They were calling it Sensational Sunday, the day GB hauled in a whole load of medals – golf, sailing, cycling, long distance, tennis and gymnastics, just one after the other. If you like sport it was a wonderful day, if not it was hard luck if you wanted to watch something else on TV.
The golf was totally enthralling, a nail biter that went right to the last hole with Justin Rose triumphant; the gymnastics magical. The tennis was simply exhausting, not just for Murray and Del Potro, but for all of us who sat up into the small hours watching and marvelling at the stamina of these two guys. They make footballers look like what they are – pampered and cosseted. Wenger was prattling on about recovery time for his players after they had lost to Liverpool. Football is so far up its own a*rse these days it’s untrue. Four hours those tennis players slugged it out, both of them dead on their feet by the end; epic, monumental, herculean, spell-binding, you run out of words.
It was at the end of the contest that there was one of those great sporting moments; moments that live on in the memory, and this one was the way these two exhausted contestants held each other in a long embrace, Del Potro towering over Murray but burying his head into Murray’s shoulder. Each of them knew that they had played in a memorable game, driven each other to the brink of collapse, tested each other to the limit; their embrace was one of mutual admiration and respect – and it was an Argentine and a Brit to add to the moment, two nations not exactly on the best of terms thanks to the Falklands. It was a moment when sport transcends politics as so often we know it can.
But no gold medals for the linesman and referee after the Swansea defeat as the row simmered on and the press more or less all agreed that it looked like this would be a season to mirror that of the last one in the Prem when Burnley all too often did not get the rub of the green and the decisions they ought to have had.
As Sophie Hitchon from Burnley won bronze with her hammer throw, she belied the rule that women hammer throwers must look like they’re big enough to lift a tractor and brutish enough to curdle milk. Nor is the Hammer one of the glamour competitions as the Daily Telegraph pointed out; whilst those take place in Rome, or Monaco or Shanghai, Sophie Hitchon can be found at less salubrious places such as Szczecin a place where the main attraction is a cemetery.
The Defour deal wasn’t quite finalised after the weekend, Belgium was shut for the day thanks to a national holiday and then I suspect we were all caught napping at the news that David Jones signed a deal that took him to Sheffield Wednesday for a reported £1.8million. The Jones deal really was so sudden and such a surprise, especially as his contributions to two promotions had been so immense. Underrated and undervalued, the quiet man of the team, praise for him poured in from Facebook and twitter.
Burnley have picked up some bargains over the years and Jones has been one of them. One-footed and mono-paced, he still managed to pull the strings, link the play, make goals with his set-pieces, and was the perfect foil for Dean Marney or Joey Barton. Some players influence a game in a quiet, understated way, they don’t stand out, they don’t make flying tackles, but they do the unseen work, rarely lose possession, they make the simple pass, they cover a huge amount of ground, and they prop up the back four. Add all that together and that was the supremely professional David Jones, a player that demonstrated all the Dyche virtues and core principles. Funny how football works out for players; only in his last interview did he say that at last he was at a club where he felt at home. It’s a transient life for so many of them as they move around.
Just a few miles away, whilst we seemed to be back on the market for Hendricks, things at the Wovers were going from bad to worse, and words like bad and worse are understatements. Recently revealed documents seemed to show the huge mess they were in was even bigger than imagined; their fans, or what was left of them, were going frantic. Blackpool, Bolton, they seemed well on the way to joining them in financial meltdown and chaos. Football fans are generally sympathetic to the plights of clubs that have had incompetent owners, or dodgy owners, like Portsmouth who were taken to the brink. Such fans are now looking at Wovers in a similar light; but not the Burnley supporters. Perhaps here and there, there is an odd Burnley fan that might feel just a smidgeon of sympathy for their demise, but if the Burnley fan sites are anything to go by they were few and far between. Memories of the derogatory banner that was flown over Turf Moor many years ago will not go away.
For Rovers fans living in Blackburn along Parsonage Road, then life took an even worse turn. The fed-up residents had waited a year to have all the potholes mended and were delighted when at last the work was carried out, their cars at last safe from ruined tyres, their necks safe from whiplash. Blackburn is already famous for the Beatles line about the town having 4,000 potholes. But the very next day along came another set of road workers and dug up the road again to re-lay it with traffic calming humps, wrecking the new tarmac and areas that had just been repaired. Add to that, the Wovers losing again, this time at Cardiff 2-1 with Coyle chasing one of his angry players down the tunnel after he had stormed off, and it was a good day all round for anyone who finds all things Blackburn amusing.
Gotta say I was thrilled to see the Brownlee brothers win gold and silver and can truthfully say I had a part to play many years ago in their rise to fame. Their mother is our family doctor, the surgery is just a 10-minute walk away, and many years ago on the morning that I thought I’d had a heart attack I went to see her at the surgery and said “doctor I think I’ve had a heart attack.” She asked the usual questions including what was my occupation. “Headmaster,” I said at which her ears pricked up because it’s one of the jobs where stress levels are high and headteachers are thought to be prime candidates for an early fall off the perch. However, in this case it was the prompt for an impromptu discussion about the two young boys.
“Oh,” she said, “I’m really worried about my two boys and their reading.” And she explained that it seemed like they had dyslexia. I would like to have said “doctor I’m f***ing dying here can we get on with the diagnosis and if possible an ambulance.”
But no: I explained that there was no known cure and really it was just a fancy name that made parents feel better because it gave them a label why their kids couldn’t read very well. It kind of made it respectable. But anyway, I said, all kids are good at something, so if they can’t read very well at the moment, they probably have other talents that will compensate. And how right I was. There have been some iconic sports photographs over the years. The picture of the two brothers lying on the ground after the race, arm in arm, is one of them.
And then I continued: “And doctor about my heart attack…”
And if the Brownlee brothers weren’t brilliant enough, next we sat glued to Nick Skelton and the show jumping. That was on the IPad whilst out of the other eye we watched the women’s golf and Charlie Hull. Only the Olympics makes you do this. Skelton is an astonishing 58 years old with a hip replacement, and there he was careering up and down and over and round the fences at breakneck speed and to make it more difficult, all this was while he was on the back of a horse. At that age I went dizzy climbing a flight of stairs.
With Liverpool due next, there was no real anxiety, but there was just the small question of how would we fare against a side containing so many galacticos. A Dyche side would never roll over but would Dyche grit be sufficient on the day to put up a good fight? It was perhaps too much to expect any repeat of the 1-0 win years ago when the gangly Traore twirled on his goal-line and somehow plonked the ball in his own net in one of football’s great comedy moments. It’s an image that remains vivid to this day. Sean D said they’d all been watching the Olympics and it was where the finest detail could make a difference between winning a medal and losing out. But more than that, what the Women’s Hockey team showed were all the Dyche principles of effort, guts, resilience, willpower, team spirit and determination. Outclassed and outplayed for 75% of the game, nevertheless they won against the superb Dutch side.
Whilst the Dutch wept, the Brits whooped and hollered. These Olympics were just getting better and better; Murray, Justin Rose, the Brownlees, the show jumping and next up the hockey girls. What an epic game, drama, the penalty shoot-out, the girls cut, bruised, battered and stitched up. This is no game for cissies, those sticks hurt; elbows fly in, shoulders barge, fingers are cracked, collisions are jarring and frequent. The ball can travel at speeds of 100mph, top players run more yards in a minute than any footballer. It’s where Mrs T first saw my legs when she watched Saturday games at college 50 years ago and when I found out just what a painful game it can be. The legs meanwhile are still pretty sexy, it’s the rest of me that’s not too good. Watching the Final on Friday night was as good a two-hours of sport as you could see anywhere. And if GB found a way to win, why couldn’t Burnley beat Liverpool?
By gum they tried and by gum they DID. They only went out and won. I had the header already planned – ‘Klopp clipped’ in the morning and that’s just how it turned out. And it was without Christian Benteke who tweeted that he was proud to be a Burnley FC player. We looked in vain for him wondering where the money had come from… but apparently it was just him thinking that’s how you spelled Palace. It was an easy mistake to make; Burnley and Crystal Palace are only 250 miles apart. And Liverpool: in their bright yellow kit we thought it was the stewards who had turned out to play.
“Jurgen Jurgen what’s the score,” the crowd sang.
“You’re not Danny Ings, you’re not Danny Ings,” the crowd sang when a Liverpool shot went high and wide.
2-0 Burnley won despite the astonishing stats that recorded 26 Liverpool shots and 81% possession. Yet despite those stats Burnley never looked like losing, never looked truly threatened, never looked like losing. Liverpool for all their pretty play and intricate passing, never played a killer ball, never seriously breached the Burnley wall, never looked remotely like scoring.
And the Burnley defence: impregnable, dour, unbreakable, dominant, robust, simply magnificent. For all those Liverpool shots only twice was Heaton seriously in action.
And the two Burnley goals: both of them superb, the first from a Liverpool pass intercepted by Gray who slipped the ball quickly to Vokes. Vokes beats his man gets on the edge of the box, pirouettes as if he was on ‘Strictly’ and fires an unstoppable bullet 20-yarder wide of Mignolet. The ground erupted, perhaps not quite on the same volcanic scale as that when Blake scored against Man United in 2009, but still a roar that probably echoed as far away as Skipton.
And if we thought this was a minor miracle then even better was to follow when Defour (Marney with a beard) won the ball and powered forward into the Liverpool half. Halfway in, he released a pass to Gray and Gray did the rest from the edge of the box, beating one man, beating a second, firing through a third defender’s legs, the ball eluding Mignolet’s despairing dive. It took TV replays to show just how sumptuous both goals were.
With the wind swirling, Klopp stony-faced and the crowd roaring, if we thought Liverpool would up the second-half tempo and put Burnley under the cosh, we were mistaken. It was just more of the same, tip-tapping around as if it was some kind of training exercise without one jot of penetration.
The rest of the game was Liverpool trying to unlock the Burnley padlocks but never once was there even a close thing, or a near miss. Not one Burnley player could be faulted, each one magnificent, Mee and Keane utterly immense, over and again Burnley were quick to intercept, quick to tackle, to block and hassle, harry, force Liverpool back and then retaliate with occasional swift counter-attacks.
We’ve had some memorable games at the Turf in the last few years. This was one of them; seventh in the table and who’d have thought it, on course for Europe.Share this page :