The view from Golf del Sur
It was the week of The Great Storm in Burnley, a storm of epic and biblical proportions, with enough lightening to light up the living rooms so you could read. In the olden days my Granny used to say switch all the lights off or it will hit our house. We always switched off the radio – there were few TVs back then. It was an understatement to say it was spectacular; some people thought the world was ending and hid under the bedcovers; others sat and watched it in awe. Earby was flooded. Electrics went off all over the place; nearly 70,000 homes without power. No end of people posted they were having dinner by candlelight and with no telly had to talk to each other. The storm hit Leeds as well but not badly enough to prevent Leeds beating Blackburn 2-1 thus maintaining the impressive Rovers 100% record of not having won a game yet.
Meanwhile there were all kinds of electoral boundary changes going on with a reduction in the number of constituencies designed to reduce all opposition to the Tories. Lancashire would be just one new giant constituency called ‘oop north.’ The Labour Party meanwhile was beating itself to death.
But we were off to Tenerife for a couple of weeks to soak up some sun. We were relieved just to get to the airport after an unusually hair-raising drive there of just three or four miles. The driver this time was West Indian and called Winston. He’d obviously learned to drive in Turkey, speeding up the ring road, overtaking everything in front of him, dreadlocks flowing out behind him in the slipstream, cursing every other driver slowing him down, and all this with loud reggae music blasting from the speakers.
In the trade, these flights to the sun at this time of year are known as pensioner specials; once in the air as soon as the seat belt signs went off the short stampede to the loo was a sight to behold, it was every bladder for himself. Turbulence and wind was a big problem, but outside the plane conditions were fine.
The kindly Villa owners had installed SKY TV so there was no problem keeping up with the footie news the latest being we were interested in signing free agent Stephane Sessegnon. Our little ‘village’ at Golf del Sur is a collection of immaculate villas and bungalows in beautifully maintained lawned grounds, all around a huge central pool and restaurant. The verdant golf course where Hoopoes are visible, wraps itself around the village.
At this time of year there are few if any children on these planes to the sun; they were back at school, so the population was essentially elderly; it was quiet and peaceful, the silence occasionally punctuated by the click of an artificial knee, the crack of a displaced hip or the clink of someone’s teeth falling out into their wine glass. Signs pointed to the nearest defibrillator. We had no trouble fitting in.
The day after we arrived, the airwaves were in meltdown not so much at the Leicester result per se, but at the lukewarm Burnley performance with Gray as the lone striker in the 4-5-1 formation. ‘They’ve nothing much to offer,’ summarised Charlie Nicholas if I deciphered his mumbling accent right.
‘It was four minutes madness either side of half-time,’ said Sean D. It looked a bit more than that with Mahrez in full mesmerising flow several times; tormenting defenders like a sadistic cat torments a mouse.
There was so much happening while we were there. If Joey B thought Monday was a bad day, banned by Rangers for 3 weeks, it took a turn for the worse when he was suspected of betting irregularities. If he’d had an exemplary season at Burnley and entered the Turf Moor Hall of Fame, his Scottish adventure was turning decidedly sour. He was man of the moment sadly for the wrong reasons and media coverage was widespread with one interview hinting that he wished he’d stayed at Burnley.
But news like this, or the Burnley defeat at Leicester, was soon diluted when the entertainment for the evening on the small stage by the restaurant was an Abba tribute band. They were good too, belting out their stuff and had us all up dancing despite our average age being somewhere around 70 and the day’s conversation tending to centre on varicose veins and knee replacements. But 60 or so septuagenarians doing their stuff makes for an awesome sight. Don’t forget we cut our teeth on the jitterbug and the twist. Even us oldies can twerk.
One such oldie was in a villa just a few doors from us. He’d apparently been there a few years. The story we heard that he had arrived as a friend and a houseguest of the villa owner. But when the villa owner sadly died, the guest (who I suppose had better remain nameless) agreed to stay there a little while longer to look after the villa while the will was sorted out. That was something like 4 years ago but there were problems with the executors, disputes and stuff, and sorting things out, so (let’s call him Robin) is still there sunning himself and all for free, very happy and very content. And who can blame him? Every day he sits at the tables in the sun with a beer and by now has learned all the answers to the 2 o clock quiz questions so very kindly helped Mrs T to win a bottle of champers one day. I use the word ‘champers ‘loosely. Second prize is two bottles.
Joey B’s name continued meanwhile to appear in the news with the appearance of his new book imminent. Most reviews mentioned his story that as a young lad his father made him watch as he killed the Alsatian that had bitten him. Every hack in the business continued to dissect and analyse him but while this was going on we took a trip up into the mountains to a winery for some serious wine tasting. We learned all about the 5 s’s. Once the wine is in the glass you see… swirl… sniff… sample and spit. I won the spitting competition comfortably. 5 glasses of wine later the journey back down the mountain hairpin bends at 60 in the minibus was just a blur and seemed quite pleasant.
Football moved on quickly though to its next victim and Joey B would soon be replaced by other news. The weekend of the Burnley Watford game: Burnley wouldn’t play until the Monday but now it was Andre Gray in the news with his 4-match ban and £25,000 fine for his tweets. Of course they were hideous but it seemed a harsh punishment and that view would increase further by the end of the week. This PC stuff is everywhere now – or is it? Every evening during the Happy Hour bingo session our camp jester (camp as in holiday camp, not limp wrists) gets to 88 and without fail calls out TWO FAT LADIES with great relish. And we all cringe and look at each other and nudge and snigger and whisper, ‘did you ‘ear what ‘e just said?’
Anyway: I’d had a swim, was sitting with a coffee and Rachel the leggy model was doing her mid-morning fashion show round the edge of the pool. Slim and elegant with a figure like it’s been poured from a bottle of Moet Chandon, clothes on chairs at intervals round the edge of the pool for her to smoothly change into, she struts her stuff in front of the watching ladies on their sunbeds. Alas most of these rather large ladies probably last saw a size 10 dress when Maggie Thatcher was our reigning monarch but still enjoy the show probably thinking ooh I’d look nice in that.
It’s a time of morning when the aroma of bacon and eggs and a Full English drift mercilessly across the tables whilst I read the paper and now it was Mourhino in the news because things aren’t all that clever at Man U and he too has a new book coming out. The ‘Special One’ seems more like the ‘Miserable One’ these days. His ghastly performance on the SKY Sunday morning sofa two seasons ago remains imprinted in our memories.
On the Friday before the Watford game we met up with Burnley chums a few miles along the coast at El Medina, lunching splendidly at a pastel-coloured shoebox sized restaurant by the old harbour front, the Playa Chica. We ate under the awning outside and the table groaned with the plates that kept coming out and dishes to die for. We went the whole hog with fish croquettes, fried cheese, garlic mushrooms, fried baby octopus, prawns, whitebait, crusty bread and great bowls of potatoes all washed down with bottles of wine and jugs of sangria. We chatted away and shook our heads at the punishment meted out to Andre Gray. There’s PC and there’s common sense said Sean D, but common sense is all too often in short supply.
Later in the week it was the Sam Allardyce news and resignation that had us open-mouthed. Barton was yesterday’s news, Mourhino was yesterday’s news; Gray was yesterday’s news. But the two punishments had us talking more.
A young bloke puts out some senseless and offensive tweets and is £25,000 worse off. The England football manager walks away from his transgressions, admittedly minus his job, but reportedly over a £million better off as an inducement to walk away quietly. (And of course a lucrative book deal was in the offing.) And then there was the bloke, Jonathan Theobald from Peterborough, who let his three dogs boil to death inside a furnace of a car with no windows open when he left them and all he receives is a slap on the wrist and a fine of £365. It’s a topsy turvy world we live in.
Our Burnley chums came over to our little ‘village’ from El Medina for the day of the Watford game. We watched on the restaurant big screen while we consumed great plates of beef stroganoff. The roar from us all when the first goal went in nearly brought the roof down.
If there were grave reviews after Leicester there were only rave reviews after this game. They bullied us out of the game said Watford’s Troy Deeney, which simply means Burnley were up for it, and Watford were simply the team from the south with all their imported Latin players, with no stomach for a night in the rain and cold of Burnley oop north. At least to us in our shirtsleeves it looked like cold and rain on our TV screen as we saw folks sitting in anoraks and coats.
It was 4-5-1 again but with Gray suspended it was Vokes up front on his own and in his element winning the ball, holding it, laying it off and was one of the MOTM candidates. Goalscorer he may be but Gray is not a target man and his suspension meant there was only one candidate for the role. Ironically, the suspension made Dyche’s selection job a tad easier.
A few days later Phil Thomson reviewed the game ecstatically, purring over Burnley’s performance and in particular Stephan Defour and his two assists. Paul Merson for once, was not scathing about Burnley when he previewed the forthcoming game against Arsenal. All were agreed that Arsenal were currently on fire but could just as likely go to Burnley and lose 1-0.
But if Leicester was a no-show the display against Watford was superb with any one of half a dozen players being a possible man-of-the-match. Keane, with Chelsea making public their interest in him, scored from a Defour cross and Hendrick from a Defour corner. Watford were made to look decidedly ordinary. Geed up by our raucous support, everyone in the restaurant by the end was watching the game, either avidly or out of the corner of their eye. There were fans there from Leeds and Villa decidedly envious. A Spurs fan chatted away the day after about how his dad remembered all the great Spurs Burnley games of the early 60s.
Burnley’s newest fan up in Dunfermline would have been very pleased. He’d been to the Burnley Liverpool game and wrote:
‘I’m a lifelong Dunfermline fan and was at Turf Moor for Burnley versus Liverpool. What a great club Burnley are, a real inspiration to small town clubs like ourselves. A very proud and chequered history, and like us, a small club that punched above its weight in the 60s. You also consider Blackburn Rovers along the road to be insignificant, like Raith Rovers in our case. Walking around Burnley on the morning of the game, every second person seemed to be wearing a claret top. Oh to see the same thing in Dunfermline but here the gruesome twosome of Celtic and Rangers hoover up the glory hunters in big numbers. I wonder if we at Dunfermline could learn anything from you as we rebuild after the trauma of administration three years ago. Burnley is a club that seems to have its fans’ best interests at heart. Are there any tips on how you’ve been so successful in drawing such an impressive support from your local community?
As for the Liverpool game, Sean Dyche is a genius. Three shots on target, 19% possession, but Burnley stuck to their game plan, and seldom looked flustered. The number 5 was brilliant, great fans, friendly too, lots of singing, lots of different songs and lots of noise all through the game; absolutely loved it. I’ve no connection to the town or affiliation to the club but really enjoyed my visit and it’s left a big impression; kind of wish I was going today.
21,000 would indeed be there to see the Arsenal game and Wenger’s 20th anniversary as manager. Leaving the warm sun and blue skies of Tenerife behind, at least had one consolation; we were back for the game. And: to our great relief it wasn’t the manic Winston who drove us back home from the airport.Share this page :