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istanbul 2 1000x500There was little miraculous in last night’s display. In fact, it was everything we have come to expect from a Burnley away performance.

Dogged, determined, injury-stricken Burnley did what Burnley do. They stuck to their task with military discipline, competed for every ball and threw themselves in front of every shot. Exactly how our manager demands.

And it brought us home a creditable draw against a tidy, technical side, giving us more than a fighting chance of progressing to the next stay.

It turns out that our miracle of Istanbul didn’t really happen in that city at all. No, the miracle happened on the long, winding route that brought us here. The starring cast – mostly – were those on show last night but when the credits finally roll on this remarkable chapter in our club’s history, we will pay tribute to the dozens – hundreds maybe – of staff, players and fans who have all contributed to our ongoing success.

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What happened on the pitch was important, of course, but this European adventure is about more than that. It’s about celebrating being Burnley, whether that was far from home in Istanbul or in your front room following the game, it matters not.

It seemed fitting that our first foreign adventure in Europe in over half a century was difficult to get to. Before the game, a popular conversation starter ‘how did you get here?’ was invariably answered with some convoluted route, crisscrossing perhaps more familiar European territory en route to Europe’s outer edge. Missed flights at Dusseldorf, buses through provincial Greece, awful middle of the night flight times from continental Europe, the lack of time to plan seemed to focus the collective creative minds in finding a half way cost effective solution to be here.

Pre-game, our fans had gathered in Sultanahment, Istanbul’s Old Town and the heart of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Istanbul is frequently described as where ‘East meets West’ and it’s easy to believe as the call to prayer rang out from minarets all around while football fans gathered to drink and make merriment. It was less ‘Welcome to Hell’ and more welcome to, well, just welcome.

Off we went to the ground in a mass convoy of coaches to the far reaches of Istanbul suburbia. Nearly two hours later and finally we were at the ground. The setting a backwater, the home atmosphere lacking but nobody cared. We were playing in Europe.

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Noisy throughout, the 500 or so Burnley fans urged and cajoled our team as if hoping – demanding – that word of Burnley would escape the compact stadium and drift into the sultry night air, all the way over the mighty Bosphorus and onwards through Asia.

The game itself has been well reported on. Our opponents were easy on the eye, protective of the ball and closed us down intently. What they did lack was cutting edge and Joe Hart came through his first test comfortably. One stop down low midway through the first half and a comfortable tip over on half time aside, he was largely underworked.

While never really threatening, we looked increasingly comfortable as the game wore on. The intensity slowed and only some brief time wasting from Hart could rouse the home crowd from their self-induced slumber.

It wasn’t pretty but when the final whistle sounded, most nodded in agreement that this was a solid result, especially given our depleted side.

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It was another long journey back to the city and onward to our hotel on the Asia side of the city, arriving back around 01.30.

I had had 7 hours sleep over the last two nights, spent a small fortune to be here and was up first thing to get back to the airport for my flight home. I’ve been asked a number of times, ‘was all that effort worth it’?

I repeat. It was about more than just the 90 minutes on the pitch. It was about celebrating being Burnley. In the former City of Empires, Burnley were back, forging ahead and creating our own little slice of history.

Of course it was worth it.

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