No Friend Of The Clarets

Last updated : 04 October 2021 By Dave Thornley

Last week a VAR befuddled Clarets Mad resident feature writer Dave Thornley, reflected on a VAR decision that cost the Clarets three points, this week Dave laments Kevin Friend's refusal to turn to VAR to confirm Tim Krull nearly punched Matej Vydra's head off and award Burnley an obvious penalty. 

The most jarring thing about yesterday afternoon’s goalless draw between Burnley and Norwich City was not the Clarets’ failure to beat one of the more accommodating opponents they are likely to encounter this season, it was Sean Dyche’s comments after the game in which he described a clearly sub-standard performance as “strong” and, when referencing the lack of a cutting edge, “we’ll find it, we’ve done it before”. 

Whist this may be a manager looking to send out positive and optimistic messages; it could also be interpreted as a manager who, after nine years and 400 games in charge, has become a tad complacent. 

Steve Bruce’s Newcastle team have begun their season in almost identical fashion and as a result he is under intense pressure, his removal seems only a matter of days away. Whilst Watford have already pulled the trigger on Xisco Munoz’ tenure at Vicarage Road. 

Even making allowances for the fact that Watford managers tend to enjoy a similar career trajectory to that of Defence Against the Dark Arts Teachers at Hogwarts, the pressure on managers at the foot of the Premier League table is felt by all of those incumbents, except that is, for Sean Dyche, whose credit in the bank amongst supporters and (so far as we know) the owners remains fulsome. 

But as defeat follows draw follows defeat and the memory of a league win at Turf Moor recedes further and further; it could be that Dyche is finding himself going to the cash point of supporter goodwill too many times. 

Yesterday’s match was the sort of exercise in frustration to which all Burnley supporters have become familiar in the last eight months or so.  

In fairness to Norwich, they came with a game plan and followed it to the letter, defending in depth, men behind the ball, slowing the game down and punctuating play at every opportunity. Burnley have done this themselves to great effect in the past, and after as horrendous a run of defeats as they have suffered, it would be churlish to complain about Norwich’s tactics in pursuit of their modest ambition of a clean sheet and a point away from home. 

Unfortunately, Burnley were accommodating in Norwich achieving that ambition, but not as much as referee Kevin Friend who, by my reckoning, denied Burnley two certain and two marginal penalties and dished out more cards to Burnley players than a Vegas Blackjack dealer. 

Matej Vydra received a blow to the back of the head when competing for a cross with Norwich keeper Tim Krulfairly clear and obvious foul – a view confirmed unanimously by the great and the good on Match of the Day  but VAR checked it and found nothing wrong.  

This moves me to pose the question, is the purpose of VAR to correct refereeing errors, or merely to rubber-stamp them and nit-pick over toenail offsides? 

In the second half Burnley’s pressing resulted in little more concrete than a cross to the far post which bounced off Dwight McNeil’s knee and behind for a goal kick, and a late Matt Lowton header which narrowly cleared the crossbar. 

On the plus side, there was an accomplished league debut for Nathan Collins deputising for the injured Ben MeeAs his career develops, he will encounter sterner opponents than those which Norwich could muster, but his performance certainly gave cause for encouragement. 

It has become a distressingly regular feature of my pieces to mourn the passing of one of the 1966 World Cup winning squad. After Jimmy Greaves last week, this week came the news of the death, at 83, of Roger Hunt. Not perhaps as lavishly gifted a goal scorer as Greaves, but no less effective in a more functional, workmanlike manner.

He was the first in the lineage of great Liverpool strikers stretching via Keegan, Rush, Fowler and Owen through to Mo Salah. Hunt’s goal tally still bears comparison with them all.  

It seems "clear and obvious" to me that Burnley will not be awarded a penalty in the English Premier League - anytime soon. (TEC.)