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I got hold of another footie book the other week; ‘The Forgotten Fifteen’ by James Bentley, the story of Bury’s promotion in 1984/85 with just 15 players from the old Fourth Division to the Third. It was the side managed by Martin Dobson after he was excommunicated by John Bond and left Burnley. With Dobbo assisted by Frank Casper and Ray Pointer it’s as good as reading a Burnley book.

geoffcakeAdd to the mix Terry Pashley, Joe Jakub, Kevin Young, Winston White, Wayne Entwistle and Leighton James, and then it pretty much is a Burnley book. In fact you could argue it’s the story of how Burnley were promoted in 1984/85 disguised as Bury, or was it Bury disguised as Burnley?

This was the hooligan riddled 84/85 season; the miners’ strike, Thatcher and Scargill, and the troubles of the times are fully dealt with. At the end of the season came the Bradford Fire, and the catastrophe at Heysel involving Liverpool. At Burnley John Bond had gone and it was the John Benson season when Burnley went down to the Fourth Division. Irony of ironies, Dobson with whom Bond had been so contemptuous took Bury up, whilst Burnley went down.

The interviews with the players and management in the Bentley book are lengthy and engrossing, and for Clarets those conducted with the Burnley contingent are essential reading. Not until I read it did I realise or remember just what other dire events took place that season.

James Bentley’s book is substantial, detailed and really well structured with alternate lengthy interviews and then accounts of the games. With so many mentions of old Burnley heroes there is never a dull moment. And in the background there are instructive accounts of two particular instances of the hooliganism that was close to wrecking the game; the games between Luton and Millwall, and then Birmingham and Leeds. Am I right in thinking the terrace cry of ‘You’ll Never Take the Longside,’ was well aired that season at Turf Moor.

The Bradford fire was mentioned by Roy Oldfield when I went to see him again. Roy had helped kit man George Bray taking the kit to Bradford on one occasion and had travelled on the coach with the team; in those days just the one skip as opposed to the lorry load they take today. As they unloaded things in the dressing room George Bray had turned to Roy and said: ‘If there’s ever a fire down here we haven’t a chance.’

A publisher has agreed to produce Roy’s tales sometime in 2017 so the questions keep on coming:
What was Roy’s favourite team and whose pictures decorated his wall?
Who was the visiting manager who was upset his picture wasn’t on Roy’s wall?
Who was the Burnley player who went to see Blackpool Illuminations in the daytime?
What was the ingenious way Roy stopped pigeons swooping down on his seed?
Who was the Burnley player that refused to come off the bench when he was sub because he said the game was so awful?
Which was the Blackburn player that broke Steve Kindon’s nose?
Which visiting team wanted a crate of milk instead of half-time mugs of tea?
Which Burnley player left Roy to look after his son after a game and then forgot him and went home without him?
Which ’47 Cup Final player said he wanted his runner-up medal in his coffin when he passed away? Which famous long distance walker needed Jimmy Holland to see to his feet when he stayed overnight in Burnley?
What did Albert Maddox say most nights as he went home?

Roy Oldfield might have been interested to see how the pitch played during the Hull game in the incessant rain. In his day it would have cut up, become a morass in the goalmouths and maybe down the centre, with slide marks everywhere and divots gouged out. Today there was barely a mark on it after the game. And mud, when was the last time we saw mud at Turf Moor? On one of the leading Hull fan websites their headline was Hull Slip to Defeat at Muddy Turf Moor. It left me baffled, where was this mud? The inference was that Hull lost to the mud, not Burnley.

The Big Match: Hull the visitors on a day so foul, wet and miserable, the journey from Leeds such a long, slow drag, that all it needed was a 1-0 win for Hull to cap the gloom and send me home to the whisky bottle.  Well out of the monsoon my chum Geoff Town was celebrating his 70th with his Mrs in the 1882. His cake must surely be a contender for Gateaux of the Year.

But even the foulest of days can turn out OK, at least for Burnley fans. It was Hull who went home on the end of a 1-0 defeat in this crunch game that was so hugely important. A Hull win would have sent them even further ahead; but a Burnley win would close the gap to just one point. Scientists and mathematicians have pondered for decades and tried to decide if there is indeed such a thing as a 6-pointer, is there a fool-proof formula, but have failed to come up with an answer.   But the football fan doesn’t overthink these things and knows full well, there are indeed certain games that we can say are 6-pointers, and you could argue that this was one of them.

We came home cock-a-hoop. But what fickle folk we footie fans are. There were three ways to look at these 90 minutes. If we had lost we might have said this was a truly awful, dire, deadly dull game, I just wanna go home. If we had drawn we might have said well what a bore that was. But the win sent me and Mrs T home saying what a great game this was between two damned good teams. In fact it turned out to be an almost old-fashioned game, a ding-dong battle in atrocious rain under the floodlights, two heavyweights slugging it out, an all-out battle, no quarter asked and none given with a referee who permitted just a few meaty challenges to remind us of what football used to be like. All that was missing was the 1960’s mud and Brian O’Neil.

After the warm-up Heaton had gone back in the dressing room and said the conditions might be difficult. It was possibly the understatement of the year. The conditions of endless rain and swirling wind were just ghastly so every player out there deserved a huge pat on the back for providing nearly 18,000 fans with a game that in truth was well worth watching. It must have been particularly horrendous for the goalkeepers and it could well have been the conditions that contributed to the Burnley goal when McGregor in the Hull goal spilled a long shot from Joey and Vokes slotted it home with what was almost a trick shot as the ball was behind him. Tough on McGregor then but Heaton was in superb form on a number of occasions, a contender for man of the match, save for one slip that could have been costly. McGregor’s gaff was the instant that cost Hull the game; Heaton’s slip didn’t matter, two moments that illustrated just how fine the margins were between the two teams.

Vokes deserved his goal and was ridiculously yellow-carded by the referee in the second half for an alleged dive when it looked more like a penalty from where we sat right in line with it. Opinions varied after the game when it was dissected on the websites but since when has Sam Vokes ever been a ‘diver’? After one game a couple of years ago, he was taken to task by the MOTD pundits for not going down after he was clearly rugby wrestled by Swansea’s Ashley Williams if memory serves. He was clear on goal, Williams was hanging on to him round the waist, he stayed on his feet, ‘if he goes down it’s a penalty’ said Ruud Gullit, ‘the referee has to give it.’ After that game Big Sam said going down is not what he does. A manager like Neil Warnock would have shredded him. It’s stayed in my head ever since and for that reason he gets the benefit of the doubt that he did not dive in the Hull game. Referees are quick to label players as divers; conversely a good referee will learn which players do not dive and will stay upright if they can.

Jones was the sponsors’ man of the match and was a worthy winner, his control, tidiness, link-up play and ability to keep the ball moving; the way he is so hard to shake off the ball and rarely loses it were all exemplary. But it was Barton yet again alongside him that caught the eye so often. Is he really heading for 34? Where does his energy come from? Where does this drive and will to win come from when he is well-off enough to hang up his boots and is assured of a career in the media any time he chooses? For 90 minutes he stuck his head in, got clattered and got up again, ran, chased, tackled, sprayed passes and took the long distance shot that led to the goal.

Maybe the goal took all of us by surprise, maybe we were all convinced that this was a game heading for a 0-0 final result, that if they’d played until midnight neither side would score, that these were two strong sides cancelling each other out. So: when it came so unexpectedly 14 minutes from the end we went wild as if we’d just sealed promotion. There was that initial feeling of disbelief – what, have we really scored – and then it sank in, we really had.

Hull upped their game, stung by this Burnley impudence, they must have felt it was undeserved and they were hard done to, they made chances but didn’t take them. Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee and Ward held firm, with Mee in particular having a giant of a game, one of possibly five players eligible for MOTM.

If Ray Pointer and Frank Teasdale had been looking down from somewhere up above they must have been well pleased. The minute’s silence was immaculate. The flowers placed on Frank Teasdale’s empty seat a poignant touch. The current chairman, Mike Garlick, paid tribute to him in the programme with a pointed reference to the abuse and torment he suffered in the lean years.

Later in the evening, at home, we watched and listened to all the tributes to Leicester City. But what I couldn’t help thinking about was that moment in the Prem season here at Turf Moor when Burnley missed a penalty at one end of the ground and a minute later Leicester scored at the other. It had been a crucial game won by Leicester, both teams down at the bottom end, but what might have happened if Burnley had scored that penalty. There are single moments in some football matches that as well as deciding the result of that game, can go on to re-shape the subsequent future of a football club, because the consequences are so huge. A similar goal was that of Wade Elliott in the play-off final. Of course it sent Burnley up, but it had a huge impact on Sheffield United. Immediate decline set in; look where they are now.

So there they were on Saturday night: Leicester, five points clear at the top of the Premier League. But think back to that penalty moment at Burnley and what might have happened had Burnley scored, and where might Leicester City be now.

Hull manager Steve Bruce summed up his miserable day: ‘On days like today, the ones that don’t make the mistake, win.’ The Sunday Telegraph described it as a game that would be decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake in the wretched conditions. Both of them hit the nail bang on the head. There are more than a few furlongs left to be run, but there are signs that Burnley are moving from a canter to a gallop, added the Telegraph. Sean Dyche’s view was that stopping Hull increasing the gap mattered.

In the cold light of day 24 hours later, the victory over Hull seemed thoroughly deserved. It was easy to think on the day that a draw might have been a fair result, but taking into account Burnley might well have had a penalty with a different referee, they carved out three heading chances in the first 20 minutes, was it Barton that hit the crossbar with a vicious shot, for which the ref gave a corner deciding it was a finger-tip save, and Gray could well have made it 2-0 in the second half. Yes it was deserved, we decided; it was a massive, massive win and you could only marvel at their display of toughness and resolve in that ghastly rain, and admire the stoicism of those in wheelchairs down below us in the Jimmy Mac corner. The next torrential downpour is due to arrive with Storm Imogen (who thinks these names up). Fingers crossed it’s not on a matchday.

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