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Thursday August 4: and Sean Dyche was buoyant in a SKY interview despite the lack of signings. The last time this happened he knew something that we didn’t, that Andre Gray was on his way. We wondered if something similar was in the offing, maybe that Flanagan was about to sign.

In the meantime it was Chairman Mike Garlick in the firing line on twitter, Facebook and the fan sites for the seeming inertia. Who’d be a chairman? One fan set up a poll – who is the best chairman, Mike Garlick or Barry Kilby? The point of it escaped me as it seemed to be asking who you would want in charge of spending the jackpot money. But Barry K was never a big spender, in fact it was Barry that so often used the phrase, “not betting the ranch.” Of the seven directors there’s probably only Brendan Flood that you might describe, on past evidence, as a ‘spender’; so if six out of seven are ‘careful’ men, it seems a bit unfair to point the arrows at just Mike Garlick. Over the past year they have spent big money, but it’s been on infrastructure. Spending money on players this time round has been the topic in pubs, clubs and websites.

Thank goodness for the poaching brilliance of Andre Gray
Thank goodness for the poaching brilliance of Andre Gray

In a very lengthy thread on one website there was a good comment – that spending money is a state of mind and after years of caution, and even parsimony, is there a mindset that means there is a genuine nervousness about spending large sums of money on players or raising the maximum wage level now that there is such a large sum available.

“It isn’t hard; it’s a state of mind. I really believe that they have been so used to counting the pennies for the last 40 years, they are actually frightened of spending money. It’s not that they don’t want to, they don’t know how.”

It might fit in with a thesis I once read about the nature of change and adapting to the new needs that change brings, be it in business or anywhere else. The financial situation at Burnley has changed significantly and the Premier League money flooding into the club, especially a club with no debts, enables a change in thinking. The club has changed to a new higher level and the thinking must evolve to match that level.

A week earlier there had been as good a Burnley article as I’ve read – this one in the Guardian by Nick Miller. It was impossible to find anyone that disagreed with it. The salient points were all true enough:

Winning the second tier does not necessarily mean you will be any good in the first especially if you have a “short arms, long pockets” policy when it comes to buying players… they have a curious view of the transfer market (a reference to the low first offers for Jeff Hendrick)…  The big problem is that Burnley need to spend money not simply to progress but merely to tread water… modest additions might be financially prudent but you have to wonder about the intentions and dare we say it, the ambitions of a club who stick to their parsimonious approach so consistently. It goes without saying that the sums demanded by players, clubs and agents passed the “absurd” level some time ago. But at some point you surely have to hold your nose and pay up. What is even more curious is that they were perfectly prepared to splash out whilst in the Championship… you could forgive Sean Dyche for wondering if promotion last season was worth the bother.

‘With Gray in the team they should at least score more than their puny total of 28 goals in 2014/15 and if their defence stays together they should be fairly solid. In some ways being sensible with one’s money is to be applauded in a football world that so often wantonly sprays cash around, but the purse strings have to loosen and pretty soon. Otherwise Burnley and Dyche could be in for another season of admirable failure, when they are potentially capable of so much more.’

If the transfer incomings weren’t providing too much to smile about (Flanagan was still undecided at the beginning of the week) then a few more tales from Roy Oldfield’s memory bank did the trick when I went over to see him again. He recalled the time in the days of Paul Fletcher when he was often the butt of their humour or the victim of a prank or two, and then laughingly recalled the day he gained a measure of revenge when he went into the dressing room while they were training and re-arranged and jumbled up all their clothes so that when they went back to change there were puzzled looks when they all found someone else’s socks or underpants, shirts or trousers on the other side of the dressing room on someone else’s peg. Not one of them ever suspected Roy but he says he took great delight being nearby and listening to the reactions:

“Where are my f***ing underpants:” “Whose bloody socks are these?” “Hey that’s my shirt.”

Then there was the referee who shall remain nameless who more often than not brought a woman with him to the game. Roy didn’t bother much about it or think it odd, until the time he took a tray of tea after the game to the ref’s room, knocked, went in and was aghast to see a stark naked woman. His mouth dropped wide open, his eyes came out on stalks but he did manage to hang on to the tray of mugs. The woman didn’t bat an eyelid and the referee cheerfully said to him: “Just put the tray on the floor Roy, thanks very much.”

He reckons ex-player Tommy Cassidy owes him a few bob as well. “He was a smashing player,” said Roy, “but he couldn’t run much because he ‘ad a bit of a belly on ‘im. Anyway he asked me one day could I look at his garden. So I did and it was like a jungle but anyway I did a bit of what I could for him, did three visits if I remember but Tommy was always the same and told me “he’d see me right, later.” He never did of course and if ever I ran into him at the club it was always “oh Roy I’ve nowt on me at the minute.” A lovely Irishman but he still owes me money to this day.

And Leighton James: ‘He came off the pitch at halftime in one game, Burnley were losing and Taff had had a bit of a stinker. “This pitch is crap,” Leighton said to me and stormed off. Then in the second half he had a better game and scored. I think we won as well. “This end of the pitch is fine, much better,” he said at the end of the game as he came off looking well pleased. “But that other half is still crap.”’

Even taking into account it was ‘only’ a friendly, we came home from the Sociedad game thanking goodness for two things. Firstly the steak baguettes at the Kettledrum and secondly the goal poaching brilliance of Andre Gray.

The Kettledrum steak baguette is I have to say, a thing of wonder. I didn’t have a tape measure but the baguette was maybe just short of a foot long, packed with succulent steak, caramelised onion, and melted blue cheese. Cooks and chefs are an amazing breed; in theory putting blue stilton cheese on a steak would seem to be a daft idea but in fact it produces a taste sensation that makes you go oooh all over. Then when the juices of the steak drizzle into the crusty baguette giving it a wonderful steaky taste with the added blue stilton to give added zing, you have something to set you up for any misfortune heading your way – in this case Burnley versus Real Sociedad.

Yes it was ‘only’ a friendly, a game with little meaning but it was not without some significance inasmuch as we saw a limp, lacklustre, leaden-footed Burnley given a bit of run-around by the Spanish side for the whole of the second half and much of the first, once they had weathered the Burnley storm of the first 20 minutes or so.

Mind you, perhaps storm is a bit of a misnomer, it was more of a strong breeze than a tornado, but nevertheless Burnley were dominant in the early stages, had two good chances to score (Gray and Mee) and had umpteen corners. And then they vanished from the game allowing Real to score from a free kick with a headed goal courtesy of some iffy defending and marking.

From that point on Real had all the possession, were nimble and fleet of foot,  delicate and accurate with their short passing and slick running, bored the pants off us from time to time with pass backs to the goalkeeper or theatrical falls and head-clutching, but overall seemed well set to take all three points if there had been any.

Sure it was only a friendly (we all keep saying) but it was abundantly clear that dark days may well lie ahead if Burnley continue to lack pace out wide, and flair anywhere. Plus it was unnerving to see the number of occasions when Burney got themselves in a real tizswoz, or were at sixes and sevens in their own penalty area as Sociedad buzzed around and forced them into errors and got into situations where they just had to score – but somehow didn’t.

And then enter Mr Gray in the dying moments latching onto the ball on the edge of the box from a knockdown by the Jut, finding himself bursting through and calmly firing into the net. The 13 Real Socieded fans in the away end, each with their own personal steward, must have wondered just how Burnley had managed to equalise and how their own team hadn’t won.  And thus they joined the ranks of many an away group last season that left Turf Moor with similar thoughts – how on earth did we not win that game. The answer is simple; Burnley may play badly, but they are just a damned hard side to beat.

Whether this will suffice in the months to come is debateable. As long as there is Andre Gray there is always the chance of a goal; what a magnificent pre-season he has had, but surely more is needed. The side is full of dependable workers (Gudmundsson is another) and whilst hard work is admirable, any side needs a couple of players with real magic in their boots to really compete and do more than just put up a good fight.

Sean D in his latest interview pointed out that they had the money to buy players, but not the money to pay huge wages, the biggest challenge. Belgian Steven Defour, if reports are correct, seemingly prefers a big payday in the sweltering deserts of Qatar to something less remunerative in the hills and vales of soggy east Lancashire. The Spaniards certainly got a taste of the vagaries of Burnley weather, sun and shirtsleeves one minute and a soaking the next, when the heavens opened during the game.

Gray’s goal was (as far as I can remember) only the second meaningful Burnley shot on goal of the game. Until that moment, Sociedad had been in complete control with the Burnley midfield chasing shadows.

The two other bright spots were nowt to do with the players or the game or food. Firstly there were the sparkling new slimline floodlights which left me wondering how they change a bulb when one goes faulty; and secondly the advertising boards that you don’t notice until someone says aren’t those electronic advertising boards bloody distracting, and then yes, they immediately become distracting because you can’t take your eyes off them. The distraction of goal music has gone, but I never minded that. But the pitchside flags – for goodness sake if we are going to have flags let’s get some real whoppers like they had at Rangers. Now they were proper flags.

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