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03/04: Preview: Burnley
Opposition opinion
by Clarets fan Dave Thomas

What happened last season?
Watford is what happened to Burnley last season. It was the turning point of a season that in spite of some heavy defeats our pensioners really did quite well in many games. But March was the month when things went downhill, and hopes of glory - Cup run and play off ambitions, just collapsed within the space of two games.

The Cup defeat knocked the stuffing out of the club and from then on it was all downhill. The next game was Sheffield Utd away and Burnley were beaten before they even stepped on the field. Just what you want - Sheffield Utd away immediately after a heartbreaking Cup defeat. The financial loss of missing out on the semi finals has given us the next two years of trying to pay off debts. God help us if we'd had no Cup run at all and the Worthington gave us some extra pay days as well.

Ageing players well past their sell by date, lethargy, disinterest, poor team selections, poor tactics (the latter especially at Watford when our two most creative players Blake and Little sat twiddling their thumbs on the bench until twenty minutes to go). Not a Burnley fan doesn't believe that these two players on from the start would have beaten Watford. Fans were far from happy with team, effort levels and a manager who blamed players rather than his own lack of ideas, tactics, team selections and motivation skills. Before the end, season ticket holders were giving them away or throwing them at Stan.

The bizarre results sequence continued with the Burnley 4 Watford 7 result. We just laughed at that one it was so comic and shrugged it off it was so bizarre, but we certainly didn't laugh at Burnley 2 Wednesday 7 which was just plain embarrassing. Both our keepers, who can be marvellous on their day, decided to go to pieces towards the season's end and were mercilessly barracked on several occasions.

In 40 years watching the Clarets we've had some awful times and some depressing years but never a year like this one where the team scaled the heights on one Saturday and then plumbed the depths on the next. Some games we purred at the slick football, the very next we groaned in bewilderment. The extremes were so far apart it was baffling.

A couple of wins in the final few games ensured survival again but it was a sad, sad end to several player's Burnley careers as we watched their rapidly declining abilities. Only a good run from September to November banked enough points to give us the basis of enough points to survive.

This was overall a season of utter contrasts from the lows of Grimsby 6 Burnley 5, to the highs of Burnley 2 Tottenham 1 and Burnley 3 Fulham 0. In half a dozen league games, even after Christmas, some League displays were superb - home to Norwich, Derby, Notts Forest. All this left us wondering which Burnley team would turn out on a Saturday afternoon, The Jekyll or the Hyde.

For supporters the icing on the cake was the end of season 6 week loan of Glen Little to Reading. This was the signal that the club had thrown in the towel and fans were furious. It was maybe a fitting conclusion to a wacky season that the fag end game should be against the homeless ones of Wimbledon who few people regard as a credible proper football club any more. A surreal end to a surreal season and as for the one to come....

What's going to happen next season?
Who knows... and that really is the only honest, sane answer... we still only have half a squad and just one goalkeeper the recently signed 'beast' from West Brom. Camara and Roche have also signed but really to make an effective squad another 4 players at least are needed and now Beckham has gone to our Spanish arch rivals where do we turn next. All else as on July 3rd seems quiet and uneventful other than the transfer of Chief Executive Andrew Watson to Huddersfield Town. 13 players were released last season, plus Maylett to Swansea plus possibility of Papapapapapdopoulos going to Pana Panithin Panthnik... that Greek team.. but as everyone knows Papa was only ever good at falling over a lot. But who knows what we could do with a fit, athletic, interested, on-fire, tantalising, magical, mercurial, dazzling, Little and Blake, showing a season of sustained effort and true form. Then big Gareth can knock in the crosses and the couple of youngsters we introduced last season Chaplow and O Neill being given a run and coming good. Stop it David, optimism is taking over. Control it.

A once ageing squad is presumably being rejuvenated but things had better happen quick because in just a matter of weeks it's off to the Isles de Manne for the prestigious Steam Packet Football Festival. Sky have once again refused the chance to televise glamour teams like Rotherham and Rushden and Diamonds and... us. Ah well it's the nation's loss. Who wants to watch Arsenal and all that shower.

Highspot of the season though will be the launch of "It's Burnley Not Barcelona" on Aug 4th at the club, written of course by yours truly, and I must plug this book and say there is extensive coverage of Watford in it. The cup game, the 4 - 7 game and it features the best of Blind Stupid and Desperate writing. Well at least one paragraph anyway. Hey I know all about marketing.

As ever we shall settle for survival again and pay off some debts and reduce costs and anything else will be a bonus. I don't think yours truly will venture down to Watford again in the forseeable future. I still have recurring dreams about wandering round the cemetery for quarter of an hour before the game. Subsidence seems to be big problem there or is everyone buried there on the large side. And Milton Keynes which I looked forward to immensely as an alternative is now off. Shame.

Sadly BFC are burdened by this thing called History - our past, our heritage, our previous golden eras and player legends. They count for nothing but expectations and ambitions are always high in this neck of the woods so Stan The Man advises caution as ever using as few words as possible as ever.

Two sources of relief are no longer having to visit the dreaded Grimsby or make the long trek to Brighton. Having said that if you can find any attraction in going to Wigan or Crewe instead then please send me your ideas on the back of a stamp.

I must confess to feeling a bond between us - two small clubs, battling for survival, living on gallows humour, hoping for good things and success but knowing it is but a dream and a place in mid table would keep us happy with maybe a nice little cup run again to warm the toes.

Cheers to all in Watford and someone really ought to keep an eye on that cemetery.

Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
What's the nearest railway station?
Where is the best place to park?
See Football Ground Guide

Word Association
Burnley FC Jimmy McIlroy
Beckham smile please
Milton Keynes Bill Bryson
The Premiership Yuk
Division Two God forbid
Sam Ellis pork pies
Watford Subsidence

Soundbites(from assorted census correspondents)

"we are going to take 6 points off watford this year so i'll say thank you in advance" (bit like last year then? - ed)

"My first chance to go to Upton Park this season, and I'll be in't life a bitch"

"You ruined our season!"

"Haven't yet renewed my season ticket - which shows how low my enthusiasm has gone"

"Graham Taylor should give his 'retirement' gift back to us, we presented to him for his 'last ever game'"

"hats off to the watford fans for being such good sports and not rubbing it in after the cup game"

"i see dead people...."