points for a win was his idea and every footballer in the land, especially those with bank balances to make an ordinary man’s eyes water, owes his wealth to him and his campaign to have the footballer’s maximum wage abolished over 50 years ago. The years slide by don’t they, and when it came up that he was 87. I had to blink and muttered, surely not.

But time drifts by without us really noticing so that here we are and another Christmas comes round once again with a thumping win and a feast of second-half football. Here’s wishing a Merry Christmas to one and all.

Game schedule frameworks rule OK

Brunton Park


The sight of Carlisle United’s ground slowly disappearing into the flood waters after Storm Desmond, made me wonder which poor folks had the job of cleaning up afterwards. In the old days it would have been the apprentices but they don’t seem to be apprentices anymore; they are scholars and instead of cleaning out the latrines like they used to do after training, they now do college courses. Willie Irvine remembered in his day cleaning out the latrines and recalled that some of the lads were physically ill both during the job and afterwards.

It was probably going to see ex-groundsman Roy Oldfield again that set me off on this train of thought because he’d been telling me how the apprentices back in his day would report to him at 2 in the afternoon and be given their jobs. From Gawthorpe they’d come back to Turf Moor for their lunch, but this would be sandwiches they brought themselves, or a trip to the chippie, or a mad dash to get to a coffee bar in town and back again.

There were basically three sorts of jobs; sweeping the terraces, cleaning out the toilets, or working on the pitch. Some of the cocky ones would tell him it wasn’t their job to be doing these things; they were there to play football. ‘Well go and see the manager then,’ Roy would reply.

By and large they were happy enough sweeping the terraces because of the dropped coins they could find. None of them minded working on the pitch although they were rarely allowed to use the machinery in case of injury. The one time Roy did allow one of the more sensible lads to use the Flymo, the lad managed to slice his footwear. Luckily his feet were undamaged. It was the last time Roy ever let anyone use a machine.

Some of them liked nothing more than playing pranks; balancing buckets of water on a half open door was a regular event. On the day that manager Jimmy Adamson was spotted about to enter a booby trapped door, he was diverted away just in time. Painting was a regular chore and on the occasion that a couple of lads were given tins of black paint to go over anything that was black in the offices one day, they did just that and painted the phone, the door knobs and the seat covers, and then sat back and watched .

A favourite trick was to half complete a job and then hide from Roy. It was Phil Cavener and Kevin Young one day who abandoned sweeping the terraces and climbed up the nearest floodlight pylon to hide and watch Roy looking for them. Roy found their brush and shovel and a half filled sack of rubbish abandoned by one of the barriers. He laughs about to this day and says he never thought of looking upwards.

The FA Youth Cup defeat at home to the London Met Police Academy youth team resulted in more than a few open mouths and raised eyebrows. Allegedly the Met boys train for an hour or two a week. Paul Weller was adamant that what is needed is ‘a new leader, a scouting system and some money throwing at it.’ Andy Farrell said that the Clarets must learn lessons from the defeat but did he mean the young lads or the club itself? Someone who visits Gawthorpe regularly and watches the youths wrote that it has gone downhill since Martin Dobson and Vince Overson left. Another wrote that so many recruitment systems had been dismantled with no logic behind them. The leadership of this part of the club must surely come under scrutiny and questions asked about its effectiveness.

BY all accounts the Met goalkeeper had a superb game but this was a top Championship side with currently plenty of money, versus a Police Academy side. Those who know a thing or two about the youth set-up were certainly suggesting it’s time to smell the coffee. That this should happen whilst I was actually writing about the apprentices of yesteryear sweeping terraces and cleaning out toilets was in itself ironic.

In a programme piece some time ago there was an article on the youth page that talked of: game schedule frameworks… adapted/conditional games… overloads and underloads… enhanced coping strategies… in and out of possession elements and constraint based environments. Then there were coach mentors… elite coach apprenticeship schemes and professional skills mentors. You wondered what Cloughie and Shanks would have made of all this? It’s just jargon I thought as I read it, the sort of piffle that I had to put up with when I was a Head, spouted to us by airy-fairy advisers who made such a mess of things in Leeds 25 years ago they were as good as drummed out of the city when a commissioned report exposed the emptiness of their gobbledygook. It was guff and I couldn’t help thinking that things like ‘in and out of possession elements’ is much the same.

The youths currently sit second bottom of the Youth Alliance League against such illustrious sides as Walsall, Fleetwood, Accrington, Rochdale, Shrewsbury and Morecambe. They have lost 8 out of 12 games. Focus after the PNE defeat was on the first team. Perhaps some serious questions should now be asked about the youth set-up, concerned supporters were suggesting, especially with £4.5million about to be ploughed into Gawthorpe. One simple question: under the current system and re-organised set-up, how many youths have made it into the first team or come anywhere near it?

It was the weekend of the QPR game and the annual trip to London with the Supporters Club and the ground with the worst away facilities and seats that I know of. Mind you I never went anywhere during the Fourth Division years. Something that I ate there years ago was called a pie. I have long since wondered what it actually was. From where the coach drops you, you then have to walk round three sides of the ground to get to the away turnstiles. By the time you get to your seat you’re too tired to be a troublemaker. Last time we were there the front two rows of the upper deck were out of bounds because the safety rail was so low that fans had actually fallen over the edge.

Base camp was the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Heathrow. Half an hour into the Westfield Shopping centre for the pre-match morning and then amble up to the ground. There were no team changes. The first half was tedious save for a lone Parakeet that flew over the ground. The second highlight of the first half was the announcement that there would be just one minute of added time. Between the Parakeet and that there was little of note but we whiled away the time reading the texts that came from our Burnley chums who had decided to test the lunchtime menu at the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden.

Pictures arrived of the burger and fries, they looked exemplary. Pictures arrived of the pie and chips, they looked exemplary. And then the fun started. Apparently there had been rain of biblical proportions that had lasted all morning and at the Hare and Hounds the water began to rise. Texts came fast furious – the water was rising, the fire engines had arrived, the pumps were out, their feet were wet, the car park was submerged, Cliviger was flooded so they couldn’t get home, detours via Cornholme and the steep Shaw road. Before we knew it the first half was over and it was hard to remember any attacking move that involved the word pace, thrust or panache. Burnley had been what they always are, industrious, mechanical, resolute and dogged.

‘Let’s just stop the other buggers scoring and fire balls for Gray to chase,’ seemed to be the basic ploy.

What a contrast the second half was. Arfield and Boyd, so ineffective in the first half upped their game, although runs to the by-line and crosses with pace into the box were still few and far between. Barton prompted, Mee got forward, Gray hustled and bustled, Keane mopped up the sporadic QPR forays, and Heaton was never seriously troubled.

But therein lay the other feature of the half – neither was Green in the QPR goal. Just two Burnley shots on target told its own story. Green was largely a spectator. Burnley came on strong in the half but created little where it mattered. Vokes had a couple of half decent headed chances and knew he should have done better.

We waited for the cavalry to arrive in the shape of a couple of subs. Lowton for Darikwa maybe, Kightly for a leggy Boyd, or Marney for Jones; but things stayed the same. Dyche explained later that they were all playing so well, it would have been tough on them to take anyone off even though there were players on the bench itching to get on. The longer the half went on the more Burnley were on top and QPR were continually on the back foot. It was a time to throw on the reinforcements. But as we all know, this is not the Dyche style. Vokes was clearly tiring; Hennings would have provided fresh legs.

But football never lets you down; it was Burnley in the dying minutes that could so easily have lost when two last-minute QPR corners caused havoc in the Burnley box and it was the Burnley fans chewing fingernails.

We trooped out and the concourse the away supporters must exit must surely be one of the narrowest and worst in the league. Good away point said some. That’s cost me the best part of £100 said others and I’ve had enough. The little band of Supporters Club folks shuffled back to the coach to head back to the Crowne Plaza and pay London prices that made your hair curl for drinks at the bar.

Complementary bottles of wine on the tables on the Friday night had impressed us. We could have done with them on the Saturday night after the game. Good point it might have been but there’s always the feeling after a 0-0 draw that you could have spent the afternoon doing something much more worthwhile with your time. Some 0-0 draws can still be filled with excitement, incident, goal-mouth drama, tension and thrills, thunderbolt shots and fingertip saves. QPR versus Burnley was sadly not one of them.

In our little private function room at the hotel we dined splendidly with the room buzzing with chat and bonhomie on the Friday night. After the game on Saturday it was quiet, restrained, almost subdued. It was as if the life had been drained out of us by another game without goals.

Because it was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s debut game as manager it was a featured game in the Sunday Times. Their reporter had it pretty much spot on. It was battling Burnley the party poopers; they looked a well-drilled and organised side, he wrote. This is a Burnley side that is fifth, and looks a decent bet for the play-offs in May. But:

‘It’s difficult to know quite what to make of Burnley’s form,’ he continued. ‘They have not won in their last five games, but on the flip side they have lost just once in 11 games and as you would expect from a Sean Dyche side they were a tough nut to crack. Perhaps Dyche had decided to take them back to basics after the surprise 2-0 defeat to Preston North End, just their third loss of the season. For the most part a clean sheet appeared to be their number one priority.’

On paper many of the stats are admirable and you could argue the result against Preston was a freak with the goals donated to them at one end and chances spurned at the other. But this is a Burnley side that over the season has created so few chances and when they do come along not too many are taken with the draw at Cardiff the result of a comedy own goal. Watching Burnley all too often this season has seemed like hard work.

It’s certainly true that this was a good, battling point at a resurgent QPR; but suggestions that the best is yet to come, that there is another gear they can get into, at the moment seem to be optimistic rather than realistic.

We departed the bustling hotel Sunday morning weaving our way through the packed lobby, heaving with ‘plane crews, freshly coiffured stewardesses, people jetting off to here there and everywhere, and people looking red-eyed and shattered who had just landed and were seeking sanctuary for the night. A family we bumped into in the lift were heading off to Colombia for Christmas. The place positively teemed with tourists from Japan. We gave each other Brownie points for identifying different airline uniforms.

The Crowne Plaza: highly recommended with breakfast spreads that were truly mouth-watering. At Aylesbury we ticked yet another M&S off our list. At Stratford it was the first Christmas Dinner of the season to be merry at the regular eating-stop, The Pen and Parchment. It might have been only a 0-0 draw but when the food is good you don’t feel too bad.

My granny called it faffing


Into December and the season to be merry, Christmas coming and the geese getting fat; but over at the club that was ten years ahead of Burnley these were Scrooge like times with only a very small fire burning in the grate and down to their last candle .

We don’t forget do we? We haven’t forgotten the Coyle departure and the defection to Bolton. Forget it say some, it’s time to move on. It was six years ago. But over and again the subject raises its head and with Bolton Wanderers now in serious, serious trouble financially, it all kicked off again and up popped Coyle’s name along with Gartside.

Now it’s Burnley that sits ten years ahead of Bolton as they slide nearer to administration and a lower division with a sort of relentless inevitability. Something around £180million in debt, their benefactor Eddie Davies no longer bank-rolling them and players were unpaid for November; it was hard not to gloat – not so much at the club itself but at the two characters that caused Burnley supporters such angst at the turn of the year in 2009. Their only hope it seems is that at a reputed price of £30million and Davies not calling in the debt, a buyer will be found.

Their own supporters were reportedly planning protests seriously worried at the bleak future and many of those who refused ever to attend a game at the Horwich site, now vociferously voicing their views. Would Burnley fans happily continue to attend games if Burnley moved out to Whalley, for example, even if it was a state of the art stadium complete with shopping malls and a Frankie and Benny’s? Yes no doubt if they were in the Premiership as Bolton once used to be; but other than the diehards not if the club was in the bottom three of a lower division.

A pal got in touch to say he’d seen the piece about George Best and having chatted to Les Latcham several times, in fact has known him for years, he could shed some light as to why Best always found him so difficult to play against. Latcham never tried to kick lumps out of Best because he had figured a way to anticipate exactly what he would do when it was one against one.

Watching Best he had noticed how he always dropped his right shoulder if he went left, and always dropped his left shoulder if he went right. With that in mind Les said he always tried to keep Best close to the touchline and he rarely looked at the ball at his feet, but watched his shoulders. In that way he knew which way he was going to go. Best would congratulate him after the game for the way he played and the fact that he never resorted to fouling him. Best even asked him one day how he managed to know which way he was going to go and managed to play so well against him. Les replied if I told you you’d run me ragged in the next game.

My chum was also at the game when Burnley were at Old Trafford for an FA Cup-tie when Best did something memorable. George McCabe was referee. Burnley were winning but then one of Best’s boots came off and as he was about to put it back on the ball came to him so he kept the boot in his hand, took the ball some considerable distance and played a pass that led to Man U scoring. Man U scored both their goals late on to deny Burnley the win. The goal that Best had fashioned was allowed with some people questioning whether the goal should have stood, on account of McCabe should perhaps have stopped the game and made Best put his boot back on.

40 years later my chum was at Barnsley for a Burnley game and was in the guest lounge when who should he see but an elderly guy in a FIFA official blazer. He recognised him as George McCabe and walked over to him. In truth I have no idea what the rules are on a player playing with just one boot on but if I had to guess I’d wonder if it was a perfectly legitimate goal as long as Best wasn’t whacking anybody with the boot as he skipped past them.

Anyway: over went my pal and challenged McCabe. He told him he’d been at the game 40 years earlier and McCabe replied that yes he too remembered it. He was then taken aback when he was loudly reprimanded for giving the goal and preventing Burnley from progressing in to the next round by allowing Best to dribble 60 or 70 yards and create a goal even though he was only wearing one boot and was carrying the other in his hand.

Anyway: there was quite a scene in the Barnsley Guest Lounge and it ended with Mr McCabe being told in no uncertain terms he was in no way fit to be wearing a FIFA badge.

“It’s not often you can tell a referee 40 years later what you thought of his performance, but I did,” said my chum. “I got a huge weight off my shoulders and have felt better ever since.”

Terribly sad though, to read of the predicament that former Burnley winger Dave Thomas finds himself in with worsening Glaucoma and deteriorating eyesight; deteriorating to such an extent that he has applied for a Guide Dog and is now raising money for Guide Dogs. Google David Thomas Fundraising for Guide Dogs, and it should come up. His initial target was £5,000 and when last I looked it was well over £8,000.

Those of us who saw him play all know what a wonderful talent he had, the best of which was at QPR and Everton. When he lived near Chichester Mrs T and me used to meet up with him and his own Mrs T whenever we went down to stay at Midhurst.

Dave had worked in the same Chichester school as sister in law, a lab technician, and Dave, a PE teacher then, occasionally had to fill in doing the odd science lesson as cover for anyone who was away. Sister-in-law never cottoned on as to who he was.

Then, on the occasion that I first went to see Dave at his home over 10 years ago, my own Mrs T dropped me off and then went down to the beach to walk the dog. An hour or so later back she came and knocked at the door which Dave then went to answer.

‘Good Lord,’ he said, ‘you look just like someone I work with.’

It was the beginning of our regular, if now infrequent meetings, since he returned to the north-east. A number of operations have not cured his sight problems. The world can be a cruel place with afflictions like this. Anyone who read the double page spread in the Daily Mail about Dave cannot fail to have been moved.

December 5: and home to Preston North End. It seemed an age since we last played them, 2011 in the League.The Keane brothers were in opposition and the last time brothers were in opposition was 50 years ago when the Irvine brothers played for Burnley and Stoke City.

Who will ever forget the dipping, swerving 30-yard shot from Joey Gudjonsson that seemed like it was heading for Row Z in the Cricket Field Stand and then began to arc downwards and in it went? Who will ever forget the 4-3 win when all seemed lost at one stage? Who will ever forget the video of the Preston woman crying her eyes out at the end of the game they’d just lost? One shouldn’t mock but it really is funny. And going back donkeys’ years, who will forget the win at Deepdale that took Burnley to the Sherpa Van Trophy Final just a year after they had nearly exited the Football League?

Little Joe unable to come with us; he was poorly. Thank goodness it was PNE and not the Charlton game when he is due to be mascot for his birthday. Into December and the Christmas Spirit growing; one could almost burst into a song and dance in M&S with the tannoy system blaring above your head with festive music; mulled wine at a sample stall, housewives muttering I need stuffing and husbands nodding, and on farms throughout the UK, turkeys looking at each other nervously.

This time it was Hurricane Desmond that was due; although it was hard to take a hurricane called Desmond seriously. That was until we saw the news later in the evening and saw the havoc it had wreaked in the north. We got away lightly at the Turf, wet and wild though it was.

It was a defeat and for sure demonstrates the age-old adage that if you don’t take chances you won’t win games. Add to that a MOTM match performance from the Preston keeper, plus a bit of dodgy refereeing, and some individual errors, then you have all the ingredients for a defeat.

The conditions were atrocious, not quite the worst we have ever seen, the Man City game during the first Premier season springs to mind, but nevertheless the driving rain, the strong, swirling wind and the slippery conditions made this a difficult afternoon so that both sides deserve credit for providing a game that was filled with incident. Even sitting up in the JH it was like sitting under a garden sprinkler. Style and class were largely absent but this was no game where you nodded off with boredom.

Burnley started off like a house on fire, beginning with the best opening 15 minutes of dominant football we have seen for an age. Preston came more into it but nevertheless Burnley created chances, enough to have rattled up a clear lead well before the end of the half. You can talk about turning points and maybe the Barton miss was one of them. Barton knew it and beat the ground in rage and frustration after he had side-footed wide a pinpoint cross from Gray. Vokes had a brilliant snapshot saved by the keeper. Two superb balls across the box from Mee should have been slammed home but the forwards were lurking on the edge of the area, rather than on the edge of the 6-yard box. There was no-one to come rushing in and take the chances; and how Burnley paid the price.

Second half and midway through: Vokes caught out in the centre circle, faffing as my granny used to say. I’d just muttered for God’s sake stop faffing, stop faffing, but faff he did and faffed some more and lost the ball. Before you knew it Keane (theirs) had the ball just inside the half and set off on a run, brushing leaden footed defenders aside as if they weren’t there. Finally, skating past Duff with ease he fired from distance and the ball went under Heaton who will surely say he should have saved it. Maybe the ball was swirling in the wind, maybe it was wet and greasy, but out of nothing Preston were a goal up.

They gathered by the touchline in their Birds Eye Custard Yellow kit and celebrated like there was no tomorrow. All we could do was fume at the daftness of the scoreline. At this point you rued the fact that Preston should have been down to ten men when their full back, already yellow carded, up-ended Mee in full flight with a blatant body check but the offence was only punished with a free kick and a talking-to. It was simply ludicrous that Kevin Friend had not brought out the second yellow. It would have reduced PNE to ten men when the score was still 0-0. It was this that was the turning point of the game and an unfathomable decision.

Later in the game Barton too should have had a second yellow but Friend let him off, maybe because he knew he had goofed already with the Preston player, so did he decide he could hardly send Barton off?

A by now one-dimensional Burnley huffed and puffed for the rest of the game slowly deteriorating more and more. Preston headed away Burnley corners with ease. Gray fired well wide from the one variation. To baffle many of us, Hennings and Marney who had made such an impact at Cardiff were left on the bench this time and on came Taylor, Kightly and Lowton, the latter a puzzling change, unless Darikwa had been crocked. With Vokes now struggling to have any impact he tamely shot straight at the keeper when clean through. Meanwhile Gray fought and battled but too often he looked alone up front in desperate need of some pacey support.

The Preston second goal with 5 minutes remaining came with Duff being beaten far too easily again in a sort of right back position, the ball being cut back and there was the long-haired one with a dreadlock pigtail halfway down his back that must have weighed a ton in the rain, calmly stroking the ball home. It is a long time since Turf Moor has emptied so quickly before the final whistle.

Some folks on the webs were critical; others were saying get a grip it was just a bad day at the office. Yours truly and family headed to the Stubbing Wharf in Hebden Bridge where a roaring fire, packed tables, pub grub and a convivial atmosphere dried us out whilst the roaring Desmond made sure that the north just got wetter and wetter and wetter and as is traditional, in weather like this, Carlisle United’s ground slowly disappeared into the deepening floods.

Georgie Georgie

Michael Keane


Brighton manager Chris Hughton astonishingly was quite miffed at the penalty awarded to Burnley for shirt pulling. He was thoroughly indignant that what he said was something that happens all the time and referees are rarely bothered to punish, had been penalised at Burnley.

To a degree he has a point but there is shirt pulling and then there is undressing, and Michael Keane had his shirt pulled so vigorously and for such a length of time, it was a wonder it didn’t rip in half as he was almost undressed on the pitch.

It goes on in game after game, at every corner, along with the wrestling, pushing and shoving and you wonder how it has come to this, that it is tolerated so much. I read somewhere and don’t know that it is actually correct, that until the corner is taken, the ball is not actually in play, so that all the shenanigans that go on can be left unpunished. Well it’s time they were and the Brighton lad got his deserved comeuppance.

Time flies and I dug out of my dusty filing cabinet a tribute to George Best that was written 10 years ago to mark his passing. The newspapers were filled with tributes and banners filled the Old Trafford Ground. What a player he was:

I wish I could honestly say that I can clearly remember some of the games George Best played against Burnley but in all honesty I can’t. Mrs T tells me that yes we saw him play so maybe the fact that I don’t recall any games or bits of magic means that as a general rule he didn’t play particularly well at Turf Moor. Burnley full-back Les Latcham was seen as one reason. Not many players got the better of Best but Latcham was one of them although he always jokes that his success was based on getting a tackle in that he’d meant to make five minutes earlier.

At Old Trafford it was a different story though when he played in the second of those memorable Christmas games all those years ago. We hammered Man U 6-1 at Turf Moor and then went over there and lost 5-1. 1963/64 it would have been and Andy Lochhead scored four of the goals at the Turf.

Georgie had been sent back home to Ireland for Christmas because Busby hadn’t intended to play him but in desperation called him back, threw him into the team and then it’s very much true to say that the Best story began that day. On he came and tore Burnley to shreds including the unwilling victim John Angus one of the best full-backs in the business. Bobby Charlton recalled that Angus was so bewildered he didn’t know what day it was. Sadly, in his final years it was George that barely knew what day it was as his demons took him over.

There are those who never saw him that might ask what all the fuss was about? Was he not a wastrel and a man who squandered his talent and sublime skills? The answer is maybe yes, but sadly he belonged to that small group of vulnerable and flawed people, artists, poets, painters and writers, actors, who over the years are blessed with a talent so prodigious that they leave an indelible mark on us all and in the history of their art. Those who see them perform are almost as blessed. They also have that undefinable quality that goes under the name of glamour so that they are icons of whatever era they grace.

And then, tragically, just a small number of this group follow a path that ends in self destruction but because we love them so much, because we see they are so vulnerable and because there is no inherent badness in them, it is then their talent that we remember and not their faults and weaknesses. We watch their slow descent into heartbreak and we are as helpless to help them, as they are to help themselves.

For 24 hours after his death ten years ago the TV channels played clip after clip of his mesmerising skills, his gravity defying balance, the feints, the instant acceleration, the swerves, sudden stops and starts, the taunting of other players. The one I liked best was an old, faded, grainy black and white sequence showing one of his earliest games against West Brom. He nutmegs their hard man Graham Williams and then sets off at blistering pace all over the field evading lunges, swipes, knee high tackles and brutal body checks that today would have had any guilty player yellow carded if not sent off. And then there was that glorious colour clip of him scoring against Chelsea when Ron Chopper Harris comes across and attempts to scythe him in half just outside the box. Best rides the tackle; his body momentarily at a crazy angle of 45 degrees, regains the upright position and scores with ease. If I could take one video clip with me when I meet St Peter at the pearly gates … that will be the one.

I’m trying to think who else in the world of football will leave such a lasting effect, such an impact, leave so many memories of brilliance, skill and finesse and I can’t think of many. There have been many, many more unique great players that have passed away, but how many of them have names that will ring around a stadium ten years later. Great players pass away and will do so in years to come and we will mourn them, but how many will be remembered at every ground in the land when they pass away, with a minute’s silence or applause.

At Turf Moor it was applause and many of us had a smile on our faces as we joined in. It was a smile of pleasure and gratitude and affection for someone who had come along into our world and brightened our lives. It was for the good things that he did and the unmatched entertainment that he provided, that I smiled.

Comedian Mike Farrell told me a typical ‘Bestie’ story. They had both appeared at a function and had got on really well so that afterwards in the hotel they sat up into the small hours having one drink, telling stories, then another drink… and another drink until eventually all track of time was lost. George, bleary-eyed decided to head for some shut-eye and at last went over to reception and asked the night porter to give him a 6 a.m. call as he had an early flight from Liverpool to catch. The porter looked at him with a puzzled expression.

‘But Mr Best,’ he said, ‘it’s already 6 o clock.’

We all know he appeared much the worse for wear on the Wogan show. But what idiot organisation would have plied him with drink before the show? We all know he was given a life-saving liver transplant and then abused it. We all know what weaknesses he had, the periods when his life seemed a shambles, the spell in prison he had. But these are not what will dominate our memories of him, because what we also hear are the countless testimonies to his good nature, his humility, wit and humour, modesty, generosity and intelligence.

As a footballer he was one of the finest the world has seen, if not THE finest. He could do things with a ball that others could only dream of. He was the absolute, complete footballer and yet in a frame that was so slight that you might have thought a strong wind would have blown him over. He played in an age when defenders thought it their God-given right to cripple any gifted forward in an age when there was little or no protection from referees. The creed was simple; what the referee doesn’t see isn’t a foul.

He played in an age when pitches could vary from mudbaths through the winter to bone-hard, concrete, grassless surfaces, by the end of the season. Nor did he have a ball that dipped and swerved and bent and dipped so that even an average player today can kick a football that will change direction several times and beat a goalkeeper from 30 yards out.

We all know he walked out on football far too soon. But I’m just grateful that we saw the good years and they are what I will appreciate him for. His self-deprecating sense of humour was delightful. What other man might have said:

‘I tried so hard to give up drink and women… but it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.’

‘I think I’ve found you a genius,’ the Irish scout reported to Matt Busby in hushed tones one day all those years ago, as if he was frightened silly someone would overhear what he was saying about the incredible 15-year old he had just spotted and would steal him away. How right he was. Genius is the best word to describe him and is not a word we bestow lightly. How does that song go?

‘And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind… and your candle’s burning out long before your legend ever will.’

Burnley away to Cardiff City, for me and Mrs T it was another weekend over in Hornsea and a wonderful food festival in Beverley Minster.  What JC would have thought of the trading going on and the beer stalls and gin stall I wouldn’t like to think? Traditionally he throws traders out of the temple. But what a feast of pastry and country grub this was. How sad though when we went past the stall selling duck and pigeon and stuff. The duck was labelled Mallard. Now that kind of brought a little lump to my throat as I see them every time I walk along the canal near home, and then I thought what a good job it wasn’t labelled Gertrude or Jemima, I’d have been in tears. I succumbed to temptation and bought a Rabbit Pie and a Christmas Pie, plus a claret cheese for afters.

All this was while Burnley were apparently struggling at Cardiff with a performance that once again left those that were there thinking that there is more to come from this team. In the blue corner were those suggesting that we’ve been saying this all season and they still blow hot and cold and this is as good as it’s going to get. More than just a few folk though were adamant that a stonewall penalty was denied them when the ball was handled on the line. Had Burnley gone 1-0 up and the culprit sent off who knows what might have happened?

What did happen, as I was perusing a stall of wonderful looking mince pies, was that Cardiff scored their first and then the second as I was looking at the most mouth-watering array of Christmas cakes I have ever seen. It was a slow job trying to make your way through the throngs of people looking hungrily at table after table of the finest baking and cuisine.

The second Cardiff goal was headed in so easily from a corner and you thought back to that spell last season when you covered your eyes with your hands when the opposition took corners; we conceded so many. I once used the F word rather loudly by the bananas in Marks and Spencer’s when Mrs T told me we’d let a goal in. This time I remembered where I was and said it to myself.

Into the last minutes and as we wandered by the stalls near the door; a local choir now filled the Minster with the most gorgeous A Capella singing. Next up was a ladies banjo group of all things. Clearly the Lord in Beverley likes his ale and plinkety plink music. As the ladies plinked, I blinked, when Mrs T informed me that Burnley had pulled a goal back with just minutes to go.

Just a consolation we assumed and proceeded to sample a slice of locally-sourced turkey a bloke was handing out from a large dish. But heck no, before I’d had time to circle back and get another slice thinking if I can a get a slice of bread from another stall I can make a sandwich, Burnley had astonishingly equalised. Folk looked at us strangely as we whooped and hollered by now walking by a table of pickles and chutneys. 2-2 and praise the Lord I said, for he is truly bountiful.

The film we saw later showed what a comedy goal the equaliser was. We’ve given away enough of them ourselves at the Turf in past seasons so no-one was going to feel sorry for the Cardiff lad who in running mode simply ran into the path of Keane’s header that was going 10 yards wide, and bundled it over his own line. Ta very much we all said and by this time plenty of Burnley folk had left the ground or were halfway out, many of them drenched by the merciless wind and rain that gave people a soaking even as far back as row Z.

‘I’m just so pleased with the mentality of the players,’ said Sean D at the end. Mentality, resilience, bouncebackability, Marney is back and a Christmas Pie for tea… if Carlsberg did happy endings…

You got bullets we got the champagne


Sean Dyche was in the news. Stuart Pearce on Talksport said that he is the manager that new young managers should been looking up to, never mind your Mourhinos. Alex Ferguson, according to Alastair Campbell in a Nick Robinson interview, said along with Alan Pardew, Dyche is currently one of the two best managers around.

And in a double Barry Kilby interview in the Telegraph, BK revealed that he and Dyche often chat about the nature of pessimism and how this is a fixed Burnley trait. BK’s mother when things were going well would often say, ‘It won’t last.’ It is thus ingrained in his psyche and he will own up to this willingly. My grandmother was much the same. Mrs T says the same about me that I am forever gloomy. I don’t know why. All I said was, ‘We’ll not beat Brighton.’

At the interviews when Dyche was appointed he had that persona that impressed people, said Barry K Coyle too had presence. Cotterill had intensity. You can look at records said BK but it comes down in the end to a gut feeling. ‘We just had a feeling he was the right man for the job.’

The weather wintry, cold winds from the north, in fact snow had been forecast, the game on TV and a 1.15 kick off. There had been the 2-week international break and Tom Heaton still hadn’t got a few minutes on the pitch with England; bit mean of Roy we all thought.

The Desso Turf Moor pitch looked splendid and there’s a shedload of equipment and lighting rigs to keep it in tip top shape. I found a piece from the 80s about Roy Oldfield and his work on the pitch and he had that infamous strip down the Bob Lord side that never seemed to drain properly to contend with. He had one moody old mower that was more temperamental than Grace Jones. We had a similar but smaller petrol mower years ago chez moi and life revolved around whether it would start or not at weekends.

‘Clarets fans may criticise the team from time to time, they may criticise the manager and directors but few could complain about the turf at Turf Moor. The pitch which measures almost two acres has been the responsibility of groundsman Roy Oldfield for 17 seasons, save a spell away from the club of about four years.

‘Roy’s job is as unpredictable as the weather and he avidly watches the forecasts on TV to try to be one step ahead of his greatest opponent. ‘The weather is my enemy not the players,’ he said.

‘The Monday morning after a game on a Saturday sees Liverpool-born Roy, 55, on the pitch with his assistants Aden McGough and Lee Hall. Their first job is to try to patch up the turf after it has been cut up by the players on Saturday afternoons and that can take up to six hours if it is in a really bad way. Tuesday’s main job is to roll the pitch and in the summer trim the grass if necessary to ensure that the surface is as flat as possible.

‘The pitch is then spiked to a depth of about six inches to encourage drainage and allow air to get to the roots. On Friday the grass gets a trim although Roy does not believe in giving it a proper scalping.

“I do not cut it very short because it helps keep the grass and you need it in the winter months,” he said.

‘Roy is at Turf Moor at 8-45 a.m. on Saturday to carry out a few pre-match duties such as checking the pitch once more and the nets. The next task for Roy and the rest of the ground staff is to mark out the pitch and this is done as late as possible on match day. He then checks the players’ changing rooms and cleans out the dug-outs, furnishing them with cushions and substitute cards.

‘The referee usually arrives around lunchtime and Roy is there to welcome him with a cup of tea and a warm welcome. Then he is ready for the kick-off.

‘When it’s all over Roy checks the changing rooms to make sure the lights are off and the taps turned off and if there is a forecast of frost he will stay until about 7.30 to roll the pitch. Sunday is usually a day of rest unless there is a mid-week match at Turf Moor and the whole process starts again. It all sounds relatively straightforward until you take the weather into consideration.

‘Roy has nightmares about waking up on a Saturday to find there has been a heavy downpour. A deluge just before a game can be a killer. “You have got a very hard job to get all the water away. You have to fork it and spike it and while the teams are travelling and the supporters are on their way you are doing your best to get the water off the surface,” he said.

‘Snow is the other blight although the groundstaff can roll that out and mark the lines in either blue or red. Basically Roy and his team will do anything to make sure the game goes ahead.

“If it is called off you feel very disappointed. You know it is not your fault and that you have done your best. You prepare for what might happen. If there is a possibility of snow you get the referee in early to make an inspection,” he said.Overall Roy has found that the condition of his pitch has met with approval all round. “I can be a bit difficult at times because of the weather conditions but people don’t complain about it.”

‘He is now working under his twelfth manager at Turf Moor and was first employed when Jimmy Adamson held the post replacing John Jameson who taught him the ins and outs of the job. During his time there he has met some of the greatest names in the game including Denis Law, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish. But his meeting with one man stands out in his memory.

“The most interesting man I met was Bill Shankly. He talked sense. One of the most pleasing things about this game is the people you meet. I read so much about the bad side of football but there are more good people in the game than bad.”

There were indeed snitterings of snow across East Lancashire the day before the game; in Leeds it was a day for sitting in front of the fire watching Sky Soccer Saturday, results not all that helpful to Burnley with Middlesbrough winning on Friday night with an extra –time penalty. Other results conspired to put Burnley down to fifth.

Two Burnley players were just pleased and relieved to be home. Both had been in France at the time of the terrorist attacks in Paris. George Boyd had been at Euro Disney with his family. Chris Long had actually been in the Stade de France and was in an evacuated hotel. Before the Brighton game there was an immaculate minute’s silence in memory of the slain and to show solidarity with those affected. These are troubled times that we live in. The events at the French national stadium served to show that football is no longer a 90-minute escape from reality and Andrew Neil’s searing TV tirade sums up how probably most of us feel. This is maybe not the place to reproduce it but just google Andrew Neil TV rant.

Over 15,000 saw a real mish mash of a game. Something around 350 came up from Brighton and fair play to them; they don’t like coming up to the frozen north where they think streets are still cobbled, we all eat Lancashire Hot Pot every day and have lofts full of pigeons.

And a curious game it was with a blistering opening five minutes that suggested that by the end of it we might be going home having seen a ten-goal classic. Normality then set in and thoughts of a 5-5 draw became fanciful if not downright silly, when it became clear that this was developing into a game where the two teams were about to cancel each other out and flair was very much absent.

Brighton were a goal up within a minute thanks to Zamora and a bit of pinball but Burnley were level just three minutes later when the referee spotted serious shirt pulling and Gray smacked home the penalty. And then, sadly, for the next 40 minutes it became cat and mouse stuff, fine if you like that sort of thing, but dullish if you fancy something more entertaining served up by flying wingers and rumbustious centre-forwards with foreheads like dustbin lids.

Vokes was unavailable, the Jut and Barnes far from fitness and any chance of a return, so all Gray had to accompany him was Hennings or Long. Arfield and Boyd are what they are and good at it, runners and workers, industrious and dedicated to the cause; but consistent pace to the by-line and a constant supply of deadly crosses are just not their forte.

From this whirlwind beginning the game until half-time became what we had always imagined it would be, dogged, pedantic, predictable, and almost tedious for the last half hour of the first half. When Willie Irvine came on at halftime to receive his plaque to commemorate his 29-goal record, those of us with more years than we care to remember behind us, thought of his partnership with Andy Lochhead, both of them feeding off pinpoint crosses from Willie Morgan or Ralph Coates.

Then we gave ourselves a reality check and remembered that this is no longer ‘then’, it is today and now we see players earning money that Irvine and Lochhead would never have thought possible.

Brighton had been well organised, well-drilled, systematic, frequently spoiling and mauling; lucky not to have had more players booked for all the grappling and jostling they got away with, especially when faced with Gray. They moved up the field purposefully and methodically, always had a man wide, but in truth created little in the penalty area or seriously tested Heaton. Yes they looked a very competent side and it was easy to see why they remained unbeaten. But other than the one goal they scored it was hard to think of another good chance they created for all their possession.

It was a pattern that continued in the second half but Burnley must have had an earwigging or a straightener. In the new half they were much more threatening, Boyd having his best game for a while and Gray a constant handful. But sadly there was no big man alongside, no-one to share the load, take some of the bruises, or win the ball in the air. Corners were largely comfortably headed clear or caught by the goalkeeper.

Brighton hardly looked like scoring again but Burnley most certainly did. Already in the first half they’d forced a wonder or a fluke point-blank save from the goalkeeper, it was hard to decide which. In the second Arfield smote a mighty shot from distance to cap a good move; it would have made his Blackburn goal look average, had it gone in. It missed by a fraction. Keane was only a toe-poke away from connecting with a Mee flick-on header, Long just a yard out latched onto a ball that had bounced off another player but put it wide.

But the moment when you knew that this would surely end as a 1-1 draw came when the ball came out to an unmarked Arfield in the corner of the area. Running in he met the ball maybe 12 yards out, the goal gaping, the crowd convinced the winner was coming, all of us ready to stand and bellow and shout, he surely couldn’t miss. This is what they practise all week, he’d scored a belter at Blackburn and this was an even easier chance. But miss he did and powered the ball wide of the post, not even on target.

Other than Long coming on for Hennings other subs remained unused. We wondered if Taylor or Kightly would be brought on to shake things up a bit and replace tiring legs; the answer was no. The game concluded as we ought to have known it would, as an inevitable draw. There was no goal avalanche but enough near misses or attempts by Burnley in the second half to convince us that had Burnley nicked it, it would have been deserved.

‘Not enough pace or width to break down the better teams,’ mailed Berian from Oz who had seen the game on TV.

‘Maybe on another day Arfield’s late shot would have sneaked inside the post,’ Gunnar mailed from Alesund. ‘But you can’t always get what you want, sang Mick Jagger years ago,’ he added.

We began to shuffle out at the end but then something quite unnerving happened. Overhead we heard the drone of a low flying single-engined plane. From the upper James Hargreaves it was out of sight and we craned our necks to look upwards. The sounded faded but then returned as if it was doing a second pass over the ground behind us. Were Mrs T and me the only ones that felt slightly unnerved?

By this time most heads and eyes near us were turned upwards and you could almost sense the same thoughts in people’s minds. ‘What the hell is that and what is it doing over a football ground?’ Eventually it left the area and the sound of the engine faded away completely but it served to show that the events and vivid imagery of the Friday terrorism in Paris have got to most, if not all of us. For a few moments there was a real feeling of suspicion and apprehension in people around us.

Suet Rag Pudding at the Shepherd’s Rest at Lumbutts above Todmorden, followed by Ginger Sponge pudding and custard restored a sense of calm and well-being. A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc most certainly played its part. A French cartoon was defiant. ‘You’ve got the bullets but we’ve got the champagne,’ was the caption. Amen to that.

We need a groundsman Roy


There’s a defeat due at Wolves said Ian Holloway for Burnley, a good side but just due a defeat. It was a return home for Andre Gray brought up within minutes of Molineux and on their books until he was 13. It was a return for four Clarets, Jones, Ward, Kightly and Vokes who all featured in the 2009 Wolves side. For Tom Heaton it was his 100th consecutive league game.

And on the Wolves side was the reformed Kevin MacDonald brought to Turf Moor by Owen Coyle and forever remembered for his half-time disappearing act in the game against Man City in the downpour. Today he says he is a more mature person and that his trip to the pub was blown out of all proportion and it was ludicrous anyway to say he had been to the pub.

Wolves hadn’t been too clever of late but over the years their record against Burnley on their home patch has been good with 7 wins out of the last 10 meeings.

It was rare event in fact, a 0-0 draw after which the standout and briefest summary of the game was simply: ‘if this was the day you chose to redecorate the spare bedroom rather than go to Molineux, then you made a good choice.’

At the beginning of the season Mrs T put it on the list of games that we would go to. We didn’t; new windows and paying for them became the priority. But here’s a test of honesty. They fitted them a month ago and still haven’t sent the bill. What do I do?

I scanned the reports and the messageboards. By all accounts not a lot happened in the game once the Remembrance Day silence had been observed. In the first half Burnley had some shots; in the second half Wolves had some shots. Nobody scored and everyone went home many thinking what a waste of an afternoon. Sometimes there seems not a lot more you can write except that after the game suddenly to everyone’s surprise, the lawnmowers started up.

Much was made of the flat, dead turf with the grass being long enough to warrant cutting after the game. Dyche himself made a point of mentioning it. Did the Wolves manager want long grass to stifle Burnley’s game? It turned out that he did saying later he wanted to affect the speed at which Burnley broke and by that presumably meaning the balls played through to Andre Gray.

Was this underhand gamesmanship or super-professionalism and attention to detail? There is the story that at Burnley years ago manager Brian Miller had the pitch deliberately flooded overnight by leaving the sprinklers on so that the game the next day would be postponed. A local referee was summoned early in the morning who cancelled the game. He cottoned on immediately to what had happened and said er don’t be asking me to do this again will you?

By coincidence in the week I’d been to visit Roy Oldfield who had been groundsman at Turf Moor for a long period between 1972 and what Roy thought was something around 1992. Roy is in his 80s now with lots of memories and what I hope in the coming weeks will be a few tales to tell.

It’s a fascinating period in Burnley history including relegations and promotions, the Celtic Game, the Orient game, managers like Adamson, Potts, Miller, and John Bond, Chairman Bob Lord and then John Jackson, and all of the Wilderness Years.

1972 and Roy remembered it like it was yesterday when Burnley manager Jimmy Adamson walking in Scott’s Park asked him would he be able to come up to the house to talk about doing some work. Roy was a gardener at Scott’s Park much preferring the outdoor life to the pit where he had once worked long, back-breaking hours.

Gardening could be long and arduous too, but in glorious weather under sun and blue skies there was no comparison with the stooped, dusty, choking and claustrophobic life underground, if a life is what it was. Down the mines he dug coal in the semi-dark; at Scott Park he dug flower beds in the fresh outdoor air, looked after the rose and shrub beds, and tended the herbaceous borders and the lawns. It was the best swap he ever made he says and the good job he did there was quietly noticed by the Burnley manager.

Scott Park was one of Burnley’s four flagship parks; it was the second biggest and had been gifted to the town by businessman Alderman John Hargreaves Scott who willed a sufficient amount of money to develop a park for the benefit of the Burnley people. When Burnley Corporation acquired the Hood House Estate it was decided that this would be the place where a park could be created that complied with Scott’s wishes. It opened in 1893 but the official opening was two years later when it was dedicated to the people of Burnley. And how they needed these green spaces as somewhere to find escape from the grimy back-to-back terraced houses in which they lived and the drab streets and the endless, low-paid toil in the factories and mines.

1972 was a transitional year at the football club. At the end of season ‘71/72 the club had finished in seventh place following relegation the season before. Season ‘72/73 would see a return to the top flight. Adamson had certainly felt fierce antagonism but Lord had stuck by him. As he walked his Scottish Terrier round the park the gardeners were never short of a quip or two, usually good-natured, recalls Roy and he would often stop and chat about the team and the results as the season progressed. The end of season ‘71/72 had seen a run of several consecutive wins. The banter became more good natured.

‘We’d pull his leg about some of the results,’ said Roy, ‘but one morning he asked me could I call round at his house after work as he had a job for me. “A little job,” Jimmy said.’

So, assuming it would be something and nothing in Jimmy’s garden, at 5 that day Roy downed his tools, cleaned up and set off for Jimmy’s house.

‘But what he said when I got there astonished me,’ said Roy. ‘How’d you like to work at Turf Moor as groundsman,’ he asked me. ‘It was totally out of the blue, the last thing I expected to be asked.’

‘But I know nowt about being a groundsman,’ he answered almost lost for words and completely taken aback, whereupon Adamson assured him that he’d learn all there was to know from the guy soon to retire, John Jameson.

The next step was to meet Chairman Bob Lord for his approval and to sort out a wage. Roy remembers thinking that he’d be a bit crafty and take old wage slips to show him that included overtime so that Lord would see that he was on a good wage that he would at least have to match. They talked about things for a while and Lords gave only a cursory glance at the wage slips. Lord then sat back in his resplendent pomp and nodded.

‘Right then,’ he said, ‘we’ll give thee a do, ay we’ll give thee a do.’

It might only have been a second or two that Lord glanced at the wage slips but he had missed nothing and of course he had spotted that what Roy had showed him was more than just the basic wage. ‘And by the way,’ he said as Roy was leaving, ’I saw them wage slips included overtime.’

Roy stopped in his tracks. ‘But we’ll see thee right,’ Lord added with a faint grin.

‘He missed nothing,’ said Roy, ‘and in all the time I knew him he never missed anything; always had his facts right. In all the years I knew him he was good to me. If you worked hard you had nothing to worry about. It was if you slacked then he was onto you straightaway.’

It was agreed that Roy would begin as assistant groundsman learning the job from John Jameson. Well over 40 years later he still laughs at Lord’s words that he repeated again: ‘and by the way, them wage slips includes overtime on ‘em – but we’ll see thee right.’ Roy thought it was funny then, and still does.

Bob Lord did see him right and Roy Oldfield has nothing but good memories of him – except for the mug of tea he made for him the first time he ever went to Lord’s house to do some work.

‘He had this huge bungalow and two fiercesome Alsatians; they frightened anybody and everybody that ever went to that house. The first time I went I was absolutely terrified by them but his daughter Barbara had them under instant control so in I went. Bob showed me round, told me what he wanted doing and then asked, ‘Does thee want a brew. Ah’ll mek thee a brew.’

‘That’ll be grand,’ I said, ‘and stood and watched him making this mug of tea. There were no tea bags he just spooned spoon after spoon of tea leaves out of a grey packet, probably Typhoo, and spoon after spoon went in. It was the worst mug of tea I ever tasted, so strong you could have stood a shovel in it never mind a spoon. Somehow I managed to drink some of it whereupon Bob asked me, “how was that then, alright for thee?” I could hardly say it was awful so I mumbled that it was a good brew and then managed to get rid of the rest of it when he wasn’t looking. After that it was always Barbara that made me a brew when I was up there.’

The tale that Bob Lord sacked Roy for not watering his tomatoes rang no bells with him. It was Jimmy Adamson who told this story in an unpublished magazine article that years later appeared in the Adamson book, The Man Who said No to England.

‘The story that Bob sacked me for not watering his tomatoes at his bungalow is a bit fanciful. I think Jimmy told that story after he and Lord parted company. It was at Gawthorpe where there was a big greenhouse that we grew them and after he retired Lord spent more and more time at the club and Gawthorpe. We grew carnations and he loved to pick one for his button hole. Something else he did was to pick a Eucalyptus leaf and then rub it between his fingers under his nose and say, “Tha’ll never need medicine if you smell this.”’

‘Maybe it was a lad called Ian Rawson that was sacked and that was in trouble for the tomatoes. I do know that Bob lord did eventually sack him when he caught him at Turf Moor cutting the grass and the lines weren’t straight and Ian had been larking about doing them in a zig zag pattern if I remember rightly. Bob had been watching him for a while and if you didn’t work and do your job right then that was it, you were sacked.

‘Once the new stand was built along Brunshaw Road, the one they named after him; Bob regularly used to stand at the top of the steps near the directors’ seats and just watch us working. Many a time when I was out on the pitch seeing to things I’d see him standing there with his arms folded, just watching, watching us work.’

‘Most of my work was at Turf Moor but maybe one day a week I’d help down at Gawthorpe and always remember setting mole traps with Arthur Bellamy down in the bottom field. We must have set dozens over the years and we had a lot of laughs that’s for sure, but I don’t think we ever caught one. Lovely man was Arthur. He’d been a player at the club and a coach and then somehow found himself on the Gawthorpe ground staff round about the time John Bond arrived. Bond was just one of the many people I worked with.’

‘What wonderful times I had over the years thanks to Jimmy Adamson and his surprise request that he made. There were nearly 20 years of drama and excitement and meeting some of the great football people, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough and Kevin Keagan among them; and of course a procession of Burnley managers one of them being Harry Potts. I can honestly say they were among some of the best years of my life, but some of the worst as well when there was the Orient game when we could have gone out of the Football League that day. It’s nearly 30 years ago and those of us that were there were will never forget it. There was the Celtic game when there was the riot and so much violence that people were truly afraid for their safety. There were promotions and relegations with emotions that ranged from celebration to despondency.’

‘There were so many things that happened but on the very first day when I started work at Turf Moor inside the stadium with not much more than a mower a spade and a fork, I looked at the chaos and rubble of the old Brunshaw Road Stand that had been demolished and the new one still hadn’t been built, and I thought:

‘What the ‘eck am I doing here?’

Sean this is Burnley not Barcelona


It was all smiles at the board meeting the day before the Huddersfield game. And why shouldn’t it have been. Money in the bank, Danny Ings money still to come, the points piling up, the win at Blackburn, the new office block nearing completion, the green light for Gawthorpe, and Sean D’s big surprise.

Ya Ya Toure didn’t get one for his birthday and had a strop but here at Burnley we know how to be generous with people. If they do good, they get a cake. It took Sean D by surprise, because he wondered if he might get a Rolex. He accepted the cake with good grace then wondered if there might be a Rolex inside. No, he said, just sultanas. Good job he didn’t know that 100 years ago player Billy Watson was given a gold watch to mark his 100th game.

Sean, this is Burnley not Barcelona. In the poorer days of the Wilderness Years it might just have been an Oddies sausage roll. Even special guests when they are hosted in the boardroom only get fish and chips. The board in fact lashed out on the cake. It was from M&S and then Barrie Oliver decorated it DIY style. The Turf Moor Thrift Stadium has a nice ring to it.

The inquests on the win over Huddersfield win were plentiful. The mantra seems to be: ‘one day a team will come to Turf Moor and get a hammering.’ The feeling was that it is Huddersfield that should have been that team, but chances were missed, the post was hit, the foot came off the pedal, the coasting began, Huddersfield stepped up their game and we all know what happened next. It was all so close to going the way of other games when there have been 2-0 leads. We knew it was Halloween but these are scares we can do without.

The Monday papers in Yorkshire paid tribute to Burnley’s organisation and being a difficult team to beat. It’s an apt summary and once again Andre Gray was cited as being the difference between Burnley and their opponents.

The Yorkshire Post is a reasonably sensible ee by gum paper but Leon Wobschall did the Ginger Mourhino thing without really thinking that these days it is no compliment to be compared to the moaning one who seems at an utter loss as to how gee up his ailing Chelsea side. But I liked the way he described Sean D as ‘reigning magisterially over the kingdom he surveys in Burnley across the Pennines.’

Wobschall had another nice little snippet: ‘It was Gray in a MOTM showing that took the bouquets this time but if there was any bubbly floating about, you sense he would have shared it with his colleagues. Burnley are that sort of side.’

And then Nahki Wells added his own bit: ‘They are a very well drilled team. Everyone is on the same page and knows their jobs and they do it week in and week out.’

With the win and another three points the question ‘is Sean Dyche Burnley’s greatest ever manager’ might have won a few more yes votes. When last I looked over 60% said yes as opposed to ‘needs more time.’ With that in mind I looked up a name that is huge in Burnley history but because it’s a name way back from 1910 to 1924 it is seldom mentioned. It’s in the history books alright but I’d guess if you sat a dozen people round a table in the pub for a good discussion he’d get few votes simply because he is so long before people’s memories and from a bygone era, but he’d certainly be my nomination.

He was the man who changed the colour of the shirts from green to claret so that every time you bellow ‘come on you clarets’ you honour John Haworth. He signed Bert Freeman, Tommy Boyle and Bob Kelly, three galacticos of the era. He won promotion to Division One in 1913. He won the FA Cup in 1914. On resumption of ‘normal’ football in 1919 he took BFC to runners-up spot in Division One. The next season they won the title and set a record of 30 unbeaten games. In 1921/22 they were third in the table. Sadly he died at the early age of just 48 in 1924.

All this was in an age without mobiles, fax, texts, emails, computers, laptops, iPads and motorways. They went around by train and John Haworth was secretary, odd-job man, chief bottle-washer and jack of all trades. A trainer did the muddy work. He had a telephone that didn’t always work plus a desk and the Post Office. It was in a Burnley of poverty, slum conditions, bad health, poor diet, low wages and exploitation, the oppression of working classes and a background of us and them. The ruling classes looked down their noses at football and it was beneath middle-class sensibilities because they thought it encouraged poor behaviour. Whilst he was at Burnley producing successful and winning teams Haworth gave the town pride; on Saturday afternoons he gave release and escape to crowds of working men who could take their minds off all their daily troubles. He brought a little bit of colour to an otherwise grey drab town.

Jimmy Mac tells a story about the great Bob Kelly. Sometimes Jimmy would take a stroll round Scott Park and there he would meet an old chap that he used to stop and chat with. His name oddly enough was Bob Lord although it certainly wasn’t THE Bob Lord. Of course they used to chat about football and the old lad was by then in his 80s and could well remember seeing the great Bob Kelly play and used to explain to Jimmy just how good he was. And then he would pause, look nostalgic, and always ended by saying: ‘Thee were a great player Jimmy but then so were yon Kelly. I reckon ‘e were just a bit better than you ‘n all by about this much,’ whereupon old Bob would use a finger on each hand and hold them up about two inches apart.

Fulham matchday: over the years at Turf Moor Burnley have rarely lost against Fulham. But this time Fulham arrived with their strikers on fire. The night damp, misty and grey, the kind of night when we tell ourselves that these southern teams come out shivering and wishing they were somewhere else.

Jeff Stelling on SKY was quite beside himself telling us that Fulham had not won here since 1951. The words fairly fizzed out of his mouth, grinning hugely as if revelling in Fulham’s historical ineptitude. ’28 attempts since 1951 he began. King George VI was on the throne, Clement Attlee was Prime Minister, the Archers was first broadcast and the average house price was £2.100. And Newcastle United won the FA Cup. Yeh, it was THAT long ago.’

We were in the 1882 and the Bob Lord for a change and it was hard to remember a time when we’d sat there and seen a win. There was one in Stan’s time I think and before that it was 1968 and the FA Youth Cup win. But to compensate for that we were on table 13 and 13 has never been an unlucky number for me oddly enough. It was McCormack that was more worrying and Jamie O Hara in midfield for Fulham than some ancient superstition.

A misty fug was slowly settling around the ground but inside the 1882 it was warm as toast and the Baked Salted Caramel Cheesecake was outstanding. ‘Tell chef this cheesecake is to die for,’ I said to catering-maestro Chris Gibson.
‘Ha’, he laughed, ‘we buy it in from Manchester.’

‘Never mind, tell him he slices it beautifully,’ I said the last piece slithering down nicely and Mrs T knocking back the Pinot Grigiot.

Burnley spent the first ten minutes finding their way and Fulham slipped the ball to each other neatly. The view was different for us, this time low down, near the front, up close and personal, seeing players in bone-jarring tackles, sweat pouring off them, making massive efforts and showing huge determination. The runs at speed are breathtaking, the athleticism is clear to see. And all the while we are behind Sean Dyche, the man in black, sipping water, urging, cajoling, pacing, consulting staff, exhorting and encouraging.

You can see how Andre Gray is as strong as a bull, shielding the ball, sticking his backside out so that the defender has no chance of winning the ball and then he’s away before you can blink. It was what Jimmy Mac used to do years ago. Despite two rushed shots, Sam Vokes had his best game for an age, his close control, cross-field runs, the spins and turns a treat to watch. Jones was simply majestic pulling the strings, never wasting a ball, the unsung hero and my MOTM despite Gray’s two goals. Barton has given him a new lease of life. And Barton, here there and everywhere, the cheeky chappie, mopping up, making passes, keeping it moving and of course chatting to the referee.

With that first tentative 10 minutes out of the way Burnley took over and ran rings round Fulham. This was a display of power football, of movement, of pace and incessant pressure. It paid off to the tune of two goals, the first a Gray header from a deep cross. How Gray rose that high to meet it is testament to his power, surrounded by six-foot giants. His second was a blistering shot low along the ground from 18 yards latching onto a superb through ball.

The 1882 buzzed at half time as we warmed up and thawed out. 2-0 at half-time was a dream of a scoreline and the quality of football was exceptional. When we play like that, there’s not a team in this league can live with us, said the guy sat next to me.

In the second half the cross bar cruelly denied Gray of a hat trick when he chipped and pinged. A Vokes header was heading like an arrow to the top corner until from nowhere a defender cleared from just under the crossbar. Another Gray shot whistled just over the cross bar.

But groans and furrowed brows appeared before that.

McCormack scored early on. Somehow the ball was worked into the Burnley box and there he was to slam it home. Fulham spirits were lifted, now it was them in the ascendancy but even so the best chances fell to Burnley. It became end to end, nip and tuck as the minutes ticked by and we willed that clock to hurry home with Heaton now earning his bonus.

Boyd was replaced by Matt Taylor, Gray by Long. The Fulham aerial onslaught was contained by Duff and Keane. Everybody dug in and slowly bit by bit the Fulham efforts diminished. By now Arfield was getting back into the game more and more and it was from him that Burnley’s third was contrived. It started with a contested throw-in on the right with Fulham defenders incensed they hadn’t won the throw and still haranguing the linesman after the final whistle. The ball came over to the left, Arfield pinged it in and the next thing we knew was that the ball was nestling in the Fulham net and Matt Taylor was racing away into the corner arms raised jubilantly. Arfield had slipped the ball across and there he had been to sidefoot it home.

After the game: the 1882. Barry Kilby brings Andre Gray for his MOTM presentation and the memory this leaves is the unfailing smiling patience of the guy as he stays behind for as long as people want to come up, shake his hand, have programmes signed, take photographs and give him a hug. He was so close to a brilliant hat-trick. The arguments begin as to which of them is the better striker, Gray or Ings: Phil Bird likens him to an early Ian Wright. Only months ago he was in the Conference. The media still likes to label him the £9million striker but whether it was £6million or £9million it was money well spent. From our normal perch in the upper James Hargreaves we just don’t see how strong these guys are and the punishment they take.

Something else we noticed from these unaccustomed seats was just how Matt Taylor plays with a smile on his face. More than once he looked across to Dyche with a quip and a laugh. Nice teeth we noticed too, the other day. A survey by the University College London undertook a study of footballers’ teeth from eight clubs and discovered that on the whole footballers’ teeth are in a poorer state than those of the general population, including infections and gum disease and this could be affecting their performances on the pitch.

Let’s face it; do any of us concentrate on work if we have a raging toothache? One in five footballers has suffered teeth injuries during a game. 37% of footballers had at least one tooth affected by decay. 75% of footballers needed fillings. More than 25% were sensitive to hot or cold drinks. Not a lot of people know that.

A great night then, boy that cheesecake was good, and a worthy win. It’s the best we’ve played this season said Sean D. Someone came up with the headline or strapline, Fulham beaten by two shades of Gray and a Matt finish. Whoever thought of that deserves a bonus.