Of wheelbarrows and earthquakes
There’s a team in the land of the weavers, their colours are claret and blue. They’re a team of renown, the pride of the town, and their football so clean and so true.
You couldn’t really argue with that and how could you not predict a win against Wolves. Whilst Middlesbrough had lost three out of four and Hull had just one win in five; and all the while Burnley cruising serenely onwards stacking up six consecutive wins. The heart said it had to be a Burnley win. But:
This is Burnley, there’s always that tiny flicker of doubt; we wouldn’t be fully qualified Burnley fans if we didn’t just take a step back and urge caution. Then someone found an interesting stat that way back in 1968/69 there had been a winning run of eight games, but then who came along but Wolves to draw 1-1.
Things were just so good, we thought after the Huddersfield win, all so different to how things were 30 years ago. We’ve got to the bit with Goundsman Roy Oldfield when after the promotion of ‘81/82 and everything in the garden was rosy, to when it all began to go wrong leading up the appointment of John Bond. What a chaotic club it became, and not all down to John Bond either, as the money was frittered away, crowds dropped lower and lower, disharmony pervaded the boardroom, and then by the end of ‘86/87 the club was on its last legs and only saved itself by the skin of its teeth. It’s a period that makes for grim reading and the anguish continued until that famous night in York.
Tod claret amongst others could remember it was a time when you had the Longside almost all to yourself; sometimes the pies were still frozen at half-time, the entertainment were parades of dogs. We lost at home to teams like Crewe and Rochdale and 0-6 at home to Hereford in front of just 1,961 fans, and the fiercest local rival was Stockport County. Teams like Telford and Chester knocked us out of the First Round of the FA Cup. Rochdale fans in particular rejoiced in our discomfort.
Contrast all that with now: in the Prem twice, a third time is a clear possibility, the steelwork is going up at Gawthorpe and it’s a club that knows what it’s doing and it’s impossible not to think of the Prem millions within touching distance. But when you’re up at the top, there are no easy games. One game at a time then; so be it.
Sean Dyche, yet again was full of praise for Joey Barton and his impact on the squad, saying that he and Jones were excellent. He pointed to Barton’s reading of the game, his will and desire. Players when they get older can morph into something different, when they want the ball but the work to get the ball softens. His doesn’t. ‘His desire to work for the team and do the ugly side as well as the nice side of the game; he’s got a very healthy mixture to his game.’
Next game Wolves: In season ‘82/83 there was a home game that was a 0-1 defeat. It was that daft season when there was glory in the cup competitions but relegation by the end, a season when a club was in the unusual situation of being relegated whilst making a healthy profit at the same time. The Wolves game on April 2 was one of the games late in the season that sealed their fate. You can view it on Youtube but what the video portrays so well is not so much the defeat but the conditions that the game was played in. A picture is worth a thousand words they say and the film shows exactly the kinds of surface that Burnley played on all those years ago. There’s the briefest moment when you catch of glimpse of groundsman Roy Oldfield sitting on his bench by the players’ tunnel.
It was a day that began bright and sunny before lunch but by the time the first half ended the soft surface was cutting up and the pitch was littered with divots. The field that had begun looking green and smooth within 45 minutes was heading towards ruination. After halftime the hail came down in buckets. This was followed by heavy snow and Roy noted in his diary that from his bench he could barely see the full length of the field. Play continued, it’s what they did in those days, the whole pitch turned white, divots were everywhere lying in the mud, a green smoke bomb hurled from the terraces added to the general fun. Burnley’s Kevin Young threw it off the pitch.
At the end of the game the players scurried off, drenched and frozen leaving Roy to survey the wreckage of his once green pitch. ‘Now completely ruined,’ he wrote. He made no attempt to put the divots back, there were simply too many. All he could do was use the light roller and level everything. It was the stuff of groundsmen’s nightmares.
Jimmy Greaves was the studio pundit and laughed at the whole thing recalling the days when the Spurs bus with him in it would roll down Manchester Road into Burnley.
‘It was horrible stuff,’ he said of the game. ‘It reminds me of the old days. This wasn’t Brigadoon this was Burnley, we were a goal down before we even got off the coach.’
Terry Donovan left the field suffering from hypothermia. Roy Oldfield says that they had to wrap him up in some kind of special blanket and by the time he got back to the dressing room he had stiffened up and had to be undressed and lifted into the bath. Kevin Young, Alan Stevenson and Martin Dobson were similarly affected although not to the point of having to be helped into the bath, two of them suffering from severe shivering.
Roy worked at a time in all weathers and never had a penny in any kind of clothing allowance. He bought his own, in winter piling on extra sweaters and working sometimes when it was so cold one pair of ex-army boots he had almost froze to the ground when he stood still as he did on one occasion speaking to someone on the pitch. On days like this it was actually painful to work outdoors. On some days he was soaked to the bone during a downpour; trying to work on the pitch the day after a game when it was imperative that any repair work was done as soon as possible.
The weather was his constant worry especially on Friday nights before a home game during any unpredictable spells. He would watch every weather forecast on all the TV stations and had a weather centre he could telephone for local forecasts. He said it used to drive his wife Eva mad and she’d scold him and tell him what there was no point worrying there was nowt he could do about it.
The newly formed Burnley Football Supporters’ Club, a group that had been set up by John Jackson, was busy raising money to help the club. Under Derek Gill’s guidance the club got itself solvent again, indeed for a short time there was a healthy bank balance, but initially in the Jackson period there was not a penny spare. So the Supporters’ Club set to work and one of the first things they did was buy Roy a new wheelbarrow. The old one, said Roy, was wrecked and ruined, rusting away, falling apart and stained with old concrete that had never been cleaned out properly. And then along came the new one and he thought it was Christmas. The old one should have been put on display at Towneley Museum, he said. It must have been the only wheelbarrow that limped.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: big, strong, muscular and arrived with a plan. They defended, hassled, harried, pressed and crowded and had done their homework. They also attacked; it wasn’t all just defending or shutting up shop. It might just be that Jackett is fashioning what could be a very effective side. Anybody who thought that three easy points were on their way, was well wide of the mark
To have beaten them Burnley would have had to have been at their best; but they weren’t. The run of six straight wins ended but it was so close to continuing. With just two minutes of extra time remaining Wolves equalised from a corner that originated from the ball being lost cheaply when a hoof into Row Z might have been the answer with the final whistle so close.
Batth powered a spotlessly clean header into the net to connect with the corner kick. But then Mee did just the same at Huddersfield. When a Burnley player scores from a corner we say what a great headed goal; when the opposition score a goal we ask where were the defenders. What was hugely disappointing was that it was so close to the whistle and we could just about see three more points to add to the total.
Whether three points would have been deserved or not might have been the question, but if we had won, who cares at this stage how Burnley win the points. They didn’t though and the analyses began. Websites can be cruel places on a Saturday night.
Unbeaten since Boxing Day, six straight wins and still unbeaten, but you might have thought it was the day Burnley had imploded from some of the reactions. Sure, it wasn’t the best of weekends with Boro winning the night before, and Brighton winning as well with the added frustration of their opponents MK Dons missing the chance to equalise with a penalty in the final minute. But there were Burnley still at the top, four points clear, with the bonus of a goal difference worth an extra point.
Boyd, Mee, Keane and Vokes were the pick today but it certainly wasn’t the best of performances, with two or three individuals clearly having an off day. There were too many long balls from the back over the top of midfield that in general were comfortably mopped up by the Wolves six-footers. You frequently looked for a wide man to receive a pass, but too often there was no wide man. Too often Heaton looked for runners for the throw but there weren’t any. Passes went astray or the ball was given away loosely.
But it happens: and still Burnley got a point when on another day Wolves might have stolen a 1-0 win. Had it petered out into a 0-0 draw we might well have come away not exactly happy, but nevertheless thankful. But when you are winning 1-0 with just two minutes remaining and the opposition score, it feels like a defeat especially when you’ve lost the chance to be six points clear.
But football is funny: had Burnley been losing 1-0 and equalised in the final moments we’d have whooped and hollered as if we’d won at Wembley and come away happy as Larry. The most sensible view expressed by many was that this result was certainly not disastrous, that it did not derail the promotion possibility, and that it was a timely reminder that Burnley will not win every game.
Burnley’s goal was a beauty, Vokes majestically rising and powering home a terrific header from a Barton cross. How ironic that one missed it whilst one was making use of the gentlemen’s facilities down below. But what an interesting moment and sensation it was down below. Whilst I’m standing there in mid-stream there was this almighty roar and the ground and the walls actually shook visibly. The last time this happened I was in the basement loo of a villa in Greece at the commencement of an earthquake. It was quite alarming really. I can tell you I didn’t loiter down there.
Bloody missed it, I moaned as the porcelain stopped wobbling, this being only the second time in all these years of watching Burnley that this has happened.
Reading between the lines of his post-match comments, Sean D was not too chuffed with the crowd suggesting they need to be more patient, teams don’t come to Turf Moor just to roll over and lose, that some of them do actually come with a plan that works, and that goals whether we like it or not, can be conceded from set plays.
Perhaps we had already had too much of a good thing this week, with that marvellous t20 win over South Africa in the cricket, for sure one of the best games I’ve ever watched. Then there was the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith architect of the bedroom tax and other such financial wheezes designed to exterminate the poor. After hearing all the details of the case Richard 111 was declared fit for work by the DW&P. There was the triumphant English Rugby Union team and the climax to the marvellous ‘Happy Valley.’
Burnley 1 Wolves 1 was not quite a good thing but almost. On the way home, the steak and ale pie at the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden would have mellowed Victor Meldrew himself. By the time I’d cleaned the plate I wasn’t thinking about two dropped points, I was thinking bloody hell that was tasty, and for the next two weeks we’d be top of the league by four points, five if you add on goal difference and in a week we’d be off on the first jolly of the year. At that point there seemed nowt to worry about and with a loud burp that escaped quite accidentally, sat back feeling well fed and all’s well with the world.Follow UpTheClarets:
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