Into The Valley to end another wonderful season
The 2015/16 Championship season comes to an end tomorrow with Burnley looking to beat Charlton Athletic to clinch the Football League Championship title and win the right to lift the trophy we last won so gloriously 56 years ago at Main Road, the home of Manchester City.
I recall looking at the fixtures in June last year on their release thinking it was a lousy trip to end the season, one of the longest, in terms of miles, on the fixture list. With the early kick off it seemed like it might be an extremely early departure from Burnley for a match where we might have nothing to play for.
I did expect us to have a good season. I did predict a top six finish, but I could never have envisaged another automatic promotion, another ninety points, and certainly not when we hit 38 points in the first half of the season.
The fortunes of the two clubs couldn’t be further apart. We are heading for the Premier League with owners who are committed Clarets and supporters who are loving every minute of it and still celebrating the promotion that was clinched last Monday.
Contrast that with Charlton. A club that had a run of nine successive years in the Premier League up to 2007 are now heading back to League One. They are doing so with supporters campaigning strongly against the Belgian owners who appear to have damaged everything at the club apart from, perhaps, forcing people to eat their chips with mayonnaise.
Two years ago I recall speaking to a number of Charlton fans who were expressing real concerns then about the future of their club. Chris Powell, a real hero with the Addicks’ fans, was manager when the club changed ownership in January 2014. Since then they’ve been managed by Jose Riga, Bob Peeters, Guy Luzon, Karel Fraeye and Riga again, all without any success leading to the relegation and protests galore.
I hope they hold off tomorrow because I’m selfish and I want Burnley to have the best chance possible to win the game but, despite that, I’m more than sympathetic to their cause. I’ve written it many times when our board have been criticised and I’m happy to repeat it – be very careful what you wish for. We might have a director by the name of Banaszkiewicz but he’s from Nelson and that’s as foreign as I want us to be.
A good few weeks ago I recall Joey Barton saying that he wouldn’t be happy with second place, that he’d come to Burnley to win the league. I smiled at that at the time thinking they were nice words but we weren’t likely to get first place and at that time I’d have snapped anyone’s hands off to be guaranteed a runners-up position.
With that second place guaranteed and us one win from the title, he said when interviewed on the pitch on Monday after the win that we hadn’t finished yet.
Speaking to the Burnley Express this week, he said; “The goal is for us to win the league, and we’ve not done that yet. We look forward to going to Charlton with the pressure off, but we’ve got to win and go and cement it.
“There’s no better way to go into the summer than being 23 games unbeaten, the Championship trophy. You go down in history, there’s some illustrious names in football clubs and players who have held that aloft. That’s the focus, that was my focus when I walked into the football club.”
He loves it at Burnley and, speaking about the players who haven’t played too often, he added: “There’s lads who haven’t got an abundance of appearances, but their attitude in training, the way they handle the disappointment of not being in the starting eleven, it’s a real collective effort and an absolute privilege to be a part of.”
He also confirmed that he was offered a new deal six weeks ago but wanted to put that on hold until the season was over. It looks clear though that he won’t accept a one year contract but would be ready to sign on the dotted line with a two year offer.
He got his first start of the season at Rotherham and has started every league game since and I expect him to line up in an unchanged team tomorrow with Dean Marney set to be ruled out again.
We should line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Lloyd Dyer, Rouwen Hennings, Ashley Barnes.
Charlton are down but they are a side capable of springing a surprise. Much to our delight they beat Middlesbrough in March in front of the television cameras. They’ve also recorded home wins this season against Hull and Sheffield Wednesday, both of whom will be in the end of season play-offs.
They won 2-1 at Leeds last week when their team was: Nick Pope, Rod Fanni, Alou Diarri, Jorge Teixeira, Morgan Fox, Ahmed Kashi, Johnnie Jackson, Callum Harriott, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Ademola Lookman, Igor Vetokele. Subs: Dimitar Mitov, Naby Sarr, Harry Lennon, Marco Motta, Yun Suk-Young, El-Hadji Ba, Simon Makienok.
It’s not a lousy trip is it? I’m looking forward to it and I would love to return to Burnley with our club Football League Champions.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
We are on our way to the land of the red, red robin which goes bob, bob bobbin’ already promoted. The last time we went there we were still chasing that promotion dream but looking more than likely to achieve it.
This one was a 3 p.m. kick off on a Saturday afternoon but we had to contend with a nervous former chairman in the pub before the game as Derby started hammering the goals in against Nottingham Forest. They won that East Midlands derby 5-0 but I said not to worry because there was no way they were going to catch us.
That afternoon we turned in a performance that had promotion stamped all the way through it. Ashley Barnes scored his first Burnley goal, Sam Vokes added a second from the penalty spot with Michael Kightly, on as a substitute, completing a 3-0 win close to the end.
It was comprehensive. We dominated from start to finish and some of the comments on the message board really did reflect it. “A walk in the park,” was how rileybobs described it and claretspice, obviously using a few more words, wrote: “For a moment in the second half, for the first time, I got an idea how United fans must have found watching United in the glory days. From the moment we got the first goal, this was a procession.”
TERNENT added: “This was as comfortable performance as you could imagine. On a terrible pitch, we were everything we need to be, professional, efficient and diligent.”
We did all this without Danny Ings who was missing his second game through the injury he sustained at Birmingham and, for the first time since joining Burnley, Kieran Trippier was ruled out with an injury. Sean Dyche had moved quickly to bring in Chris Baird and he made his debut at right back.
On a day when the Burnley fans, almost 1,900 of them, were in brilliant voice, and the roar that went up was amazing when Barnes headed home a Junior Stanislas cross to open the scoring.
It was still 1-0 at half time but early in the second half we won a penalty when Dorian Dervite brought down Vokes after he’d been played in by Barnes. Vokes scored from the spot and the game was as good as over.
Tom Heaton made one save from a free kick and that was about as much action as we saw at our end in the second half with Kightly playing a one-two from a corner with Dean Marney and scoring via a deflection off Johnnie Jackson.
if anyone arrived at Charlton that day with any doubts that we might be promoted, they surely left absolutely certain that we would be.
The teams were;
Charlton: Ben Hamer, Lawrie Wilson, Rhoys Wiggins, Michael Morrison, Dorian Dervite, Danny Green (Astrit Ajdarevic ht), Jordan Cousins, Diego Poyet (Marvin Sordell 76), Johnnie Jackson, Simon Church (Reza Ghoochannejhad 54), Jonathan Obika. Subs not used: Yohann Thuram-Ulien, Richard Wood, Loic Nego, Morgan Fox.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Chris Baird, Michael Duff (Kevin Long 90+1), Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, David Jones, Junior Stanislas (Michael Kightly 75), Sam Vokes, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Danny Lafferty, David Edgar, Ross Wallace, Keith Treacy.Share this page :