Burnley – what a season, but what next?

What a season! That is simply all that can be said about the 2016-2017 season as a whole. 

At the start of the season, Burnley Football Club set out to achieve survival in the Premier League at the third attempt and achieved it with relative ease. The table will show that Burnley finished six points above the drop zone with a far superior goal difference, which is really all that matters.

Unfortunately the last game of the season, at home to West Ham, resulted in a 1-2 loss with a poor performance to boot. Of course, it didn’t matter too much as the fans aren’t extremely bothered about the extra few million quid at stake for finishing in 11th rather than 16th but it would have nice to bow out with a win or a fierce and rip-roaring performance.

There have been other disappointments throughout the season; the utilisation of an unsettled Steven Defour who is without doubt Burnley’s most talented technical footballer, having to wait until the back end of April for an away win and the reluctance to get Robbie Brady and Gudmundsson into the starting XI towards the latter end of the season.

However, now is not a time to focus on the negatives but a time to reflect and look back on a fantastic season. To hit 40 points is a phenomenal achievement, and the fortress Turf Moor was obviously key to Burnley’s success. It is a place that creates a wonderful atmosphere when the crowd are on their game and can be incredibly intimidating for other teams players to come and try to get a result, this form must continue into next season to ensure the Clarets can look to establish themselves in the Premier League.

Burnley have now accomplished something that would have only been a pipe dream 10 or 15 years ago and testament must go to the Sean Dyche. The affectionately known ‘Ginger Mourinho’ is an extremely level-headed man, press conferences never deflect away from the truth nor does he use them to lambast officials, players or opposition. A careful and considered approach, with a clear conviction in his mind as to how the club can continue to achieve the goals he sets of them.

That being said, Burnley have somewhat limped over the line, with only two league wins since the beginning of February and some flat performances but that is being critical to an underserving level given the achievements of the boys this season.

There is now such a good feeling around Burnley Football Club and this season has helped to continue the growth of the club on all fronts. Burnley have gone from the longest serving Championship club to a team that can now truly call themselves a Premier League side.

Whilst still being a yo-yo club, Burnley can now look forward to their biggest summer transfer window in recent history with a sense of optimism, rather than trepidation. There will of course be some outgoings, as it looks certain Micheal Keane and Steven Defour will be leaving Turf Moor in the summer, with George Boyd and Scott Arfield likely to be close behind them.

I’m sure every Clarets fan will look back with jubilation on the past season, it has been an absolute pleasure watching Burnley Football Club defy the odds and hopefully this will continue to be the case.

Speculation, it’s all just a Gray area.

Burnley Football Club have achieved so much more than we should have done at this stage of the season, we have 31 points and are only three points off surpassing our efforts from a couple of seasons ago. It truly has been a phenomenal season so far.

We have been amazing at home, having got 29 of our 31 points at Turf Moor with our away form being nothing short of awful. There have been signs of improvement recently but the most recent performance away at Swansea was poor and saw a dramatic late goal that ensured all points were thrown away.

Our fantastic season has had a few key players, and with Burnley being a club of a small stature in comparison to other Premier League teams, there will be increased speculation as to whether we can keep hold of the players we have.

The key players that are coming under transfer speculation are Tom Heaton, Michael Keane and Andre Gray. All three have either featured in, or been heavily linked to, the England squad and with this will come increased transfer speculation, as purists will argue that little old Burnley should not have three players in the England squad.

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It is clear to see why Everton would be interested in Tom Heaton as the ‘keeper position has been the weakest area for them since David Moyes left the club and Roberto Martinez attempted to replace the ageing Tim Howard with the unremarkable Joel Robles. Stekelenburg has been brought in by Ronald Koeman but again, he has not set the world alight and is easily replaceable.

Tom Heaton has been a phenomenal servant to Burnley since joining on a free transfer  from Bristol City, he has become club captain and a fan favourite. In addition to that, he has to have been our most consistent performer over the past three or four seasons and is a key component to our team.

You have to wonder, would it be possible to replace him? Ability wise, you could possibly look at Jordan Pickford from Sunderland but he looks destined for a bigger club than Burnley and also, he wouldn’t replace the influence that would be lost should Heaton leave. I don’t think we would get an offer with a fee great enough to tempt the Burnley board to sell.

Verdict – Irreplaceable and least likely to leave the club.

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Andre Gray, what a conundrum. Until the last couple of weeks I hadn’t seen his name linked to a move away from Turf Moor but now I barely see anything else. Tottenham Hotspur are considering a bid of around £30m to secure the signing of our key striker, which, if we’re honest, is an astronomical amount of money.

Andre has had a mixed season to say the least, his season has had fantastic highs and miserable lows. Old tweets came back to haunt him just hours after scoring his first Premier League goal against Liverpool in a 2-0 win earlier this season, so the ‘bad-boy done good‘ story was surpassed by the story of a Premier League striker being embroiled in homophobia.

Despite suffering a four-game ban for the abhorrent tweets, Gray has still managed 8 Premier League goals this season, which is a phenomenal return. A brace against Swansea, and a first ever Premier League hat trick for both Gray and Burnley against Sunderland have been the highlights.

There have been concerns about the striker’s consistency this season and his deal does run out in the summer of 2018. If we do receive an offer of around £30m for the striker, it would be very hard to turn down. He is our best striker and that is without question but I think Gray could be replaced, there are strikers out there that could come in and get goals with just as much frequency, so it is possible he could be sold.

Verdict – Replaceable (just about). As likely to leave as he is to stay, however if a new deal is not signed by the end of June, I’d expect to see Gray packing his things and moving on.

Michael Keane

As with Tom Heaton, Everton are the club that are most interested in signing Keane. Whilst there has been talk of him going back to Manchester United or even joining Manchester City, I think the Toffees would be a perfect fit for the centre half.

We have seen Michael Keane mature immensely whilst being at Burnley. He joined as a young centre half with all the potential of a top Premier League player, he had a fantastic pedigree and has gone from strength to strength whilst playing first team football.

He is a player that has outgrown Burnley with our current stature and therefore needs to move on. He has given his all during his time with the club, he has popped up with some vital goals (away at Hull being the most recent) and really should go on to be England’s best centre half. I don’t think any Clarets fan would begrudge him a move away but it is important any potential deal in the summer does not turn into a fiasco.

It is important to remember we signed James Tarkowski for a reason, to replace Michael Keane. Tarkowski is a tank; big, strong, powerful and almost as good on the ball as Michael Keane. He is a ready-made replacement for Keane and this should facilitate a faster sale.

Verdict – Nailed on to leave. Whilst he is our best defender, and with the exception of Steven Defour, probably our best player on the ball, he is not irreplaceable. We should cash in during the summer and focus on strengthening other areas of the pitch (midfield).

Will these players move come the summer transfer window, nobody really knows but with expiring contracts and as it’s now easier than ever for a player to manufacture a move away from a club anything can always happen. As Sean Dyche has said, other managers looking at our players and tempting them away with media releases is something we cannot control but I have faith in Dyche and the Burnley board to do the right thing for the club, as they have always done.

Personally, I believe that both Andre Gray and Michael Keane will leave the club in the summer but with reported sums of around £20m-£25m it might not be the worst thing in the world to have them leave. Arguably, neither are irreplaceable and we would effectively have £40m-£50m to spend on a striker, as we have a somebody ready to step up and take Keane’s place.

What do you think? Will we see any of the much touted trio leave Turf Moor this summer? I would really appreciate your thoughts on this, so get in touch!

It’s no nay never…

This is my first Burnley specific blog piece, I have written a couple of others regarding other bits of football but thought that I would start writing articles on the club I love the most!

I thought now would be a good time to start because we are two thirds of the way through the season and have performed remarkably in the Premier League, but we are now coming off an extremely embarrassing result.

Having been at the FA Cup game against Lincoln City, I am an extremely disappointed fan, our players have fed off the amazing Turf Moor atmosphere since Sean Dyche has been in charge. This has been most evident this season where ‘Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blue Army‘ have one of the best home records in the Premier League, however it was distinctly lacking during the recent FA Cup game.

The away fans were by far the louder and created an amazing atmosphere, and their team played magnificently and as James Tarkowski said in his post match interview, Lincoln City are currently playing far above their current league position. This shift from the usual atmosphere appeared to create doubt amongst the players, and to an extent bred a nervousness when it came to taking the chances we had.

I don’t want to waste too much time discussing the Joey Barton debacle, or the referee, as this has received the most discussion since the game from both sets of fans. I will say Barton was pathetic, but I do not believe his actions were as bad as made out. Matt Rhead (Lincoln’s best player during the game) put himself about a bit and played much like Ashley Barnes does for us against other Premier League teams. There was good old fashioned bite in the fixture and whilst this may have contributed to our downfall, it should not be the main focus point.

We were out battled during this game and further to our League Cup exit away at Accrington Stanley earlier in the season, it does make me question our players’ attitude against sides from the lower leagues (this may also play a part when we play away from home). Whilst we have made a conscious effort to have the minimum requirement as maximum effort, this is something that has failed to translate in the two cup games I have mentioned and in away league games at West Brom and Southampton, where we were comprehensively beaten.

Although the cup game was an embarrassment and we now form an unwanted part of history that could well stand for another 100 years or so, we need to take stock of the whole season.

The players and club have completely surpassed all expectations (well my personal ones anyway). We are currently 10 points above the relegation zone, with 13 games to go, and that is massively impressive. In addition to this, we have broken our transfer record on three separate occasions this season, really strengthening the squad as a whole. We are making massive steps forward as a club, and it is extremely important to remember that.

I have heard excuses that our Premier League games are much more important than the recent cup game (I assume as a poor justification for the loss), and to an extent this is the truth. Obtaining survival in the Premier League has to be our number one target and if we win three of our next four away games, the feat will all but be guaranteed, we will then be able to continue growing as a football club and move forward to start ensuring we become the next Stoke City or West Brom, and that we are a Premier League mainstay.

Whilst the cup game was a huge disappointment, and the idea that it would have been better to lose and play one or two less games is nonsensical, we are still moving forward as a club and doing so brilliantly!

Let’s do the same thing as we did with the Accrington Stanley result and put this behind us, dust ourselves off and kick on by winning our first away game of the season and securing Premier League survival!

Come on Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blue army. UP THE CLARETS.img_6635

Help, we’ve been Impvaded!

Well, as the dust settles following a quite frankly hectic day of FA Cup football that saw not only one massive upset but three. My earlier blog said that I thought Burnley would beat Lincoln, which in theory was a very logical statement.

I would like to start by saying congratulations to Lincoln City, having been a Burnley fan for some time, I have experienced big cup upsets (on the right side) in the League Cup where we got to the semi final and narrowly missed out on Wembley!

I mentioned the Cricket Field stand created one hell of an atmosphere, and today, it felt as though the entire stand was bouncing! The fans were fantastic, usually Turf Moor is one of the most hostile grounds an away team can face (hence the fantastic record this term), however the FA Cup does not have the same fans in the same places and meant the home support paled in comparison to the ‘Impvasion‘.

The goal we conceded was disappointing and very basic, it was a perfectly executed set piece though and entirely deserved! Burnley were outdone in every aspect today, the performance was full of lethargy, but today is not a day to discuss Burnley but a day to celebrate Lincoln City!

A game with little true quality, Muldoon’s touch shone through in the first half and although Burnley had one guilt edged chance in the second half, it wasn’t enough. Until the goal, the main talking point was a number of altercations between players. It would have been a shame if they were the MAIN issues being discussed after this historic occasion for Lincoln City.

This leads me to the pantomime villain for the day, step forward Joey Barton. I will set my stall out now and say that he has been one of the best Burnley players since he has been with us, he virtually carried our midfield to the Championship title last season. Today was the first time I had seen his well publicised idiocy on the football pitch. Joey Barton lowered the tone of the tie, but probably tried to get amongst it to try and spur Burnley players on to start performing.

Much has been made about the stamp and the dive of Barton, which is what it was, but there was a moment much earlier in the game than that where Rhead planted an elbow squarely into the side of his head. There was a lot of bite between the two for the entire game and it would be the wrong thing to focus on either way!

I am so glad that there was no controversial moment that lead to the result and it was an old fashioned goal that earned victory for the Imps. There is much to be lamented about the lacklustre performance from the Clarets, but so much more to be enjoyed in looking back at a thoroughly professional performance displayed by Lincoln City today!

Danny Cowley has compared Lincoln City to Burnley and I can see why, we won our league last year based on a 4-4-2 formation, which is what we were up against today. A solid base, with 4 attacking players (Hawkridge, Arnold, Rhead & Muldoon) giving the main threat and two players providing extra defensive protection. Lincoln played us at our own game and won! Fair play for that.

Fingers crossed this will help the Imps kick on even further and will not have a detrimental impact on Burnley’s season. Although, I really REALLY hope that Lincoln City get a home draw (or Manchester United away) in the next round so I don’t see any more posts about ticket allocation!

GOOD LUCK IMPS, GET YOURSELVES TO WEMBLEY!

Oh and for those that might have an interest, my daughter wants to go back and watch football (despite the result)!

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The Magic of the FA Cup!

It seems an eternity ago that the fifth round of the FA Cup was drawn, of course on BBC’s ‘The One Show’. Personally, this draw represented a magical occasion! I in no way believe that you can support two teams, however I do believe you can have a soft spot for a number of clubs based on various different factors.

One such factor is having been to university. I attended the ‘University of Lincoln‘ and this resulted in me having an affiliation to Lincoln City Football Club. I am, however, a Burnley Football Club fan and prior to attending university, I had held a season ticket at the club for a number of years. As I have mentioned previously, the magical draw occurred and was first out of the ‘hat‘ and saw balls 12 (Burnley) and 7 (Lincoln City) drawn against each other. I was ecstatic! I vocalised my happiness much to the displeasure of my significant other.

Anyway, before long, my joy quickly turned to disappointment. Due to my affiliation with both clubs, I am a member of various Facebook fan pages and the discussion quickly turned to ticket allocation for the away fans. For people who do not know, the FA states that the home team have to provide 15% of the stadium capacity to the away team.

As Lincoln City have already played away at Ipswich Town in the FA Cup this season and took circa 5,000 fans under their aptly named ‘Impvasion‘ this draw would cause a huge problem! For those that are unaware, over the past few seasons Burnley FC have put home fans into the previously designated Away End and it should be noted the Cricket Field stand creates one hell of an atmosphere! With that in mind, Burnley FC were never going to agree to the request of giving this whole stand to Lincoln City (who have had a fantastic following since the Cowley brothers have taken the reins).

img_6203It was a huge disappointment for all Imp fans to learn of the allocation being 3,210 tickets and boy, was this vocalised on the Facebook pages! Names such as ‘tinpot‘ were thrown around, and Lincoln fans accused Burnley of being all sorts of things that were truly without merit! Once certain Burnley related pages got wind of this disdain, posts were made about Lincoln City not being able to sell any additional allocation the club might have given them!

I know both of the statements are incorrect! Lincoln City could easily have sold double their allocation, especially at the bargain price of £10 per ticket for an adult! I also know that the only reason Burnley FC would have taken the decision they did would have been to ensure the best chance of securing a sixth round!

I must stress, this game is almost as big for Burnley as it is for Lincoln City. Many will strongly disagree with this point, however, Burnley have not featured in the sixth round since 2003, when the current manager Sean Dyche lined up against the Clarets (albeit on the substitutes bench). Additionally, Burnley are going superbly in the league and have the best opportunity for Premier League survival in our three attempts thus far! Therefore, it is arguable that progressing the cup will help carry on the momentum to sustain the survival push, in just the same way this dream FA Cup run has helped propel Lincoln City to the top of the Vanarama National League.

Personally, I feel there was an initial gap of opinion between fans that has been greatly diminished by the superb media work by not only Sean Dyche (who is arguably much more accustomed to a fan fare) but also Danny Cowley. There are many likenesses between the two bosses, and I tip both of them to go on and achieve managerial greatness. It would not surprise me if both eventually had a spell as England manager within the next ten or fifteen years!

Today also marks a truly magical day for me, as I will be taking my four-year old daughter to her first ever football match. Good luck to Lincoln City, whilst I normally root for you, I cannot today but I hope you go on to achieve promotion back to the Football League and also keep cracking on in the FA Trophy!

To all my fellow Clarets, and the wonderful Imps, have a great day and enjoy whatever comes next!