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1957 was the happiest year of the century so far… goodbye ‘allo allo’ Rene…Morris Dancers facing extinction…Waxwings descend on Burnley…Trump to build his wall…asteroid heading for earth

January: hectic and busy with seven games and transfer window rumours and stories; and so far Burnley had been linked with a dozen+ names.  All that, plus the pulsating game at Arsenal with so many talking points, and as a little bonus there was an embryonic cup run. There was barely time to sleep amidst and tracking the football gossip columns, the rumours and stories.

The month began with West Ham wanting Andre Gray for £10million, we put in an £8million bid for Dale Stephens, we wanted Henri Lansbury for £3.5million, West Brom and Wolves wanted Tarkowski, Dyche wanted Tom Cleverley on loan, Yuto Nagatomo was on his way from Inter, we were interested in Danny Ward from Rotherham as well as keeping tabs on Max Gradel at Bournemouth. Michael Keane was on his way to Everton for £25million, or was it Chelsea or even back to Man United; Liverpool, Man City and Everton wanted Tom Heaton; we bid £13million for Robbie Brady from Norwich (a story that did seem to have some substance) and allegedly £7.5million for Snodgrass from Hull. Marc Roberts a defender from Barnsley was coming for £3.5million, we’d bid £8million for Alex Pritchard from Norwich.

And the best of all was Burnley were keen on Ross McCormack from Aston Villa. He was well out of favour there on account of not turning up for training and on the last occasion his excuse was he was unable to leave his gated mansion because all the gates were jammed. Alex Bruce said he’d driven out to his house to check the gates and found them to be just 4’ 6” high.

‘He could have climbed over them,’ he thundered. ‘He’s having a laugh.’ Reports said that Bruce had publicly “scalded” him and had also identified Ashley Barnes as a ‘cheap’ alternative to Jordan Rhodes.

First thoughts were that if McCormack came to Burnley he’d have a helluva time in pre-season training when Dyche had the players climbing trees and shinning up telegraph poles.  But: with just a week to go Burnley had only signed Joey Barton and it seemed likely that at the end of the month he’d face a lengthy ban that at its draconian worst could see his season ended.

It looked like any deals would go right to the wire with the window due to close on the same night as the home game against Leicester City. What a mess they were in in the League. There had been suggestions that a Ranieri statue was merited after his title win of the previous season. Now there was talk of the sack such was their lowly league position.  A statue and the sack in the same season: Eric Morecambe sprang to mind: ‘Now there’s a novelty.’

Thursday January 25: We were so excited. Burnley had signed Snodgrass, folks on the websites were proclaiming. £10million accepted by Hull. What a coup, we agreed, absolutely thrilled, there it was in black and white. Yet: it seemed too good to be true and indeed, the waters got slightly muddied in the next hour or so. Not quite a formality said the Hull Mail as West Ham and Middlesbrough were expected to increase their bids. It was clear it was not signed, sealed and delivered. Any joy we felt was a sort of premature ejaculation. And meanwhile to rub salt in it, there were reports that Brady was going to Palace for £9million.

‘£9 MILLION,’ we yelled. ‘But ‘ang on, we’ve bid THIRTEEN, what the F*** is going on.’

The fact that we were now linked with AC Milan’s Nbaye Niang (pictured) was of no consolation. Who the hell had ever heard of Nbaye Niang? Who’s he when he’s at home, I said to Mrs T? As someone remarked on one of the webs, Nbaye Niang sounds like what you mutter when you stub your toe on a chair leg.

Next up, we groaned when we heard that Middlesbrough had matched the Burnley £10million which meant that if it was down to the player he would no doubt head to the highest wage offer, and we all knew where that road lead. But ‘ang on a minute, the next news was that Boro Chairman Gibson was fed up of Kranky Karanka, and shelling money out, and that Kranky had upset him by criticising the fans. Perhaps there was some hope remaining. Who of us could forget that exquisite left foot that had curled home the stunning free-kick early in the season at Turf Moor and denied us the win? You can keep yer Nbaye Niang I mumbled at the computer screen, severely piqued. And better yet, someone had seen Snodgrass at the Turf for a medical.

Dammit: The Northern Echo was next, scotching any story that Gibson was fed up. Middlesbrough ready to do battle with Burnley over personal terms, it reported. Our hearts sank further when it was claimed that Snodgrass was keener to discuss terms with Middlesbrough. The deal seemed to be heading just one way, north to Teesside, as reluctantly, with a heavy heart I did a search on Nbaye Niang.  It sounded more like a Thai noodle dish than a footballer.

But we football supporters will cling to any snippet so that just when the day seemed at its darkest and spirits had sunk to their lowest, SKY Sports reported that Hull had NOT accepted the Boro offer. It was a Viagra moment, a real boost; once more we could suppose that the deal might happen and it would be a niet to Niang.

We retired to our beds with nothing resolved save to say that Hull reportedly had now accepted bids of £10million from  Burnley and West Ham, and the Middlesbrough bid was ‘on the table’; and the Irish Times was saying that Burnley were now favourites to sign Brady.  The January window – you can’t beat it, because the next thing we heard was that there had never been a Palace bid for Brady. ‘By January 31 I shall be a gibbering wreck,’ wrote one Claret. We knew what he meant but the gibbers were slightly eased with the news that Niang had gone to Watford. But now, Snodgrass had allegedly told Burnley he had no intention of signing for them.

We had looked for confirmation but sometimes it was difficult to differentiate between confirmation and speculation. Was it confirmed speculation or just speculation that was confirmed, or, just mere speculation. Sometimes it seemed that we were just speculating about confirmation; or were we speculating about mere speculation, and confirmation remained unconfirmed. It was hard to tell.

With nothing happening, there was a distraction; an actual game took place, the FA Cup game against Bristol City. But the glum news was that Marney would not feature having suffered another cruciate ligament injury in the game at Arsenal. Having recovered from the one suffered two seasons ago, he had been back to his best form and instrumental to the promotion season and all the wins so far in the Premier League. This was beyond bad luck.

Snodgrass had gone to West Ham and Brady was still at Norwich. But Arfield and Gudmondsson were available again for a game that on paper appeared to be not quite a formality but almost. The Dyche dilemma was to rotate things but pick a team that could beat Bristol; in came Arfield and Gudmondsson with Vokes the one striker. The win was comfortable; the whole thing rarely rose above gas mark low, the first half almost sleep-inducing, despite the atrocious weather with players and lower tier spectators getting a drenching. The goal was a relief, a Vokes stroke, rolling the ball into the corner from Defour’s cut-back after he had mugged one defender and megged the next. ‘Thank goodness for that,’ we said with relief, rather than exploding into volcanic jubilation, almost numbed by torpor. Save for a point blank Bristol header that Pope saved, Bristol were content to play with little risk so that Burnley were only threatened the once. Sweat was at a premium, everything low-key, neat and tidy, but little panache.

The second half was a tad livelier; not once did you ever think that Burnley could possibly lose and then when Defour scored his magical goal, the game was well and truly over. Taking the ball in his own half, he exchanged passes with Gudmondsson at ‘breakneck speed, ’said the Mirror, two words you don’t hear that often in a Burnley game.  Bursting into space and veering left he took the return pass and continued to motor forward and in the same motion at speed from the edge of the box flipped, chipped, scooped the ball over the 6’ 7” goalkeeper’s head and into the net. I swear I saw his boots twinkle like tree lights in December. ‘Genius’ said the Sunday Telegraph. We have seen some great goals at the Turf and this was one of them. It was a reward for his best game in Claret so far with a first touch, speed of thought, deft skill and energy that separates the truly gifted special players from the merely good. It was as if this was the game where he finally announced ‘I have arrived, this is what I can do.’

‘It was really nicely done,’ said Defour in a masterpiece of understatement. But was it a scoop, flick, chip or lob; we’ll be discussing that for some time. Whatever: he left the field to a standing ovation. Had this been scored by Rooney, Costa or Aguero, TV would have shown it a hundred times over the weekend.

‘Sublime, marvellous and fantastic,’ said Dyche purring with pleasure and pride, a pride that came from knowing that he had nurtured Defour into the English game, slowly and gradually, so that here was the end product, the Defour that was man of the match and had us all enthralled. The game petered out, Burnley might have had one more but Vokes clattered the post with a mighty shot on the turn. In the pervading damp, thoughts turned to a warming bowl of chili and rice with a bowl of chips at the Queen on the way home sitting by the roaring fire. This was a quiet game (only 12 fouls in all) and a routine win settled by a unique goal, with just under 15,000 privileged to have seen it.

It was nice to think that Defour might have received a text from Fergie, who, years ago was keen to take him to Old Trafford, recognising him as a special talent. Alas, Defour was badly injured and any move was put on hold. But Fergie wrote a letter of huge encouragement to him and said he would monitor his progress. It came to nought but Fergie no doubt saw clips of the goal maybe on MOTD. Burnley were on at the very end (no surprise there then) but the pundits waxed lyrical about the goal and also expressed more admiration for the incredible home record.

The airwaves hummed with mentions of Burnley’s best ever goals; a Blake free kick from 35 yards years ago, was it 2007, Gudjonnson’s 35 yarder that looked like it was heading to row Z until it arced down, another Blake special against Man Utd in the first game against Man United back in the Premier League, Elliott’s goal at Wembley and the first goal in the game against Wigan that clinched promotion back to the Premier League; maybe my own favourite, because of the slick passing, the speed, the sheer panache and the clattering finish by Barnes. Then there was Hendrick’s wondrous volley after he had controlled it on his thigh and smashed it home from 25 yards.  It was the goal of the month but somehow MOTD chose an offside Man Utd goal instead, a scorpion kick that should have been disallowed.

There’s this idea that all goals are good goals and maybe there is some truth in that, but the great ones are those that we remember for years to come, the ones that take us back to the day and the occasion. Whenever I think of Elliott’s the whole magical Wembley day and experience comes back to me. There was nothing magical about the game itself against Bristol City, but the goal most certainly was. Maybe, it too, was another football Viagra moment.

And then Leeds United lost at Sutton to our astonishment on the day that Robbie Fowler reminded us they were a sleeping giant. Sleeping giant or not, if you send half the youth team to play the game, you get what you ask for.  Dyche too, made several changes from the side that lost at Arsenal, but at least it was still a team of seasoned pros. Lincoln beat Brighton, Wolves beat Liverpool, and Oxford beat Newcastle reserves. All in all not a bad football weekend was it?

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