Ivan finds the winning formula

Last updated : 19 January 2005 By Joe Vella
The Malta Claret at a televised game earlier in the season
The disappointment of the postponed game first time round was lessened by Sky Sports showing us some footage of the 1914 FA Cup Final win over Liverpool and by the presence of three new Malta Clarets.

The new guys were Norman, a Maltese national who I have known for ages but who I hadn’t met for a number of years; and Burnley born Mark, who recently came out to Malta to seek fame and fortune, and his 8-year old son Liam. Mark, Norman and I are all ex-bank managers so, besides the Clarets, we found a lot of common ground.

The postponement gave us the opportunity for another meet, and five diehard Clarets, three locals and two sons of Burnley, made our way to Ryan’s. Most of us were in confident mood, buoyed by Burnley’s recent good run and by Liverpool’s penchant for dishing out belated Christmas presents.

Liverpool supporters will bring up the weak team excuse, and I have used weak as an adjective for excuse rather than team here. Weren’t we missing Branchy, Duff and O’Connor? Such absences have a big effect on such a small squad as ours. But the fact remains that our lads played them off the park and any result other than a Burnley win would have been a travesty.

The kick off was delayed by 15 minutes to give Ivan time to join us! From the off it was obvious that Clarets were up for it and they did not give the Reds any time to settle on the ball. It is amazing how they managed to keep up that rhythm for the whole 90 minutes on such a heavy pitch. But on days like yesterday it’s great to be a Claret.

Our cheer when Djimi Traore waltzed the ball into his own net for the winner must surely have been heard at the Turf! All the players put in great performances, although Roche did give us a couple of anxious moments! We were particularly impressed by Chaplow, who must now be valued at half the West Brom team plus loads of cash; Valois who is very very skilful; and Hyde whose two efforts in the first half must have been the envy of Gerrard.

The back four were also very solid and Liverpool never really threatened, not even with Baros and Mellor on the field. We only realised that Nunez was playing early in the second half!

We were also regaled with a close up of Alastair Campbell doing his impersonation of Trapattoni. Fantastic bloke – el Spin not el Trap of course! At one point we even thought that he had taken over from Steve Cotterill! So a perfect ending to a perfect day. At the end Norman suggested a carcade but we agreed to hold it after we win the Final at Cardiff!

Yesterday’s success has been put down to a lot of factors, such as the team spirit that Steve Cotterill has managed to infuse; the solid defence that refuses to concede a goal; a tireless midfield; Liverpool’s weakened team etc etc.

But the true answer lies 2000 miles away – here in Malta. Ivan gets peckish while watching football and during the Derby and Tottenham games he ordered a burger. On both occasions we conceded a goal before his first bite. Yesterday he switched to chicken wraps and this did the trick. Traore’s fancy footwork made Ivan positively ravenous! So we have already ordered Ryan’s chicken wraps for the Sunderland game in March!

Finally many thanks to Philip, mine host at Ryan’s, for putting up with a small but boisterous group of Clarets. If you are ever out in Malta do pop in at Ryan’s, especially if there is a Burnley match on. Ivan can assure you that the chicken wraps are simply divine!