What an awesome day
Do you recall Clarke Carlisle using the words ‘What an awsome day’ at the end of our Wembley play-off win against Sheffield United seven years ago this month? They fit perfectly for the day we Clarets had at The Valley yesterday as our 3-0 win ensured the Football League Championship trophy would reside at Turf Moor for the next year.
In the end, it was a wonderful, wonderful day. That two minute spell early in the second half, when we scored twice, removed all the final nerves in the packed away end. We relaxed, we sung about 23 game unbeaten runs, about which county our home is in and that we had former England midfielder Joey Barton in our team. There was much else to add to the repertoire and for most of the second half it was just a matter of waiting for Roger East to blow his whistle for the last time and signal the start of the celebrations.
With the early kick off, we made the decision to go on the Friday. Nothing ever runs smoothly and our plans were disrupted when one of our group (I won’t say who, but it’s MDWat) suffered a football injury during the week which has left him on crutches and unable to drive. The changes were made and, given it was Friday, the journey down, via an excellent stop for lunch, was a smooth one and without hold up until we got close to the Blackwall Tunnel.
Friday evening was spent in the pub next door to the hotel and there were some well known faces in there including our manager, his staff and one of our directors, all having a quite nerve calming drink prior to the big day.
We made the journey to The Valley early to aid our temporarily disabled companion but as we arrived the place was swarmed with Clarets. Just to the side of the away fans turnstiles we came across the sit down demonstration by the home fans who held up banners, placards and the like with such as slogans as “We want our Charlton back” and “Roland Out”. I could write about their problems and their action in this report, but that I feel, would detract from what was really all about yesterday, so I’ll write separately on that issue.
Once inside and settled, the crowd started to build up including any number of inflatables of all shapes and sizes. There were the usual balls, and dolphins of course, but extremely large inflatable penis which I am told had AITOR KARANKA written down the side of it.
The atmosphere in there was getting better and better and once the team came out to warm up it lifted incredibly. There was a change to the starting eleven with fit again Dean Marney replacing David Jones who dropped to the bench at the expense of Rouwen Hennings. There was also one other change on the bench which saw Tendayi Darikwa step down to allow the inclusion of Michael Duff and I think we all knew the reason behind that.
It proved to be a first half that Sean Dyche wasn’t pleased with and led to him having a quiet word with them at half time. Having said that, the key moment in the 20th minute led to Sam Vokes giving his a 1-0 half time lead.
If just to try and cause me some stress, the voice to my right informed me that Middlesbrough had taken the lead against Brighton. I’d honestly not considered that game, thinking it wasn’t going to bother us, but suddenly it meant Boro, as it stood, were level with us on points and, should they score more, we might need to win the game. I didn’t get too much chance to let it bother me in any case; within a minute we were in front and a lead we never relinquished.
It was a simple tap in for Vokes but what a good goal it was prior to Stephen Ward’s inch perfect cross. It came about after some superb interplay between Ward, Scott Arfield and Boyd.
We seemed to be able to get through this fragile Charlton defence with ease and might have had goals even earlier but there was some real concern for the rest of the half as it looked as though they were getting chances of their own. It’s not always easy to see from the far end of the ground but Tom Heaton made two or three good saves to ensure we went in at half time with that lead.
A couple of the efforts he dealt with came from Johann Berg Gudmundsson, a favourite with the home crowd, and another from Ademola Lookman. He saved all of them and off the players went for the rollocking reported on the Sky coverage and how it worked.
Those early minutes of the second half will live with me forever. In just the fourth minute of the half, another good move led to Ward getting over a cross. Andre Gray just got a touch to it but as it dropped for Boyd it felt from the far end as if he couldn’t miss. He didn’t hitting a sweet left foot shot into the net.
“That’s it, we’re Champions,” I said. There was no way this Charlton outfit were going to come from two behind and in less than two minutes it was 3-0 as Gray fired home left footed for his 23rd Burnley goal.
That really was it, and there is little to report from the rest of the game to be honest. Until the last couple of minutes, Heaton could have gone off the pitch so little did he have to do, and there were a couple of situations at the far end where we might just have added a further goal.
Ashley Barnes replaced Vokes, a real hero this week with the QPR winner to add to the first goal here. Lloyd Dyer, who played such a key role at Birmingham, replaced Arfield and then, with five minutes remaining, the Burnley fans roared their approval as Duff came on for what will be his last ever appearance for Burnley.
For the record, it was his 342nd league game for Burnley and his 383rd when you add the cup games. Not only did we get this superb gesture from the manager but Heaton passed the captain’s arm band to Michael Keane to give to Duff as he gave way to him. Duffo went straight up for a free kick and nearly got on the end of it but it was not to be, his last Burnley goal will remain the one in the 3-3 draw at Birmingham in March 2014; he did only score eight.
Although his retirement as a player hasn’t been confirmed as yet, it was widely known last week at the supporters clubs player of the year evening and I don’t think it will be too long before a coaching role is announced for him.
As the clock wound down we wondered how much stoppage time there would be. “Not much,” said Mark, stood next to me. “The fourth official is going.” Once he’d completed the last substitution, Gavin Ward, still with numbers board in hand, was seen clearing off down the touchline towards the tunnel, not bothering to wait for referee Roger East to blow the final whistle. When he did blow, just under 30 seconds into stoppage time, the Burnley fans poured on to celebrate.
There was to be no quick departure. It took an age to clear the pitch but once clear the players came back out to face a packed away end. They had a cheap plastic trophy to wave, a real show of defiance against the appalling decision by the Football League not to allow the real trophy to be presented.
It was party time. The directors were out there too. We even saw Clive Holt dancing, or embarrassingly attempting to. It was a moment to savour. These days don’t come round that often. They have to be savoured, they have to be remembered because they are so, so very special.
Our day was far from over. Once the crowd had cleared and the coaches had left, we were able to get a taxi back to the Princess of Wales for a drink with director John B. It’s in a superb location with many opting for taking their drinks out on to the green in the superb weather.
We were a long way from home, and even though you didn’t want the day to end, eventually we had to start that journey home.
WHAT AN AWESOME DAY
Just as an aside – I did ask if Charlton were the only Football League club with a Fanni in their team. “Middlesbrough have David Nugent,” was the answer I was given.
The teams were;
Charlton: Nick Pope, Rod Fanni, Alou Diarra, Jorge Teixeira, Morgan Fox, Ahmed Kashi (El Hadji-Ba 88), Jordan Cousins, Callum Harriott (Suk-Young Yun 83), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Johnnie Jackson 67), Ademola Lookman, Igor Vetokele. Subs not used: Dimitar Mitov, Naby Sarr, Marco Motta, Simon Makienok.
Yellow Card: Callum Harriott.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane (Michael Duff 85), Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney, Joey Barton, Scott Arfield (Lloyd Dyer 74), Sam Vokes (Ashley Barnes 64), Andre Gray. Subs not used: Paul Robinson, James Tarkowski, David Jones, Matt Taylor.
Yellow Card: Ashley Barnes.
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire).
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