When the Premier League was re-started behind closed doors, fans like myself were relieved that there would be some live football to engage us, albeit in the artificial and sterile surroundings of empty stadiums; we consoled ourselves that, as a short term solution, it was better than nothing.
Now, however, I am not so sure. Compelled to watch matches on television at inconvenient times; without the anticipation of going along to the ground and thereby denied the opportunity to experience and participate in the proceedings; to get behind the team and lend them support in an effort to raise their game and deter the opposition.
Take last night’s game between Burnley and Spurs; nominally at Turf Moor, but it could have been anywhere. The lack of any sort of atmosphere reduces watching your team to little more than a passionless, academic exercise. One should not feel that way when following one’s team.
The game itself was a tale of two corners. For Spurs it was the best of times, for Burnley it was the worst of times.
The two teams more or less cancelled each other out through a goalless first half, notable largely for Ashley Barnes drawing blood from Toby Alderweireld’s forehead as the pair contested a header; obliging the Tottenham defender to play out the remainder of the game with his head heavily bandaged.
In the second half it was Burnley who looked the more assured, the more composed and the more threatening. Tottenham’s potent strike force of Harry Kane and Son Heung Min were being handled with aplomb by James Tarkowski and Kevin Long; whilst Josh Brownhill flitted effectivey around the midfield.
Eric Dier, under pressure from Chris Wood, was flustered into a jittery clearance which struck Wood – who was a matter of inches away- on the elbow and rebounded neatly into the Clarets striker’s path and bearing down on Hugo Lloris’ goal.
Referee Michael Oliver deemed that Wood had handled the ball and let Dier and Spurs off the hook. There was no way that Wood could have deliberately handled the ball, he was simply too close to Dier to do anything about how he made contact with the ball – a point he made forcibly to Oliver.
It is worth begging the question what if it had been Dier who handled the ball; would he have been penalised and Burnley awarded a free kick or a penalty? Answers on a postcard please.
It was during this spell that the first of those corners came to pass; James Tarkowski leaping highest to head towards goal only to find Harry Kane’s head preventing the ball from crossing the goal line.
Burnley would have deserved the lead at that point and may well have gone on to win.
The second corner came soon afterwards, this time at the other end, when Kane’s flicked header across the Burnley goal mouth was met by a spring-heeled Son who headed into the roof of the Burnley net for the game’s only goal.
Kane and Son are world-class players and Son in particular is in the form of his life, it was a brilliant opportunistic finish, but suggestions coming from Andy Hinchcliffe in the Sky TV commentary box that this was some fiendishly planned and perfectly executed training-ground manoeuvre is absurd. I of course hold myself a hostage to fortune in writing that.
What is worse for a Burnley fan to endure; the team not showing up at Newcastle; or getting mugged by Tottenham?
This was a game Burnley should not have lost, but they did, and the wait for the first win of the season goes on. If they continue to display the same level of aptitude and application as they did last night, we fans should not be kept waiting too much longer.
Dave Thornley reflects on yet another fan-less, soulless televised English Premier League game. What is the point of playing this sterile football? (TEC).