A week is a long time in football

Last updated : 23 October 2006 By John Robertson
Michael Duff - scored in the win against Hull a week ago
Back then, our squad was looking healthy, suspensions weren't a concern and we had just gone back into one of the automatic promotion slots in this year's Championship. Importantly, our dearest rivals, Preston North End, sat one spot below us in the league, albeit by only a slightly inferior goal difference.

A week and two games later, Burnley still remain in the league's top six, but now find themselves a considerable five points behind the Lilywhites. Next Friday's ‘Lancashire Hotpot' has the making of a classic.

Under the floodlights, the Burnley faithful often rise to the occasion and make Turf Moor a very intimidating place to come and play football. Many would say that the £60k received from SKY for the game's coverage will provide a welcome financial boost, when in reality it will barely cover the cost of what will almost certainly be a reduced gate. The Clarets are only a quarter of the way into the season now, but a defeat is unthinkable as this would send us eight points adrift of Paul Simpson's side.

Attendances are becoming a major a concern to everyone at the club. Despite a gate of just over 10,000 being called over the Public Address System on Tuesday evening, this figure included season ticket sales and thus, it didn't take a genius to see that there was only a four figure crowd inside the stadium. A stunning 4-1 victory at Carrow Road, followed by the 2-0 victory over Phil Parkinson's Hull City side should have attracted the walk-ons for the clash with Southend, but quite simply it didn't.

So where does the problem lie? Was it the miserable midweek weather that kept the fans away? Are some supporters not happy with the brand of football being played at present? Or was the thought of watching Manchester United on the box a much better prospect? Burnley still operates the lowest ticket prices in the Championship, yet in our hardworking town, these prices are still keeping fans from the turnstiles.

Within the last few days we have heard that Sheffield Wednesday would like to hold talks with Steve Cotterill, with regards to their available manager's post. To many fans, this news is now becoming unsettling but it's something we should start to get used to whilst Burnley continue to ride high in the league. Only a week or so ago, Cotterill was being linked with the jobs at West Brom and Norwich and now it's the turn of the Owls.

Burnley's manager is more ambitious than people know; he is hungry to succeed and quite rightly would want other clubs to be interested in him, in order to improve a profile which is rising ever so quickly at Burnley, following forgettable spells at Stoke City and Sunderland. Our talented manager wants to manage in the Premiership, so why would he want to leave a team which could just have some success coming their way in the not too distant future?

Steve Cotterill - very ambitious
On Saturday, Clarets Chairman, Barry Kilby made a statement of his own; one which backed up Cotterill's ambitions to manage in the top flight – “Steve…wants to manage in the Premiership…we see our future as a Premiership club…we are going for promotion this season…we can do without these distractions”. Such bold and determined words from our Chairman; words which we haven't heard or read since the season of 1999/2000 and we all know what happened back then. Kilby, like Cotterill is a very ambitious man; Burnley wouldn't be in this division now if he wasn't. Only our next opponents have been in this division as long as the Clarets; not bad when you look at some of the quality sides that we have gone up against in the last six or seven campaigns.

So back to a week being ‘…a long time in football' - We have played both Southend and Plymouth in this time and have now extended our unbeaten run to four games. However, Tuesday night saw John McGreal pick up an injury which could keep him out of action until December and only to days ago Gifton Noel Williams picked up an injury which also looks like keeping him out of the side for some time. The aforementioned Clarets have been nothing short of outstanding since their return to the starting eleven a few weeks ago and they will be dearly missed.

Gifton's recent contribution to the side was highlighted when he was replaced early at Home Park on Saturday. His qualities of holding and shielding the ball whilst players come to support him in attack, winning headers and of course being a handful in front of goal, have given us so much more going forward. At Plymouth we started well and there is no doubt that when Gifton left the pitch, our defence were worked much harder, due to our attacks being restricted to quick bursts of energy and gambled runs, rather than patient, sustained and composed build ups.

Despite being a centre forward, Gifton provides our unit with a critical link between the midfield and forward lines. If his injury is going to keep him out of the side, it is likely that major tactical changes will take place, possibly with Alan Mahon coming back into the side and Steve Jones going back upfront in his preferred role.

So, we now have four days to wait until the Clarets are back in action. The TV might seem a better option for many, but local derbies like these are special occasions and the team will need as much support as they can get, against a very resilient Preston outfit. Let's just hope that by the time Friday evening comes around, the news on our two new injuries is more positive and that our manager remains the same young and ambitious man that has worked wonders for us so far this season.