“Strong and stable leadership”; remember a couple of years ago when that was a political rallying call, subsequently turning into a punch-line and becoming an albatross for Theresa May and her government?
Well, that phrase, in a different context, could be applied to Burnley under Sean Dyche and serve as a cautionary example to the club who dismissed him and who his Clarets team vanquished in yesterday afternoon’s Premier League fixture at Vicarage Road.
Since Dyche left them and was subsequently employed by Burnley, Watford have had a bewildering turnover of managers. So much so that they are now recycling them; Quique Sanchez Flores is currently in his second spell at the Hornets’ helm.
He presides over a team rooted in the relegation zone, having won only once this season and given the capricious nature of the club’s owners, he may be unwise to indulge in too much advance planning. It was so much different in Elton’s day.
Returning to Lancashire with a three-nil victory under his belt, Dyche could be forgiven for basking in the warm glow of schadenfreude, but he is probably too big a man for that; it is more likely that he spent the homeward coach journey conceiving plans to undo Crystal Palace next Saturday.
Yesterday’s match was hardly a classic, played throughout in persistent rain, there was little absorbing football to behold, especially in a drab first half which didn’t even absorb the attention of the normally uber-enthusiastic Chris Kamara, who was covering the match on behalf of Sky Sports’ Gillette Soccer Saturday.
What good play there was in the first period generally favoured the home team, with Gerard Deulofeu seeing their best chances repelled by Nick Pope; first with his legs following a breakaway, then with his outstretched palm to turn away a free kick.
That was a good as it got for the hosts, for as the second half progressed, Burnley took control. Firstly, a corner was sent deep beyond the far post where James Tarkowski headed the ball back across the goal mouth, finding Chris Wood on hand to flick the ball into the roof of the net; a skilful finish with his back to goal.
Sound familiar? This was a cut-and-paste version of a goal scored against West Ham two weeks ago.
Much less familiar was Burnley’s second goal, scored by Ashley Barnes from the penalty spot. Yes, you read that correctly – the penalty spot!
Burnley being awarded a penalty is about as frequent an occurrence as sightings of Big Foot, even the one given yesterday – for a foul on Barnes by Watford’s Holebas – required confirmation from VAR before referee Paul Tierney could bring himself to venture into so unchartered a territory.
Barnes himself stepped up to score via the post and effectively put the game beyond Watford.
There was still time, however, for James Tarkowski to ice the cake with another incursion to the far post from a set piece. This time, the Burnley defender helped himself to the goal, scoring with his second attempt after his first shot had been blocked on the line.
So Burnley record back-to-back three-nil victories, a significant achievement in itself and one which temporarily propelled Burnley to sixth place in the Premier League; heady days indeed.
As a footnote, it is worth mentioning that Burnley’s five shots on target yesterday produced three goals. In contrast, Southampton scored twice from twenty-one attempts at Arsenal yesterday.
Burnley may not produce so fulsome a bundle of chances, but their conversion rate is a testament to the efficiency of their strikers, Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. The two lads appeared on Goals on Sunday with SKY this morning. It must be said I prefer the duo's on field antics.
Written by a truly effervescent Dave Thornley. God help us all if the Clarets turnover Crystal Palace next Saturday. (TEC.)