A long week 37
The 37th, and penultimate, game week in the Premier League finally came to an end last night a full six days after it started with Tottenham’s big 6-1 win at Leicester having kicked off with another London club Chelsea winning at West Brom last Friday.
The main set of fixtures were spread over four days, Friday through to Monday, with the next three days featuring games that had been called off in previous weeks due to FA Cup commitments. By the time that game finished at the King Power last night just about everything had been sorted for the season.
Even before we kicked off, the North East pair of Sunderland and Middlesbrough knew their fate. Both are going down, Sunderland after ten years in the league and Middlesbrough after just one year. Last Sunday they were joined by Hull who took a real hammering at Crystal Palace who therefore kept Sam Allardyce’s record intact of never having been relegated. While Sam stood there chewing on his gum, Hull boss Marco Silva looked as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. His head was down and he looked totally dejected from the 3rd minute when Palace went in front.
That result at Selhurst Park also allowed Swansea to stay up and, for those who really did think the massive goal difference could force us down, it was a day of celebration with our survival assured. It’s difficult to come up and stay up but, at the third time of asking, we’ve done it. We came up last season with Middlesbrough and Hull. We’ll be playing neither of them next season.
At the other end of the table, Chelsea won the title with the win at West Brom, Spurs have run away with second place after their two wins, Manchester City are all but in the Champions league places with Liverpool and Arsenal contesting the final place with Liverpool, who face Middlesbrough at home in the final game, the clear favourites.
I don’t think anyone can dispute the two London clubs claiming the top two places. Chelsea have been magnificent virtually all season. N’Golo Kante, who was a title winner with Leicester last season, has been voted the player of the year while the antics of manager Antonio Conte on the touchline have been a joy to watch although I’m not advocating Sean Dyche taking on a similar style in front of the Bob Lord stand.
Spurs really are more than worthy of that second place and would have pushed Chelsea harder with a better away record. At White Hart Lane though they have been almost invincible. They are unbeaten and only Liverpool and Leicester have gone home with a point. Spurs haven’t dropped a point at home since October.
It won’t be the same next season. It’s off to Wembley for a year before returning to the new stadium. They said their farewells to the Lane last Sunday with a closing ceremony that must have been emotional for the home fans. As the rain poured down, onto the pitch came a succession of greats. Amongst them there were four of the double winners from 1960/61, the likes of Alan Gilzean, who partnered Jimmy Greaves up front in the 1960s, the two Argentines Ossie Ardiles, making a return to Tottingham, and Ricky Villa, two ex-Clarets Chris Waddle and Paul Stewart, heroes there despite their status at Turf Moor, current Claret Paul Robinson and of course Glenn Hoddle who received the best reception of the lot.
While watching it, I couldn’t get out of my mind the wonderful games we had with Spurs back in the early 1960s but I was also recalling the three times I’d seen us win there, the two 3-2 victories in 1973/74 and the following season and then the 4-1 win in the League Cup in 1983, Spurs reminding me by sending out Graham Roberts who scored two of our goals that night. I don’t know why but White Hart Lane has always been a favourite ground of mine and, despite the results, I’ve enjoyed being able to go back there and see Burnley play a few games in the last eight years. It’s over half a century since I first saw us play there. We lost that one too, 4-3 in the FA Cup 4th round in 1966.
As the season comes to an end, only five clubs will do so without the manager who kicked off their season. Of those five, Leicester are currently highest in the table in 11th which sort of justifies their decision to sack Claudio Ranieri given they were strong relegation candidates when he left.
Crystal Palace (13th), Swansea (17th), Hull (18th) and Middlesbrough (19th) are the other four but there is to be a fifth with Watford having confirmed that Walter Mazzarri will be leaving Vicarage Road after Sunday’s final game.
Watford know what they are doing, they are quite adept when it comes to sacking managers. The Pozzo family bought the club in the summer of 2012. Dyche was the first manager they sacked; Mazzarri will become the eighth to depart in those five years. The good news is that our manager isn’t in the betting for a return with current Hull boss Marco Silva, Ranieri and Leonid Slutsky the current favourites.
Next season we’ll be joined by Newcastle and Brighton, both having come up automatically, while we await the final arrival when Huddersfield face Reading in the Championship play-off final. We’ve never played Brighton in the top flight and it will be the same for Reading should they come up. It was March 1971 the last time we played Huddersfield in the old First Division. It was at Leeds Road where a Colin Waldron goal gave us a 1-0 win.
Yesterday, Brighton’s promotion was recognised by the local council when chairman Tony Bloom and manager Chris Hughton both became freemen of the city. Hughton said: “It’s not very often that an award or an honour like this comes around. It’s just a feel of what the club means to the city and what the city means to the club. It’s a huge honour, but also a very humbling one as well.”
As I am aware, the only such honour in Burnley, for his contribution to the football club, was awarded to Jimmy McIlroy in 2009. He’s entitled to walk sheep down St. James’ Street now although, at one of our youth foundation dinners, Willie Irvine explained that Jimmy Mac is so damn lazy he’d get him to do it for him. England’s leading wicket taker James Anderson has since followed Jimmy Mac.
Walking sheep down St. James’ Street? Sean Dyche can do anything he likes in Burnley as far as I am concerned.
Harry Kane had scored two hat tricks in the league this season prior to last night when he added another four at Leicester. He’s now two ahead of Romelu Lukaku in the chase for the golden boot. The last Burnley player to score four in a top flight game was Peter Noble against Norwich in 1975.
All those Premier League players with ten goals or more, with each club’s red and yellow card counts and average attendances, can be found in Goalscorers-Discipline-Attendances within Season Stats on the top menu.
I’ll be taking a look back at our season next week. It hasn’t been a bad one has it?
The Final Fixtures
Sunday 21st May
Arsenal v Everton
Burnley v West Ham
Chelsea v Sunderland
Hull v Tottenham
Leicester v Bournemouth
Liverpool v Middlesbrough
Manchester United v Crystal Palace
Southampton v Stoke
Swansea v West Brom
Watford v Manchester City