Cometh the hour, cometh the Kightly

Seven rivers will need to be diverted, 19 ancient woodlands will be chopped down, 310 miles of hedgerows will be decimated, several parts of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be bulldozed, 1,180 buildings will be demolished; hundreds of acres of farmland lost and tunnelling will have severe adverse effects on water supplies. Already, anyone within a mile of it can’t sell their house. But apart from that it’ll be OK. Half an hour will be knocked off the journey time from London to Birmingham so that thousands of immigrants from Bulgaria and Rumania can get to the Midlands that bit quicker.

But: the much bigger concern and question we were all asking was; could Burnley resume their winning ways with two quick home games - one at home to a stuttering Watford, and the second against bottom of the table Barnsley.  The lingering effects of the defeat at Huddersfield were still lingering. The irritating memories of the inept officials were still irritating. Wins were badly needed. Including the West Ham Cup game, there had been five games without one. To add to the growing ‘we’re doomed Captain Mainwaring’ movement, there were worries about Ings’ fitness as well as Marney.

What a Monday morning though: three sackings in the Championship. Flitcroft departed Barnsley, Jones ditto Sheffield Wednesday and the icing on the cake for all Burnley fans – Coyle sacked at Wigan.’ Mutual consent’ was the agreed story but let’s not let that get in the way of a good story, hugely satisfying still to so many Burnley fans. Time to move on, said more than just a few fans, but some of us have no intention of forgiving and will continue to salivate at his misfortunes.  Some of the most intelligent distinguished and professional people I know emailed to say they fell off the settee laughing. The websites buzzed with glee, although the one disappointment said many, was that he wouldn’t be there on the 29th when Burnley visited Wigan. His story really is one of decline and fall. In less than four years he has become past history in the sense that any prospects of working in the big leagues again must surely be over. The man, who at one stage could, as far as we were concerned, have walked on the waters of the River Brun, seemed now to be sinking faster than a stone. Two removals in less than 12 months; not even Brian Laws achieved that distinction.  Where next for the man, we asked; Auchtermuchty perhaps, in Scotland’s wilderness.  

On Sky, Chairman Whelan was blunt: ‘Doesn’t get on with me, doesn’t get on with the team, and doesn’t get on with the fans.’ After Whelan had told him a few home truths after the latest defeat, Coyle asked ‘do you want me to resign?’ 

‘Yes,’ said Whelan.  However you dress it up; that’s a sacking.

The search for Nutters continues at Blackshawhead Methodist Chapel

Ever eager to share with you our culinary experiences and gourmet travels, this time we dined at the Queen Hotel in Cliviger before the Watford game. Before that we’d called at Blackshawhead Methodist Chapel high up on the hilltops above Hebden Bridge, in search of family graves. The poignant thing there was meeting and chatting with the lady who visits this windswept graveyard every day to see and touch her daughter and husband’s graves. That kind of puts football things into some kind of perspective.

I confess to becoming quite obsessed with finding more Nutters in the family. The previous week we had mooched around the graveyard at Heptonstall St Thomas’s Church and found what we were looking for just as hypothermia was setting in, although these were Watsons not Nutters. And the origin of the name, Nutter, by the way, was one who gathered nuts in the olden days, chiefly for feeding to the pigs. There have always been professional nutters with nuttering a respected occupation in days gone by.  Shakespeare recognised their importance:

Come lads and lasses, now raiseth your glasses
with a hey nonny no, a nuttering we will go.

The Queen Hotel was warm, inviting and cosy. Fires burned brightly in the two rooms. The minute I walked in I saw someone with a huge plate of gammon, egg, chips, mushy peas and salad.  I fell in love with the place immediately and thought that’s for me, stomach rumbling. My chum had the award winning home-made cheese and onion pie. There’s an award I give personally to pies of quality and excellence – the Dave T Pie Award.  My chum gave me a taste. Trust me; this was the Carole Vorderman of the pie world, mouth-watering and eye-catching, full bodied and firm with just a hint of don’t-keep-me-waiting. The Queen is hosted by Graham and Carol Knott. Carol makes the pies herself. Phone me when you make the Pork and Apple Pie I asked.

And what has all this got to do with Burnley FC, I hear you ask. Not a lot is the truthful answer except that for anyone on the way to a Tuesday game or on the way back from a Saturday game, this is a fine watering hole at which to stop and fill up with Bury Black Pudding, or Pork Loin Schnitzel, or Sirloin Steak or any one of the huge range of sandwiches and then really stuff yourself stupid with a Sticky Toffee Pudding and Mrs Dowson’s ice-c ream for afters.

Ings was definitely out so that both Treacy and Stanislas started. Vokes was the lone striker with Arfield in support. Duff was suspended. Three of the young lads sat on the bench. This was getting down to bare bones stuff. The crowd couldn’t make the 11,000 mark. Two home games in a week, Christmas coming up, southern opposition, no wins in November, and money tight; the reasons stacked up. The atmosphere was flat and lifeless throughout, the 12th man factor absent, posing the age-old question: does the team whip up the crowd or does the crowd whip up the team?

Play was generally neat and tidy, though punctuated by misplaced passes. Stanislas was the likeliest hope. Ings’ (coveted now by Liverpool, journo Nixon said) impishness and sharpness in the box was visibly missing. Even if he has a quiet game, defenders are pressured wondering where he is; ey oop he’s behind you, oh no he’s not, oh yes he is; and what he’s up to. Without him, half their job is done. Vokes battled away as best he could. In the first half, weakened though they were, Burnley dominated play against a poor Watford side, filled with Johnny Foreigners, who frequently looked totally disinterested. Burnley on a cold Tuesday night probably the last place they’d like to be. And therein lay the disappointment. They were there for the taking. But for all their play and control, Burnley summoned few real threats on goal. An Arfield flick, an Arfield header, a Treacy pile-driver, A Vokes header over the bar, a few dangerous diagonal balls into the box with no-one on the end of them, and that was about it.

The second half was more even. Hey up, thought Watford, we’ve got a bit of a chance here and only smart saves by Heaton kept them out. Burnley huffed and puffed, Stanislas and Treacy faded. Young Hewitt made a cameo appearance but even to a blind man on a galloping horse it was obvious that a back-up striker was needed.  Watford repelled any attacks with growing ease so that the game seemed set up for a sneak Watford goal and win right at the very end. But no: 0–0 it ended and the crowd drifted away, by far the largest majority  sighing and politely applauding, seemingly resigned to the facts of football life at The Turf.  Sean Dyche, after the game, commented on the strange atmosphere and the glass half-empty mentality. Small pockets of supporters had been impatient and dissatisfied. Individual players had been targeted once or twice. Maybe these people had forgotten that third place, only two defeats, just two points behind the leaders in December, was nothing short of remarkable.

In between games I kept getting up to watch the cricket. Performances reminded me of what it must have been like to watch Burnley in the Fourth Division years. The England football team were drawn in a tough group in Brazil added to which they had to play the first game halfway up the Amazon. There were gasps. But it could have been worse. It was better than being given a kick up the Orinoco.

We chuckled all the way home after the 1-0 win over Barnsley. Top again: if there had been a blip, it was over. Relief all round and a goal worthy of winning a Cup Final. Blackburn held QPR to a draw, Leicester thumped at Brighton; Burnley went top on goal difference.

The afternoon wet and drizzly after a real downpour before the game: the news that Ings was back but Marney was still out; an odd kind of first-half inasmuch as Barnsley with their Number 42 Paddy McCourt having a masterful game, played all the delightful football, quick, incisive, nimble, threading passes to feet and finding spaces superbly, but toothless. So it was Burnley, second to everything much of the time, making the better openings, getting the headers in, firing shots and twice wasting good chances with inaccurate headers. At half-time you could have been forgiven for thinking this had 0-0 written all over it. But I gave them a bit of a war-cry at Half-time said Dyche after the game. Presumably he meant he gave them a bit of a bollocking.

Second half and a much better display from Burnley; ball on the floor more, better possession, Kightly and Arfield seeing more of the ball and more effective going forward; Jones now becoming more influential, Vokes working his socks off and Ings at last showing some trickery. Barnsley more often than not running into brick walls until at last, the deadlock was broken. The ball broke to Kightly; he cut in from the right and unleashed a superb strike into the top left corner of the net. Butland stood transfixed. This was the first time Burnley had taken a lead in a home game since the win over QPR in October.

Of course Barnsley applied some pressure in the last 10 minutes but Duff and Shackell stood firm. For all Barnsley’s dominance in the first half Heaton had little to do, but when needed made two smart saves. Burnley wound down the clock. Thanks to Blackberries most folk knew the results of the other key games and that Burnley had gone top again. You could see at the end what the win meant to the players as they lingered and applauded the crowd.

Dyche of course was delighted but again made subtle references to the crowd’s impatience. There were small sections of it that show that impatience. ‘I am getting to learn about our crowd,’ he said with tact and diplomacy. Truth is, some of them are a grumpy lot and take it out on individual players far too easily and readily. These folk should be careful. If an offer comes along from a ‘better’ club, Dyche might have a ready excuse for accepting if he thinks that Turf Moor is unappreciative of what in fact is a minor miracle.

But yours truly and Mrs T left the ground with big smiles on our faces:  the win topped off with a meal at The Queen again and there on the menu was the famed Pork and Apple Pie. The story goes that on the seventh day God rested. No he didn’t; he sat and invented the Pork and Apple Pie and pronounced it good and in his wisdom decided that He would give the recipe to Carole at The Queen.  The Cheese and Onion will have to wait, I thought.

The Pork and Apple arrived. What a truly awesome pie, a man’s pie, perfectly round, the pastry light and golden, the texture like velvet, the pulled-pork and apple filling a flavoursome taste sensation that spilled with the juices from the casing in mouth-watering slow motion with the first cut of the knife. And all served with perfect chips, veg, and cider gravy.   

What a day. The win might well have been hard-earned, maybe even a tad fortuitous, but there we sat at 5 o’clock, little Burnley top of the pile again: Meanwhile at Man U things not so good although the club shop is cashing in with the new merchandise: Manchester United lamps that look good in the middle of the table, and sledges that go downhill really fast.

But at Burnley we rejoiced; cameth the hour cameth the Kightly.