David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Burnley’ Category

Ginger Mourinho has littlest horse at a canter

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

SD

Jose Mourinho recently described his Chelsea side as a “little horse” in the race for the Premier League title. The analogy was met with varying levels of scorn from around the game, but Burnley’s answer to the Special One must have read the description with a wryer smile than most. Sean Dyche, known to Clarets fans as the “Ginger Mourinho”, has spent a little over £700,000 during his tenure as Clarets boss, this spent over a year after he became boss, and yet he has guided one of the pre-season relegation favourites into the top two of the Championship for almost the entire season. Compared to the thoroughbreds of Leicester, QPR, Derby and Nottingham Forest, with foreign owners, big crowds and bigger budgets, Burnley are a mere pony, and yet the Clarets have been taking hurdles at blistering pace and look set, against all predictions, to stay the course.

Dyche himself deserves a huge slice of the credit for Burnley’s league position. His position at the end of last season was, and it seems strange to reflect on this now, slightly shaky – the Clarets only secured Championship football with 7 points from the last 3 league games at the end of last season, and the months preceding it had been marked by inconsistency, some mind-numbingly boring games (the 0-0 bore draw with Middlesbrough a particular lowlight), and an over-reliance on the goals of Charlie Austin that saw the Clarets limp to a flattering 11th place finish. Dyche was not well liked by a sizable minority of supporters (some of whom nicknamed him “Yawn Dyche”), and when the manager attributed poor home form to the over-expectation of Clarets fans, there was a noticeable tension between the two camps, which is still in evidence on occasion this season- “They weren’t calling me that last season!” was Dyche’s reaction to a recent question about the “Ginger Mourinho” moniker. This is perhaps, in part, a reaction from Burnley supporters to the devastating way Owen Coyle went from hero to zero in one fell swoop, but an atmosphere of mutual respect with the odd outpouring of love seems to have developed, and it has been fairly impossible for Clarets fans to resist Dyche’s charm offensive in the form of results since the start of the season. Dyche has the players well-drilled, super fit, and playing a terrific mix of long and short passing, flair and panache in the attack with a rock solid defence, and has brought the best out of some old favourites while bringing in some terrific new additions.

While these new additions have been low price and yet high quality (Tom Heaton and David Jones, solid top-end Championship performers on free transfers, were steals, and Scott Arfield, released by lowly Huddersfield last year, has been an all-action revelation), some praise must be given to previous manager Eddie Howe, who when given money spent it, for the most part, extremely wisely. Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, at £1.4m between them, are the only strike partnership in the country to rival Liverpool’s SAS for goals, and both have become sterling performers from bit-part players under Dyche’s management- Ings is supremely talented and has added goals, goals and more goals to his game, while Vokes has been transformed from a slow, lumbering, Grant-Holt-without-the-goals to a lean, powerful heading machine who has already chipped in with more goals than his most prolific ever season, that achieved at third-tier Bournemouth. Dean Marney, signed for £500,000 by the much-maligned Brian Laws, looks a new man, a box-to-box ballwinner and sprayer nicknamed “Deaniesta” by the same fans who grumbled when Dyche handed him a new contract in the summer. £1m a piece full-backs Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier rarely look troubled by opposing wingers and Trippier has continued his scintillating attacking form from last season, already achieving double figures in assists from the right-back berth. £1m captain Jason Shackell looks a class above in every department and he is assisted ably by 36 year old Michael Duff- an incredible performer in his testimonial year, and a steal 10 years ago for £30,000.

Dyche didn’t inherit as bad a squad as the pre-season doom mongers would have you believe, then, but the credit for adding to it and moulding it into the team which has only lost 3 games this season, has an unbeaten home record stretching back to March of last year, and has kept much larger clubs with frankly obscene squads (QPR reserve keeper Julio Cesar could probably rival Dyche’s transfer budget with the spare change down the back of his sofa) at arm’s length with a mixture of superb attacking football, a miserly defence, and a winning mentality belongs squarely at his door. It would take a collapse of Devon Loch proportions for the littlest horse to finish outside the top 6 now. Don’t bet against them pipping the favourites to the finishing post.

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret

Huddersfield vs Burnley: Infographic

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Fixture: Huddersfield Town vs Burnley
Competition: Sky Bet Championship
Venue: John Smith’s Stadium
Date: Saturday 30th November 2013 (KO 3pm)

Thanks to Sky Bet: http://www.skybet.com/football

Huddersfield vs Burnley Infographic

Uncertainty ahead without Austin powers

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

CA

The run in to last season provided a platform of cautious optimism for Clarets fans, with a good point at home to runaway league leaders Cardiff followed by assured victories over Wolves and Ipswich that even pushed the team to the heady heights of an 11th place finish, an improvement on Eddie Howe’s 13th in his solitary full season in charge. However, a rollercoaster pre-season has seen optimism fluctuate wildly amongst the fanbase, with question marks still hanging over the head of manager Sean Dyche.

The summer’s transfer business has overall been badly received by fans. The departures of million-pound signing Martin Paterson and long-serving youth team product Chris McCann on free transfers were disheartening, particularly as both were key members of the 2009 promotion-winning side. The fact that both moved to divisional rivals, Paterson to Huddersfield and McCann joining former boss Owen Coyle at Wigan, added to the frustration that transfer fees could not be recouped for either player, although both have been plagued by injuries since our return to the second tier and, in truth, may not be as sorely missed as those looking back on the halcyon Premier League days through rose-tinted spectacles would suggest. The other most disappointing departure (apart from the obvious, which we’ll talk about later) was goalkeeper Lee Grant, who elected to return to old club Derby instead of signing a proffered new contract. Long-serving goalkeeper Brian “The Beast” Jensen was another goalkeeping departure, leaving with the best wishes of fans but an understanding that his best days were long behind him.

Even accounting for the disgruntlement over departures, the biggest worry has been the lack of arrivals at the Turf, with young striker Ryan Noble and Huddersfield reserve Scott Arfield seen as wholly inadequate replacements for a frontline weakened by the loss of Paterson and a midfield shorn of its most talented footballer in McCann. David Jones’ arrival, also in the centre of midfield, has been much more positively received, and his partnership with Dean Marney in pre-season has looked very promising, but the issue Arfield’s arrival has failed to address is the lack of strength in depth in this position, with Marvin Bartley departing on loan to Leyton Orient and Brian Stock still struggling to put a run of games together. Another body is welcome in both positions but does Arfield have the quality to step in if Jones or Marney suffer injury or suspension, and does untried youngster Noble have the goals in him to replace last season’s second top scorer Paterson? One position Dyche has sewn up nicely is the goalkeeping position, with Tom Heaton an excellent replacement for Grant on a free transfer, and no less than three young goalkeepers brought in to provide backup and challenge for a place on the bench.

The jury is still out for a lot of fans on Sean Dyche (and there are a fair few fans who have already made their minds up) but it’s worth remembering that he still hasn’t had the opportunity to spend a transfer fee on a player in the two transfer windows he’s been at the club. The squad looks adequate for another reasonably comfortable mid-table season- Kieran Trippier at right back, Jason Shackell at centre half, Junior Stanislas and Ross Wallace out wide and the emerging talent of Danny Ings up front will all continue to be important players- and pre-season results and, crucially, performances have been  encouraging, particularly in the excellent 4-1 victory over Sparta Rotterdam, where the free-flowing, passing football was an answer to the numerous critics of Dyche’s perceived “long-ball” style of play. Dyche can rest assured that strong home form, a few goals and a gap between the Clarets and the bottom three should be enough to satisfy home fans for this year at least.

However, the biggest worry for the season emerged on Thursday with the sale of Charlie Austin to QPR for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £3m. It is crucial that this money is at least in part reinvested in a goalscoring centre-forward- Austin managed a whopping 25 goals in the league last year, and even the departed Paterson with 8 managed more than our remaining strikers combined (Vokes 4, Ings 3). Although Ings in particular will be expected to have a much greater impact on the first team this year, that replacement for Austin will be crucial to the team’s chances of success this year, and of course, we’re looking for one later rather than sooner with this sale coming so close to the start of the season. With a failed medical at Hull lowering his value and the difficult prospect of losing him on a free next year emphasised by Paterson and McCann’s departures, the board’s decision to cash in is understandable, but with noises from the Chief Executive suggesting that Dyche will not see much of the money in his quest for a replacement, it’s a very testing time for the relationship between the board and the fans, let alone for the manager and the team, if Austin’s powers aren’t replaced by someone equally groovy.

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret

A farewell to Howe, a welcome to Dyche and a big well done to Austin

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

It’s my first blog of the 2012/13 season and to be honest, there’s been very little to talk about so far. Disregarding derby victories over Bolton, Blackburn and Leeds, the shock departure of Eddie Howe, the immensely enjoyable departure of Owen Coyle, the appointment of “Stone Cold” Sean Dyche, and our first 20-goal a season striker since the halcyon days of Andy Payton, it’s been a very boring start…

First, let’s address that 20 goal striker, Charlie Austin, who until a recent unforgivable two-game scoring drought had Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo quaking in their boots when casting an eye at the next Ballon D’Or votes. To have 20 goals before December is an absolutely phenomenal achievement, shattering all sorts of club records in the process, and while all sensible Burnley fans are resigned to the prospect of his leaving, either in January or June, everyone is thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to watch a striker of this calibre in the claret and blue.

He’s performed a more workmanlike role under Sean Dyche, still chipping in with two goals under the new manager, but it was under Eddie Howe, where his role was simply to wait around the penalty area and smash home anything that came near, where we saw the kind of instinctual goal-getting which marks Austin out as a future England cap (and the last player we said that about at Burnley was Gary Cahill!) All he needs now is a winning goal against Blackburn on December 2nd and his place in Burnley history is forever sealed – well done Charlie.

I alluded briefly to the contrast in styles we’ve seen already from Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche, and a word on both managers. The reaction to Eddie Howe’s departure was strangely muted- the family reasons which saw him return to his family and his old club Bournemouth on the south coast were understood and accepted by the majority of fans, and the evidence of Howe’s superb run since returning suggest that it was a step he really needed to take.

Similarly, he had been stuck in something of a rut at Burnley. A lower mid-table finish seemed the best we could hope for this season, and performances and results had failed to live up to the early season optimism brought by the comprehensive opening day defeat of Bolton Wanderers. Of particular concern was the hapless defending which marked the last few months of Howe’s tenure.

Retrospectively, though, it must be acknowledged that Howe steered us through a period of rebuilding efficiently, dealing with the sales of many of our best players, moving on some of the old guard, and leaving us with a decent young squad with a number of saleable assets. Only the most churlish Burnley fan would wish him anything but the best for the future.

Sean Dyche was the man eventually chosen as his replacement, and despite a clamour for Mick McCarthy and an initial uncertainty that we were getting a manager from “only” Watford (a team I vividly remember sticking seven past us at Turf Moor,) Dyche has settled in well, with two home wins and, crucially, two clean sheets in his first two games endearing him to the fans (especially with one of those victories coming against Leeds!)

Subsequent defeats to Ipswich and Charlton have tempered expectations somewhat, but refereeing decisions played a part in both results, and the application of the players has been very notable even in these games. Dyche’s frantic arm waving and just-gargled-with-razorblades post-match interviews have been popular with a Burnley crowd who ‘love a bit of passion’ (this was certainly a factor which counted against the more circumspect Howe.)

Early days yet, and we’ll need a transfer window that passes without the re-signing of Chris Iwelumo before we can be totally sure, but it’s a tentative “yes” for Sean Dyche from the Burnley faithful thus far.

The victories over Bolton and Leeds were undoubtedly the high point of each manager’s season so far, with the contribution to Owen Coyle’s departure particularly enjoyable for the Burnley fans, many of whom are finally achieving a sense of real closure over the whole Coyle-to-Bolton saga as he left with Bolton once again below Burnley in the table, as they had been when he arrived at the Reebok.

Indeed, the Premier League relegation zone was a dream for Clarets fans last season, with dear neighbours Blackburn joining us in the second tier for the first time since 2001. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for any set of fans under the stewardship of owners like the Venky’s, and while Steve Kean’s name was sung from the terraces at Turf Moor a few times, there is definitely a bit more conviviality around the derby than normal, with many Burnley fans in a position to understand the frustrations of Rovers fans somewhat better than many of the unsympathetic national media.

That said, there’s sure to be no love lost when the two teams meet at Turf Moor on December 2nd. Burnley fans’ expectations should be tempered in the knowledge that Blackburn spent more to acquire Jordan Rhodes than we did on our entire first XI, but with home derby victories already secured against Bolton, Blackpool and Leeds without conceding, there’s a real opportunity for Sean Dyche to immediately win over all the Burnley supporters by providing fans with a long overdue win against the old enemy. Charlie Austin hat-trick anyone?

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret

Away wins, clean sheets, consistency…. Clarets?!

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

After a very mixed start to 2011/12, Burnley’s season was poised on a knife-edge and at half past four on Saturday 26th November, it seemed that the balance was tipping disastrously- two goals down at play-off contenders Hull City, on the back of four straight defeats, the Clarets were now marooned in the relegation zone and even the most faithful fans were starting to question the manager, even with recognition of the difficult circumstances he has inherited this season.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and step forward a very unlikely saviour. Canadian defender David Edgar, enjoying his first sustained run in the team since arriving from Newcastle at the beginning of the Premier League season, popped up with his first and second goals for the club and out of nowhere, an abject performance looked to be yielding a result. Suddenly, confidence was high, the Burnley fans were in full voice and wave after wave of attacks on the shellshocked Hull goal produced a last gasp winner from the more familiar source of Jay Rodriguez. Burnley had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and this was not just true for the match, but for the season at large.

Since that incredible 15 minutes on Humberside, Burnley have not looked back, recording seven wins and two draws from the last eleven games to sit firmly in playoff contention, with some cracking results including away wins at high-fliers West Ham and Middlesbrough. Jay Rodriguez has also gone from strength to strength since the game, scoring seven in his last eleven and attracting attention from the likes of Newcastle and Everton. With a year left on his contract, it will be a great surprise to see him lining up for Burnley at the beginning of next season. Indeed, with the board’s track record this season, we are lucky to still have him!

But having been frequently critical of the board in this blog, it’s only fair to credit them with some excellent business in the January transfer window. Not only did we see no departures – many Burnley fans were gloomily predicting the sale of Rodriguez, amongst others – no less than four players were brought in. Danny Lafferty, a young left back from Derry City, is one for the future. Josh McQuoid on loan from Millwall looks a useful squad player, but the permanent deals concluded for Manchester City loanees Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier were the best business – Trippier especially at a million pounds was a bargain, and I would be very surprised if he is not sold for double that when he eventually moves on.

Mee and Trippier have been at the forefront of the other renaissance in the Burnley squad, the defence. With only one clean sheet before the game at Hull, they have now recorded an astounding seven in eleven games. The defensive partnership of Michael Duff and David Edgar is proving the most solid since John McGreal and Gary Cahill in 2005, ably assisted by Trippier and Mee, whose move to left back at the expense of the shaky Brian Easton has improved the team immeasurably. Goalkeeper Lee Grant has also shown his best form since signing, and it is a very refreshing change to see a Burnley team so solid at the back, as regular viewers of Match of the Day in 2009/10 will no doubt attest.

Another key problem which Eddie Howe has addressed is winning away. Owen Coyle managed two away wins in the calendar year of 2009, Brian Laws managed two in 2010, but Howe oversaw eleven in 2011, with eight so far this season. For a fan who missed very few of those away games in 2009 and 2010, this has been a very welcome change and really pays tribute to the new fortitude of the defence and the manager’s tactical nous.

Patchy home form, including defeat to Portsmouth and weather-affected draws with Derby and Peterborough, has tempered excitement somewhat, but the form Burnley have shown in the last two months has been nothing short of outstanding, and firmly tipped the balance in favour of a promotion campaign this season. The play-offs are just out of reach at present and squad depth is still a problem but if players can be kept fit, the rest of the season could be a more exciting one than any Burnley fan had dared hope for at half past four on the 26th of November 2011.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to say a big thanks and best wishes to our chairman, Barry Kilby, who announced this week that he will be stepping down at the end of the season due to health problems, In thirteen seasons at the helm, Burnley have gone from battling relegation into League Two to Premier League football, without slipping outside the top two divisions since 2000.

The ITV Digital crisis hit the club hard, like many others, but some shrewd choices of manager (Brian Laws apart, perhaps) have steered Burnley through financial problems, without spending beyond their means or putting the future of the club in serious jeopardy. We may regret the failure to really capitalise on Premier League money, but we can confidently predict that the future of the club is secure for many years to come, which many clubs would be very happy to boast. All Burnley fans will toast his sensible and successful chairmanship and he is assured of a tremendous reception at Tuesday night’s home game with Barnsley. Thanks Barry.

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret

Clarets Muddling Along In Mid-Table

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Looking at the league table suggests a solid start to the 2011/12 season for Burnley – 3 wins, 3 draws and 4 defeats, with a comfortable mid-table position, and a place in the League Cup 4th round after home wins over lower league opposition to boot. However the stats do not reflect what has already been a very up-and-down season, with some excellent and some horrendous performances, some excellent points against tough opposition coupled with points dropped to some of the league’s weaker sides, and some decent transfer business tallied against some very disappointing departures. Burnley fans could be forgiven for finding it very hard to assess the team, manager and season thus far.

My pre-season expectations were hampered by the sales of key players like Mears, Eagles and Fox, without proper replacements being brought in, and nothing suggested to me that our rather threadbare squad was likely to improve on last year’s 8th place finish. Disappointing results against some of the division’s weaker sides (one point from games against Watford, Crystal Palace and Peterborough) exposed major weaknesses, particularly in the centre of defence, where the burden of expectation has been seemingly too much for Manchester City loanee Ben Mee, and in the middle of midfield, where Dean Marney in particular seems far too limited to be an effective part of a two man midfield. The performance against Middlesbrough in particular was one of the worst seen at the Turf since the days of Steve Cotterill (apologies Nottingham Forest fans), and it really did seem that we had a relegation battle on our hands.

Recent weeks have produced the best results of the season though, and on top of the excellent away win at Derby in August, a confidence-boosting point was gained against leaders Southampton, before the thumping 5-1 victory over Nottingham Forest, which really demonstrated the attacking potential in the team, particularly the exciting young trio of Charlie Austin, Jay Rodriguez and Junior Stanislas. The pairing of David Edgar and Andre Amougou at centre-half seems to have stabilised things at the back somewhat (although both have a frightening tendency to switch off at crucial times), and one of many acquisitions from Bournemouth; Marvin Bartley, has begun to carve out a niche for himself in central midfield after red cards at Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace hindered his progress since signing in January. A win away at Millwall just before the international break was another excellent result and, miraculously, brought our first clean sheet in 24 attempts; a real monkey off the back of the defence. Saturday’s game against Reading, while something of a flat performance, would even have produced a mind-blowing second clean sheet in succession, bar a ridiculously late 99th minute winner for the away side.

The club has become known for cup runs in recent seasons, and after avoiding an upset in a tricky fixture against Milton Keynes, the anti-climactic draw of Cardiff away in the fourth round should not detract from the fact that the League Cup is acting once again as a helpful distraction from the patchy league form for the fans.

This recent on-pitch success has tempered fan criticism of the board somewhat, although constant reports in the press of possible signings “next week” have become a running joke amongst Burnley fans, predictably met with (as it turns out, well-placed) cynicism. Fans are still smarting from the abrupt sale of Wembley hero Wade Elliott, pushed out of the back door despite a promise from the board that no more players would be sold (the second such promise broken this season), and the continuing lack of acquisitions is a real worry. Zavon Hines seems an able replacement for Rodriguez and Austin up front, and Stanislas, Wallace and Treacy offer options on the wings, but beyond that, the threadbare squad is a big concern. There are literally only two full-backs at the club, and Amougou or captain Chris McCann would prove very difficult to replace in central defence and midfield respectively. The spine of the Burnley team is far from complete, and the winter months will test it severely.

Fans have a tendency to get swept away in the emotion of a famous victory or a dire defeat, but the international week is an excellent time to take stock, and it seems that positives and negatives have, thus far, balanced each other out at Turf Moor. A positive or negative run before Christmas will set the focus for the rest of the season- will we be looking up the table or over our shoulders, and will the board finally back Eddie Howe in the transfer market? For myself, a mid-table squad can only ever equal a mid-table finish, but it will be fascinating to see what happens on and off the pitch between now and January. At least in the Championship, not even mid-table is dull!

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret

The Fans vs. The Board

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

An exodus of the better, more experienced players in the team. A lack of willingness to reinvest transfer revenue in the team despite glaring deficiencies, particularly in the centre of defence and central midfield. Spending fractions of the transfer budget on young players who will hope to develop over the coming years, despite pressure from the fans to achieve short-term success while the opportunity is still ripe. And pressure beginning to mount from the stands as the team remains without a league win this season. Burnley Football Club has not had much in common with Arsenal in recent years, but the problems facing both clubs are eerily similar – until one examines the root cause for the malaise currently surrounding them.

While most media commentators (and many Arsenal fans) will tell you that Arsene Wenger’s stubbornness and refusal to spend money the board have earmarked for him is Arsenal’s biggest current problem, Burnley fans (in the absence of media commentators!) are laying the blame firmly at the door of the Burnley board, and in particular, Chairman Barry Kilby. Kilby has been a very popular figure with the fans during his 13 year tenure, epitomised by the fans’ reaction at the Premier League game at Old Trafford two years ago, Burnley’s first since Owen Coyle departed for Bolton – “There’s only one Barry Kilby” rang around the famous stadium. Kilby took over when we were a bottom-half team in League One, and many Burnley fans try not to take for granted that we haven’t returned to that level since promotion in 2000, thanks to some wise managerial choices and careful investment.

Now, however, fans are fearful of a return to that level, if not this season, then in the next couple of years, and with it, the end to a legacy which began unravelling the day Brian Laws was appointed to replace Coyle. Laws, while dedicated to the club and hard-working, had nothing on his CV to recommend him for a Premier League job beyond “he’s a nice bloke and he used to play for us”. His legacy was a meek surrender of our top-flight status, and money wasted on mediocre signings like Leon Cort, Chris Iwelumo, Dean Marney and Lee Grant, who cost something in the region of £3m between them in addition to not unreasonable wages, and who have really failed to improve the team noticeably.

When eventually Laws was let go, far too late, the arrival of Eddie Howe was one that excited supporters – a young, up-and-coming, exciting manager with a thoroughly impressive CV from his time at Bournemouth. While he narrowly failed to guide us to the play-offs, many fans had high hopes of a promotion push this season, many pundits forecast a top 6 finish (Oliver Holt of the Mirror had us automatically promoted!), and patience and trust in the manager were at levels that the hapless Laws could never have hoped to reach.

The close season, though has been an almost unmitigated disaster for Burnley. A long list of released players was not greeted with any great alarm by Burnley fans – players such as Steven Thompson, Clarke Carlisle and Graham Alexander were, although stalwarts of the promotion campaign, past their best. Chris Iwelumo’s departure to Watford for a modest fee was seen as one of the club’s cheekiest sales since Leeds paid £50k for the woefully inadequate Ian Moore. Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears’ departure were big blows on the playing side, but fans were mollified by the £3m fee for two players out of contract at the end of the season, and assurances from the board that the fee would be fully reinvested in the playing side.

Danny Fox’s departure for a paltry £1.8m went down like Adel Taarabt in the box with Clarets fans, though, particularly with Championship rivals Southampton the team to benefit from his services. A £300k profit on a player happy to stay and with two years remaining on his contract set alarm bells ringing further, and despite assurances from Eddie Howe that no more players will be sold, rumours surrounding André Amougou and Jay Rodriguez are making Burnley fans very nervous about the rest of the window.

With only £1.5m spent in total on the acquisitions of Keith Treacy, Zavon Hines and Danny Ings, the promise to spend the money gained in transfer fees has not so far been kept by the board, despite almost weekly assurances that the club is “in negotiations” or has “several bids lodged”. The official line peddled is worries about the upcoming introduction of Financial Fair Play and the consequent need to reduce the wage bill, but with £16m income in the form of parachute payments this year alone, the board have come under serious questioning from the fans for the first time during Kilby’s reign. Howe’s threadbare squad is unlikely to trouble the top end of the table this year as long as the board prevent him making any serious investment, particularly in the very problematic positions of central defence and holding midfield, and when the parachute payment income drops, the very real danger is that there will be no great legacy from the Premier League season on the pitch, despite the board’s reluctance to spend. The rest of this transfer window is as important for Barry Kilby as it is for Arsene Wenger.

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret

Inconsistent Clarets stung by Hornets

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Burnley’s opening game of the 2011/12 season was everything a Claret could have expected, if not hoped for – a shaky defence, some excellent attacking football, a brave fight back, and a slightly disappointing result.

Our pre-season transfer business has been lamented by Clarets fans – seven players leaving, including stalwarts of the promotion season such as Clarke Carlisle and the eternal Graham Alexander, and precious little coming in- two season-long loans in defence, Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier from Manchester City, a reserve goalkeeper from Bournemouth, and the signing that finally put a smile on Clarets’ faces, the Ireland winger Keith Treacy. In addition to his pace, skill and ability on the left-hand side that will give our team some balance, thieving him for a knock-down price from League One new boys and neighbours Preston gives the transfer an added layer of satisfaction. Tee hee.

Bolton fans, however, may be saying the same about the signings of Tyrone Mears and Chris Eagles for £3m, not a bad fee for two players out of contract next summer, but not players who will be easily replaced. Joining the Coyle revolution is an added bone of contention for Burnley fans, although most will wish them well (and wish Mears a speedy recovery from his unfortunate leg break).

Despite the under whelming transfer business and the reluctance of the board to spend either the Mears/Eagles money, or indeed the £16m parachute payment we received this year, the atmosphere among my fellow fans was one of cautious optimism for the new season- although our squad is thin, we have gone for quality over quantity, and scoring goals in particular wasn’t a problem last season. With Martin Paterson, Charlie Austin and Chris McCann returning from injuries that kept them out the best part of last season, going forward we are confident of outscoring anyone. At the back, there are still question marks over the lackadaisical attitude of Andre Bikey – he of stretcher-bearer-pushing fame – and his latest bout of madness came in pre-season as he announced that he henceforth wished to be known as Andre Amougou – quite why, I’m not sure! The goalkeeping position is also a question mark- neither Brian “The Beast” Jensen nor Lee Grant really covered themselves in glory or established themselves as number one last year, and more consistency between the sticks would be preferred.

The team’s strengths and weaknesses were perfectly highlighted in yesterday’s curtain-raiser against Watford. Going forward in the first half we played some delightful football, passing the ball around well and using the wings nicely, as Eddie Howe employed a 4-4-2 rather than his usual 4-3-3. Chances on goal weren’t forthcoming though, with the best spurned by an unusually subdued Martin Paterson, who was withdrawn at half time with yet another injury complaint. Rumours of a £2m bid from Portsmouth for the energetic striker have been met with dismay by Burnley fans, but, given his injury record, surely it’s a bid worth considering?

My dad never fails to remind me when we’re on top that “if you don’t take your chances, you get punished”, and once again, he was annoyingly right, as a Watford side who’d created precious little nicked a goal on half time, the impressive Sordell skipping past Mee and Bikey and crossing for Forsyth to net a simple header.

Charlie Austin, replacing Paterson at half time, steered a header wide of the far post as the Clarets started the second half well, but Watford continued to threaten on the break, seeing a far-post header hacked off the line, and another mix-up between Mee and Bikey once again saw the defence stretched, Mark Yeates getting round the back and slotting a simple finish past Lee Grant.

One thing the Clarets did not lack last season was bouncebackability, having the second best record in the division when going behind, and at 2-0 down with 15 minutes to go a point was very commendable in the end. The final ball and end product finally improved, particularly with the introduction of the lively Keith Treacy, and his fierce shot from the edge of the box bobbled in via a combination of Austin’s knee and face, before the Irish winger bagged his own goal with a thumping header from Ross Wallace’s right wing cross.

As with last season, a mixed bag of positives and negatives to take from the performance and the new signings, but the spirit is evidently in the camp, and the big holes in the team left by Mears and Eagles appear to have been adequately filled by Trippier and Treacy. I was enthused by a display of good football, and a couple more signings to improve the squad could make us genuine play-off contenders. Hand in pocket please Barry!

Finally, a word of congratulations for Burnley’s greatest player, Jimmy McIlroy, who yesterday received the MBE on the pitch in front of the stand at Turf Moor which bears his name. Congratulations Jimmy and richly deserved!

Written by Tom Whittaker, We Are Going Up’s Burnley Blogger

Tom tweets at @tomclaret