BOLTON WANDERERS 1 BURNLEY 2
Must admit I was wondering if and when Joey B would get a book into print. So now we know, No Nonsense is coming later this year.
Simon and Schuster have promised that this will be a game-changing autobiography, peppered with controversies for various on-field and off-field incidents, reaching a low-point when in 2008 he was sent to prison for assault. Since then he has found a new path, following the birth of his children, and established a reputation for candid, insightful analysis, even appearing on BBC Question Time. In between playing footie and appearing as a pundit all he seems to do now according to his Twitter account is lead a quiet life and watch sport on telly.
An editor added: Joe Barton is quite simply the most fascinating figure in British football, the first player to harness the power of social media to tell it as it really is, no filters, no media handlers. In an era of often bland celebrity memoirs, Joey’s book will be raw, honest, entertaining and outspoken. Love him or loathe him, it will be the must-read autobiography of the year.
Joey B said: You may think you know me, but prepare to be surprised. No Nonsense looks beyond Joey Barton the caricature. I’ve not spared myself because I know only unflinching honesty will put the controversies into context. I acknowledge my mistakes without indulging in superficial contrition. I reveal what it takes to survive in modern football, a sport that eats people alive. I take you inside the dressing room and the prison cell. I give you a firm promise: this is not the usual vanilla-flavoured memoir.
The blurb says it will be written with author and journalist Michael Calvin. Calvin is good; I have one of his books. But Joey, I’d have done it for half the price.
Talking of vanilla-flavoured memoirs neither is the Roger Eli book Thanks for the Memories sickly sweet and shallow. It is a proper warts and all book. He wanted to produce a book that shows the heartaches of being a pro footballer and he had plenty. He had injuries galore and more hard knocks than a builder’s thumb; he endured more angst than anyone deserves and they’re all there in his book. Tim Quelch who knows good writing when he sees it commented that it is almost a text book of what any aspiring young apprentice can expect and should be required reading for young footballers. Roger had just the one glorious season and even that was cut short at the end.
This season, there’s no question that Barton has been an inspiration and he remarked on the Burnley club web that he was here to win the league, rather than be content with second place. There hasn’t been a game when he has given less than 100%; the way he has bounced back up when he has had a whack has been sensational with never a moment of retaliation. Any bookings have been the result of desperation to win rather than calculated malice. His involvement for the full 90 minutes, his box to box running, his energy and sharpness, have been astonishing for a 33-year old. Signing him was a masterstroke and the fact that it seemed that no-one else was prepared to take the chance on him, was pure gold for Burnley.
Bolton v Burnley and much as we may try, it is difficult if not impossible to avoid making comparisons between the two clubs regarding their current positions and their financial situations. Since Christmas 2010 and all the shenanigans, oh how much has changed.
This time it was a Bolton fan writing to his local paper criticising his own club, but lauding our own, whilst nicely managing to refer to Coyle’s disastrous tenure there. He noted that his own club was £180million in debt; was badly managed, just missed extinction by 30 minutes and had been in a relegation position all season. Burnley meanwhile debt-free, in an automatic promotion place and were astutely managed. It made good reading. Much as we may try to expunge the Coyle memory and the Gartside poaching, the history books will not. It is even possible that Bolton fans dislike Coyle more than Burnley fans do, many of them laying their current demise at his door. But what is equally true is that their growing problems pre-dated him by quite a few years. They are what they are; a small Lancashire club that built a swanky modern stadium, which lived above its means for a decade, whilst everyone with a brain knew that the Eddie Davies largesse would one day end. What no-one there ever did was figure out a plan to cope with that.
I remember going there several years ago to talk to one of their directors about Harry Potts. He had been secretary at Blackpool when Harry Potts was manager there. Even back then the size of their debt was considerable but he talked of it being no problem, that they were well able to ‘service the debt.’ All that bit of jargon meant was being able to pay the interest on all their loans, not all of which were from Eddie Davies. Accountancy has never been my strong point but even to me back then, they seemed to be living in cloud-cuckoo land as if they could carry on like this for ever.
My neighbour came out one morning as I was getting the milk in. He is envious. Sadly he is a Leeds United supporter and had been to Elland Road and seen the draw with Fulham and was thankful they hadn’t lost heavily with the number of chances Fulham made. We could do with your manager, he said plaintively. Well it’s not just the manager is it, it’s the way the two clubs are run, I said to him. On the one hand you have Cellino and no money and we have sensible people running Burnley with money in the bank. We might occasionally grumble at this and that but I can’t really remember anything major other than the Lee Hoos season ticket mess-up, paying £100 in advance for the next year’s season ticket, and that was a couple of years ago. And they haven’t repeated it. Both the CEO and his deputy are two blokes with both feet planted well and truly in the real world. And one’s even a Yorkshireman and Yorkshire as we all know is the home of good old-fashioned ee by gum common sense.
There was an air of expectation before the Bolton game began. All away tickets had been sold. Everyone knew that a win would send Burnley top since Hull had only drawn the night before. Two teams at opposite ends of the table but look closely and Bolton’s home record was not too bad. Plus they had the boost of having been taken over (bar the rubber-stamping) by a consortium during the week. They had a future and their staff might even get paid on a regular basis.
But, the words banana skin popped up again. Nothing is ever certain in football and when Bolton took the lead in the second half, after a scrappy first, you could have been forgiven for thinking a big upset was on the cards. Derby had already lost and were well down in the chasing pack, but Middlesbrough were 2-0 up at Fulham. For a while Burnley were down to third. But then Stelling partly calmed our nerves here in Leeds when Gray equalised. He’d been due a goal; things had not been going well for him, but good strikers always come good eventually and so he did. Not only that, on he went to grab the winner when Ulvestad put him through and he scored with just a few minutes remaining. Just fewer than 4,000 Burnley fans went wild. They knew they had gone top of the league and out rang the cries:
‘We are top o’ the league, we are top o’ the league; we are top o’ the league, we are top o’ the league.’
What a sight the league table looked on the TV screens and on FB and twitter. How good is that, we asked? Top of the pile, you can’t beat it. To Gray the plaudits, but Tom Heaton needed to make a stunning save in the dying moments to keep the points safe.
Gray’s first was a terrific volley from a Lowton cross, the keeper parried and Gray swept in to nip the ball home from a tight angle. The second was pure class, a classic Gray collection of the ball, dinked over the top by Ulvestad, touched on in one movement whilst running at pace collecting the ball and moving it forward, beating the defender on his shoulder for speed, and then a superb and powerful left foot strike low on the ground from just outside the area. From collection of the ball to back of net could have been no more than 3 seconds, a perfect demonstration of the three P’s, power, pace and panache.
But opinion was pretty much united. Bolton might well have won this game with better finishing. Burnley were not at their best. In fact one Sunday paper said they had a battering. ‘How did we win that?’ more than a few fans asked on the websites. But teams that grind out results are the ones that end up at or near the top of the pile.
Another report said: ‘beaten senseless for 70 minutes and punch drunk… an outrageously deserved victory.’ But Dyche responded and quoted something Ian Holloway had said weeks earlier that Burnley have got an unbelievably tough chin.
‘You’re seeing that now,’ said Dyche, the mentality is so firm here, it gives you a hell of a chance. There is a chin of granite, this Burnley side has many qualities but none so impressive as its durability.’
Joey B may well achieve his target, promotion with Burnley and the top spot at the end of the season. Talks of a new contract were under way with Barton saying that Burnley were in a good spot, he wouldn’t trade places with any other team in the Championship, daily and training habits were exceptional.
‘We’ve got the top scorer in the Division, we’ve got competition in all key areas, we’ve got players coming back to fitness, and we’ve got a really strong bench; all that plus Dyer raring to go and Marney on the verge of coming back again, Ashley Barnes back on the grass, great times at the club. Since the defeat at Hull on Boxing Day we’ve been the best team in the league.’
We had chums over Saturday night for supper. He’s another Leeds United supporter with a season ticket. We met a few years back in Kalkan when he emerged to sit by the pool with legs so white I thought they’d been emulsioned. Anyway, on that occasion we sat and listened to Leeds 1 Burnley 2 in the season we went up. I’m not one to crow (much) about BFC with other supporters from clubs not doing too well and vowed that out of respect to friendship I would not mention Burnley first.
So: it was his fault that I burst out into a quick chant of we are top o’ the league, we are top o’ the league. He came in and the first thing he said was he’d told his wife that he didn’t want to come because he knew I’d be unbearable (eh moi?) That’s the first thing that was said. So I thought ‘right’ and out came the quick chorus – several times – and then again while we ‘ad us pudding. At the moment it’s good to be a Burnley supporter.
It wasn’t so good back in the late 70s and for much of the 80s and I only mention that because in the chats with ex-groundsman Roy Oldfield and in his diary, we’ve got to the bit where he gets a new wheelbarrow. Things were so tight back then that Lord Bob used to shout out ‘Albert tell them I’m not in’ when creditors used to knock at the door. Except for a very brief period when Derek Gill got the club solvent again and even in profit, Roy worked without a pay rise for something like four years, had to repair his ageing spades and forks as the club couldn’t afford new ones, bought the cheapest of everything so that the fertiliser was usually lumpy, worked with a mower that was forever breaking down, and worked alone for long spells because the secretary would rarely sanction a bit of extra casual labour from the Labour Exchange at times when the pitch was in a real mess or buried in snow. He once bought some second-hand stuff from Burnley Corporation out of his own mone,. These were the days when people like Manager Brian Miller, Assistant Frank Casper and Coach Ray Pointer could all be found forking and spiking and driving the tractor and generally getting their hands dirty and mucking in to get the pitch fit.
Poor as church mice they might have been but there was fun as well, especially when the farmer’s cattle used to break into and onto the training fields at Gawthorpe. Players and management (Roy on the tractor whooping and hollering like Rowdy Yates) would round them up and they were always under instructions not to shoo them back to their own fields but to bring them up to a pen near the Gawthorpe buildings and fasten them in. This was on Bob Lord’s instructions who insisted that the farmer had to ask permission to collect them. It must have been sorely tempting for the irascible chairman to hang on to them and make them into pies – although Lord once replied indignantly that he had never made a pie in his life, in a response he made to a letter from ex-director Derek Gill.
But, in that one season when there was a bit of joy and Burnley got back up to the Second Division in ’82, Roy actually had some good news. New chairman John Jackson encouraged the new Supporters Club that old Bob had always swatted away, and one of the first things they did was buy Roy a new wheelbarrow. He thought it was Christmas.
It’s far too soon to start thinking of the Prem millions but if Burnley are still top in May just think; they’ll need another new gold-plated wheelbarrow to put the money in the bank.