Dave Thornley, the Clarets Mad resident match summariser reflects on yesterday's win over former relegation rivals Fulham, on a marvellous Monday night for Sean Dyche's Burnley.
Go on just admit it, there were times during this long and arduous campaign where we all fussed and fretted that this might be the season in which Burnley finally got relegated back to the SKY Bet Championship.
We took to social media to complain about tactics, team selection, lack of transfer activity, attitude of the players, injuries, VAR – you name it and Clarets fans (myself included) have had a good old moan about it.
During these times, it seemed unlikely in the extreme that Premier League security would be achieved with three games to spare, and yet after last night’s 2-0 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage, here we are, safely harboured in the Premier League for another season. This will be the sixth in succession for the Clarets and the seventh in the last eight. It seems Sean Dyche knows exactly what he has been doing all along.
It is a massive testament to Dyche, his coaching staff and this tight-knit squad of players, that when other teams around them ran out of steam, Burnley did not, despite the challenges of a small squad often stripped to the barest of bones through injuries.
With the relegation Sword of Damocles hovering over the collective heads of Fulham, the assumption would be that, with nothing left to lose, they would (to quote Imran Khan’s famous rallying call) “fight like cornered tigers,” knowing that only a maximum yield of twelve points from their remaining four games would give them a chance of safety.
But Burnley, with their team rammed full of battle-hardened, streetwise, experienced professionals were able to tame what turned out to be a fairly meek Fulham tiger in the first half, in which the Clarets totally dominated and managed to score twice as the half drew to a close.
Both goals were representative of Burnley at their best; Matej Vydra ran onto a pin-point long ball from Matty Lowton, then drove to the Fulham goal line and adroitly pulled the ball back into the path of Ashley Westwood who concluded a lung-bursting sprint by prodding the ball into the Fulham goal.
Bobby Moore used to hit long balls similar to the one played to Vydra, to Geoff Hurst; as did Bobby Charlton to George Best; Paul Scholes to Cristiano Ronaldo; or Patrick Vieira to Thierry Henry. Of course, because it was Burnley, the delivery is more likely to be described as a hoof up-field.
The second goal followed shortly afterwards; a neat passing move involving Westwood and Vydra opened up a space for Josh Brownhill to find Chris Wood, who fired a sublime half volley into the roof of the Fulham net from the edge of the penalty area.
It is no exaggeration to note that the Kiwi striker’s goals have been pivotal to keeping Burnley in the Premier League; his consistency and his value to the team cannot be over-stated.
In the second half, Fulham perked up a little; Anguissa rattled the underside of the crossbar and a Charlie Taylor lunge made just enough contact with the ball to satisfy VAR that a penalty would not be appropriate.
At the other end, Vydra set off in pursuit of another long ball from deep, he got his head to the ball ahead of Areola advancing from the Fulham goal. The keeper stuck out his arm to prevent the ball from passing him. Incredibly no red card followed, not even a free kick. Go figure.
Even with Fulham pressing harder, there was never a feeling that Burnley were losing control of the game and as the game drew to its close, the inevitability of Fulham’s fate and Burnley’s survival became etched on the faces of the players of both teams.
At the final whistle there was, for Burnley, satisfaction of a job completed; whilst for Fulham there was only misery. In his post-match summary, Sky Sports’ Gary Neville was fulsome in his praise for the attitude and commitment of the Burnley team and contrasted it with that of a Fulham team comprising several loan signings, parachuted in in a forlorn attempt to avoid relegation.
In tough times, Burnley were able to draw on an ethos of togetherness, a bond forged through shared experience. Fulham had no such bond and that is one of the reasons they will be playing in the Championship next season.
Avoiding relegation should be a source of relief rather than celebration but given the challenges Burnley have faced and overcome this season, a celebratory pint would not be out of order. Cheers!
Ken Hanson posts across social media from articles written by Dave, which are edited and posted from Clarets Mad, by The Editors Chair (TEC).