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1718 burnley turf moor 01 1000x500Burnley kicked off the new Premier League season with a 3-2 win against champions Chelsea in their own backyard but tomorrow the Turf Moor doors open for a fourth time to welcome a Premier League season when West Bromwich Albion are our visitors.

The opening games in the three previous seasons in this league have all ended in defeat. We lost 2-0 at Stoke back in 2009, Chelsea beat us 3-1 on the Turf three years ago and last year it was Swansea who took the points home with a 1-0 win at Burnley.

This year, as in 2009, it was an away kick off but this time, unlike 2009, we’ve got points on the board with that incredible win last week that everyone is still talking about, that’s when they are not discussing Chelsea being in crisis. Yes, so good were we that the current champions are now supposedly a club in crisis with their manager Antonio Conte suddenly the favourite to be the first manager to lose his job.

It’s certainly a different kind of game to look forward to tomorrow when Tony Pulis brings his West Brom side to Turf Moor. They were the penultimate visitors last season when they earned a second successive 2-2 draw at the Turf so the Clarets will be looking to get one over on them for the first time in a decade.

That last win was on the opening day of the 2007/08 season when Michael Duff and Andy Gray, from the penalty spot, scored the goals in a 2-1 win after Kevin Phillips had given West Brom the lead.

That was on the 11th August. Two years later our first home game of the season was played on 19th August when we beat Manchester United 1-0. That’s eight years ago to the very date of this game against West Brom. On that occasion, United had Ben Foster in goal and Jonny Evans in the centre of defence, two current members of the West Brom squad.

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It’s certainly a much changed Burnley team from eight years ago. The only player involved that night who is still playing league football in England is Kevin McDonald, now at Fulham, and he was an unused substitute.

Sean Dyche is still trying to strengthen his current squad but one player looking to establish himself as a first team regular is central defender James Tarkowski who has been given his chance following Michael Keane’s move to Everton.

He’s praised his manager this week, claiming he’s made him a better defender, but knows he needs to perform well to keep his place. “There was an opportunity and I’ve worked hard to try and take that,” he said.

“Fortunately, so far I am in the side but I have to keep performing to the best of my ability to keep that spot. I have to be at it every game. It’s a difficult league and there are some top, top players in this league so I’ve got to perform and make sure that I prove I’m the man to be in that position.”

He added: “People are going to have question marks over me, saying am I good enough to play at this level. This will be my first real opportunity to prove it, so that’s my job. I can’t expect the manager to keep players in the team just because he’s loyal to them. It’s down to me to perform and prove that I should be in there on performance.”

Tarkowski partnered Ben Mee in the centre of defence last week, the first time they had formed a defensive pairing since the 2-1 win at Bolton in the 2015/16 promotion season, and they are likely to be the two in situ tomorrow for this first home game.

In fact, it would be no surprise at all should Dyche go with the same team that beat Chelsea which was: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Steven Defour, Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes. Subs: Nick Pope, Kevin Long, Charlie Taylor, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield, Jon Walters, Ashley Barnes.

West Brom ended last season five points and six places ahead of us in the Premier League table. They looked set for a much better finish when they beat Arsenal 3-1 at home in mid-March. A draw at Manchester United in the next game set them up for a good run in but the point they won at Burnley was the only one they got after that Old Trafford draw. It meant just two points from the last nine games.

Since the end of the season, they haven’t been the busiest in the transfer market although they kicked off last week with two new signings in the starting line up as they beat Bournemouth 1-0 and are expected to have a third tomorrow.

Defender Ahmed Hegazi, a loan signing from Al Ahly, scored the winning goal while their lone striker was former Claret Jay Rodriguez who has moved to the Hawthorns from Southampton.

This week, Pulis, who lost Darren Fletcher to Stoke, has replaced that experience with even more experience with the signing of Gareth Barry from Everton. Barry is now just five games short of equalling Ryan Giggs’ Premier League appearance record.

New captain Jonny Evans, who took the armband from the departed Fletcher, has been the subject of speculation over the past few days from Manchester City. Pulis said: “We don’t want to sell him and we don’t need to sell him. We’re not desperate to get the money so it would have to be a very, very good offer.”

Evans though has a hamstring problem and isn’t expected to play at Burnley which would mean Jake Livermore continuing as captain. Pulis is also without both Gareth McAuley and James Morrison, confirming that neither will be available.

Barry is expected to come straight in with teenager Sam Field the player expected to miss out. West Brom are expected to line up: Ben Foster, Allan-Roméo Nyom, Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi, Chris Brunt, Claudio Yacob, Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry, James McLean, Matt Phillips, Jay Rodriguez. Subs: Boaz Myhill, Kane Wilson, Sam Field, Nacer Chadli, Jonathan Leko, Salomon Rondon, Hal Robson-Kanu.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

The 2-2 draw against West Brom in May this year gave both clubs their last point of the season. We went on to lose against both Bournemouth and West Ham while West Brom suffered defeats against Chelsea, Manchester City and Swansea in their three remaining games.

All four goals came in the second half with Sam Vokes giving us the lead just over ten minutes into the half, and then equalising for us after West Brom had responded with goals from Salomon Rondon and Craig Dawson.

The big shock for Burnley fans ahead of the game was that both central defenders Michael Keane and Ben Mee were ruled out. Mee had missed the win at Crystal Palace a week earlier but little did we know that we wouldn’t see Keane again in a Burnley shirt.

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With James Tarkowski alongside Kevin Long, we looked comfortable in the first half. But early in the second half the breakthrough came with a goal many in the ground, including myself, didn’t see. Referee Mike Jones refused us what looked a blatant penalty but then prepared to point to the spot when his assistant confirmed the foul on Ashley Barnes. As he did, Barnes got up, played it for Vokes who turned it in.

Then it all went against us a Rondon and then Dawson both scored but four minutes from the end we got a fully deserved equaliser with a goal reminiscent of Jason Shackell’s equaliser at Ewood in 2014. This time it was Robbie Brady with the free kick, teasing Ben Foster to come for it, allowing Vokes to loop a header over him into the net.

The best news was to come. Already relegated Sunderland beat Hull at the KCOM and, with two games still to play, Burnley would not be relegated.

The teams were;

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, George Boyd (Robbie Brady 83), Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield (Johann Berg Gudmundsson 83), Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes (Andre Gray 79). Subs not used: Nick Pope, Tendayi Darikwa, Jon Flanagan, Steven Defour.

West Brom: Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans (Allan-Roméo Nyom 51), Marc Wilson (Claudio Jacob 88), Sam Field (James Morrison 54), Jake Livermore, James McClean, Darren Fletcher, Chris Brunt, Salomon Rondon. Subs not used: Boaz Myhill, Jonathan Leko, Kane Wilson, Nacer Chadli.

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