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.

Want to speak Twitter Transfer Journalist?

Why not memorise this handy guide, set yourself up a Twitter account with the word “journo” in it and you to can pretend to run a worldwide network of football contacts from the comfort of your mums basement.

My sourcesI’m about to copy from something that someone has posted on one of the 37 constantly refreshing browser tabs I have open on club hashtags
Reports say…Someone else tweeted it somewhere else first
Hearing reports that…Someone else tweeted it onto this hashtag first
Are determined to hold ontoFor some reason, me tweeting things doesn’t turn them into reality
Talks have openedI heard from a mate of a mate who has a cousin in the club store that our chairman sent a text saying “is X for sale” and their chairman said “Dunno, maybe.”
Talks are progressingI’m skulking around the window outside the club offices and saw that the chairmen of both clubs have progressed from pointing at a picture of a player and making a quizzical gesture to putting a number on a calculator and showing it to each other
Talks are continuing but no breakthroughI saw Denise from Finance in Tesco’s. She was taking her time over getting a Meal Deal so clearly she isn’t busy
Advanced talks are taking placeThe chairmen of both clubs are now conversing in long words of not less than three syllables, with no hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Either that or the chairman saw me loitering around the club car park last night and has given me the slip
Talks are at a very advanced stageI can’t find him, so I’m going to tweet this and make it sound like the chairmen of both clubs are now negotiating in a combination of Klingon and interpretative dance
Talks have broken downTalks never happened and my speculative guess/trolling didn’t work out
The player has become unsettledPlayer hasn’t posted on his Instagram that he “really loves the club” for at least 24 hours
Not part of the managers plansThe club has sent an email out to gauge interest except they accidentally CC’d the season ticket holders list
Alerted to the availabilityThe players agent sent an email out to anyone in his contact book to gauge interest
Alerted to the existence of a release clauseBoth the club and the agent have sent an email out to gauge interest and accidentally CC’d etc and so forth
Linked with a move awaySomeone replied to the email
Linked with a move away but signed a new contractNo-one replied to the email but the agent bluffed them into offering the player more money anyway
Likely to be confirmedI have no idea, I’m not a real journalist, I don’t get invited to any press conferences
A medical has been bookedNow I’m really making this up
Will be unveiledHaven’t a clue
Are not willing to meet the valuationNo-one fell for it
Reports in Belgium have surfacedI did a Google search, the player’s name came up but I don’t speak Dutch so I have no idea what it actually says but I’ll report it anyway
Reports from Belgium have been deniedWhoops.  Turns out he was attending the opening of a new bakery by one of the club sponsors. Look, they don’t teach foreign languages on my Uni course!
A deal has been doneNo deal has been done
Our Panel of expertsGarry, Barry and Phil in a Zoom call mentioned him in a desperate attempt to pad the YouTube video out to 30 minutes
Denied reportsI rang the club up, said would they sell the player for a tenner, they said no, I tweet this out and knock off early
Confident of securing a moveIt’s obvious that one club has the money available and the other really needs it, but it’s not moving fast enough for me to keep up the charade that I actually know anything
Remain keenNothing’s happening
Reluctant to sellNothing’s happening
Standing firmNothing’s happening
Personal terms may be an issueReally, nothing’s happening
Still working hard in training despite reports linking him with a move awayHe’s not moving
Discussing payment plansI am under the impression that you can buy Premier League players on Klarna
Club have strongly denied reportsThe chairman said in public that he’s never heard of me
I’m hearing thatBored and fancy trolling a couple of club hashtags
Have joined the raceThe agent DM’d me trying to get me to post on the club hashtags to rustle up some interest
Doesn’t want to move for family reasonsI’ve heard from a mate of a mate than he’s got another secret “family” in that town that no-one knows about.
Is his preferred destinationI’ve heard from a mate of a mate that the player hasn’t been barred from the nightclubs in this town.  Yet.
Moved quickly forDamn, missed the first reports of it in my timeline, must still sound like I’m ITK.
No progress to reportI didn’t notice that my browser had crashed
I broke the news first!I’m relying on you not working out how to use Twitter’s search facility or else this whole thing falls apart

Appreciating Ted Lasso

By any measure, 2020 has been a shitty year. I don’t mind admitting that the stress of the year, combined with the lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of the usual ways of releasing stress and tension have taken their toll on my mental health.

In a year of relentless bad news, I never thought that one of the shining lights in some dark days would be a comedy about an American Football coach taking the reigns of a Premier League team.

I’ve not watched a lot of TV in the past year really, and what I have watched hasn’t really stuck. I’ve not really clicked with much in the way of comedy either, finding what is out there to be based on humour that is gross-out, cringing or just damned hyperactive to concentrate on, let alone enjoy. Maybe it is a sign of getting old, maybe not.

So the only thing that has really stuck has been Ted Lasso, the lead offering from the new Apple TV+ service. I must confess, I couldn’t be bothered with Apple TV+ even though I had a free twelve month subscription simply because I wasn’t going to watch it on my iPhone. But when the app was released for the XBox, I finally could play the damn thing through my TV.

The concept started with an advert on NBC Sports to advertise their coverage of the Premier League. In the ads, an American American Football coach, Ted Lasso, was appointed manager of “The Tottenham Hotspurs”. Cue plenty of fish out of water jokes.

Very popular, the Ted Lasso character stayed in the background of Jason Sudeikis’ mind until a couple of years ago where he and Brendan Hurt managed to develop a series. The Lasso in that ad would never work across an entire series, but the basic principle – fleshed out by Brett Goldstein and Scrubs writer Bill Lawrence was made into ten episodes by the newly launched Apple TV+.

The basic setup is that Premier League club AFC Richmond have new ownership in the form of Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham). She is in charge because she got the club as part of a bitter divorce from her husband. And she has a reason for appointing a new manager who has no clue about the game.

My ex-husband truly loved only one thing his entire life: this club. And Ted Lasso is gonna help me burn it to the ground.

Unknowingly into the hot seat steps our title character, assisted by his sidekick, the laconic Coach Beard (Hurt). Joining the club, they meet kitman Nate (Nick Mohammed), aging captain Roy Kent (Goldstein), star talent Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) and his WAG Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). Can our hero actually become a success in a sport that he barely understands?

With that being the setup, saying that Ted Lasso is about football is like saying Star Trek is about a spaceship. There is little football action and the struggle against relegation is a subplot. The standard “gee, ain’t things different here in England” stuff is largely dispensed with by the end of episode two. Instead Ted Lasso is about characters you invest in and begin to care deeply about.

While being a very funny comedy, Ted Lasso is also an uplifting and positive story. I’m not going to go into details as I don’t want to spoil things but from cliched beginnings, each character is given depth and motivation which rounds them out and explains their situation. It also is smart enough to play the fish out of water stuff both ways.

Lasso: I mean, he must be from England, yeah?
Coach Beard: Wales.
Lasso: Is that another country?
Beard: Yes and no.
Lasso: How many countries are in this country?
Beard: Four.

Central to this – and perhaps uniquely for a show set in the world of football – are the two female characters, Rebecca and Keeley. It would have been very easy for them to have been peripheral or stereotypical but I found them to be crucial to the drama as well as getting some of the funniest lines. Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple are brilliant in rounding out their roles – Waddingham in particularly can convey Rebecca’s emotions with a single face twitch.

I’ve rewatched the series a couple of times now and for me, one of the pleasures is seeing the foreshadowing of future events. It’s clear that this show is written and crafted to within an inch of its life. Considering where it came from, Ted Lasso simply should not be this good.

Anyone who knows me knows of my deep and abiding love for Firefly, the short-lived Joss Whedon sci-fi Western. I’ve never really got the fandom for Star Wars or Doctor Who (though I appreciate their qualities) but the adventures of the crew of the Serenity were something that I completely fell in love with and will watch over and over, reciting the lines from memory and cheering and crying at what happens in those 13 precious episodes and one movie. I even did that fan thing of evangelising the show to all and sundry, demanding that they watch it and hoping that they fell in love with as I did.

I didn’t expect to feel that way about a second show but I really do have that engagement with Ted Lasso. It is a show with heart and care and love. It has a positive message and moments where you quietly cheer when a character gets something nice happening to them. There is one scene – again spoilers – which I’ve watched over and over, sometimes when I’m down, sometimes when I just want to smile. It takes you to heights, sometimes through comedy, sometimes through drama.

Barbecue sauce!

The show is streaming on Apple TV+. If you have bought an iThing in the last nine months or so, you have a year subscription included. The app is also available on PC, Xbox and Playstation. You can get a 30 day trial and binge the series quickly – it is 10 half hour episodes. I really, completely and throughly recommend that you do.

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.