Not the best of weekends
A 0-4 defeat at Turf Moor and the tragedy at Leicester, this was not the best of weekends. But it’s not all about wins and losses, wrote one journo, sometimes it really is about life and death, and in that short but massive observation the contrasting weekends at Turf Moor and Leicester were put into proper perspective.
Henry Winter wrote a fine piece about Vichai and in so doing added a short list of what he deemed to be ‘good owners’ and there weren’t many. Mike Garlick’s name was there and what Winter wrote about was that there is a small group of ‘owners’ or chairmen, whatever you want to call them, that make no attempt to change an identity of a club, re-name it, or break the links with the town or tradition and certainly don’t see them as a cash cow. We’ve been lucky at Burnley with Barry Kilby, John B and now Mike Garlick, men who have seen themselves as custodians rather than ‘owners.’ There to protect the club, to nurture it, to be careful and not go for the short route to big spending and eventual penury.
Frank Teasdale came in for a deal of flak in his time, but time has enabled those who were critical to see what he did actually do; it was backs to the wall time but he kept a failing club afloat, saw it through its darkest hours and was able to hand it on to Barry Kilby as a surviving club. It had come close to extinction, through no fault of Teasdale in 1987, but he kept it going so that others could build on what he had done. And he did one massive thing; he got the club out of the old Fourth Division after 7 bleak years. The night at York was as much his triumph as the players.
Of course all this made me think back to Bob Lord and with myself and Mike Smith working on a Bob Lord biography for next year; it was a reminder that few tears were shed when owld Bob departed the boardroom. In fact it is true to say there were huge celebrations when he sold his shares and relinquished his hold. Letters to the local press, plus local journalist Peter Higgs had been campaigning for him to step down for some time, in fact demanding that he step down. There were demands that he made the club’s accounts available for examination. It was only his death that ended the possibility of an FA enquiry into the club’s finances. No-one rejoiced at Lord’s death but there was certainly joy when he was replaced as Chairman. And it is quite clear from the boardroom minutes that he was replaced by John Jackson in his absence; he did not resign as is so often written.
‘Stabbed in the back,’ wrote his daughter Barbara.
He and Fulham boss Ernie Clay had been at loggerheads for years and when Lord threw Clay out of the boardroom during a game at Turf Moor against Fulham, this was enough for Clay to threaten Lord with the FA, likening him to a nightclub bouncer. The FA dismissed it, but Clay found a way to land Lord in it when he snitched to the FA on Lord and Burnley’s finances. The FA wrote to Lord asking him for his comments but that was as far as it got with Lord ill and near the end. It may well be the reason why, however, that Lord told his daughter Barbara to burn all his papers and documents he kept at the house, on his death.
When you think of all Lord’s achievements through his singular bloody-mindedness and the glory that came the club’s way during his time as Chairman, you have also to acknowledge that he was never truly liked. So: whilst the Leicester stadium was submerged in tributes, flowers, scarves and shirts and all manner of offerings; whilst players and supporters shed genuine tears, whilst the media was filled with generous tributes and obituaries, no such things happened for Bob Lord despite Gawthorpe, a title, double runners-up in ’62, a promotion, Wembley and Europe (twice). Under him there were perhaps 20 good years. But then there were six that were dire. So: whilst Vichai was loved, Lord was not.
The six Lord years during which the club declined and was near to bankruptcy, contrast hugely with the six years under Sean Dyche and the chairmen who have trusted and supported him. If 1987 was seen as the lowest point, there were certainly times towards the very end of Lord’s reign that the club could have folded.
‘Tell them I’m not in,’ he would say to Albert Maddox when creditors actually came to the club demanding payment. It was a sad way to end everything that he had previously built up and the foundations that he had laid.
What a difference today there is. How thankful we should be. True enough we were miffed at the manner of the defeat to Chelsea but then you write one paragraph about all that Dyche has done, the promotions, the title, 23 games unbeaten, regularly spanking Blackburn Rovers, all the behind-the-scenes achievements, the sparkling training ground, the England internationals, three consecutive seasons in the Premier League, a decent bank balance – all these are things are down to him.
All of this means that he is well in credit so it seems unreal that there are in fact one or two people who think he should be replaced, who think he has got the club as far as he can get it, that he has run out of steam, that he has got all that he can get from this particular bunch of players; but, if he can’t get these things right, then who can. There is a set of directors who will give him time to sort things out and it is reasonable to think there will be new faces in January to gee up the squad.
16 years ago we had Grimsby Town 6 Burnley 5. It was that daft season under Stan T when there were all manner of huge scorelines, usually with Burnley on the wrong end. Remembering this gives another indication of just how far we have come. Back then we were losing to the likes of Rotherham and Grimsby. This last couple of weeks it’s been to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, in the biggest and richest league in the world, two of the big six with arrays of players in their ranks that we can only dream would ever don a Burnley shirt. On the websites we often see supporters saying how they would much rather see us being properly competitive in the Championship, than being humiliated by teams like Chelsea, Liverpool or Man City. Maybe they will get their wish, who knows, but I hope not. I sometimes look through the book of that whacky Stan T season, It’s Burnley Not Barcelona, just to remind myself that whilst it might be chastening to see Burnley 0 Chelsea 4, it was more acceptable than seeing Burnley 2 Rotherham 6, or Burnley 4 Watford 7.
Over the six Dyche years there have been memorable times and moments of course. Oddly enough one of the starkest memories is of a 0-1 defeat at Elland Road when Burnley were slowly heading to the drop zone in the early Dyche days. My God that was a shocker of a performance and we went home cold, depressed, fed-up and miserable wondering just where we go from here. And then the next season up we went to the astonishment of everyone. If Dyche has picked out the Wigan game as one of his special memories, then probably most of us do. Promotion was assured that day but it was the manner of the win with champagne football and a goal that would have graced any Barcelona catalogue when the ball was slammed home after a 15 second move that went from back to front before you could blink.
Keano scored two goals that we won’t forget; the first away at Brighton to equalise in the closing minutes after a perfectly good equaliser had been ignored. And then there was his magic moment at home to Middlesbrough, the club that clearly didn’t like us, nor we them after Karanka’s kranky remarks. The away win at Chelsea was a stunner; we listened as we sailed down the Douro. The wonderful run of 23 unbeaten games, the signing of talisman Joey Barton, 3-0 away to Charlton to clinch the title, 0-0 away at Old Trafford against all the odds and the most amazing display of goalkeeping I have seen from Tom Heaton, The Defour free kick in the 2-2 draw over there, an Ings diving header again at Old Trafford, his rocket shot at Yeovil, a 2-0 win over Liverpool Klopp and all at Turf Moor. You could go on and we’ll all have our favourites.
And his relegation season from the Premier League… I still remember games from that season when I thought, just how did we lose that. It was a most undeserved relegation. And how right it was that we came straight back up with that marvelous run of unbeaten games. If his first promotion was unexpected and unplanned, then the second was the result of definite planning, man management, motivation and organization.
Today though, I read and re-read the pages in the press about the day of mourning at Leicester yesterday. I read the tributes to Vichai with a lump in my throat. In a twist of fate, Leicester’s first home game following their tragedy will be against Burnley. It’s a game when we might say the result will be just a sideshow.
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