Fun with numbers

Burnley’s summer transfer business.

Nick Pope£10.35mManuel Benson£3.60m
Dwight McNeil£21.6mJosh Cullen£2.70m
Nathan Collins£21.87mArjianet Muric£2.70m
Wout WeghorstLoanScott Twine£2.61m
Maxwel Cornet£18.63mLuke McNally£1.67m
Adam PhilipsUnknownVitinho£0.90m
Samuel Bastien£0.72m
CJ Egan-RileyFree transfer
Taylor Harwood-BellisLoan
Ian MaatsenLoan
Nathan TellaLoan
Darko Churlinov£3.15m
Anass Zauhoury£3.60m
Halil DervisogluLoan
Jordan BeyerLoan
(Due to the club not disclosing fees, all numbers are from Transfrmarkt)

Total purchases: £21.65m
Total sales: £72.45m
Net Spend: -£50.80m

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why net spend is a bullshit metric. Burnley have a net spend of minus £50.8 million pounds over the summer. It doesn’t tell you who, it doesn’t tell you why and it doesn’t tell you how many.

It doesn’t actually tell you anything.

In short, never trust a metric invented by Rafa Benitez.

Burnley-ing Down The House

One of my favourite TV shows ever was the late 90’s comedy drama Due South. The story of Constable Benton Fraser, a strait-laced Canadian Mountie, sent to the big city of Chicago to team up with Detective Ray Vecchio, a wise-cracking US cop. It was a quirky, sometime hilarious, sometimes incredibly moving drama show which survived four series largely due to its success in the UK and Canada rather than the US.

Constable Benton Fraser
Yeah, that show with that guy

The show actually was cancelled a couple of times before being revived for a third series. Unfortunately, David Marciano, the actor who played Ray Vecchio was unavailable to continue his role, so had to be replaced.

Faced with replacing such a crucial cog in the wheel, the writers cleverly wrote the absence into the script. Vecchio was sent undercover, with a replacement Fake Ray to cover for the day job much to the confusion of Fraser. As our heroic Mountie tried to prove that Fake Ray was actually, well, fake, he would go to the places established over the previous two series and find them removed, demolished or destroyed. Ray’s house.. gone, Rays prized car, on fire and sent to the bottom of the Chicago River. A character fused into the very fabric of the series is removed swiftly, without reference and very, very deliberately.

(Right, Landers, I vaguely remember this show, but what does this have to do with Burnley FC?)

This time last year, the prospect of Sean Dyche not being Burnley manager seemed inconceivable. Not only was he a fixture in the dugout, his fingerprints were all over every part of the club, from the squad, the training ground to the media approach. Dyche was entwined not just on the pitch, but throughout every aspect of the club.

Yet here we are, less than a week out from a new season and Burnley FC has changed, monumentally and irrecoverably from twelve or even six months ago. What traces there were of the past – Garlick, Dyche and all – seem to have been removed by ALK, swiftly, without reference and very, very deliberately.

(See! Despite appearances to the contrary, I don’t just throw this stuff together.)

The period since Dyches sacking – and as I type this, barely three months have passed – has seen a tornado pass through the club on and off the pitch. I said on the No Nay Never podcast immediately after the sacking that the club was always heading towards a summer of reset, with or without Dyche, with an aging squad largely out of contract and new(ish) owners looking to finally put their plans into place.

I expect that the vast majority of people expected small, incremental changes. Evolution not revolution. Yet, it absolutely feels like, sometime shortly after Dyche was told to clear out his office, a safe was opened up in a building in New York, a white gloved butler pulled out a thick sheaf of papers entitled “Burnley FC: The Plan” and put it on a large oak desk. Alan Pace put down his white cat, leafed through it one final time, leaned into an intercom and said “Execute Project Aurora”.

(OK, so it was likely sitting on a server somewhere and thanks to the magic of the internet, transmitted electronically across several thousand miles, but let me enjoy the image.)

It is obvious in hindsight that the transformation ALK have been making has been the one that they were waiting to pull the trigger on from the moment they took the reins of the club. Burnley FC is to be reshaped from the small town, inward facing club into… I don’t know what, but definitely not what Burnley have been for the last 140 years.

Of course, that invites the obvious question of whether Dyche knew when he signed up in October, but we’ll leave Oliver Stone to bid for the movie rights on that one.

The failure to avoid relegation back to the Championship didn’t even seem to muddy the waters. In fact, it feels like dropping down a level has helped hasten the transformation. Since ALK took over in January 2021, the changes have mostly been off the pitch, sorting out the behind-the-scenes things like the commercial stuff (which was much needed, by the way). Perhaps the most visible transformation was the video screens, and it felt that ALK’s influence was largely restricted to off field matters.

Yet the summer has seen a new manager with a new focus, a new philosophy and a host of incoming transfers. The old guard that served the club so well for so many years – and Dale Stephens – have largely gone. Only JayRod, Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes remain to tell tales to the newcomers of the Before Times and even they had to sign new contracts in order to stay.

An old man telling a story around a campfire to kids
Let me tell you kids about the Legend of Burnley. Once upon a time, in a forest, there lived a gruff ogre called Sean…

One Good Man

I have always thought that in the event of Dyche going the club should not try to find a similar type but embrace proper change and go for someone in the mould of Daniel Farke or David Wagner, both of whom had success in the Championship. Much as I loved Dyche for achieving success precisely by using methods that hipsters considered outdated (after all, David felled Goliath with a slingshot, not a laser beam), I felt that trying to continue to plough that lonely furrow would only lead to ever more diminishing returns.

Although there were no particular names that I had in mind, Vincent Kompany fit the bill. A great player in his career, a leader on the pitch. He fits my idea of what Dyche’s successor should – perhaps needed – to be. Young, progressive, modern, knowledgeable about football outside these shores.

It’s quite a media friendly appointment too, and that feels deliberate even if we are now officially “Vincent Kompany’s Burnley”. It will also be a blessed relief to no longer be told that the team is playing an outdated, outmoded, consigned to the dustbin of history 4-4-2 formation and embracing a modern, attacking *checks notes* 4-4-2 formation.

I have some doubts – Kompany wasn’t an outstanding success at Anderlecht but there were mitigating circumstances. He had a slow start but by all accounts used that slow start to identify his mistakes and correct them. Although the Purple & White did not win silverware under him, he did steer them to a Cup final (losing on penalties) and a third-place finish, which is about par for the course in their recent history.

Whatever his qualities as a manager, it is clear that Kompany as a person has a presence that simply demands respect. Forget his glittering career, every time I see the man speak in an informal occasion, he commands attention without demanding it. A room in which he is not the smartest person must contain some absolute geniuses.

Letting Go

For the last three or four seasons, Burnley trod water at best, the survival instinct topping all. This led to the paralysis at board level and subsequent stagnation of the squad, who gave their all time after time until it simply wasn’t enough. For far too long, the club’s transfer business was so entirely predictable that you could set your watch by it – we would be linked with two, maybe three players for a protracted length of time that we inevitably didn’t land because of “a difficult market”. This happened so many times that it was clear that the transfer strategy was a mixture of show combined with penny-pinching.

Not that those links were ever to anyone exciting. As other clubs explored foreign markets, or took on loans from other PL clubs and actually gave them a chance, we Clarets had become used to welcoming a succession of solid and dependable pros who had proven that they could do it on cold, rainy Tuesday nights in Stoke because well, they had regularly been doing it on cold, rainy Tuesday nights for Stoke.

Now most of them have been shipped out, their contracts not renewed due to being too old, too injured, too rubbish, or in the case of Dale Stephens, all three. (Which reminds me, Stephens going on TalkShite to talk to Ronseal Chairman about how he wasn’t officially informed that his contract would not be renewed showed an incredible lack of self awareness. I’m all for clubs being professional and courteous in saying goodbye to players, but Stephens was lucky his training gear wasn’t left in a binbag outside a Padiham bus stop.)

Despite the best efforts of people to make out a mountain out of a molehill (“Burnley release FOURTEEN players”, anyone?) the squad overhaul wasn’t a shock to anyone. Tarks was going anyway, most of the rest were old, injured or both. The disappointment was to see Ben Mee leave. The words “club legend” are bandied about far too easily, but he is very much up there with the greatest Clarets of all time. Maybe he wanted a fresh start or one final payday, but either way, he goes with nothing but gratitude.

It’s interesting that Nathan Collins went. The fee was disappointing but illuminating. Premier League clubs are buying players for £15-£30m yet we’ve reinvested in our new back line for around half of that lower figure. The gap between the two top divisions is not just in quality or budget, but market.

ALK have reshaped the squad with dizzying speed and the team squad photo no longer looks like a mixture of plumbers and WW1 fighter pilots. Hardly a day goes by without links to some young player that, based upon an entire 45 minutes of watching YouTube highlights is absolutely going to become a future Premier League star. Each player has been bought with a clear eye on future resale value – not a bad thing if you can pull it off.

Burnley FC Squad Photo 2021
Front Row L-R: plumber, WW1 fighter pilot, WW1 fighter pilot, plumber, plumber, plumber, WW1 fighter pilot, WW1 fighter pilot

After all, that is what we used to do. That successful little production line that we had going in the early-mid 2010s, selling Charlie Austin, Michael Keane, Kieren Trippier, Danny Ings and Andre Gray had ground to a complete halt. Somewhere along the line, the club stopped doing the thing that made it successful, and we began shopping for reclamation projects. It worked for a while, mind you, but still, not much in the way of long-term planning. Restarting the conveyor belt is an absolute requirement, presumably central to the ALK business plan and, quite frankly, the only way that the club is going to prosper.

The squad is a definite curate’s egg. A very young back line, with not a lot of experience, the exact opposite up front. In between looks like it has bags of promise, with Cork, Brownhill, Bastien and Cullen providing options even before Ashley Westwood gets to return. On the wing, Gudmundsson and McNeil seems like they could really do a job assuming fitness (and in the case of JBG, that’s a big if.)

And no, I haven’t included Maxwell Cornet because he’s bound to leave by the close of the transfer window and I just don’t want to think about that.

An Invitation to Romance

Let’s face it, since the Europa League run, when we didn’t have the enforced Covid break, we’ve had sludge. For four seasons, on and off the pitch, there was little to get the pulses racing.

Now I completely understand why the club had to approach things in the way that they did and I am not criticising the players or staff for doing what they had to do. It was fun to be the spoiler, the monkey in the wrench, to punch the big boys on the nose. I never minded this, because I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to annoy those who are above their station.

But even fixture release day was a cause for concern rather than anticipation.  Instead of eagerly scanning for matches to look forward to, often the first Premier League to be mentioned was the one where we were going to lose 5-0 away to Man City. Brows would be furrowed as we tried to work out the best chances of getting an unbeaten run long enough to ensure 17th place. The Premier League is a tilted table, designed to maximise predictability and certainty for the Big Rich Clubs. This is the league that saw the wonderful Leicester story of 2015 and decided, quietly, that that sort of thing cannot be allowed to happen again.

When the final whistle blew at home to Newcastle, the emotions surprised me. Disappointment, yes. Sadness, certainly. But the overwhelming feeling was one of relief. It was over. “It” being the seemingly endless pushing of water uphill, trying to continually beat the odds week in, week out.

So a trip back to the Championship feels a chance to step back from the endless hype machine that is the top flight and actually get back to what football really is about. I hated the performative anger and outrage and trolling that is fandom at the very top level. The mind-numbing crassness of Chelsea fans singing Roman Abramovich’s name as his mate rolled tanks into Ukraine, the cynical money-making of Arsenal and Man Utd fan channels on YouTube, the corporate soulessness that is Manchester City. The aggressively superior sentimentality of Liverpool and the delusion of Spurs.

After seven years of being in a division where we were constantly made to feel like we didn’t matter, now everything matters. On the pitch, off the pitch, there are real stakes.

Seeing is Believing

I was trying to work out why everyone was actually excited and looking forward to the season.  And I realised that the sheer amount and speed of change was the driving force behind that excitement.

We’re not supposed to be feeling this way right now. We’re supposed to be depressed at relegation, worried for the financial future of the club, afraid that we won’t bounce back at the first time of asking. But that feels like an outsider’s perspective, for Claret fandom seems almost giddy with excitement. Even the known naysayers, who after a 5-0 away win will moan about the quality of the half-time pie have decided to shut up for at least a few weeks.

What is very odd is that if you said to most fans that their relegated team would be going into a new season with a manager with no experience in the division, an almost entirely new squad that has taken players who were in, around or should have been near major international teams with and replaced them with League One or loan players barely old enough to be involved in a nightclub drinking incident then the reaction would likely be somewhere between concern and sheer abject terror.

It’s easy for other fans to read the comments under an article or skim a hashtag and see stuff that they can use as fuel. Stuff about walking the League and going 69 unbeaten (nice!). It could be taken for arrogance and cockiness but in truth, it’s giddiness and self-deprecation. What people don’t understand is that opening day of this season feels like the Christmas Day that we have missed for years. When was the last time you felt this excited about the first game of the season? I’m willing to bet that it was Aberdeen, and that was four years ago.

Even off the pitch, the right moves seem to be being made. The new kit has been received very positively and ALK have followed through on their promise to remove gambling sponsors. (Not an easy decision when there are a reported seven and a half million reasons a year to have one.) My fears about it being replaced by the scam that is cryptocurrency were also misplaced, which, of course, means I’m now going to buy one for the first time in over half a decade.

The new Burnley FC shirt
It will look awesome when it has finished downloading

The Duel

It’s not great that the final match before the break for the World Cup That Human Rights Forgot is against them. A resumption of hostilities in every sense of the phrase. For me, the derby games are matches to be endured not enjoyed. Leaving out the low quality on the pitch, the before, during and after bring out the absolute worst in both fan-bases. It feels often that the game itself is irrelevant and even trying to get to the ground is to run the gauntlet of over-enthusiastic policing and tanked-up Ross Kemp lookalikes who are more interested in pretending to be hard men than being fans of whichever team they claim to follow.

In the weeks leading up to them, I’ll find it easy to get angry at the stupidity on display, depressed at the behaviour and I’ll find it difficult to care about anything other than the result. I’d happily not play the games at all, just write the result down as a 1-1 draw and be done with the damned things.

As for the other 44 games, I’m looking forward to all of them. Places not visited for a while, a variety of clubs on the rise or the fall. The games will come thick and fast and many of them will be available for streaming. Perhaps strangely, despite the media monster that is the Premier League, I’ll feel much more connected to the Clarets via audio and video this forthcoming season.

Seeing is Believing

So, what do I expect to happen?  I always say a good season in the Championship is getting into the playoffs, it is simply too unpredictable a division to rely on anything more.  Yes, Fulham immediately bounced back up but – whisper it quietly like everyone else – they have a billionaire backing them.  Bournemouth’s owner seems to have avoided the sanctions placed on every other Russian billionaire too.

It is noticeable that ALK haven’t been breaking the bank with incoming transfers. As I type this, it is likely that they will be making a profit on the overall transfer business. The major fear has always been that the drop in revenue between the top table and the Championship is very difficult for a club like Burnley to handle, but it seems like financially at least, ALK have managed to slash the wage bill and rebuild the squad for the loss of four key players and a loanee. The business side has been smart, and one would assume that the incoming players have been subjected to ALKs much mooted analytics strategy.

However, numbers in spreadsheets and databases only take you so far. Anyone expecting a raw manager with a raw team to catch lightning in a bottle and strike promotion gold straightaway is asking for trouble.  It’s going to take time, and by that I mean a few months at least to even begin to understand where Burnley are this season. Last time we were in this division, we had clearly spent a good chunk of the previous PL term preparing for the challenge. This time around, we don’t even have a normal length pre-season to get ready for the Championship grind.

There is, of course, the very real prospect that the Clarets don’t even start the first seven games of the season with the squad that they want. The early start means that 15% of the season will have been completed before the summer transfer window closes. Thankfully the ridiculous nature of the division, where a five-game winning run can catapult you up 10 places and a similar losing streak do the opposite means that it is possible to start slowly and catch up.

Oddly, the enforced November break may actually be a blessing.  A chance to take stock, review progress and reset for the long haul to the finish line. I fully expect a slow start, winning some, losing some, hovering around 10th until then.

I don’t demand success, or even promotion this season, what I do want is to see progress. Progress and player development, a building of a more attractive style of play, a clearer pattern to understand what the club will look like under the new regime and the direction it is heading.

Burnley are changing at a dizzying speed. The club is – on and off the pitch – completely different to what it was less than even 12 months ago. Is that pace of change (pun not intended, but I’m keeping it) too fast? How long will it take before we know whether it will gel? Can the club afford for it to take two, three seasons?

The Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times” is meant to be a curse as well as a blessing. Burnley are certainly entering interesting times, but then interesting is something that we haven’t been for a while and right now, I’m excited at the prospect.

What a ride

It is the day after the night before. Yesterday, Burnley’s six year stay in the Premier League came to an end. Despite holding their fate in their hands, the 2-1 loss at home to Newcastle, the newly richest club in the world, combined with results elsewhere meant that the club will be playing Championship football next season.

The internet was full of hot takes last night and today.  Some people are criticising individual performances, maybe lashing out in frustration, maybe fulfilling their need to create and/or bash their favourite scapegoat.  There will undoubtedly be some post-mortem type articles, as “sources” get their preferred narrative out into the wild.

So, what’s another one, eh?

I’ve tried to put thoughts down, some of this might be wrong, but I figure it is a good time to write from the heart.  I’ve always taken the Danny Baker point of view “I treat football with the seriousness that it deserves” because that ambiguous statement sums up the whole thing perfectly.

And this one won’t get the attention that the last one did, but for anyone who wants to criticise the length or thinks that it should be passed through proper sub-editors before publication, it’s my blog, my world, my thoughts, I write for an audience of one and if anyone else even looks at it, that is a bonus.

The match

I guess the frustrating thing is that our fate was in our hands at kickoff.  We weren’t relying on others to get to safety.  Unfortunately, the team sheet showed that we were down to 14 recognised first team players and had to fill the bench out with kids.  Although I’m going to point out individuals, that doesn’t mean they are culpable – one game does not relegate you.

The team looked incredibly nervous from the opening minute.  The occasion got to them – and why wouldn’t it?  Three of the starting back five had a total of 88 Premier League appearances combined and 48 of those are over the last eight years of Kevin Long’s career.  Connor Roberts was far too anxious on that right side; it was no surprise to see him hooked as he was having an absolute nightmare of a game. It looked like he had spent most of the day knocking back Sunny D.

Jackson didn’t do a particularly brilliant job on the day but given that he had a tiny menu of options to choose from, I’m not sure what else he could have done.  With the players available, there was no perfect system, no ideal setup. But at least he tried, and there was some tactical flexibility and nous rather than the dogmatic rigidity of Dyche’s 4-4-2.

What didn’t help was that Nathan Collins had his worst ten minutes in a Burnley shirt.  From a terrible mix-up with Pope to the accidental handball for the penalty, a player who had been one of the few bright sparks of the last couple of months was a lightning rod for misfortune for a short while.  It was completely unfair on the lad and seeing Ben Mee consoling him at full time was a heartbreaker.

As for the penalty itself, from my spot in the JHL upper I saw Pope touch the ball, then it hit something on the way over the dead ball line.  When the ref didn’t signal for the goal kick, I simply thought “Oh no…”.  It was what I feared, and the Football Gods kick us in the teeth once more.  Small margins have killed us all season and we weren’t going to finish the final game without falling on the wrong side again.

From there it was an uphill battle against a confident Newcastle. From relegation certainties in December, Eddie Howe has brought teamwork, togetherness with only his acute managerial brain, staff who know what they are doing, oh and NINETY-THREE MILLION POUNDS WORTH OF NEW PLAYERS.  Newcastle have survived comfortably thanks to fluid football (played by NINETY-THREE MILLION POUNDS WORTH OF NEW PLAYERS), decent attacking intent (from NINETY-THREE MILLION POUNDS WORTH OF NEW PLAYERS) and NINETY-THREE MILLION POUNDS WORTH OF NEW PLAYERS getting themselves organised.

Perhaps this should really be a camel.
Don’t mind me over here.

Undoubtedly Newcastle fans will not like the bit about the 93 million quid. They will understandably think that Howe deserves more credit. Which is their right, and fair enough, no-one outside of Newcastle is going to be particularly inclined to give Eddie Howe a big hand, not least because his employers have got plenty of spares lying around in a bucket.

For clarity, this is not my joke, though I dearly wish to every diety you could think of that it was.

So, there was nothing left at the end, except to ponder the if’s and buts.  What if our striker was 6’7” instead of 6’6” and that deflection crossed the line instead of flashing by the post.  Would Jay Rod or Vydra up front have been more effective than Barnes?  Would having two wingers for more than 10 games this season have helped?  Should Dyche have been sacked earlier? Was Jackson the right choice or should we have got another manager in?

By the way, yes, yes, don’t know, yes and no.


So what was left at the final whistle?

Not a lot. The players and fans had given everything and come up short. It wasn’t a good performance, but with the thick end of £100m on the line, it never will be. The tension was horrible enough as a fan in the stands, let alone to be one of the eleven on which so much relied.

It was not a night to be on social media – the TwitterClarets seemed to be taking it well.  I decided to spend the evening almost successfully ignoring the gloating from the most entitled fan base in the country.  They survived, we didn’t.  Congratulations to Leeds, a fanbase who would cut their own genitals off in their desperation to be in the Premier League and have a record of European success that isn’t as good as Ipswich.  Congratulations also to the fans of Everton, who spent half a billion pounds to finish four points ahead of relegation.  Last laugh is on you lads, you’ve still got Frank Lampard in charge.

He had school in the morning, too.
Truly, it’s like Oscar Wilde never died
#bantz #legend

What will you miss?

Being able to say that the small, Northern club that I hitched my emotional wagon to over 30 years ago is also a Premier League club. Burnley is now known worldwide as a top club because it appears on so many screens across the globe for so long.

I’ll miss seeing some of the best players in the world try to cope with Turf Moor. It was cool to see Ronaldo appear on the pitch and hilarious to see him do absolutely fuck all once he got there. 25 million quid a year they are paying for that.

What will you not miss?

I’ll not miss the bullshit that opposition managers will come up with to justify not getting all three points. The grass is too long or too short. The schedule was against them. Their opponents were too… Burnley. Being in the top six of the Premier League is far too often one long whinge.

I won’t miss the plastic fans who consume the Premier League entirely via internet narrative. The type who have Twitter handles like “MoSalahFan74” and will never come within 100 miles of the city that hosts the team that they support.

I won’t miss the tilted table that is the Premier League, where getting into the top half is increasingly a distant dream.  The Big Clubs have every advantage and squander most of them.

I’m not going to miss games against Man City, which are the absolute definition of a contractual obligation. They are a perfect robot, a gleaming, soulless machine. Damned easy to respect, admire in a certain way even, but impossible to like.

I’m not going to miss walking out of games against Arsenal and making my way past the lines of visiting fans setting up expensive equipment so that they can rant into their YouTube channels.

I’m not going to miss the feeling that out of 38 games a season, we’ve got a reasonable chance in around half of them.

At the top of the game, footballs finances are utterly fucked. Consider this, Chelsea were financed for two decades by Roman Abramovich, who is asking for his £1.6 billion back.  During his time, they won Premier League titles, Champions Leagues, Europa Leagues, FA Cups and a World Club Championship. In short, they won the vast majority of the prize money, took just about every penny they were entitled to in terms of TV revenue both at home and in Europe, won a significant amount of major silverware.

And they still needed subsidising, on average, to the tune of £80 million a season.

I’m not going to miss things like this:

Proof, if ever it was needed, that Roy Keane knows absolutely fuck all about football.

Don’t get me wrong.  Roy Keane was an excellent midfielder, collected a glut of medals and was a driving presence in a great Manchester United team. However, as his subsequent managerial and punditry career shows, being an all time great at one facet of football does not bestow an understanding of the game as a whole.

People may think that I’m being unfair, and perhaps Keane is hiding his brilliant incisive mind behind lazy, pathetic, uncaring, unthinking bollocks.  He might well be playing dumb to protect his pay cheque. But if he is, it kind of breaks the idea of him being a straight talking, no bullshit kind of guy. Ignorance or deception, either way is not a good look.

He’s not alone and I’m not picking on him specifically.  The vast, vast majority of the football media landscape is full of people who either don’t understand or don’t like football. Rio Ferdinand’s career should have ended after he demanded that the Man Utd board pay Ole Gunnar Solskjaer whatever the price needed to be.

Arguing that black is white, that up is down has been an immensely successful niche for Chris Sutton, even if it does make him kind of contrarian pub bore that people cross entire towns to avoid.

You can’t teach me anything about particle physics Mr so-called “Professor” Brian Cox, after all, how many Premier League medals have you won?

Fellow pox on the airwaves Robbie Savage might end up one day drowned in the vat of baked beans he will inevitably sit in for charity. Because he’s a character, right? The kind of character that fills entire rooms with dread as soon as he enters them, but a character nonetheless.

Maybe one day the entire Guardian football team will finally understand that snark, superiority and a certain aristocratic detachment might work wonders for Marina Hyde, but unlike the daughter of the 2nd Baronet of the City and County of the City of Exeter, Barry Glendenning quite simply doesn’t have the breeding, darling.

(Once you realise Hyde’s – or should I say Dudley-Williams’ – background, it is easy to imagine her dashing off her terribly, terribly witty musings between sips of the second sherry of the afternoon, standing in a drawing room and gazing wistfully out at the gardener tending the East Lawn. I mean, she’s really good at what she does, but now you know, her weekly columns will make even more sense.)

I’ll not miss the feeling when the Big Rich Clubs roll into town that the actual football match is secondary to the content producing machinery.  Perhaps that is why, when we upset the apple cart, everyone reacted so badly.  Didn’t you know that there was a carefully prepared script to follow?  The Premier League is far, far too close to being professional wrestling – and I say that as a fan of professional wrestling.  There are storylines and promos, a travelling circus moving from place to place hoovering up money and woe betide anyone who tries to deviate from the scripted product.

So yes, a season away from the hype machine would be nice, if only to be able to shut out the noise.

The future

Tarks is gone. Sometimes frustrating but never less than committed and an absolute rock this season. He goes with the full support of the fans, hopefully to a Leicester or Villa. His absence from the England squad has been a travesty. He clearly feels that his performances mean less to making the England squad than the shirt he makes them in, and it is to the FA’s shame that he’s absolutely right.

He may be followed by up to four from Pope, Cornet, McNeil and Weghorst.  I’d love to keep at least two, maybe three but all four seems unlikely.  I think that Weghorst has been badly served by the situation and can come good with a pre-season and an actual idea of who might be playing next to him on a weekly basis.

Cornet’s agent was leaking his release clause to all and sundry and to be honest, though I love him to bits and think he would take the Championship by storm, a £5m profit on a stop/start season isn’t the end of the world.

Pope needs to go to keep his England place, the only downside is to where, exactly? Looking at the best opportunities and they seem well set, Villa, Leicester, Everton, Arsenal, Spurs. Even West Ham seem to have the position sewn up. It’s a buyers market for goalies in the Premier League right now.

McNeil is an interesting one. It’s clear that the last two years under Dyche have flattened his confidence like a pancake. A fresh start under a new manager may well invigorate him. Equally, he and the club may feel like a change of scenery will do him as much good. I feel both sides of the argument have strengths and that’s a tough call for a young player.

Ben Mee is one of the players out of contract, and possibly the only one that it is vital that we keep.  I think we very might well do so, not least because our Captain may look on this as an opportunity to mentor Nathan Collins and build towards a managerial career. I dearly hope he is still in a claret and blue shirt next season.

As for the others, can Jack Cork get himself through a 46 game Championship season?  Will Vydra come back on reduced terms and finally become the forward we hoped that he would be?

We’ll say goodbye to others. Ashley Barnes will likely become a fond memory, even if I spent the last seven years yelling at him in exasperation. Such a Burnley player, a man whose entire existence seemed to be defined by getting up the noses of the opposition fans. Sure, I got annoyed at him, but I’ll still defend him, because We’ve Got Ashley Barnes And You Don’t.

Aaron Lennon never gave less than 100%.  Unfortunately, that’s all he has left. I will always remember Erik Pieters for ignoring me yelling at him to pass outside to JBG and deciding to simply blooter the ball into the Peterborough goal from 25 yards. Phil Bardsley retired from all but dressing room vibes a season ago. Dale Stephens never even provided that.

There is no manager as yet – I have a feeling ALK had two lined up, one for the Premier League, one for the Championship.  I have no idea who it might be or could be or should be.

I’ve seen names, 80% of which fill me with dread. Thankfully the usual suspects seemed to have had their agents shoot their publicity bolt too early. No-one takes Allardyce seriously any more, and word will have got around every boardroom in the country about Rafa Benitez. Ex-Clarets have been mentioned, Michael Duff which fills me with doubt, Joey Barton which fills me with dread.

The drop to the Championship might have cost us Vincent Kompany, which would be a shame. I’m on record as thinking we need a European coach, progressive, ambitious and forward looking. A type rather than a name, a shape filled by the likes of Ralph Hassenhuttl, Daniel Farke, David Wagner. Another old school British manager feels not to be what the club needs, if we’re going to reset, do it properly.

Money, money, money

Hanging over the club is the question of the finances.

When the accounts were announced a couple of weeks ago, ALK were probably surprised how many qualified accountants there were that supported Burnley.  The loan taken out to buy the club comes with terms, not least that a chunk of it is paid back immediate upon relegation.  This will hamper the rebuild and affect the budget given to the new choice.

The same old people will say that the sky is falling. ALK are our Venky’s. We’re the next Sunderland/Portsmouth/Bolton. This time next year we’re going to be in administration.

To those people I say, and I mean it, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

Besides, seeing as I am an IT nerd, it was a piece of cake to hack into the ALK server.

Phear my l33t h@cking skillz!

When it comes down to it, given a choice between some moaners on Twitter and people with a track record of running major sporting franchises and sporting related companies, I’ll choose to hitch my wagon to the latter.

If ALK really don’t know what they are doing and have no idea what they are getting into then I have one simple question for Alan Pace.

“Can I have the phone number of the fella that you persuaded to give you the money?”

Because if it that easy to get that large an amount of money based on nothing but a persuasive meeting and a charming smile, well, I would quite like a new car and I reckon I could even manage to put on the charming smile for an hour.

That doesn’t mean that the next two seasons are not crucial for Burnley. Parachute payments become a ticking clock and although some will point to Fulham and Bournemouth bouncing straight back up, it’s been Carefully Not Noticed that one is backed by a billionaire and the other by a Russian multi-millionaire. We don’t have that kind of advantage.

But Burnley are a long way from going bust.

Looking forward

The future in unknown and scary.  Let’s end on a positive note.  We’re going to see new faces and go to grounds that we haven’t gone to in a while.  Football is going to feel like fun again, instead of a product.  We’re likely to have a more attractive style on the pitch and new heroes to cheer on.

I’m not looking forward to playing that lot down the road, for no other reason than it brings out the absolute worst in far, far too many people.  They are games to endure, to tolerate and not to enjoy.  A trip to the Turf for T’Classico (I won’t go to the away game) is an exercise in avoiding the attentions of anyone, up to and including the police.  Winning them becomes a fan exercise in aggression and boorishness.  The week or so before and after is just not fun, no matter what the result.

But we reacquaint ourselves with other, more local games.  I might be able to get to one of Preston, Wigan, Blackpool, Huddersfield, Hull or Sheffield United.  Further afield, I’d dearly love to see Kenilworth Road and that amazing set of turnstiles with my own eyes before it goes.  The games against Norwich are likely to turn from desperate battles at the wrong end of the table to more entertaining stuff at the top end.

It was a bloody good ride, though. The absolute best. So many memories and good times. Beating Klopp in one of his first games, the man bewildered by the fact that Burnley welcomed him to the Premier League by – and not for the only time – absolutely mugging him.

Watching the Holy Trinity of Mee, Tarkowski and Heaton (later Pope) repeatedly frustrating a string of expensive striking talent.

Watching highly expensive and mollycoddled footballers wilt on a December evening at the Turf, when the wind is up and the rain comes down sideways and Ashley Barnes quietly sits in the dugout sharpening his elbows and they frantically check the small print in their contracts as they Really Didn’t Sign Up For This At All.

Watching my small Northern town team give the richest clubs in the world a bloody nose or at the very least a difficult time.

Football doesn’t do happy endings; it just has happy chapters. I feel like this is a chance for a break. Hopefully, a 46-game break and then back to the biggest stage. Like last time, I hope that a season to forget is followed by a season to remember.

Can’t wait for next season.

Twenty years ago today…

This happened.

I was working at Microcheck, a small company in Trawden dealing with motor insurance for clients.  My boss, Mark, was a Claret and we had travelled to many games in that memorable season.  The Clarets travelled for the game in York and the tailback must have started in Colne.  It was crazy, as 7,500 people headed to Bootham Crescent for the match, hoping to see the Clarets get the one point needed for promotion, or the three points to become only the second club to win all four divisions of the League

Burnley fans took over three sides of the ground.  You could see the party atmosphere forming, an evening of jubiliation and relief even though not a single ball had been kicked.  In the traffic jam, I remember a Mexican Wave passing down the lines of traffic.  One van full of fans got out for a roadside pee on against the rear wheel of a Transit, some bloke running sideways trying to hit the wheel with piss as it moved forward in the jam. More Mexican Waves in the queues to enter the ground and then once inside, it was utterly packed.  And when John Francis scored the injury time winner, mayhem was unleashed.

A pitch invasion started early.  There was no fence in front of where we were – only a short policewoman assigned crowd control. I know she was short because I was barely five and a half foot at the time and I was taller than her.  She held us back when the goal went in.  A minute later, the final whistle and we once again streamed onto the pitch.  I ran by her, as she squeaked “Stay back, stay back! Ah, fuck it, just watch yerselves.”

It was a night that gave fresh impetus to the club, having survived the Orient Game four years earlier, this was the moment when the club finally managed to get itself into gear and begin the climb up through the Divisions.  I hate the idea that a club is “too big for its Division”, having long believed that until you accept the reality of your situation, you will continue to fall.  Ask Leeds, Manchester City, either Sheffield club.  Burnley had done the same thing until the day when it could have gone out of existence.  Since that moment, it accepted that history, a big stadium and big crowds didn’t give you any additional points in the League table.

Things could have stalled – nearly did in fact – but that season the club and fans got fresh impetus.  Two years later we were in Division 1 (or the old Two) having beaten Stockport in a playoff final.  But that was too far, too fast and the club dropped down after only one season.  Only in 2000, under the helm of Stan Ternent and chairman Barry Kilby did the Clarets make it into the second tier of English football.  And there they have stayed, aside from one season in the money pit that is the Premier League.  Clarets have punched above their weight, watching teams like Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Leicester, Sheffields United and Wednesday and all manner of so-called bigger clubs swing up and down past them.

Kilby today stepped down as Chairman to concentrate on his own personal fight against cancer.  I wish him all the best.  He brought a quiet dignity to the role of Chairman, never getting too down, never getting too carried away.  Burnley were hanging by a thread when he took over, and he leaves the club debt free and safe for a few years at least.  Every other club in the League would want a Chairman like him, a fan who funded his team but didn’t jeopardise its future.

But I’ve just looked at the clock.  As I type, at this exact moment, precisely two decades ago, I was dancing and smiling and jumping and crying in the middle of a football pitch in York.  I remember it like it was yesterday, and I always will.