The run of away games had seen just one point so far. The very healthy gap between Burnley and the bottom three had been closed to 7 points with Hull enjoying a definite renaissance. Burnley hadn’t won since the end of January and the 1-0 win over Leicester City. The texts had been arriving from slightly worried chums. The glass half full was ever so slightly tipping to glass half empty.

‘Yes we’ll be alright,’ we assured ourselves, ‘surely we won’t mess this up – will we?’ But this little bit of uncertainty was just starting to niggle.

It is the lot of being a football supporter. There is no cure for anxiety. If you are a player you can be in the training ground all week, working, building up confidence, knowing you have a say and direct input into your own fate, through your own effort and sweat. Uncertainty is a banned word, doubt is forbidden, the sports psychologists tell you to believe. You go out on the field for the next game, shoulders back, chest puffed out, filled with confidence. But: the supporter can only wonder, fret, he has absolutely no input other than trying to be that mythical twelfth man on matchday. He can only keep his fingers crossed, hope for the best or that little bit of luck and good fortune that can decide a result.

Sunderland was next up, a game that could make a massive difference with an elusive first away win.

One of the most memorable Burnley games at Sunderland was in November of ’65. Harry Potts had fashioned another great team with the likes of Willie Morgan, Ralph Coates, Brian O’ Neil, Gordon Harris, and of course up front were Lochhead and Irvine. By the end of September they were top of Division One. Some of the football was outstanding. Their play was fast, frenetic, constantly moving, O’ Neil was like a genie let out of the bottle. They mixed football with power and had players who could mix it as well as play against any team that wanted a bit of the rough stuff. Lochhead and Irvine were like good cop bad cop with the former one of the hardest players ever to tread a football field.

‘Set to go places,’ was Frank Clough’s prediction in the Sun.

In early November they had regained the top position with Irvine and Lochhead having claimed 23 of the 36 goals scored. And then came one of the performances of the season at Sunderland that had every reporter dipping into their stock of superlatives. It was a performance that ranks up there with Burnley’s greatest on a day when they were just untouchable; a game that Ralph Coates never forgot. After the game he was taken to the Sunderland boardroom and the Sunderland chairman demanded to know, ‘Why did we never sign this player. How did we miss him?’

Sports writers predicted that Burnley could well win the title that season as brilliant passing and movement plus individual virtuoso performances had Sunderland bewitched, bothered and bewildered. The greatest compliment was that this was a side equal to, if not better than the McIlroy Adamson side. The side at Sunderland had cost just £110 in signing on fees and was described as a team without weakness. There was constant press coverage as Burnley hit the limelight and Potts was asked over and again, ‘what was the secret.’

‘There isn’t one,’ he answered. ‘We have players of outstanding ability. They have come through together, they know what is wanted of them and they give it.’

The wins piled up but it was not to last. A run of six games early in ’66 was a turning point as other teams caught them. In the final 11 games there were 8 wins but it was too late with too much ground to catch up. One of those defeats was in a turbulent game against Don Revie’s Leeds United in a period when Leeds were establishing their unpalatable reputation. All these years later and they are still called ‘dirty Leeds’ thanks to their antics of the 60s and 70s.

Their strategy was to win at all costs and to adopt any tactic. They took bullying, intimidation and gamesmanship to new depths of cynicism. Pitch that against a team like Burnley with players like Angus, Lochhead, Harris, O’ Neil and Blacklaw, players that could be as physical as the next man when they needed to; and it was a recipe for disaster. At one point all the players were brought to the centre of the field for a dressing-down by the referee. It was a game watched by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of El Alamein, Bob Lord’s special guest. He must have thought he was back again in the middle of a WW2 battle. The word ‘brutal’ was inadequate and Leeds won with a most bizarre own-goal. Alex Elder cleared and sliced the ball from somewhere near his own corner flag and it somehow sailed over Blacklaw’s head. A chunk of luck like that, but going our way, would be welcome, we thought, up at Sunderland.

Things began well in the following season, ‘66/67 but then this time it was a defeat away at Sunderland 4-3 even though at one stage Burnley had been leading 3-1. Jimmy Adamson had been in charge for this game whilst Harry Potts was in Zurich for the Inter Cities Fairs Cup draw. Exactly when the differences between Potts and Adamson first began has never been clear but following this game in his programme notes Potts did something very rare for him and criticised the display.

‘Instead of building up our lead we proceeded to put the brakes on our commanding enterprise. In the light of what we had done earlier and could so easily have continued, the result from our point of view was ridiculous. It was a punishing reminder of our own folly and must not be ignored in future.’ It was an expression of his simple philosophy. If you score three then keep going and score four and don’t sit back and shut up shop. There were many who took it as a veiled criticism of Adamson as much as the team. Maybe it was in this that the seeds of their eventual estrangement began. Perhaps it was reading that Adamson first decided there isn’t room for both of us here.

The home game against Leeds United was yet another fracas, a brutal encounter reported the next day under the headline ‘Soccer Shame.’ Players’ legs were the targets rather than the ball and by all accounts it was a game even worse than that of the previous season.

‘Why must it always happen when we play Leeds?’ Potts asked and challenged Don Revie to a television debate about the game. ‘They should put their own house in order first,’ Revie retaliated.

‘We can’t be blamed,’ said Potts, ‘We try to play the game constructively. Revie responded by telling Potts he had a team of ‘fairies,’ which seemed an odd thing to say about a team with the likes of Lochhead, O’ Neil and Harris.

Those who headed to the north-east left a town behind that had suffered yet more heavy rain with some areas flooded, as if they hadn’t had enough. Sunderland fans were of the unanimous view that this was a must win game to stand any chance of survival. Burnley fans were thinking surely this must be the best chance of the first away win. A draw was of little use to Sunderland. To Burnley it would be another priceless point and keep their heads well above water. Surely Hull would lose at Everton. Surely Middlesbrough would lose at home to Man United. Alas football often doesn’t quite work that way. Boro had just dispensed with Karanka; there might well be a positive reaction.

Stop Defoe and you stop Sunderland was one topic. If he doesn’t score then who does up there. The worry was that he would be on fire, raring to go, now that he had just been chosen for the England squad at the ripe old age of 34. There’s an argument that there is no such thing as a must-win game, until that is you get to the last game of the season. For this fixture we might have begged to differ or at least have said we must not lose. An unwelcome stat had begun to surface; that Burnley hadn’t won a game since the end of January.

Sunderland where folks drink a beer called Wey Aye: Rupert Booth and assorted London Clarets were drinking ale at the Bridge Hotel, Newcastle. Hugh Burkinshaw messaged he’d just had the best pie ever. Joey Barton had previously won there with QPR, Newcastle and Man City. For the press there were 151 steps to climb to their perch. Mark Lawrenson was predicting a Burnley win. Most pundits were taking Burnley to win. We, meanwhile, were silently wishing they’d keep their predictions to themselves with one stat that was telling. Burnley had a horrible league record on Wearside and hadn’t won since 1972/73.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. What do you get when you have a side that is bottom and can’t score or win, versus a side that doesn’t score many and can’t win away from home? You get 0-0 at full-time and this I suppose was so obvious (after the event of course) that you wonder why you didn’t hot foot it to the nearest bookies and put a couple of grand on the 0-0 result. Maybe a few people did have a smaller wager on that score.

Well: a clean sheet and another golden point it was. Another small step on the painful journey to the end of the season that left Burnley 8 points clear of the bottom three but leaving another necessary result – Middlesbrough to lose, which the following day they duly did. Hull were given a clattering at Everton.

But good point though it was, and there were certainly many folks that were well pleased with that; there were muttered mumblings about the second-half performance.

We won’t have many better chances to win away from home, pretty underwhelming…This wasn’t Liverpool this was Sunderland, disappointing…That second half was pitiful barring minutes 85-90…Shocking away from home… Worst team in the league there for the taking and we nearly lost it…We won’t win away all season but hopefully we won’t need to…Approach play so one-dimensional…We bottled it today no closer to winning away than we were in August…Lack of creativity and it showed…We have one quality playmaker Defour, and he’s sitting on the bench…Saved only by Sunderland’s poor finishing and terrific goalkeeping from Heaton… Are we incapable of a simple through ball to Gray… That was awful against a dire side… feel like I’ve found a quid but lost a fiver…

But there were other positive views: That’s a good point today…We only need not to lose…Clean sheet away from home will do…Point gained…Not unhappy with that… A point on the road is alright…before the game you’d have been happy with a point… A point closer to safety…56% possession and 17 shots… 8 points clear of the bottom three, I’ll take a point there… All I want is to get there, I don’t care if we only finish 17th… We played so well how did we not win that…Only 4 points from 9 games needed and we are twelfth in the Prem… not a great spectacle but I’ll take the point… people are whinging but I’m good with a point…The London Clarets were slowly drinking their way back home…And Hugh Burkinshaw was still drooling over his Chicken Balti with suet pastry pie…

But most people were agreed on one thing, and also puzzled by it; and that was the non-use of Defour who was on the bench but unused. If he was in fact fit to play, surely he was the man to bring on in the second half to capitalise on his touch, skill and his ability to see a pass? If he was unused because he was deemed not fully fit, what was the point of having Defour there?

17 shots but only 3 on target was a telling stat. Total dominance of the first 30 minutes but nothing to show for it was another. By the sounds of things Burnley could easily have scored three but for woeful finishing. Boyd fluffed a golden chance. Barnes inexplicably poked wide from 6 yards. Vokes forced a save from Pickford. Barnes missed the chance to lob Pickford successfully. Hendrick missed a chance that had Phil Thompson on SKY wailing in bewilderment. But the two missed chances that summed up the game were the ones by Jones for Sunderland who with the goal at his mercy headed yards wide; then before that was the Barnes miss early on.

And then the second half was so different. Now it was Burnley off the boil, Sunderland missing chances as torrential rain cascaded down and sea mist crept in. Januzaj was causing problems and only Heaton saved the day in the final minute with another rescue save. It was Moyes’ last chance. The faces of the two managers told their own stories at the final whistle, Dyche smiling, Moyes sombre-faced. For Moyes, anti-climax and disappointment at two points lost and the doors about to swing shut in the Last Chance Saloon; for Dyche the satisfaction of a point gained, the daunting run of away games completed relatively undamaged, and still convinced that ‘the scratch of luck is coming.’ Of the 9 games remaining, 5 would be at home. Surely just one more win would do the job.

Ex-Sunderland manager Peter Reid was there watching. The Sunderland owner Ellis Short was there over from the USA. Hmmm said Sunderland fans and the media, sniffing a conspiracy, coincidence or what? Ellis Short was there with his wife. The wife was seen to be nodding off in the directors’ box. Who could blame her? ‘We’re not the real deal,’ said Dyche. What else could he say? The game was the last to be shown on MOTD. Nobody was surprised.



It was D-day for Joey, up before the FA to respond to the betting charges. We feared the worst, at best a 10-game ban maybe, at worst a ban long enough to end his career. To appreciate just how good a footballer he has been you have to see through the noise. Apparently, in the scientific sense, you can actually see through noise, but in Joey’s case it is simply the baggage that surrounds and accompanies him, the incidents, confrontations, controversies and complications. Strip that away and there is the damned fine footballer that we at Burnley saw the best of in the Champions season when he was truly exemplary. And since getting back in the team in January what an impact he had, once again. We won’t forget that free-kick goal he scored in his first game back.

Come Wednesday and the day of the hearing, the news was brief. Joey’s case was adjourned, thus leaving him free to play for Burnley until further notice. It is pure speculation but did his legal team already have the FA in knots; was the ‘crime’ so huge they were scratching their heads as to exactly what to do with him? There was no precedent so that they were in uncharted waters. Or was it just something routine, or members of the panel down with bad colds? Whatever the reason, one report said the chief investigator was ill, it was good news for Burnley leaving him free to play, assuming his hamstring tweak had mended.

I’d been plodding through old pieces I’d written looking for something and came across one about the Scottie dog we had – the Terrier. And I thought, yeh, that’s what Joey is, a Terrier, like Brian O’ Neil all those years ago, especially a Scottie, although in Brian’s case it was a Bedlington. They have minds of their own, not quite untrainable but almost; wilful, little buggars in fact. They are not dogs that sit on laps, fetch sticks, chase tennis balls and in the house they pretty much do as they please. The approach of any other dog set ours off into paroxysms of snarling fury, and show it a squirrel and that was the only time it shot off like lightning, always halfway up the tree before gravity brought it back with a thud. Mud it loved and was never happier than when rolling in goose droppings by the canal or fox poo in the garden. Fearless too, never afraid of anything twice the size: ‘Big dogs in a little body,’ one dog book described them. He was alpha-male and then some. Much the same could be said of our Joey.

The incredible Barcelona fightback in the Champions League when they came back to overturn a 4-0 defeat against PSG and won 6-1 in Barcelona, had us all thinking about great Burnley comebacks. Not too many people mentioned one that went back to Steve Cotterill’s time and involved Noel Gifton Williams. It was Burnley versus Barnsley, September 12, 2006, a game back home on a late summer Burnley evening; but we were in Greece, eating, or about to eat, in the Lighthouse Taverna down a humid, stuffy little alleyway in the heart of Lefkas Town. We never did find out why it was called The Lighthouse. There wasn’t a lighthouse anywhere near.

Steve, at least that’s what we called him, a burly, thick set man with a huge moustache and a booming voice, was owner, maître d’, sommelier (which simply meant he brewed his own stuff), manic waiter and money collector, in the sheltered and pretty courtyard with its three surrounding walls and flagstone floor, a space no bigger than an average living room. His wife did all the cooking, slaving over the stove in the adjoining room and in a heat that would have had an Arab passing out. The cosy, homely enclosed space beneath the vine leaves where we ate was always at oven temperature; Lighthouse Steve was also always at oven temperature, quick to shout from the doorway, ‘has anyone ordered chicken souvlaki,’ or, ‘who ordered pork steak,’ whilst he would stand non-plussed, a result of him getting orders mixed up and having no idea which table he was now serving.

We loved to go there; he provided better entertainment than Tommy Cooper and was about the same size but minus the Fez. His antics and gruffness drove some customers mad and they vowed never to return but those who liked him simply saw him as being eccentric, quirky, or even ‘delightful.’ We, meanwhile never tired of eating there, always recommended it and appreciated his Basil Fawlty approach to good customer service. But he didn’t care what people thought. He knew his food was good and so did we. He knew his restaurant would be full the next night.

Without knowing he was Greek you might have thought he was the quintessential grumpy Yorkshireman. But if he took to you, you had a friend for life. In fact we knew people that took a small tray of his moussaka and would smuggle it back to the UK in their suitcases. That’s how good it was. The fried zucchini was to die for.

It was just one of those nights and service was even worse than usual with a yacht flotilla in as well to further fill the place. Plates of food were going all over the place to the wrong people. Sometimes you just accepted what he brought regardless of what you ordered. Our meals showed no sign of arriving but the wine was good and anyway, what was the hurry. Nobody hurries in Greece. Steve was at the next table about to explode, hovering over someone menacingly, that had dared to ask what time his food would arrive and should he come back the next day. It was then that the first text arrived from Turf Moor and our chum John who was there. Burnley were hardly riveting back in the Cotterill days but we still wanted to know the scores.

The news was bad. Burnley were losing, first 1-0 and then 2-0 said the second text. At least by now we’d had the starters. Bloody Barnsley winning 2-0 but then we pulled one back and Gifton then took over. Noel Gifton Williams was a 6’3” man mountain who along with the equally muscular Ade Akinbiyi had once been to Turf Moor and terrorised Burnley with Stoke City, who if memory serves, won that day. When Steve Cotterill bought them and paired them at Turf Moor we thought (or at least I did) wow this pair will take us to the top. Alas, they didn’t.

By this time arthritis in both of Gifton’s knees was taking its toll. Prior to that at an early age he had been a potentially huge talent, but he became an example of just how cruel football can be following injuries when movement is hindered. But: on this particular night he bestrode the Turf like a colossus whilst we, far away, enjoyed the fun and games in Stevie’s Lighthouse restaurant. A third text arrived. Jon Harley had pulled one back. We accordingly ordered more wine. The house white that always came in a carafe because we suspected it was kept in buckets round the back.

And then at intervals three more arrived, texts not carafes. . One by one Gifton slotted home his three hat-trick goals, the last in the 90th minute, by which time we felt even better as by then we had finally eaten. It was a night to remember for Gifton. And for us it became a taverna night we never forgot.

Other than saying ‘one day we’ll win away,’ only the most optimistic gave more than two seconds to thoughts of a Burnley win in the Liverpool game, the game that was re-arranged from early season when Liverpool’s giant new stand was not ready. It was game three in the on-the-road series that at one stage we thought would have a huge impact on the season. Only 7 points clear at kick-off, Hull had won the day before; but in truth this game was almost a ‘free-hit’. Did anyone really expect to win? Anything from this game would therefore be a bonus. Klopp was still scratching his head as to how Liverpool had lost early in the season but was complimentary saying that of all the other bottom half teams Burnley were the team with the clearest plan.

The clear plan could so easily have worked but alas didn’t. This was another defeat on the road but a defeat that left us all frustrated by how well Burnley had played for large parts of the game, particularly the first half, and how poor Liverpool had been for most of the game. It was hard to accept that Liverpool had actually won and Burnley lost yet another game by the odd goal.

Barnes had given Burnley a stunning lead very early on (sublime said Dyche) and for the rest of the first half Liverpool were lacklustre, impotent and not far short of clueless. Lowton made the goal with what might well be the pass of the season, an inch perfect diagonal through ball on the ground that dissected the defenders that Barnes then rocketed home. The longer the half went on the more you thought that this was a game that Burnley were improbably going to win. And then, yet again, there was another injury time lapse and a goal was conceded in what was Liverpool’s first real opportunity when the ball broke in the box, bounced off Mee, Mee slipped, and Heaton went the wrong way. The whistle went just seconds afterwards.

Those of us at home sat on the edge of the sofa watching the game on the box just looked amazed that Liverpool had actually managed to concoct something, and then open-mouthed and aghast in horror muttering as yet another undeserved goal was given away in injury time. The list of games where this has happened, either in the first or second half, must now be a page long. The whole complexion of the game was changed in that luckless moment when the ball broke so kindly for Liverpool.

A draw then, we’d have settled for that as we’d continued to play so well. But even that was not to be. In yet another lapse, Can found himself in yards of space and unchallenged was able to strike a bobbling pea-roller home from 25 yards and then watch the ball slip inside the post with Heaton unable to reach it. Ironic too that it was Emre Can, so often referred to in Scouseland as Emre Can’t. We knew how it would work from that point. Burnley might huff and puff, they might indeed continue to play well, they might make Liverpool look decidedly average (and even average was a flattering description) but fail to score and lose the game.

The pundits praise was plentiful, Barnes and Gray described as sensational on MOTD in the first half. Burnley did very little wrong, was another summary. But what good is praise when the luck just doesn’t go your way and you just can’t stick a second goal away. Whereas Liverpool had grabbed their fluky extra time chance and scored, Burnley muffed theirs when Lowton was unable to capitalise on the moment the ball came to him in the corner of the 6-yard box and blazing over missed a golden opportunity to make the score 2-2. On such moment s are games decided.

11 shots by Burnley and just one on target told yet another story that at this level if you miss such a percentage you simply will not win no matter how well you play. ‘A bitter pill to swallow,’ said Dyche and when you come away from a place such as Anfield disappointed that you have not won at least one point, then that is a certain measure of how well you played. It was hard to fault one single Burnley player.

‘Burnley are so much better than their away record suggests, it is staggering they are winless,’ headlined the Mirror. ‘Nowhere in football can there be such a misleading record as Sean Dyche’s team and their failure to win on their travels this season; powerful but painfully unfortunate. The last seven defeats away have all been by the odd goal. It was a defeat as cruel as the one at the Emirates in January.’

Liverpool relief was all too clear. Klopp bordered on the ecstatic that they had ground out a result against a side as awkward as Burnley. Liverpool don’t usually win ‘ugly’ he went on and on in an interminable MOTD on-pitch interview with a trio of fawning interviewers.

The Burnley support was yet again fantastic in its noise and constancy, frequently drowning out (at least on TV) the sound of the Kop. But the the modern-day Kop is nothing like as powerful and awesome as it was in previous decades. ‘You’re not Danny Ings,’ the Burnley crowd sang whenever a Liverpool player scuffed a shot or fluffed an opening. The famed Kop might have retaliated at the end with the same chant when Lowton fluffed his chance. But the Kop and scouse wit missed the chance, the modern version nowhere near as sharp as it used to be.

It’s not often you can say that Liverpool were there for the taking. But this game was one of them. Alas by now a few people were commenting that for all their ‘hard luck,’ admirable performances and ‘deserved to get something,’ Burnley hadn’t won a game since the end of January, a statistic that had crept up almost unnoticed.

But: Sunderland next and the run of away days comes to an end; win that and all might be well, we assured ourselves.



Coast to coast and back again, criss crossing the UK, the first of the four away games successfully out of the way, Burnley having gained another inch on the way to safety; East to Hull, back West to Swansea, up the coast to Liverpool and then east again to Sunderland. None of them strictly speaking bucket and spade seaside places; all of them remnants of Britain’s industrial might and sea-going prosperity but now re-invented, and little Burnley (though some would say not little any more) knocking on their doors.

Swansea: where both Leighton James and Brian Flynn once plied their trade, two of Burnley’s greatest players. I can remember seeing Brian Flynn for the first time, hazy about when and who it was against, but the images of what he did in that game are imprinted vividly. It was a stunning performance from a pint-sized kid who sprayed passes around, long and short, ran the midfield, scurried here and there, and slotted into the team as if he’d been there years. A few of us were there together; Mrs T of course, Joe McNamara was another, Terry Kershaw and Brian Hughes. We kept looking at each open mouthed as this precociously talented, pint-sized kid showed no nerves, hesitancy or shyness. He served Burnley well: former director Derek Gill in his diaries describes him as a joy to deal with when it came to contract time when he returned to Burnley, and groundsman Roy Oldfield had a nice little tale.

In his early days when Brian had no money and players weren’t showered with free boots by the bucket load by the manufacturers as they are now, Brian was keen to get a pair of Adidas boots, the ones with the three stripes. Roy took it upon himself to solve this situation and took a pair of small, old black boots and painted three stripes down the side of each boot and then presented the boots to Brian. Roy still chuckles about it and when working on Roy’s book of the old groundsman days, Brian came down and met up with him again. And yes they laughed about the home-made Adidas boots as we photographed them both on the old brown bench that Paul Bradshaw found, the one that we feel sure is the very same one that Roy sat on all those years ago, just to the side of the player’s tunnel.

Paul Fletcher tells the tale of a sea cruise aboard the QE2. Bob Lord had needed an operation on his ears and was told he must not fly again. On the boat, Brian was a big part in a typical Fletcher prank. Brian was shoved into a big laundry basket, one of those that were wheeled from room to room to collect the bedding, and Brian was festooned in a white sheet. In went Brian and he was told that they’d leave the basket outside Jim Thomson’s room. They’d knock on the door, Jim would open it; Brian would leap out in the white sheet making a hullabaloo and scare the living daylights out of Thommo.

Except, deliberately, without telling Brian, they didn’t leave it outside Jim Thomson’s room, they chose a room at random without telling Brian, knocked on the door, and hid where they could see the result. The door opened, Brian leapt out with a huge BOOOO as loud as he could, worthy of an Oscar, but was then horrified to learn that it was an elderly couple that came to the door to see who it was. Fletch insists that the woman shrieked, her teeth fell out and the husband’s toupee lifted up 6 inches above his head.

‘They were both white as Brian’s sheet,’ said Fletcher. ‘And we thought they were both about to have a heart attack. It was not a stunt we ever repeated.’

If we thought Liverpool would win at Leicester and leave them in the bottom three we were sadly frustrated. Leicester put on a performance to rival anything they had produced under Ranieri. Probably all of football was disappointed after the weekend events and the sacking of Ranieri. The conspiracy tales were rampant that the players were the instigators of the sacking having had talks with the owners and their representatives. The leading and most trusted reporters were adamant that this was in fact what had happened with certainly four Leicester players involved immediately after the game in Spain. True or not, their performances for him in the weeks preceding had been abysmal. Of course they distanced themselves from the accusations and then went on to produce a master-show against Liverpool using the predictable footballism, ‘we needed to produce a performance.’

The word ‘stink’ was used by some of the media, Carragher, Lineker were scathing. Be that as it may, the upshot was Leicester caught up three points on Burnley and we were now beginning to get out our calculators and slide rules to try and figure out all the possible combinations and results that would ensure Burnley’s safety.

But: ‘Who needs Ranieri’ was one headline, illustrating with crass insensitivity the heartlessness and immediacy of football; one result and Ranners was yesterday’s man. The King is dead; long live the king, and all that stuff; the acting manager a guy called Shakespeare. The irony of that you couldn’t make up. Nobody wrote finer stuff about plots, murder and intrigue.

Back on Planet Burnley, two wins or three we wondered, or maybe just six draws. Would 36 points be enough or perhaps a couple more? 40 would be the definite magic safety line. Nine points from 12 games; that seemed achievable. Plus: we could rightly assume that all the bottom eight teams would take points off each other and after the Swansea game Burnley still had four games to play against teams below them. Déjà vu: we’d done this a year earlier when the last ten games of the season approached, except then it was to work out how many points were needed for promotion. Back then, counsellors and Samaritans were working overtime. Sales of tranquillisers had doubled. Sleep wasn’t easy. Visits to the doctor for prescriptions had increased.

We could only assume that the Swansea game would be Joey Barton’s final game in a Burnley shirt this season. With 12 games remaining, even a ten game ban would leave him only two games, but the enormity of his betting activities made even a life ban possible. Hull was his 50th appearance in all competitions including sub appearances. Astonishingly he had only been on the losing side just four times. Since his book was published you could add a huge new chapter on his time at Rangers and the return to Burnley. I still wonder if he realised very early that he had made a mistake going up there. In the pre-season friendly against Burnley at Ibrox, he seemed quite disinterested and lethargic in that game. Anything less than a ten-game ban would probably astonish us all.

Immediately after the Leicester win, the Swansea press were lauding the game against Burnley and labelling it a ‘must win’ game. Leicester had leapfrogged Swansea in the table. A Swansea home defeat to Burnley would land them right back in it. The Swansea manager was urging the crowd to be the twelfth man. The South Wales media were relishing pointing out that recent stats made this a home banker. Leighton James who played for both sides, expressed surprise that it was Burnley with so many points above Swansea, and not the other way round.

Most Burnley fans would simply settle for a point and see it as another vital step towards the end of May. For Burnley, Hendrick was available again following his three-game absence. Barnes was of course suspended but coming up on the rails was 19-year old Daniel Agyei currently impressing everyone at the club with his pace and power. It was at this age that Jay Rodriguez was already seeing first-team action.

‘Hammering down with rain and high winds,’ was the gist of messages that were appearing on twitter and Facebook as people drove down to Swansea. ‘Skies are grey, it smells of sheep and even the trees are depressed. ‘

And so were most Burnley fans on the way home, especially those whose coach broke down before they even set off home. This by all accounts was a poor performance all-round, the only positives being Keane and Mee, plus Andre Gray’s two goals. Heaton was missing with an illness so that Robinson deputised.

‘Managed to make Swansea look like Bayern Munich,’ was one comment. ‘Being Welsh, their fans moan at everything but sing beautifully.’ ‘About as pleasant to watch as chewing nettles,’ was another.

In short, Burnley were outplayed and outpaced with cross after cross coming over and little done to stop them. Yet somehow Burnley had managed to take a 2-1 lead thanks to a fine Andre Gray bit of skill just inside the box and for a while there was the improbable hope that this might be the first elusive away win. But it was not to be, Swansea were just too good leaving us all wondering just how did they manage to spend so long in the bottom three, the previous duff manager being the only possible answer. The new one, Clements had re-vitalised them.

The two main talking points centred round two of the goals. Burnley had equalised via a bizarre referee’s decision when he awarded a penalty thinking that it was a Swansea player that had handled when in fact it was Vokes. With the benefit of replays it was clear as day but if the referee was unsighted then it was the only explanation. There was some thought at first that it was the player behind Vokes mauling him as they both went up, but the eventual consensus was it was awarded for the handball.

‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth,’ the old saying goes. Apparently it harks back to the olde days when the gift of a horse was a fine token of friendship. It was therefore thoroughly rude and ill-mannered to look in its mouth to examine its teeth, not just to see if it needed the dentist, but to gauge the horses age. In Greece it was the humble donkey not the horse. Gray duly accepted the gift, smacked the penalty home resisting the temptation to check the goalkeeper’s teeth. 1-1 then, Swansea glum and Burnley well thrilled; even more so when in they took the lead, the first time this season that this had happened, taking the lead in an away game.

The pundits in the TV studies were stunned, so were we, could this be happening, was this the game to break the mould? Alas no, the inevitable equaliser came. But 2-2 and the game neared its conclusion. At home, hiding behind the settee counting the minutes, it looked as though another point was heading Burnley’s way but Llorente – and the referee – had other ideas. How close it was to 3-1 for Burnley however, when Gray put a great low ball across the box and Vokes was just a big toe away from poking it home. A fraction quicker and it would have been slotted home. Alas, for all his attributes, pace is not one of them.

Into injury time, yet another deep cross, up went Mee and Llorente, Mee went flying, both Llorente’s hands and arms in his back. Such was the force of the shove that Mee almost came out the TV screen and landed on my lap. No shove will ever be so clear but Llorente buried the ball in the back of the net with just two minutes remaining. Cruel does not do it justice.

‘Two wrongs make a right,’ or ‘two wrongs do not make a right.’ Philosophers have pondered for centuries over which is right. All it left us wondering was did the referee grab the opportunity to make right his wrong decision to award the penalty. No-one could argue that overall Swansea deserved the win, and that had Burnley taken a point home the word ‘nicked’ would have been well accurate. Nicked or not, it would have been gratefully accepted. As it turned out, referee Anthony Taylor, made sure that two wrongs did indeed make a right. But, was he still a bit fuzzy-headed, following his three-day stag bash in Marbella?

Now it was no wins in five since January and the defeat of Leicester. Burnley still nine points clear and Middlesbrough in the bottom three along with Sunderland, and two away games to come against the both of them. But: there was good news. Someone had done the maths and calculated that the current bottom three, if they accumulated points at their current rate, would not reach 31 points. Ipso facto, according to the boffins, Burnley were already safe. It was a comforting thought.

Still no away win and Liverpool next, we grimaced, rampant when they feel like it, but shreddable on bad days as they were at Leicester. Would the first away win come at Anfield then? Why not; if Lincoln could win at Turf Moor, then anything might happen in this sometimes weird and whacky game. Who would ever have thought that you could be awarded a penalty for handling the ball yourself; or score a goal by pushing an opponent half way to outer space?

Jimmy Greaves was right. It is indeed a funny old game.



We had this scientifically fool proof way of forecasting the score on the day of the Lincoln Cup game as we drove over. The route takes us through Halifax and Mytholmroyd and as all ice cream devotees will know, Mytholmroyd is the home of Royd’s Ice Cream. The website says they have the largest fleet of Ice Cream Vans in the UK. Just like counting Eddie Stobart trucks on motorway journeys; we count Royd’s Ice Cream vans in between Leeds and Mytholmroyd. Even on the coldest, iciest day in the depths of winter there is always one. When a hot toddy and a hot water bottle would be more sensible, there is always one person who can guzzle a 99.

On an August trip we once counted 20 heading east and on the Cup day we decided after we’d seen the first one, that whatever number we saw, that would be the score against Lincoln. Being only February and sales being slow, there were just five. It seemed reasonable therefore to think the score would be 5-0.

As well we know; it wasn’t. Trust me: this will be the last time we use the Royd’s Ice Cream van method of predicting any score.

The effects for those of us who were there will not go away for a while. Us oldies still remember Wimbledon. A trip to the dentists would have been preferable. Criticisms of the result may well seem like sour grapes; the Lincoln thousands went home fully convinced of the magic and romance of the Cup. The media promoted it at full blast. MOTD fawned over the two Lincoln managers there in person. The Press splashed it all over their pages. The main news channels just had to feature it. Burnley fans on the day, high on emotion, with immediate mixed feelings of both anger and dismay, went along with this and wished Lincoln well. But then some of us began to think and replay a few incidents. In the cold light of the following day we were a tad more analytical.

Burnley were poor, it has to be said. Dyche held up his hands and said as much. But citing the state of the pitch and how they failed to cope with being favourites was unconvincing. Sean D could have done a Cloughie, packed his bags and gone away to Magaduff for the week, left them to get on with it, sent them a postcard, wish you were here, see you on Monday lads, enjoy the game, and they should still have had the nous to win this game. They had the chances and shots to have won but failed to capitalise with what one can only describe as clumsy feet syndrome once they got in the box. This was not the romance or the magic of the Cup. This was just really good chances squandered; and that was the bottom line.

Not much romance either in the forearm smash on Joey Barton committed by Matt Rhead that went unmentioned and was a clear red card long before all the later shenanigans and confrontations in the Burnley box. And the huge stroke of luck that lead to the Lincoln goal when the ball clearly went out off a Lincoln player, not a Burnley player’s head. On such moments are games decided and the winners and media say it’s ‘romance.’ The day after was a rare Sunday when the Sunday papers lay unopened for much of the day.

We still remember Wimbledon in 1975 like it was yesterday but that result was a truly magical FA Cup day; Burnley played well but just could not beat a wonderfully inspired Dickie Guy in the Wimbledon goal making save after save. This truly was the romance of the Cup. It left no ill feeling, no grimaces of anger at the team, no sour grapes; no complaints. But the Lincoln game left a number of grumbles. It was a red letter day for the fans; but it could so easily have been a red card day for one of their players instead of all the focus being on a huffy Barton later in the game. It was hard to find any newspaper that didn’t have pictures of Barton and THAT scuffle whilst Rhead was portrayed as a folk-hero.

In general the papers made for sorry reading, as much for their glorifying of Lincoln and the dissection of J Barton, as the result itself. The Sunday Telegraph was perhaps the nearest to any kind of balance, written by Jonathan Liew, the challenger to Henry Winter’s reporting crown.

You could call it cup magic. But magic is rarely as brutal as this. Quite aside from the result, it was an utterly enthralling cup-tie, rugged and passionate, concussive and ill-tempered, off-kilter and off-colour, intensely physical and unashamedly English. Lincoln successfully drew their Premier League opposition, a side that manager Danny Cowley describes as ‘a really good version of us,’ into a scrap.

     This was no wild fluke, but the result of as meticulous plan ruthlessly executed. Lincoln hassled and hounded, put their necks on the line, a foot in the tackle, a sneaky elbow in the ribs if needed. They defended outstandingly and when their chance came late on, they took it. In essence Burnley were Burnleyed. Lincoln did to them what they have done to so many Premier League sides this season: sat deep, dug their heels in and turned it into a scrap. Startled by Lincoln’s lack of decorum, bewildered by the novelty of enjoying 60% possession, Burnley simply rolled their sleeves up, turned down the quality dial and fought dire with dire.

     Not much romance of the cup here. Romance is always a funny way of describing it. This was not so much a candlelit dinner as a sloppy breakfast, not so much a tender smooch as a large hairy man shouting: ‘Have it.’

   A confrontation between Joey Barton and Lincoln striker Matt Rhead had been brewing for much of the game. Rhead is one of those players that only non-league football could produce: a loveable, terrifying, nuclear chimney of a man with a giant bald patch and an indomitable physical presence.

It was hard to decide what was more depressing: the single line news ticker in Times Square New York that read, Lincoln shock EPL Burnley (a chum sent me a picture), the meltdown of the NHS, fat cat Lords on Euro pensions, Paul Nuttall, Trump, Blair, Daily Express weather forecasts (what happened to the Tropical plume), more pictures of Lincoln on the front pages, or blaming the pitch.

So the pitch was a bit bobbly and bare in places, so what? It never stopped the McIlroy Adamson side playing their passing game from ’59 to 62’ when they were at their peak. It never stopped Adamson’s side playing their passing game from ’72 to ’75. It never stopped Miller’s side in ‘81/82, Mullen’s side in ‘91/92; all these triumphs when pitches were often atrocious, or Stan’s side in 2000. The Desso pitch was installed in 2010 and prior to that Coyle’s side played yet more great football that resulted in promotion. Twice Head Groundsman Paul Bradshaw has been nominated for Groundsman of the Year. But ageing Desso pitches are not indestructible; blaming it for the Lincoln performance was just lame.

And so to the KCOM stadium: Hull the 2017 City of Culture, an oxymoron if ever I heard one; you can buy mugs that say ‘you’re only here for the culture.’ The City has come a long way since medieval days when felons and villains said a prayer: from Hell Hull and Halifax good Lord deliver us.’ Hull was famed for its stinking, cesspit of a gaol and Halifax was one of the few place in England with a gibbet for beheading the ne’er do wells. There are fears that the Tories, strong on crime and anxious to reduce the welfare bill, would like to re-introduce them.

It was a game that was the beginning of a critical period when the next four games were all away games, including Sunderland and Swansea. Then there was the small matter of the away game at Liverpool. We knew at the beginning of this that if there were four defeats then the bottom three could well close the gap. The general feeling was that at least a couple of draws from these four games was a must. And surely we argued; the day must come when there would be the first away win.

But now Gudmondsson was out, along with the unavailable Marney, Defour and Hendrick. There was no certainty that Barton would not be given his inevitable betting suspension. Maybe too there might be a hangover from the Lincoln result. Things were not exactly hunky dory. Silva had done a good job at Hull and made astute signings in the January window. As early as Monday the local Hull press were building this game up. ‘The countdown starts now,’ they said. Lose to Burnley and they were truly in the mire; win and their season was kick-started.

Storm Doris had been and gone. The poor cat was blown back in through the cat flap. Folks from the south huddled indoors. Folks from the north went out as normal in a big coat. Andre Gray had been at the Brit Awards big bash on Wednesday. Burnley had won 5 of the last six games at Hull. Only 5 of the remaining 13 games were at Turf Moor. ‘If City can score twice, they can beat this lot, they don’t like travelling’ said ex-bruiser and Burnley player Peter Swan, now the leading pro-Hull City pundit for the local press, adding one or two complimentary things as well.

Hull were looking for a fifth successive home win after a few days in sunny Portugal. Flying Polish winger Grosicki was looking for a chance to show Burnley what they missed when his proposed move to Turf Moor fell through. If Hull won they could be out of the bottom three with Leicester not playing; the football world from Barnet to Bangkok stunned by the sacking of Ranieri, allegedly the result of backstabbing whinging prima donna players blabbing to the owners; this they would later deny.

According to other sources Sean Dyche was actually chuckling about his adopted son Joey Barton as he pondered on the incidents in the Lincoln game. ‘I think it’s pantomime stuff myself. I’ve got to be honest. I’ve seen a lot more controversy around Joey than that. If that’s as far as it goes I’ll be a happy man. That’s just part of being Joey I suppose. It could be a TV series actually – Being Joey – it’d be interesting; never a dull moment, unless he’s in here training with me.’

SD had a point and added what we all think at Burnley, that Barton has been fantastic in every game he has played. But: whilst the forearm smash on Barton by man mountain Rhead early in the game was a sickener and went unpunished, not raising even a tiny paragraph in any report on the game; the Alli leg-breaker tackle in the Europa League at Tottenham against Gent was a real shocker, eclipsing any tackle Joey has ever made. That one was soon forgotten. Barton’s are entered into a sort of permanent Hall-of-Infamy record book to be wheeled out as soon as he even sneezes.

Whilst not in the category of winner takes all, nevertheless the stakes in this game, the first in the month-long road trip during which Burnley would criss cross the UK from coast to coast, were unquestionably high. A Burnley win would be a huge step to safety. It was the side with a currently good home record against the side that just could not win away from home. It was impossible not to think of a Hull win. But this True Grit, dogged, cussed Burnley side had other ideas and the Lincoln result had clearly left no lingering hangover.

No we won’t be changing our routines, said Dyche; we won’t be having fish and chips on Friday night. We’ll stick to our tried and tested plans and tactics. And the result was a terrific point despite falling behind to a contentious penalty decision. A corner was swung across, the melee of manic, packed, jostling bodies looked like Poundland on half price day. The referee had no hesitation in giving the penalty but later pictures clearly showed a hand and arm from Maguire on Keane’s offending arm affecting its movement as he rose for the ball. You could argue it was harsh. Barnes rushed in. Barnes argued. Barnes was booked. Barnes thought no more about it.

‘That’ll larn ‘im,’ my grandmother used to say if I did owt daft that got me in bother. ‘He’ll only do it once.’

Maybe if my grandmother was around to give Barnsey her homespun advice, he’d get fewer cards. He has many qualities, a sort of superior, upgraded, Premier League, Matt Rhead, but then he went and got yellow carded again, this time for a flailing elbow. Perhaps though, Rhead might be able to teach him how to use the elbow or the forearm and get away with it, for that is an expertise that Rhead most certainly possesses.

We’d hardly finished groaning but within minutes Keane had levelled, from villain to hero almost instantly, when he swooped on a corner that came to him unmarked at the edge of the Hull 6-yard box. With the aplomb of a seasoned striker, and putting another £5million on his price, he chested the ball down and slammed it home; the sort of goal that we say is a gem when we score them, but the sort that we say is bad defending if scored against us. We said the same when Lincoln scored their winner when a player in the build-up was totally unmarked. Silva looked crestfallen; Dyche simply looked business-like and took his customary swig of water.

It was a great point; but with good news came bad. Barton’s hearing is in early March. It was not rocket science to presume it might be the end of his season and in all probability, Swansea his swan song.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The cobbled end of the M65…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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