BOURNEMOUTH 2 BURNLEY 1
It was the twilight zone for neighbours Blackburn Rovers after the last day drama in the Championship that saw them relegated despite a 3-1 win at Brentford. Meanwhile for Burnley, the object of their scorn for so many years, it was sunshine and light for another year in the Premier League. It was another year of development, progress and betterment. It was a triumph for the folks that run the club, and the staff that run the team.
Football can be unforgiving, merciless and downright cruel. For humanitarian reasons some folks felt sorry for the Rovers fans, asking did they deserve this fate. Was it not the Venky’s to blame and the chaotic running of the club? The answer to that is most certainly yes, but neither can Burnley fans forget the abuse and derision, the banner that was flown over the stadium ‘staying down forever’ and the mockery directed towards Turf Moor for so many years.
It will be party time many Burnley fans quipped on twitter and Facebook, and how better to do that than with jelly and ice cream. That was the celebration theme and reports say that jelly was sold out in Burnley. We’ve now had four wonderful seasons with Dyche; promotion, then a battling relegation that was still a great season, then promotion as champions and now Premier League 40 points and staying up. At Blackburn it has just been a slow death.
From the moment they sacked Sam Allardyce, the pathway was chosen, the route was remorseless. While we had the word relentless to describe Burnley’s upward progress and playing style, Rovers could only use the word to describe their trajectory downwards. How harsh is football; to win 3-1 away from home and still be relegated because the two other candidates also won. As the news came in that Birmingham had hung on to their 1-0 lead at Bristol, the tears flowed in Rovers land. The final-day permutations and possibilities weren’t that difficult but were too much for Diane Abbott to fathom out.
How many of us felt a perverse and cruel delight in their demotion as they headed towards the small fry. For years they crowed that their local derby was no longer against piddling Burnley, it was against Manchester United. Their local derby games now will be against Bury and Rochdale. They once bought success. Burnley earned success. Whilst the Venky’s remain in control and the club is hamstrung by lack of money, it is hard to see how Blackburn can bounce back straightaway. Maybe it is their turn to spend 7 years in the wilderness.
There was one perfect newspaper headline: ‘They think it’s all over, it is now.’
The drive home after the West Brom game was brilliant. It didn’t matter one jot that Swansea won. We basked in the sure knowledge that Burnley would not be relegated; that we could happily wait for the new fixture list. We called not at the Kettledrum, or the Queen or the Shepherds, but at Abid’s in Leeds for a celebratory meal. For all Burnley fans in Leeds, and there are plenty of us, Abid’s is in Stanningley.
For Blackburn it was chicken karma. For us it was chicken korma.
The press was light in its coverage of what after all was a huge achievement; safety against all the odds, against all the predictions, against all the experts, against all the know-it-alls. And how the team grew over the season, how Barnes developed into a massive presence, how Vokes blossomed, how Mee and Keane grew into one of the best pairings the club has had, how Ward became one of the first names on the sheet, how Lowton became Mr Reliable, how Westwood and Hendrick were so impressive as a pairing and how Heaton grew to become an utterly awesome keeper. How good it was to have Long and Tarkowski to step into the breach, as if they had played there for years.
And how the club grew with new infrastructure, new buildings and new training centre; all that is needed now is some kind of corner stand to develop into a state of the art, purpose built facility for the disabled.
Probably all of us gave more than a passing thought to what is now a date spoken of with something approaching reverence, May 9, 1987. It was possibly the worst Burnley team ever, quite simply because the club was in such a penniless mess. And yet the same players are thought of today as heroes and legends because of that one, final, end of season result. We sit in the pub or on a coach and talk about Burnley’s greatest ever goals starting maybe with Bert Freeman’s at Wembley in 1914. But two goals have to go into any top list and those were the goals scored by Neil Grewcock and Ian Britton that won the Orient game and secured the place in the Football League. It is frequently said that had Burnley lost that day, then the club would have folded, but former director, Derek Gill, has always maintained there were people ready to step into the breach and provide the funds to keep it going. How astonishing it was that just a year later Burnley were at Wembley in a Cup Final. They lost, but it did not stop that game being a massive celebration of a club that had come back to life. It still had some difficult roads to take for a few more years but the club soldiered on. We might all pick different dates to say this was when we began the road to the Premier League; the night at York perhaps, or when Stan Ternent took us to the Championship.
The events since, far more successes than failures, have been momentous. 30 years ago this was a club on the brink; now it is a cited as a textbook example of how to run a football club, the one that is used as the model for others to emulate and one group that will be horrified to hear that are those Middlesbrough fans who mocked Burnley last summer; and most certainly those Blackburn fans who mocked Burnley for a decade and more. Fans at Sunderland, Blackpool, Charlton, Leyton Orient and Coventry must look at Burnley with envy; Portsmouth too maybe, although they are on the road to better times. Tony Pulis thinks we are a smashing club. The MOTD and SKY pundits in unison sing Burnley’s praises especially Sean Dyche. Harry Redknapp paid him homage; that if he went to a top six club he would keep them top six. But if a top six manager came to Burnley, they’d struggle.
SD’s 200th game in charge was at Bournemouth. What a four seasons he’s just had. Whilst he was celebrating that, I was celebrating the ancient Peugeot had passed its MOT at the ripe old age of 11, in fact it might even be 12; I’ve lost count. It keeps on going, 115,000 miles, the bulk of the miles being back and forth to Turf Moor from Leeds. A few journeys ago I got a speeding ticket, 36mph in Cliviger, on the way to a game. Just as you do the straight bit from the Queen, nice and slow (I thought), then a couple of bends, and the camera from the van was aimed at the bend, crafty sods. We saw the van, but too late. The offer of an awareness course was swiftly accepted; a £90 fee for the pleasure of a morning in the Masonic Hall Headingley. 25 years ago moi and Mrs T had our 25th wedding anniversary there and I hadn’t set foot in the place since. Life works in funny ways.
There was a balance between the males and females that was nice to see. The real divots and boy racers were in the room next door; my understanding being they were ones involved in prangs and shunts. There was a little old dear in our room who should have been next door. I did wonder if she couldn’t find the right room in the Masonic, how on earth she could find her way round Leeds. 4 hours later, a bit wiser, but also a tad bored by the end, there was one of those funny moments in the car park as two cars exiting were within an inch of driving into each other, as neither saw the other. Just imagine, you do a driver course and then within minutes have a shunt in the car park – priceless.
‘I like your thinking,’ was one instructor’s maddening catchphrase just about every time someone said something. That plus constantly being called, fella, pal and matey, all morning, (and that was just the women) made home time a welcome relief. There wasn’t even a ginger biscuit with our elevenses. I came out wondering if I could send the bill for £90 to Burnley FC. After all, it was pretty much their fault.
There was no jelly and ice cream at the Vitality Stadium and by all accounts Burnley had left their vitality at home and everything went a bit limp. All we had to entertain us was Corbyn’s car running over a reporter’s foot, reports of the Venky’s head offices being raided by the tax people, chickens with flags of India spotted in Bournemouth, a new definition of middle class is people who cut themselves on an avocado, people were admitting to watching the Eurovision Song Contest, and Dianne Abbott passed her O Level maths.
It’s a funny owld game, the side that was so good at Palace and then in the second half against West Brom just didn’t turn up on the south coast. It had to be Junior Stanislas that scored first all too easily against his old club, demonstrating that the immutable law of the ex is alive and well. With only a few minutes to go Vokes equalised from a ball swung over by sub Gudmondsson. At this point I was in the Farsley clubhouse and heads turned when I let out a primeval roar. The same heads turned again just two minutes later when another roar came out, only this time it began with a large loud, very loud F when Bournemouth scored again the result of another bit of poor one-versus-one defending. A lot of people up at Farsley know now I’m a Burnley supporter and thus the claret and blue folktale spreads just a little further into darkest Yorkshire.
We weren’t there in Bournemouth’s glorious sunshine, instead spent 5 hours in the grey, drab cold watching Joe at the Farsley 6 a side tournament at the Farsley stadium involving 18 U10 teams from all over Leeds. He loved it, that’s the main thing and only the delicious super-size hot dogs kept me going and warm inside. The bar was open all afternoon so at least I could slip inside and watch the last half hour of Soccer Saturday even though it made painful viewing hearing how slack Burnley were.
I could only select a few of the many comments on the websites after the game.
Bournemouth: it’s like a football stadium only smaller.
The goal could be priceless, if Hull beat Crystal Palace 10-0 and then Spurs 6-0; that will be the goal that saves the season.
A lovely sunny morning in Bournemouth, a place that now has palm trees along the prom.
Most of the team were on the beach, a very weak and un-Burnley like performance, felt sorry for the fans that went all that way (some had even cycled).
Treated it as a celebration, of Burnley staying up and Blackburn going down
The Swansea players paid for their fans to travel to their away game today at Sunderland… er just a thought Burnley…
If you watch Burnley away for entertainment, you’re in the wrong field.
Again: if you’re not going to play Defour what is the point of having him on the bench?
And one regular was singularly cheesed off: ‘An eight and a half hour round trip by train, to a lovely little stadium (in parkland with a beautiful Edwardian cricket ground just across the road) to watch us get beaten by the better side, one of our underrated former players AND a former Blackburn Rovers striker scored against us; just to rub it in , a horrible return journey where every smelly drunken idiot and or loudmouth chav got on the train somewhere between Oxford and Stafford, where we changed trains in a nasty, freezing concrete hellhole straight out of ‘Clockwork Orange’. To come home to Match of the Day where the lazy buggars who edit the programme couldn’t even find a single word of praise or comfort… I don’t care… this is who we are.’
‘I’m not overthinking it,’ said Dyche who agreed they were flat, ran out of steam, didn’t have any edge, bemoaned the defending, and suggested maybe it was just a game too far with striker Josh King the difference. Perhaps it was just a game to consign to the dustbin maybe; unless you travelled all that way and all the way back again. Maybe it was just a game too many, he added. What a good job then it was that the 40 points safety mark had been reached.
Not everything was a moan or a groan. Burnley fans come on get a grip, said one poster. Stop moaning about our players. We’ve just about achieved our highest finish and arguably biggest achievement in 40 years. As disappointing as today’s result was, can we look at the bigger picture.
True enough: who of us at the beginning of the season would have predicted 40 points and another season in the stratosphere? Could it just be after all the Herculean efforts they were entitled to an off day at the office? And anyway, safe, the hard work had been done already.