This time it was against that team from Milton Keynes. MK Dons have been around for a while but it’s still a name that seems false and artificial. I couldn’t help wondering what the hell they were doing in the Championship at Turf Moor. They were formed under false pretences it always seemed to me.
But here they were so all that remained was to continue the good Burnley work and send them packing. Never mind the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, we thought. We need hot sun. So straight after the game we were off to Kalkan to meet a new chum as well, Mehmet (pictured above) the owner of the Café Zula who bit by bit I was converting to Claretianity and the good news was that with the Derby game on SKY we’d be able to find a bar and see it.
What pleasure we had late Saturday night re-living the Wednesday game and seeing those three cracking goals, each one a mini masterpiece in its own right. Darikwa and Gray have stepped into the shoes vacated by Tripper and Ings with aplomb. Ings looked forlorn and out of place in the Liverpool side at Old Trafford. Poor Trippier was still occupying the Tottenham bench.
‘Gray is gold’ wrote Gunnar Lorgen after the game, over in Burnley from Aalesund for a few days with his wife Grethe. Gunnar is a retired sports journalist and knows talent when he sees it. They’d walked to Gawthorpe from their hotel, walked to Turf Moor from their hotel, been to Blackpool on Sunday, and walked to Turf Moor again for the MK game. Atle Norman was also over from Norway for the game. It’s a terrific and unique phenomenon this support from over there. Imagine in Burnley there being a hotbed of Aalesund supporters and every now and then we flew over there to see a game or two.
Coming to this Tuesday game strange and unusual descriptions of Burnley were in the back of my head. In the space of two days we’d been described as ‘big-hitters,’ ‘a powerhouse,’ and one of the ‘big four.’ These new accolades were taking some getting used to. Jeremy Corbyn must have been feeling much the same.
Rain, rain and rain, the central heating had been on every evening for the last week; the cat comes in and rubs itself against your legs like good cats do, except it’s dripping wet. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are a distant memory. There were precisely none this year and we barbecued twice this summer underneath the giant garden umbrella as the rain teemed down so that we choked in the smoke and fumes that were trapped underneath it. On twitter folks continually grumbled at the cold so I couldn’t help being wicked and replying so-long folks we’re off to Kalkan after the game where it’s still in the 30s.
Joey wasn’t playing, Dyche explaining that he still wasn’t ready for the first team, but again featured for the reserves in a game at Everton and scored a first half goal as they went in 4-0 up by half time.
You don’t mind a drag of a drive to the game when you win… And have superb fish and chips at the Drum and a Pinot Grigiot… And it’s a pleasant dry evening perfect for football… and two great goals… and 1,500 in the Cricket Field stand rocked and roared… and a masterclass by Michael Keane… Gray a constant thorn… Heaton hardly anything to do… Kightly and Boyd in the thick of things… with Jones the puppet master… … And you go third and the gaffer is delighted, puzzled by not being well in the lead at HT, then delighted by the defensive resilience over the last 20 mins… And it’s a swift drive home on empty roads… and the Daily Express forecasts a killer winter but the next day you’ll be in Kalkan for two weeks of sun and blue skies.
And in Kalkan we watched the Derby County game; alas spoilt by the lack of commentary in the bar where we watched and the proximity of speakers behind our heads that blasted out loud pop music. This was no way to watch a game as our eardrums were subjected to a ceaseless drubbing. It was a relief when it all ended. Burnley walked away with a point and we walked away with migraines. Under the cosh for most of the second half, Burnley still had the best two chances of the game. The Claret tribes were much in agreement afterwards; a stinker of a game but a good point.
SD pronounced his back four exceptional and indeed they were with the Derby forwards pouring forwards but hitting a brick wall. Much of Burnley’s problems were down to inability to keep possession or string a few passes together. It was explained by Sean D. ‘In the end we just couldn’t find the out ball and ended up going back to front too early.’ Translated it presumably meant that the wide players were all too often unavailable in space so all that remained was a long hoof from the back to the front by the back four. SD has a brilliant way with words; it made Cotterball sound almost respectable.
Prior to the game, the day before we’d been subjected to a typical Kalkan deluge. As per plan we’d chugged across the bay in a water taxi manned by a skipper who looked at least 120 years old last year so that this year we thought it a miracle he was still functioning. He never left his seat by the wheel. His mate was a young guy, film star looks, tall and muscular, cigarette dangling, who sat all the while with a fishing line attached to his finger. He moved only to remove a fish from the end of the line and then to lob it into a bucket or hold the boat while we got on and off. The perfect photo would have been the fishing line attached to his big toe.
And then within 5 minutes of us setting up all our gear on the loungers, and believe me we carry a lot of gear, the storm began. From behind the hills a blanket of black thunderous clouds enveloped the bay. Within a minute it began as we lugged all this gear up to the shelter of the café with a canvas roof that was neither use nor ornament. We huddled under a wooden canopy looking at the weather thinking this is not what it says on the tin. Water poured down the steps, water poured down the road, water filled the floor up to our ankles; thunder roared overhead, relentless lightning flashes lit up the gloom.
But Brits are stoics. Whilst this biblical deluge continued we organised an almost dry table under the wooden bit of the canopy and ordered lunch. If you’ve had lunch in Bridlington you can enjoy lunch anywhere. Dyche words sprang to mind like resilience, resistance, determination and water-proof. Never has cheese omelette and chips tasted so good; other tables and chairs slowly disappeared beneath the rising water that covered the restaurant floor and the wooden structure of the Kalkan pizza parlour majestically floated across the bay.
On the morning of the Reading game I was doing a Bill Bryson walkabout of Kalkan although by no means as grumpy as he seems to be these days in his newest book where his love affair with our little island seems to be on the wane. Early morning in Kalkan is the bit the majority don’t see when bleary-eyed restaurateurs are getting their places ready for another day, chefs are carting in fresh supplies, shopkeepers are sweeping their bits of the street and all the stray cats and dogs are sleeping. It’s a time of day when all the little idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of the place are on full display. The dogs sleep on the warm pavements, the cats on window ledges or in plant pots.
Kadir from the Kaya restaurant is one of the eccentrics. In truth he would rather be Tommy Cooper and entertains diners with old jokes and his range of tricks. He learned English working as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant in London for 5 years and for years has attended the Magic Circle conventions in Blackpool. It isn’t often you hear a Turk crack Tommy Cooper jokes in English with a Chinese accent.
At 10.00 or thereabouts all the lazy-day boats leave the harbour at one end while at the other end fishermen fix boats and mend nets. At Café Zula, Mehmet Gurbuz wears his Burnley Endsleigh shirt I took him. The Full English there is up with the best. He knows I write Burnley books and for some reason thinks I’m famous. I hate to disillusion him. ‘Do you know Dave Thomas?’ he asks his customers. ‘He had breakfast here the other day.’
The stray dogs meanwhile continue to sleep. Kalkan has developed a tradition of caring for them with local vets giving them treatment. They all have their little patch of territory that centres on the shop or café that feeds them. It’s hard not to fall in love with some of them, especially Bob the Beagle. How on earth and why does anyone abandon a pedigree Beagle? This was in fact the dog we were sorely tempted to smuggle home with us.
His patch was up by the Seaport Restaurant; unfortunately it also included the manic roundabout at the top end of the old town alongside the restaurant. Seaport was where we sneaked chunks of fillet steak to him one night. The middle of the roundabout was where we would frequently see him either standing defying all the cars and taxis, or on warm evenings simply lying down in the road for a nap or chewing a bone. It’s a moot point just how many lives he has left.
A handsome retriever was laid sprawled out on the harbour side gently snoring on the day we went down to board the Moby Dick for our day out. This dog has adopted the boat and its crew of two. Every morning he goes along to the slipway and has a swim and then returns to the Moby Dick to wait for breakfast. When we got back at 6 there he was waiting for the boat and any handouts.
On the other side of the roundabout is Soprano’s or at least it will be when the new sign arrives. We ate there a few times looking down on the chaotic roundabout where pedestrians (and Bob) were at serious risk. Sit there long enough and you’d surely end up seeing someone you know, or hear the screech of brakes and someone you used to know. Cam and Dionne are the hosts and hostess at Soprano’s. Dionne is part Italian and her Italian grandfather she remembers was a member of the Sicilian mafia. He came to England and always told her he was in the import-export business – yeh sure he was.
You keep your ears open for little snippets of gossip. During the winter three top restaurants down by the harbour were mysteriously burned down. Whispers said it was the Istanbul mafia. Closed circuit TV allegedly filmed a dark limo in the early hours one morning. Two shady figures headed for the restaurants and into the shadows. They were filmed leaving. Then the fire started and the owners no longer had restaurants.
From where we were you just had this feeling that Reading was a banana skin game and so it proved. The game was lost in the first 9 minutes and then well as they played it was all too much to salvage something from the game although when Barton came on there was an instant lift and boost for both team and crowd. By all accounts it’s been a long time since the arrival of a player during a game has had such a dramatic effect. Maybe the last time was when Glen Little came on against Spurs in the League Cup years ago and tore them apart. But whilst Little orchestrated a famous victory, there was no such win this time.
On return day we knew that with no delays we’d be home in time to watch the Rotherham game on SKY. We waited and waited for the booked taxi to arrive. It didn’t. The airport 80 km away, departure time 5 o clock; at 2.15 we found another taxi. ‘No worree plenty time,’ said the driver. He didn’t tell us he’d be stopping so another driver could take over. He didn’t tell us he’d be stopping again for petrol. Every traffic light was red. Then a roadblock and police flagged us down. Two unshaven goons with machine guns slung round their necks peered into the minibus intently. One of them stared at me for an uncomfortably long time. Then they nodded casually at the driver and waved us on. The road seemed clogged with slow tractors and old Renaults. Of course we made it in time… just… we were the last to check in.
It was the second half we got back in time for, or at least we switched on right at the moment that the Rotherham lad unleashed his thunderbolt and levelled the scores. The Vokes winner sent us to bed happy with the win and relieved not to have missed the plane. And just a shame we couldn’t have smuggled Bob the Beagle back home with us.