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.

Claudi-oh! Where did it all go wrong?!

I’ve purposely waited for a couple of days to let the dust settle around Leicester City and to see what pundits and fans alike have been saying about the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri.

The general reaction is that the sacking of Ranieri was disgusting, left people feeling that modern-day football had gone mad and that Leicester City have now seemingly become the most disliked football club in the entire country. This thought process is completely understandable given last seasons achievement but does it take into account the cold, hard facts of the current situation Leicester find themselves in.

It is important to remember that Ranieri took charge in what looked like an extremely strange move from the board. In the summer of 2015, after performing one of the greatest escapes ever seen in Premier League history, Nigel Pearson was sacked. He was replaced with a perceived failure in Claudio Ranieri and many pundits tipped him to lead Leicester City straight into the Championship. We now know they needn’t have worried about anything, as Leicester City had the most remarkable season and lifted the Premier League title.

Fast forward nine months and as Ranieri has said himself, his dream has died‘. I must get it out there right now, I for one am not shocked by this decision. Leicester City are a team on a downward curve, quite a steep downward curve at that. Ranieri has not been able to motivate and invigorate the squad to keep them away from trouble, and I think the Leicester City board got massively ahead of themselves.

When a decision like this is made, it is extremely easy to get up in arms and be filled with anger within the immediate aftermath, however, football is a business. As much as it is business driven by the fans’ love, passion and loyalty, it is still a business. The bottom line is that Sky have changed the game in terms of money being offered to Premier League clubs, and in the past summer, Leicester City players were handed huge contracts. The increase in wages, married with the dip in form, has created a perfect storm in the Leicester boardroom and something has to change.

The sacking of Ranieri does prove that football is heartless, and that is extremely hard to stomach as a large number of football fans fell in love with the game from an early age and have grown up doing so. To think that something you love could be so cold is difficult, but as explained above, football is a business. You cannot imagine somebody in a high-end company not being scrutinised for such a shift in results and the performance of the staff that work under him, although that is different and markedly so, the very lowest level is very similar.

It could be argued that the timing is massively off, and maybe there aren’t the managers available to come in and make the necessary difference at such short notice but the easiest way to change things is by sacking the manager. Of course Ranieri deserved more time, but that should not have been based on last season, as that was a freak season that was never going to be repeated. The fact is that managers live on the edge, there are probably a handful of managers in the top two divisions that know they are safe, regardless of a few bad results but not many.

Much has been made of the fact that Ranieri had supposedly lost the support of key senior players and it was this that ultimately resulted in his sacking. As is often said, there is no smoke without fire. It could be argued that Ranieri never really had their full support, as many of them were unhappy with Pearson’s dismissal and the relationship they had with Ranieri was never put under any strain due to the fantastic results. Once this relationship has been strained, it appears to have broken pretty quickly.

The board have made a statement saying there is not only one issue at the club, but many. Whether that is player power, projected monetary issues if relegation is realised or generally poor performances, they have not clarified. All that matters is that Ranieri was part of a magical season, one that invigorated love for football across the nation and that is amazing. Was he the sole reason? No. Is he quite possibly the most friendly, inviting and warm manager that has been in the Premier League in recent years? Yes. That is what makes this all the more sad.

Where next for Leicester City? Apparently the current caretaker manager is in the frame, as is player favourite Nigel Pearson. All that can be said for now is Addio Claudio, hope to see you again soon.

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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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New Manager, Same England?

It seems a long time ago that Sam Allardyce made his bow as England manager and now the players have returned to their club teams and will be getting ready for this weeks action. England made the difficult away trip to Slovakia, a team they had drawn 0-0 with in the recent European Championships which was obviously quite shocking seeing as we played free-flowing and attacking football, dominating teams and absolutely battering them (or not).

What could we expect from Big Sam’s new England side – from his club history, it would have been organisation, a solid defensive base, playing to achieve results and this was summed up in his pre-match comments where he confirmed a draw would be a good result in the groups toughest game.

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By now, we all know the result, a 1-0 victory courtesy of a stoppage time goal from Adam Lallana. In the end, 3 points, a winning start and plenty of positives on that front. However, the pre-match comments, alongside the static and dull performance does not do a lot to fill the England fans with a lot of confidence. I mean, if I had travelled to Slovakia and heard that a draw would have been fine to the team, then I would have been most annoyed.

To say it wasn’t an enthralling encounter could be one of the understatements of the year – England did not have a shot on target whilst Slovakia had 11 men on the pitch, which is worrying. It shows we have continued our struggles to break defensive teams down and this is not a trait Big Sam brings with him from his previous clubs. As mentioned above, it took until the fifth minute of stoppage time for the break through to come along. This winning goal was met with relief, sheer relief that we had finally managed to make the break through and I would liken our performance to that of Liverpool against Burnley at Turf Moor – dictated play, had a number of shots and a massive amount of possession but lacked a cutting edge. I feel we need to use the pacy wide players we have to better effect, stretch the game to the flanks and drive the ball in across the box – it could be worth gambling on a developing Rashford (especially with his debut hat-trick for the under 21s) or bringing back a fox in the box like Jermain Defoe, just to have that great movement in the 6 yard box which is a nightmare for central defenders (like Rashford’s goal against Hull a couple of weeks ago).

I feel the Big Sam appointment could potentially mirror David Moyes at Manchester United in some ways, obviously, he isn’t taking over the most successful manager England has ever had – but he is coming from a smaller background in terms of his previous jobs and this can bring a defensive mentality. It could breed a culture of play not to lose rather than play to beat the opposition, which is the manner England should be playing. England should be looking to beat any team we come against, there are a few nations we could not be classed as better than but as a top international side, we need to play with an attacking swagger that will beat teams, create an aura where teams do not look forward to playing us  and cannot simply put 10 men behind the ball knowing this will work and keep us quiet.

It’s obviously impossible to judge how England will progress under Big Sam, and with the most difficult group game out of the way we can try to look forward with nothing but optimism because Big Sam has never really failed at a club and could be the one to strengthen England in tournament football – because it looks as though we are going to qualify with ease if the first result is to go by.

Keep your eyes out because there will be another blog post tomorrow night looking ahead to the weekends action!