More ins than outs

Last updated : 02 February 2007 By Tony Scholes
Ade Akinbiyi - New Year's Day arrival
This transfer window idea doesn't half concentrate your efforts during the first month of the year and despite both the Chairman and the Chief Executive continuing to say that they would support the manager this time, it is fair to say not too many Burnley fans believed them and expected the usual departures.

Even manager Steve Cotterill had joked that there was a silver lining to the Andy Gray injury in that at least it meant he wouldn't be sold. So we braced ourselves, and we didn't have long to wait for news. This time it wasn't the news we feared.

Just a few hours into the year news broke that we'd bought back Ade Akinbiyi from Sheffield United for a knock down fee of £650,000 with a little bit more to come at the end of the season. Suddenly everyone wanted to get to the Turf for the Stoke game in the afternoon, even though Ade wouldn't be in the squad, although he was set to make an appearance on the pitch before kick off.

That excitement soon faded as the rain came down around 11:00 a.m. and within no time at all news filtered through that the game against Stoke had been postponed. It all sort of flattened everyone, but at least we'd got ourselves a new striker ready for the second half of the season even if we didn't have a game to go to.

The next five days proved to be quiet, as we prepared for our FA Cup tie against Reading. It was hardly the tie we would have wanted but with Reading set to rest some of their regular first team players then maybe we could just get ourselves a result.

Down to Berkshire we went and with many of us inside the ground the rain came again. It didn't take too long to work out that there wasn't going to be any chance of a game, just a pity no one involved with Reading FC bothered to tell us. It was only a matter of a couple of minutes before kick off time that we finally got the news. Two games, two postponements, well at least we hadn't conceded a goal this year.

Incredibly we heard that the game would be played three days later and so off we went to Berkshire again. By this time we'd learned that we would have a trip to Newcastle or Birmingham in the next round, so there was an incentive, certainly if it was to be Newcastle, a ground we haven't played at since 1982.

It didn't rain this time down there and Ade made his debut, but poor mistakes at the back cost us and when Reading went 3-0 up not that long into the second half I feared a hammering. But we rallied, Ade got a goal and so did Garreth O'Connor on a rare appearance, but we went out at the first time of asking. We wouldn't have got a trip to St James' Park in any case, they were well and truly stuffed by Birmingham.

There was something to cheer a day later when the youth team beat Luton 2-0 at Padiham to reach the 5th round of the FA Youth Cup. Both goals were scored by Jay Rodriguez and the second would have been a goal of the season contender had it been scored for the first team.

Micah Hyde - signed for Peterborough
It kicked off an amazing few days. Rumours around the Padiham ground that night suggested there might be another new signing by the weekend. In the end there were two with a departure making way for one of the new players.

On the Thursday we welcomed Wigan goalkeeper Mike Pollitt on a month's loan whilst Micah Hyde, a Steve Cotterill signing in his first summer at the club, departed for a £75,000 fee to Peterborough. He had an early impact too, within a couple of days of arriving at London Road they had sacked manager Keith Alexander.

Fans were trying to guess the team together for Southampton then at noon on the Friday came news of yet another signing, Aston Villa's Cameroon international Eric Djemba-Djemba on loan for the rest of the season.

Both he and Pollitt made their debuts at Southampton, we got a point from a goalless draw after which Steve Cotterill said he hoped to have yet another player in by the time we played Norwich the following week.

It didn't happen, and the big news of the week was the offer from Celtic for Kyle Lafferty. It was derisory, just £500,000, and was turned down immediately, but added to that were some quotes from Kyle after he was caught out by an agency journalist who managed to get his phone number.

Thursday brought with it some shocking weather, I've never witnessed such strong winds in the Burnley area. They even caused damage to our showpiece cricket field stand and news came that it would have to remain closed for the Norwich game two days later, with the visiting fans being placed in the lower tier of the Longside.

Saturday finally came, and guess what, the game was off again. This time the club were far from happy with the decision by Premiership referee Martin Atkinson who was concerned that the ball wouldn't bounce properly in one small area of the pitch. So it was a chase to get to other games, I took in Rossendale United v Bamber Bridge, where the two teams featured former Burnley players Phil Eastwood, Joe Booth and Tom Ince.

When the last game was called off it came shortly after the news that Ade had signed, this time it was just speculation of a fourth signing, Icelandic international Joey Gudjonsson who was playing for Dutch Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar.

It wasn't just speculation, he signed on the Monday and Steve said he hoped there would be two more signings, and that he would be pleased if he could get one of them and delighted if he could get both. At the same time he said that goalkeeper Brian Jensen had been placed on the transfer list at his own request. This was all taking some believing and what was more difficult to believe was on the Tuesday we actually played a home game.

This was the re-arranged Stoke game and despite having this array of new talent, we turned probably the worst performance of the season and lost 1-0 but with news breaking that one of the potential signings could be RK Sunderland captain Steven Caldwell.

Gifton Noel-Wiliams - signed for Real Murcia in Spain
It was, and we made him an offer, after agreeing a deal with the Mackems that would see them eventually land £400,000. But the player wanted to think about it and it was no surprise when we suddenly learned that he was speaking to other clubs.

Saturday was cup day, so we had no game, although I watched the youth team fail at the first hurdle in the Lancashire FA Youth Cup, losing 6-0 to Bury. It was off to Derby on the Tuesday as the month was coming to an end. We hadn't scored a goal all month in the league, in fact it was worse than that, we hadn't scored one since mid-December. Nothing changed at Pride Park either, an early goal was enough to give the home side three points in a game dominated by some idiot in black – Mr Riley's the name.

Would there be more transfers? Yes was the answer and one that took some time to sink in, we had sold Gifton Noel-Williams to Spanish club Real Murcia for £50,000. Gifton has become the first Englishman to join them and he could well be playing in La Liga next season. Keep a look out for him on Sky should they clinch that promotion.

And then it was Wednesday, the last day of January, and the window was starting to come down. We started the day optimistic that we might be able to clinch a fifth signing, it might even be Caldwell but we'd heard nothing from him. By lunchtime the optimism wasn't quite so strong and by tea time it had all but disappeared.

We tried to concentrate on news of the youth team at Swindon in the FA Youth Cup. We went 1-0 up but lost the game 3-1 after conceding three goals in six minutes just after the hour. As news came in that took us to 9:00 p.m. and still no news of a signing.

I don't know why but I'd been convinced we'd get someone, but even I gave it up around one in the morning when nothing had been reported. But there was a sting in the tail, and with just nine minutes to spare we clinched the signing of Caldwell to take it to five new players in a month.

Some fans complained the signings weren't good enough, some complained that we were spending too much money, I suppose it is called being a Burnley fan, but no matter which way you look at it we now have a squad that is bigger by three than it was when we started the year. That's got to be good news. Now we just need to start scoring goals and winning games again.