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Did you see that huge fuss there was about the Messi/Suarez penalty routine when Messi slipped the ball sideways so that Suarez could run onto it and score. You’d have thought it had never happened before. You’d have thought it ranked alongside the invention of the wheel or the knife and fork.

But guess who did it in 1957 when everything was in black and white, TV sets were few and far between, SKY was what was above your head, if you had a car you were either a doctor or a bank manager or a mill owner, children still said please and thank you, somebody in Bacup had just got a telephone, Worsthorne was marvelling at electricity and in Burnley there were still mills and coal mines, and fish and chips was still cheap.

Well: Jimmy Mac and Danny Blanchflower did it in an international game against Portugal. They’d kept it well secret even from their team-mates so that today Billy Bingham and Harry Gregg can still talk about it with eyes wide open and mouths dropping in amazement.

‘And what if they’d missed?’ said Billy Bingham. ‘They’d have looked right silly buggars.’

‘Disrespectful,’ said Joey Barton who clearly doesn’t like this style of taking a penalty.

Beg to differ Joey: were Jimmy Mac and Danny Blanchflower disrespectful; two of the greatest football thinkers of the century? It’s a perfectly legitimate way to score a goal. What was that word Sean D used – discombobulate? What did Billy Dougal used to say – always do the unexpected. You do what you can to confuse and surprise the opposition at every opportunity.

Things are not running smoothly for Andre Gray
Things are not running smoothly for Andre Gray

At the latest meeting with Roy Oldfield to hear yet more Tales of the Turf, Jim Thomson came along as well. Jim was a player in the 70s when Roy was groundsman, beginning a long friendship that lasts to this day. Jim was also commercial manager at the club for a year or so, a period that included the Orient Game; and regular requests, at least two a week he says, from people wanting relatives’ ashes scattering on the pitch. Keen grassiculturalists will know, of course, that spreading deceased folks’ ashes on the pitch, no matter how much you love them, does not do the grass any good at all. Except for the dead of night when no-one is looking, it is a practice that has been discontinued at most football grounds.

Jim Thomson in his brief spell as CM had never heard of the great Reg Attwell, one of Jimmy Mac’s favourite players, and one of those legendary players of the early 50s who loved a drink or two, and a couple of pints before a game never did him any harm. So, when Jim received a request from a local undertaker for permission for the family to scatter the deceased Reg Attwell’s ashes on the pitch he simply asked, “Reg who, who on earth is Reg Attwell?”

Roy Oldfield, by the way, hated ashes being spread on his beloved green turf because it spoiled his perfect pitch.

On learning that Reg Attwell was an esteemed former player, of course Jim agreed and on the appointed day went to the office to collect the urn that was in a box, but for some reason known only to Jim he emptied the ashes into a green M&S carrier bag, which in those days were entirely free and did not cost 5p, and went to find the secretary, Albert Maddox.

“He’s here,” said Jim to the secretary, Albert Maddox who was back at the club.

“Who?” said a nonplussed Albert looking round the room.

“Reg Attwell,” replied Jim pointing to the green M&S carrier bag. “He’s here in the bag, his ashes, to scatter on the pitch.”

“Oh, right,” said Albert looking wide-eyed at the carrier bag. “He’s in there is he? You’d better go and see Roy and ask him where to put them?

“Oh God,” mumbled Jim, “he’ll be mad as hell.”

So Jim found Roy and told him, “I’ve got Reg Attwell here… in the carrier bag… his ashes… his family would like them scattering.”

Roy looked, furrowed his brow and pointed; pointed to the corner area between the Cricket Field Stand and the Bob Lord. “You can put ‘em there. You can put ‘im with Arthur.”

Jim looked puzzled. “Arthur who?” said Jim.

“Arthur bloody Woodruff. He played for Burnley. You can put Reg Attwell with Arthur Woodruff in that corner there.”

Jim duly emptied the carrier bag, taking great care that none of the ashes were on the actual pitch. And then he thought, that was the end of that.

But: a few days later there was another phone call from the undertaker. The undertaker apologised and explained that he was so sorry that these weren’t the ashes of the great Reg Attwell, there had been a terrible mistake and that the ashes of Reg Attwell had been confused with a woman who had died, and it was the woman’s ashes that had been sent in the urn, in the box, that Jim had emptied into the green M&S carrier bag, and had then spread in the corner where Arthur Woodruff had been sprinkled.

“So who is the woman?” asked Jim quite mortified at the mix-up; that it was not Reg Attwell, because the only reason he had said yes, was because it was, he thought, the late, great Reg Attwell.

“Can’t really say,” said the undertaker. “It’s a woman but we’re not too sure at the moment. You don’t still have Reg’s ashes do you?”

Jim, by now aghast at the thought that some unknown woman had been scattered out on the pitch by mistake, mumbled, “No I don’t, they’ve all been scattered… with Arthur Woodruff.”

It was years later when Jim bumped into the son of the undertaker and he found out who the unknown woman was. But that, as they say, is another story.

Neil Warnock was back in football. Now he was back with Rotherham. The guy has seen more retirements than Status Quo. He said he’d taken the job on because he fancied it, like he did the Torquay job years earlier when they seemed doomed but he’d ended up having a smashing time.

For that reason alone this could easily have been a banana skin game, the kind of game you expect to win but then it can easily all goes pear shaped, that is to say, if indeed a banana skin game can actually go pear shaped. But we exited with three more points, two more goals, another clean sheet and immense games from Ben Mee and Joey Barton, and Burnley moved up to second place.

Plus the added interest of an excellent female linesman, or whatever you call them these days. A legacy of the promotion to the Premier League and its requirements was that the club now has two sets of changing rooms for the officials, one for the chaps and one for the ladies. The latter hasn’t seen much use but I hear it’s where they do the ironing.

First goal was a penalty for Vokes that he converted with ease tucking it into the corner while the ‘keeper went the other way. Boyd was certainly brought down but Warnock was at his cantankerous best after the game berating the ref for guessing it was a penalty suggesting that he could never have seen it clearly from where he was. We miss Warnock when he is ‘retired’ and then chuckle when he’s back slating officials, a sort of elderly Mourhino without the good looks.

The second goal was from a pass by Gray to an unmarked Arfield who made no mistake. Things are not running smoothly for Gray at the minute, but even so he hit the bar with a thumping header and made Arfield’s goal.

Heaton had just one save to make all game, he’ll never earn an easier week’s wages but at 1-0 the Rotherham number 22 made a total hash of a wonderful chance he made for himself to make it 1-1, putting the ball wide when clean through. That plus a routine header was the sum total of Rotherham efforts on goal. It meant Burnley won this whilst never getting into top gear, never needing to get into top gear, which in turn meant that this was an eminently forgettable game beneath yet another grey, leaden sky.

‘Sometimes the hardest game is the one you are expected to win,’ said Sean D. And that’s exactly how it turned out. We all turned up pretty much expecting to win. But this is Burnley, and until that second goal it was far away from any comfort zone.

If Burnley win promotion it will be because of a number of factors; all the usual ones, toughness, relentlessness, organisation, willpower, team spirit, doggedness and currently being Championship top scorers, but also the fewest errors.  Gordon Banks once said the best goalkeeper are not necessarily the ones that make all the greatest saves, but simply the ones that make the fewest mistakes. At the moment Burnley is a team that makes the fewest mistakes. After this win it was nine unbeaten games, scored 20 and conceded 3, and in all probability 10 more wins needed for a final top-two place.

Three days later, Nottingham Forest, and a far sterner test expected. Things had been quiet over there lately and with Lansbury injured we were mercifully spared any more attempts to sign him. Most of the day and the day before had been spent reading and listening to the first salvoes in the great EU in or out battle. Call-me-Dave had come back with his ‘agreement’ a bit like Chamberlain came back waving his piece of paper after he had seen Hitler, and was only too pleased to stick a political knife into Boris in the House of Commons when Boris announced he was of the OUT party. Their relationship now seems to be a bit like Burnley v Blackburn.

Maybe I’m not hearing it right but the INS seem to be saying Britain will be safer, stronger and better off if we stay in. And on the other hand the OUTS seem to be saying Britain will be safer, stronger and better off if we opt out. From a purely Burnley FC point of view surely staying in is the best way forward as that’s the best chance Burnley have of being in Europe. I liked the response of one guy on one website though, when he said he is happy to be out of Europe as long as we can go somewhere warm like Florida.

But it wasn’t warmer at Turf Moor for the Forest game. As the sun vanished, the temperature dropped and by the time the game had ended cars were covered in frost and the ends of most noses were turning blue. Fortunately me and Mrs T were filled with inner warmth, courtesy of good pub pre-match grub at the Kettledrum. Gammon, chips and two eggs highly recommended.

‘Gonna be cold tonight,’ I remarked, so we had sticky toffee puddings as well to build up our layers of insulation.

What a cracking game though on a crystal clear night, a credit to two highly organised sides that both played attacking football, mostly Burnley in the first half who did everything right but score. In the second half Forest dominated much of the half but it was Burnley that scored the single goal that won the game.

Despite carving Forest open time and again in the first 45 minutes, alas the strikers could not for the life of them see the wood for the trees and missed golden chances to score. That plus last ditch blocks by defenders and some inspired goalkeeping constantly thwarted Burnley. A peach of a curling Barton free kick in the first 5 minutes had us all screaming goal as both Vokes and Gray burst forward to get on the end of it at perfect head height, but Gray headed over. The poor bloke is having a torrid time in front of goal. Elsewhere he ran Forest ragged but his next goal is proving particularly elusive.

No way could Forest be so limp in the second half but in spite of all their good play and sizeable support,  it was hard to think of one good chance they created or any save that Heaton had to make, save for a punched clearance. Dyche described the back four as a wall, and indeed they were with Tarkowski immense, but Mee totally superb. If there is a better Championship centre back at the moment then my name is Boris. Ward gets better by the game and gets forward as impressively as any left back we’ve had for ages. Vokes got the goal, his tenth of the season slotting home the Ward cross when Boyd stepped over the ball and left it to him. One day we can describe one of his goals as a Vokes poke, but not this time; it was a crisp sidefoot. Only a deflection in the first half prevented Vokes scoring as another sidefoot shot was heading home.

Two snatched chances and misses in the second half by Boyd and then Gray when more or less clean through, would have made the score more respectable. Perhaps the Forest manager missed them as he seemed to think that Forest should actually have got something out of the game. It was hard to see exactly what he based this view on, since for all their approach play, Forest were to put it mildly, quite toothless in front of goal.

So: ten league games unbeaten and seven clean sheets. Hull, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Brighton all won, all bunched at the top. Which will be the two that crack? And for the record I’m with Boris.

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