Mr and Mrs T away on tour
Mrs T and moi were due to go away down to Dorset for a few days, but first there was the Chelsea game after the embarrassment of Accrington. Glass half empty folks thought of the night at the Wham, glass half full thought of the stunning Liverpool result.
We frittered the time away on Saturday before the Chelsea game, a bit of shopping, M&S, a bit of gardening, digging up some taties for tea, and went to Majestic Wine Store in Headingly. We like it there, there’s always half a dozen different whites laid out to taste so of course we do. By the time you’ve tried all six you’ve had the equivalent of a full glass. Mrs T would go on all afternoon but there’s always the worry the staff are watching.
Anyway, we tried a Chardonnay which I can drink quite happily but Mrs T prefers Sauvignon.
“Hmm don’t you think it’s a bit oily,” she asked with a slight grimace having swished the Chardonnay.
Sometimes I surprise myself with my speed of thought and verbal jabs. “Yes it is, it’s only half past two.”
Dany Robson, Jimmy’s daughter, posted on Facebook to say her dad had gone down to Stamford Bridge, apparently the only Burnley player ever to score two hat-tricks there. Without being an anorak, you have to wonder if he is the only away player ever to score two hat-tricks there. Jimmy banged these goals in on Feb 21, 1959 and October 22, 1960. It was when Burnley were at their peak between 1959 and ’62 and scored goals for fun in the last two of those three seasons. Jimmy Greaves and Danny Blanchflower always maintained that Jimmy Robson would have played for England but for the fact that there were so many great players back then. When Burnley beat Chelsea 6-2 in October 1960 they won four consecutive games that month and scored 20 goals, of which 7 came from Robbo. It was Jimmy’s second hat-trick of the month. The five goals I remember are those in the 8-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest in the title season.
Meanwhile all was quiet on the Patrick Bamford loan story. The press and internet were adamant a deal had been fixed but then all went quiet. The closing of the window was but four days away with not a sign or report of any deal, or even renewed interest in Stevens from Brighton or Kendrick from Derby. The story of an interest in Check Tiote seemed more fantasy than fact. Another Icelander’s name cropped up – Birkir Bjarnasson.
It was a defeat at Chelsea, any hopes of a repeat of the Liverpool performance evaporated on 13 minutes when Hazard skated through and fired home. It was simply too hazardous for the Clarets. From then on it was damage limitation and a long, long afternoon beckoned. Chez nous we found a decent internet site and watched the game in crystal clarity. While the rain bucketed down in Leeds it looked tropical in London. The first message on Facebook seemed to sum up the afternoon, ‘lack of ideas, giving ball away, again and again and 1-0 down.’ Any game plan presumably went out the window especially against a superb and rampant Chelsea side back to their silky best, many of them the same players that downed tools for Mourhino.
Sean D said he wouldn’t be going to London to park the bus, and in fairness he didn’t but the front two only had scraps to feed on as Chelsea showed class, movement, found the spaces, ran amok out wide and had the players to run at defenders and take them on. Burnley do not have that luxury. The ball goes sideways, backwards and then today there was just the hoof from the back more often than not. Much of the time they were rabbits caught in the headlights, to be fair, very unlike a Sean Dyche Burnley side.
Alas it was Merson viewing the game on SKY almost foaming at the mouth with his admiration and exhilaration at the Chelsea performance. The second goal was inevitable. A five or six goal drubbing seemed on the cards. The Burnley fans sang and chanted away; is there nothing that can shut them up someone asked on twitter. No there wasn’t and in the second half Burnley had better possession but it was all either in their own half or in the middle third. Swift forays and incisive thrusts into the Chelsea box were few and far between. Chelsea had four or more players who in a one-on-one situation could beat a man. Burnley had none. An Arfield cross shot was the nearest thing.
Defour went off on 55 minutes or thereabouts, having had little influence. Marney went off injured. Arfield giving a quiet performance was also taken off. On came 18-year old O Neill who not for one moment was overawed, Johann the Icelander came on with a bit more bite, but then when Marney went off the paucity of the squad was revealed for all to see when a centre-back Tarkowski was drafted into midfield. Why not shift Johann inside and play Darikwa with pace out wide, I muttered at the screen. At 2-0 down what was there to lose?
But there we had it: for half of the second half there we were playing one of the finest teams in Europe at the moment, with a rookie and a centre half in midfield. How do you cope against a side that played irresistible football – in fact O’ Neill and Tarks didn’t do too bad.
It looked like Burnley would keep it to a respectable 2-0 and come away with some credit, but then with just minutes to go with just three swift passes Chelsea cut Burnley open, crossed the ball, there was a parting of the waves and Moses was in the right place.
Beaten easily then and Heaton was by far Burnley’s stand-out player with four superb saves to keep the score respectable added to which Mee cleared one shot off the line. Shame about that third goal but by then you could argue that this game was simply a lost cause with Burnley totally outclassed and chasing shadows. On the other hand there was that spell in the second half when Burnley forced four corners in quick succession and you wondered if there might be a reward and a shock Burnley goal. We remembered Mee’s headed goal from two years ago but there was no repeat this time.
Before the game, Conte had made references to Dyche’s comments about overseas managers being thought of as geniuses and English managers as dinosaurs. It’s the players that make managers’ reputations, he said, not the media. One of the Sundays had this:
‘On the pitch it was like a pack of velociraptors, with Hazard leading at the front, eviscerating a diplodocus for 90 minutes until all that remained were a pile of bones. It was swift, ruthless, deadly, and hard to watch the mismatch of predator versus prey.’
But this wasn’t a game between geniuses and dinosaurs, it was a game between the haves and the have nots. Chelsea purred like a Bentley whilst Burnley phut phutted like a struggling Trabant. The gulf was cavernous and blatantly obvious. Reactions were broadly divided between two camps; those that simply shrugged it off as the expected defeat and that there were plenty of winnable games to come, and those who were quite angry at the lack of investment and shortage of players with pace and flair. The majority were agreed though; this was another fine game from O’ Neill with Dyche after the game singing his praises. But: oh for someone out wide with pace who can take a man on, most if not all of us thought. Dyche was candid:
They had far too much for us today. There is a massive gulf between where they are as a football club and us, both on and off the pitch and it was on show today. If you add in really poor decision making and a very poor first half, which is not like us, then you have no chance of winning games like this. We gave the ball away far too often against a team who have changed. They are a fine side and they fill the pitch, they sit and absorb a bit more and allow you to play rather than coming after you. But we didn’t use the ball well and there was no will and demand to go and get the ball, to use the ball or keep it. There were too many sloppy passes and you just can’t make decisions like we did today against teams of this quality. Chelsea were never really in trouble. You have to come to places like this with real belief and I thought we were lacking that, in particular in the first half.
So: it was good to get away on tour and have a break from the hurly burly of the transfer deadline and all the wild rumours, the stories, the leaks and media fantasy. It was time to hit the road and head south to Middle England and Shakespeare country and head for a first stop at Bidford on Avon. As we journeyed deeper into rural England it looked like the Bamford deal was going all quiet and the Hendrik saga was fading to nothing. Claret websites had been in a frenzy of anguish and ire at the lack of signings.
Bidford is a twee little place that straddles the Avon; grand houses line the river with gardens that lead to the water, willow trees hang over the rivers edge and tethered boats betray the fact that folks have money round here. Their biggest worry in life round here is will the boat start. Will Shakespeare wandered the lanes around here and sometimes popped into the Bell Inn at nearby Welford on Avon on his way to watch Aston Villa. Welford is even more twee than Bidford with beautiful thatched cottages and fine houses. The Bell Inn is sixteenth century with beams, oak timbers and ancient stone floors polished by centuries of use. The menu is superb. No wonder Will called in. Framed bon mots adorn the wall such as: I read that drink doth you harm, so I stopped reading. Maybe old Will himself wrote that.
I chose Steak and Cracked Black Pepper Pie with shortcrust pastry. Any pie worth its salt must have shortcrust not puff pastry and this one was exemplary. It came in a large white oval dish and I swear the golden crust smiled in anticipation of being eaten. I’m not one for diving straight in with knife and fork; a pie as grand looking as this has to be savoured and admired for a few short moments. And it has to be carefully removed from the dish. You do this with surgical precision inserting the knife tenderly under the pastry lid, slowly cutting in a gentle sawing motion, and gently teasing the lid away from the dish. You place the complete lid in its perfect shape undamaged at the edge of the plate. Next you lovingly ladle out the meat and gravy and arrange it neatly beside the pastry. Only when the last scoop has been removed do you then place the pastry over the meat.
I did all this and sat back and admired the view. The waitress had been watching from nearby and whist doing this not once had I spared a thought about Bamford or Hendrick. This was pie time.
‘Behold,’ I said to the waitress who was clearly impressed. ‘Does anyone else do this? Have you ever seen this done before?’
‘Why no sir,’ she answered. ‘Truly you are a marvel.’
And so too was the transfer window news. Both Bamford and Hendrick signed on the dotted line and not only that, a Pole, an international winger, was jetting in if the news was to be believed.
We’d been down to Portland Bill and had returned to Beominster. In a Portland tea room we’d had what are lovingly called Dorset Doorstops, thick slabs of fruity brown loaf, toasted, and then lathered with best butter. Two arrived and I managed to eat just one. I defy anyone to eat two.
Back in Beominster the clock was ticking towards the final closing of the window but round about 7 there was mention of Burnley on the iPad and to our amazement a link with a pacey winger from Rennes and a current Polish international. Peter Stevenson was reporting live from Turf Moor reporting that a delegation of officials were dashing to Manchester Airport to meet the incoming Kamil Grosicki who was flying in by private jet. Wow I thought: who the hell is Kamil Grosicki?
What: a private jet, a delegation, a dash, an international, a fee of £7million. Bloody hell this was unheard of; this is Burnley, we have nosebleeds at the mere mention of anything as exciting as this. Such things might happen at United, or Chelsea or Liverpool – but Burnley – gerraway. Names like Balotelli, Wilshire, Nasri, Alonso and Ngong (now there’s a name that rings a bell) had been bandied about all night and now Burnley were up there in this hallowed group.
Someone posted a picture of Grosicki at Warsaw Airport by the plane… next someone was tracking the flight on Flightradar… someone saw it over Doncaster as he looked out of his window. The excitement on the messageboards was incredible, the clock was ticking, the deadline was approaching, could they do it in time; our nerves were fit to bust. At 9 o clock the plane was over Manchester. Two hours remained.
And then all went quiet.
We assumed it had landed. We assumed he was having his medical, we wondered if he would be whizzed to Turf Moor on the X43 from Manchester or in a motor bike and sidecar like Wallace and Gromit. What could possibly go wrong? He was here. He had landed. A flying winger to add to the squad, just what we needed; there was still plenty of time to seal the deal.
And then deflation, we felt like burst balloons. The first negative tweets started. And then Chris Boden – the deal was off. Peter Stevenson reporting from Turf Moor – wasn’t. The conjecture began, the inquests, the conspiracy theories – the French had put the price up, it was revenge for Brexit. It was all too good to be true. Words like ‘private jet,’ ‘delegation,’ and ‘Burnley’ all in the same sentence. We should have known. The truth would emerge in the coming hours and a sorry story it would be, a story of skulduggery and deception, of intrigue and broken promises. Will Shakespeare would have done it proud. It turned out to be Much Ado About Nothing.
It was all such a long way from half-times with the Fancy Pants Dog Troupe, attendances of less than 2,000, and humiliating defeats at home to Rochdale, but it was great while it lasted.Follow UpTheClarets:
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