After all the rain on the day of the Hull game, rain that clattered down all morning and then all through the game and into the evening, I still couldn’t get over how good that pitch was even by the end of the game. The amount of rain that came down it would have been no surprise to have seen Noah’s Ark slowly floating down Brunshaw Hill.
My head went back to the mudbaths of previous decades and then I thought of Roy Oldfield’s diaries that I’ve borrowed and how day after day the word rain crops up. For Roy it really was Man versus Weather and from his notes you can see how on so many days he experienced real frustration and exasperation.
30 years ago it would have taken Roy a couple of hours after the game to get the pitch back in some semblance of order, then either another couple of hours on Sunday morning, or Monday afternoon with the apprentices. They would have been repairing slide and skid marks, replacing divots, forking, brushing as best they could when it was wet, to remove the debris that if left would form a fine compacted layer that would make drainage even worse. Then after all that it would possibly need rolling to get a level surface back again.
Today Head Groundsman Paul Bradshaw with his team can have it done in an hour with the worst damage described by him as scuffs. What made matters worse for Roy were the frequent occasions when training took place on the pitch which added to periods when there were two games a week and meant it was a daily job undertaking pitch repairs. He remembers one occasion when a manager took training on the pitch just four hours before a game.
Paul Bradshaw no longer needs the tons of sand and topsoil that Roy needed for repairs and filling and levelling. The biggest difference, he said, in terms of time-saving, are the rotary machines he has that literally hoover up the post-match fine debris that Roy had to rake and sweep up. Funny how things come round: Paul, whose father was club secretary Bob Bradshaw, as a schoolboy helped in the summer on the pitch working for Roy. And now he is back as Head Groundsman. He came from Liverpool FC where he worked on the Academy pitches. Then he came to Burnley FC to take responsibility for a purpose-built pitch at Gawthorpe that was constructed during Steve Cotterill’s time. He became Head Goundsman in 2008.
The machinery and mowers he has at Turf Moor would make Roy Oldfield’s eyes water. Roy had his wheelbarrow, a mower, manual labour plus ingenuity. He bought cheap polythene sheeting and borrowed a couple of heaters to try and fashion a heated tunnel on particularly frozen days. He used fireworks to chase away the pigeons that swooped down on any newly seeded patches. The pigeons used to sit on the Bob Lord stand roof and watch him seeding. The minute his back was turned they were down feeding.
Roy and Brian Miller heard of a place in Huddersfield that sold fireworks on ropes that went off at intervals. They brought several lengths back and fixed them to chairs that they then spaced out over the pitch. But the pigeons were smart. They must have been to the UCFB. They learned to wait until the last firework had gone off and then down they came again. Roy used to get so mad. George Bray and Jimmy Holland used to be in stitches when they saw him cursing ‘these bloody pigeons.’
One of the pluses of being in the Prem I always used to think was the regular coverage that Burnley and Sean Dyche got in the national press. There was something most days in at least one paper and of course on Sundays you got a decent report, sometimes most of a page. I must have spent a fortune on scrapbooks. Today it’s hard to spot anything Burnley and the scant coverage of anything Championship, never mind Burnley, is a disgrace. In the Sunday Telegraph after the Reading game there was not one reference to anything Championship. If it’s not Premier League, it doesn’t seem to matter.
So: it was something of a surprise to see a big feature on Sean D in the Daily Express the other day. What seemed to have inspired it was that someone had heard that he had used the word ‘discombobulate’ in a pre-match talk. ‘I think I heard it on the Simpsons,’ he told the reporter.
Apparently the word means to confuse or disconcert someone and this is what is attempted in any game. In the olden days Billy Dougal used to tell players at Burnley ‘always do the unexpected’. That way you catch the opposition out and surprise them. No team can prepare for what they don’t expect was his message. Billy had he known the word ‘discombobulate’ might well have used it. New word it might be, but there is not much new in football although to hear some of the jargon and coachspeak, we might think there is.
So: when Sean D is telling his players to discombobulate the opposition it ain’t new. Billy Dougal was saying it 60 years ago. Football remains basically a simple game. Like Brian Clough used to tell his players: ‘just kick it and head it, and everything else is a bonus.’
Something that Sean D is adamant about, however, is that no club will ever emulate the promotion that Burnley achieved in 2014. No club will emulate what Burnley did because never again will it be achieved on such a small budget.
As in most interviews with Sean D there is reference to Brian Clough. ‘In one of my first games he came in and just said to treat the ball like your girlfriend, look after her and take care of her…and then wished us all the best.’ Then he went out. And we won. On another occasion Forest had gone something like 8 games without a win so he just said: ‘have a few days off, see you at the ground on Saturday.’ In they came and beat the champions Everton.
It was possibly the same day as the interview that the Daily Express had front page headlined with something about weekend blizzards and minus-10 temperatures. Of course there weren’t, once again they’d got it wrong. An Express weather forecast is about as reliable as a Cameron EU promise.
There wasn’t a hint of a blizzard over the Reading ground, though people did say it was damned cold. There was a snittering of snow over our neck of the woods here in Leeds; for the rest of the day the sun shone. For this game the evergreen Michael Duff was not on the bench, replaced by new man Tarkowski. Is this the end then for Duff, a wonderful servant for the club over the years since Cotterill signed him?
The temperature rose in the front parlour chez moi when Gray missed a penalty. Hot air and choice words filled the room. Furious Reading players protested that Gray had dived. It took an age for the penalty to be taken which may well have unnerved Gray. A Reading player scuffed up the penalty spot. There were claims that the goalkeeper was well off his line when he saved the penalty. Hot air and choice words filled the office yet again when a picture on FB showed Sam Vokes rising above the crowd in the Reading goalmouth whilst having his shirt not just tugged but pulled clean off his shoulder. It’s a wonder he didn’t catch pneumonia he was so exposed. How do referees or linesmen not see these things? Or do they see them but pretend they don’t, and just let them go unpunished 999 times out of a thousand?
‘Things hotting up now that Al Habsi has saved the penalty,’ reported Tony Cottee on Sky. ‘Joey Barton already in the book and a few tackles flying in.’ Bruising was another description of the encounter on a very poor surface. By now both Hull City and Brighton were winning. Meanwhile twitter was making the game sound almost exciting as it reported dangerous crosses from Lowton and then Jones hitting the woodwork. By all accounts it was all Burnley in the final ten minutes with the consensus that this was two points dropped. According to reports all the best chances fell to Burnley who really should have taken the lead within minutes but Gray side-footed over from point blank rage.
Andy Payton on twitter was sympathetic. It happens, good strikers bounce back.
The penalty controversy rumbled on. Dyche vehemently condemned the Reading gamesmanship preceding the kick, the kicking away of the ball, the roughing up of the penalty spot, and then later in the evening pictures clearly confirmed that Al Habsi was almost three feet off his line as Gray took the kick. You could only echo the question asked – what on earth was the referee or linesman looking at. No wonder the shot was saved with the narrowed angle. Added to that there were Reading players (and Burnley) encroaching inside the penalty area before Gray even took the kick. Commentators and reporters were unanimous that they had never before seen anything like the scuffing of the penalty spot.
What a pleasure it was to listen to Jimmy Mac, Alex Elder and John Connelly on the SKY re-run of Time of their Lives, which looked mainly at the title win of 1959/60, occasionally straying into other areas as well. A few years have passed since it was first screened but I remember thinking when I first saw it that Alex Elder still looked like he could play for 90 minutes and all I could say back then was I wish I was as good looking as Jimmy Mac. John Connelly, sadly, is no longer with us of course. It all took place in a studio set that looked so comfy that it could have been your own front room.
Names that came across were those of Alan Brown, Harry Potts, Bob Lord, Billy Dougal and a sprinkling of opponents – Tom Finney, Maurice Setters, Eddie Clamp, Tommy Banks and Don Megson. Connelly was quite clear in his assessment that the foundations of the title winning team were laid down by Alan Brown. Jimmy Mac was of the opinion that Harry Potts was almost too nice to be a football manager and that everything he learned came from Billy Dougal; and Alex Elder, according to Pele at one time, was the best left back in the world. And we had him at Turf Moor. If you can remember Roberto Carlos at Real Madrid we had Alex Elder doing the same stuff at Burnley. We were blessed.
In the old grainy black and white clips of Burnley games of the period two players stood out, Connelly and Ray Pointer. Seeing the blonde bombshell again on film, that pale, boyish, slight, almost frail figure, just a few days after his funeral; brought a lump to the throat. What wonderful players there were in that team orchestrated by McIlroy and Adamson.
They talked of the astonishing game at Spurs when Spurs went into a 4-0 lead, but Burnley came back to draw 4-4. John Connelly said the toughest full back he played against was Tommy Banks of Bolton. Alex Elder hated playing against Cliff Jones of Spurs. When Alan Brown brought John Connelly to Burnley in his car it was the first time he had been in a car. When Alex Elder was selected to play for a Rest of the World team, a huge honour then that really meant something; he then broke his leg at Gawthorpe in training and missed the game. Five of the Burnley lads in the title team worked at Bank Hall Pit in lieu of National Service. A whole generation of young folk now maybe won’t know that years ago National Service in the Forces for up to two years was compulsory.
Jimmy Mac never liked playing against Maurice Setters, then of West Brom, who kicked him so high in the air one game that Mac landed and dislocated his shoulder. But in those days he was patched up, his arm was put in a sling and out he came to play on the wing just to try and be a nuisance. Hard to imagine that today, they all agreed. When Jimmy Mac was sold to Stoke City he was almost joined by Maurice Setters in ’65 and would have had to play against him in training every day, instead of just twice a year. But, to his great relief Mac went to Oldham thus avoiding Setters. But somebody who was at Stoke City with Jimmy was hard man Eddie Clamp, another one that used to kick Jimmy at every opportunity. Now he had to train and play against Clamp every day in practices. It was Clamp, Jimmy said, that made him think twice about time wasting by the corner flag if Clamp was playing, in the days when he was the Wolves main hatchet man.
I spent a lazy Sunday watching wall to wall football on SKY. Well. After all it was Valentine’s Day and Mrs T wanted to spoil me. The Aston Villa display was embarrassing and humiliating. It made me realise just what efforts Burnley put into every game in the Prem last season. They fought to the bitter end and never gave in. Villa were a disgrace against Liverpool and their fans exited in droves long before the final whistle. Not once did we have to suffer at Turf Moor like those Villa fans watching their team demolished by Liverpool.
Disappointing though it was not to have won at Reading with the chances created and the penalty, nevertheless bearing in mind how infrequently Burnley do manage to beat Reading, it was generally felt this was a decent point. Better to be a Burnley fan at the moment than a Derby supporter. They lost at home to M K Dons and their miserable run continues. Blackburn lost again, but that we now take for granted.Share this page :