Clarets Have One Eye on the Champions League

05 November 2017

“One nil to the Bur-ner-ley”! As the Premier League season unfolds, this is becoming an increasingly familiar refrain. The Clarets are turning into the modern-day equivalent of George Graham’s Arsenal or Don Revie’s Leeds (without the ruthless cynicism).

The victory over Southampton at St Mary’s yesterday was Burnley’s second only-goal win of the week and their fourth of the eleven matches they have contested thus far. Their ability to establish a lead and hold onto it has elevated Burnley to a total of nineteen points from those eleven matches and seventh in the table.

Yesterday’s match was hardly a classic; indeed dear old Motty almost seemed to be nodding off during his commentary on Match of the Day, “that’s the best chance of the match so far” he said wistfully as a tame effort sailed over the bar en-route to row Z. Meanwhile, on Gillette Soccer Saturday, Charlie Nicholas struggled to find anything of note to report when Jeff Stelling turned to him. 

“I can’t see anyone scoring here” said Charlie in what became a classic curse of the commentator moment, when a mere matter of seconds later he announced the arrival of Sam Vokes’s headed eighty-first minute goal. 

Vokes’ finish was a superb application of technique; rising with his back to goal to meet Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s cross (the Icelander’s second assist in as many games) he arched his neck muscles to deftly guide his header inside Fraser Forster’s near post. As with the Newcastle match the previous Monday night, the goal was always likely to be enough to settle the game.

The post-match analysis then followed a predictable path. Mauricio Pellegrino in his interview did what so many other managers vanquished at the hands of Burnley did; haughtily dismissing the Clarets’ style of play as defensive whilst simultaneously quoting possession statistics to justify his notion that Burnley had committed some form of larceny to slip away with the points.

Back in the Match of the Day studio, Gary Lineker made no effort to conceal a smirk as he announced that Burnley now level on points with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. It seems that whatever Burnley do, they are still going to be patronised.

Then conversation turned to Sean Dyche and Everton. “Has he (Dyche) taken them as far as he can?” asked Danny Murphy. It was a theme repeated by the collection of journalists assembled for Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement. 

The hidden subtext to that point of view, of course, is that Burnley are somehow undeserving of their current position, they are seen as insurgents, unwelcome gate-crashers at a party. The sooner the bloke who’s responsible clears off, the better.

So, they dangle Everton in front of Dyche as a means of enticement, hoping that a “big challenge” at a “big club” will prove an irresistible lure.

But why place limits on what this Burnley team, under this manager can achieve? Why should it be that the received wisdom is always proved right? Why shouldn’t Burnley fans be allowed to be giddy with ambition?  Pope, Mee and Tarkowski on recent form should be shoe-ins for Southgate's revolution and are a potent indicator of just how strong this Burnley outfit really is. 

It is a little early to be searching out the passports and checking on flights to Madrid and Munich, but given their current position, who is to say that Burnley cannot and should not entertain those dreams?

This article was written for Clarets Mad by uber Burnley fan and keen observer of all things Claret & Blue, David Thornley, (TEC).