End of season
By Matt Rowson
Everybody has good days. Little things, big things. A success at work, a good exam or test result, a new child, brother, sister. Watford win. The sun is shining. It's not Monday. Whatever.
Everybody has bad days. Little things, big things. A failure at work, a bad exam result. A family crisis. Watford lose. It's raining. It's Monday. Whatever.
Then there are the numb days. Not in-the-middle so-so sort of days...more days where nothing particularly goes wrong but you know that you're pissed off anyway. A general lack of contentment with the status quo when all the slightly niggling things that everyone puts up with to some extent become really important.
So you want to kill the bastard that cuts you up at that roundabout on the way home, the way home that you take every day, that you seem to have been taking every day of your life. You get all claustrophobic in the supermarket, can't think for the two bored kids playing an illogically noisy hide and seek either side of their Mum's trolley. These are the days when you notice that the kitchen needs a proper clean, the days when nothing's on the telly. These are the real killers. The days that wear you down....
Burnley are having a bit of a season like that. It may seem slightly peculiar that a newly promoted side sitting comfortably in mid-table should have much to complain about, but a stale, boring diet is going to need to be bloody nutritious if anyone's going to want to eat it. Burnley may have surprised even themselves by flirting with the edge of the play-off chase, but the uninspiring way in which they've done it, combined with an apparently premature decision that this season's priority is next season's campaign, has not won friends. Stan Ternent appears to be less popular amongst the Claret faithful than his achievements would lead you to expect.
The first stage in "moving the club onto the next stage", as Barry Kilby announces in what's presumably supposed to be an inspirational statement on the official website, will presumably involve shifting the team's age profile. Ternent has announced that no new faces will be arriving before the summer, but a large proportion of the squad could kindly be described as "experienced". That Burnley's training ground was closed due to the foot and mouth outbreak could be seen as a move to protect the livestock within the Burnley squad as well the local and national farming communities.
In goal for the Clarets will be Nik "the Greek" Michopoulos, who has impressed since his arrival in the summer. His deputy is former Grimsby and West Brom stopper Paul Crichton.
Burnley's defence is the highly experienced foundation on which the side's moderate success has been based. Steve Davis and Mitchell Thomas have both been involved in more charged encounters with the Hornets during previous incarnations. Ian Cox, who always impressed against us whilst playing for Bournemouth in Division Two, is now a Trinidad international, a side who Ternant described as "tin-pot" with a peculiar lack of tact recently. Making up the defence is another old friend Graham Branch, whose acrobatics once won Stockport a fictional penalty against us at Edgeley Park. Not that we hold grudges, or anything.
Defensive cover is provided by Dean West, a former charge of Ternent's at Bury, and by Chris Brass, although the latter is widely expected to leave after his career has failed to fulfil its early promise. A move for Bournemouth's highly rated Eddie Howe foundered on a difference in valuation. And, presumably, because Howe isn't drawing his pension yet.
In midfield, further "experience" is provided by the ageing bedrock of Kevin Ball and Paul Cook, whose combined age must be close to that of our entire team. Lee Briscoe has made a welcome return on the left having been absent since November with a knee injury, and the talented Glen Little is expected to recover from a twisted ankle to play on the right. Paul Weller will continue to deputise if not.
A lack of creativity in the centre of the park is seen as a key problem, exacerbated by the surprise departure of Mickey Mellon to Tranmere, and those favouring a recall for John Mullin use this argument to support their case. Other midfield options include a rare youngster, Bradley Maylett, and the more representative Gordon Armstrong, who served a one-match ban during the Clarets' game at Stockport. Paul Smith, who scored at Vicarage Road during the 2-2 draw four seasons ago, is expected to leave, Oldham a possible destination. Aberdeen midfielder Paul Bernard, himself a former Oldham man, was recently on trial at Turf Moor but to no conclusion, whilst Lenny Johnrose's achilles injury, which will lay him out for the season, further restricts midfield options.
Up front, the choice is even more limited. Ian Moore is the main man, having arrived from Stockport earlier in the season, but the talismanic Andy Payton has been dropped amongst a flurry of bizarre rumours and is not expected to stay beyond the summer. This leaves on-loan Gareth Taylor as Moore's partner, although eighteen-year-old Anthony Shandran is doing well in the reserves. Another veteran, Ronnie Jepson, also has an achilles problem whilst Andy Cooke, who always scored against us, has thankfully left for Stoke.
Burnley haven't won away from Turf Moor since October, and have failed to score in their last three away trips. They have also never won a competitive match at Vicarage Road, with only a single draw in 1996. Their season is over by their manager's admission and they have been playing with a commensurate lack of effort.
Bring 'em on.