David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Austin’

The right type of spark

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

HarryRedknappReminiscent of the title winning season in 2010-11, Queens Park Rangers seem to have settled back into life in the Championship with a steely determination, that has been missing since the days of Sir Neil Warnock.

How much of this new hard to beat mentality can be attributed to Harry Redknapp is up for debate. Redknapp talks of bringing the ‘right sort’ into Loftus Road. However, Danny Simpson arrived with a colourful reputation, Richard Dunne is past his best and has had his troubles and Karl Henry has a tendency to spend time in the stands. Couple this with the already toxic personalities and questionable commitment of recently departed Stephane Mbia, Junior Hoillett and Shaun Wright Phillips, and the squad still has a culpable air around it.

However, there does seem to be a glue that appears to be holding all these supposed misfits together during games (aside from the usual Mr Reliable Clint Hill) and that comes in the form of a sweet and tender hooligan named Joseph Barton. I am first to admit that I was hugely critical of Barton in his previous stint at the club. Under performing, criticism of a manager that had won the league the previous season, and an attitude that seemed to suggest he just didn’t want to be at the football club. I don’t believe players intend to perform badly, but his first half display against Liverpool two years ago, was nothing short of abysmal.

Barton only let the club down twice in terms of on field discipline, once when Bradley Johnson made the most of an attempted snog on the halfway line, and then on that ill-fated and climactic day at the Etihad. I felt at the time, the ban was harsh, however his attitude towards the club after that was a disgrace. He had played in a side that had avoided relegation on goal difference and yet seemed to believe he was above criticism and above working to improve the next year. There’s no doubt he was part of a collective that let the club down, led by the incompetent and dishonest Ma*k Hug*es.

But I also strongly believe in forgiveness and living in the present. If Rickie Lambert had been judged on his past, he would never have got the chance to play and score for England. And if the QPR fans were as judgemental and unforgiving as their West London counterparts, Joey Barton would not have got the rapturous reception he did when he returned. And how he’s responded.

Starting wide right against Sheffield Wednesday, he began to dictate, and galvanised the team after falling behind, goals from Nedum Onouha and Andy Johnson giving rangers the victory. A hard fought draw at Huddersfield (a phrase I’d never thought I would utter again) was followed by a last minute victory over Ipswich at Loftus Road thanks to super Tommy Hitchcock. This game saw Barton line up in central midfield alongside his arch nemesis Karl Henry.

No one really knows what goes off on a training ground, but they seem to be getting on just fine. Henry is the perfect caveat to Barton, a little like a more mobile Shaun Derry, taking the heat off the Liverpudlian with his tough tackling screening of the back four. This has allowed Barton to dictate games, often being the linchpin around which QPRs attacks are built.

Alongside this, outstanding performances from Nedum Onouha, Robert Green and a more mobile attacking unit with Andy Johnson and Charlie Austin, has meant rangers spine has been almost impenetrable.

Rangers have started solidly, without blowing teams or the fans away, the excellent goal at Bolton hopefully the spark that sets the team off.

Nevertheless, it’s the hope that kills you. And being a QPR fan all my life, I have no doubt something is lurking around the corner.

The future of Barton could be key to this season, if he stays and continues as he’s started, QPR have half a chance of being right up there.

Written by Paul Mitchell, We Are Going Up’s Queens Park Rangers blogger

Paul tweets at @MitchtheMod

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

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

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