David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Turf Moor’

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