What happened last season?
Goodbye 2003/2004, RIP, and likewise Stan Ternent. If the game has great characters, then Stan Ternent is certainly one of them and Burnley fans will be eternally grateful that he brought us out of the mire of Division Two and into the heady heights of Division One. He followed Chris Waddle who lasted just the one season a number of years ago. Not a hard act to follow one has to say. Now of course we must speak of 'The Championship.' Mutton dressed up as lamb comes to mind.
So why did Burnley FC part with the man who led us from the wilderness? Some will say he simply got too big for his boots, swaggering around the place as if he owned it, being alternately rude and unpleasant one day, and then pleasantly polite and amiable the next.
Some will say he simply blasted the players once too often, after the dreadful end of season Rotherham game at the scrapyard. These lads were his lads, his team, he coached them, so to describe them as being not fit to wear the Burnley shirt, was as much a comment about himself as the team. Some will say it was his inability to move into the 20th century in terms of PR work, the lack of cooperation regarding improvements to the Supporter's Awards Evening which was the last straw as far as the CE was concerned (allegedly). Some will say it was the Board of Directors or at least a section of them, tired of his histrionics and public outbursts. Some will say it was simply two years of poor results, the brush with near relegation at the end of 2003/2004; the loss of the dressing room and player support - there is a limit to the number of times that even the most thick-skinned footballer will be humiliated on the training field even if it does go with the job. Some will say he was a hindrance to the drive to recruit new directors who would put money into the club. And others like me will simply say that all good things come to an end and there comes a time when there is a need for freshness, new ideas and new visions. It happens to all of us in our jobs. There comes a time when we have no more to give and it begins to show.
Whatever; the Burnley public showed their gratitude at the final game, when even the most hard hearted person in the world would not have been moved by the show of affection that flowed down from the terraces, the standing, waving, cheering, applauding fans, who all recognised that out of the chaos of the Waddle season, Ternent brought order, then discipline, then achievement.
If it all went wrong, do we blame the collapse of ITV Digital and loss of revenue? Maybe. Personally I think it went wrong from the day we so lamely gave Watford victory in the FA Cup quarterfinal two seasons ago. Poor team selection, poor tactics cost us the game. From that point on it was all downhill and goodbye £1,000,000, which would have transformed BFC.
So last season was the inevitable struggle and only the bank of points accumulated before Christmas saved BFC from relegation. For a brief spell we were indeed in the bottom three. It's a sobering and frightening sight to see your team down there. A last minute winning goal at Bradford and then two home wins against Derby and Wimbledon (sorry Franchise) saved us from oblivion. The writing was on the wall. The Rotherham game then sealed Stan's fate coupled with his dreadful rant after the game.
We struggled without a decent centre forward; we struggled without two good centre halves. We were always weak at full back. Blake, Grant and Chaplow papered over the cracks. Little was a shadow of his former self and a drain on club finances until leaving for Reading. Gnohere a once superb centre half with power, pace and passion, destroyed in my opinion by poor management skills and bullying, was shunted off to QPR. Luke Chadwick was a waste of space after a flying start in the early season. Loan signings were wasted or never even played. We relied on Man U cast offs. Young Man U failures litter the divisions like confetti.
Did we lose our final game at home to Sunderland? Yes we did. But 18,000 people came to say goodbye to Stan The Man and the result was irrelevant save to say we ended like we began - losing. Stan wept as he went round the perimeter afterwards and many a supporter did too. He came like a one-man Sherman tank, and nobody can say he didn't leave the club better than he found it. But his time was up. Will he get another job in football people ask? The signs are not good. Perhaps he shot himself in the foot with that book he wrote (or Tony Livesey wrote) when he portrayed himself as a violent, foul mouthed and aggressive man prepared to wallop people and players at the drop of a hat. Chairmen and directors might just be wary of him as a result, and it is interesting that his close colleague Sam Ellis left him recently to go to Leeds United, which suggests there is nothing in the immediate pipeline for Stan.
But make no mistake, for his first four years at Turf Moor, he did the business. In his first season it was sort the place out. In his second season it was promotion. In his third season we missed the playoffs by one point. In the fourth season we missed the playoffs by just one goal and two fingertip saves by Hedman from Gazza's perfect free kicks in the last minute of the last game of the season. For all that we thank you Stan. Your place in Burnley history is assured.
What's going to happen next season?
How often do bookies get it wrong? Sadly they have us down for relegation. Who can blame them and who can blame even the most optimistic BFC supporter for thinking is it possible that Blake, Grant and Chaplow can carry us through the season.
Steve Cotterill is of course the new man, selected after a rigorous selection process, and with the chairman Barry Kilby saying he has been keeping an eye on him since Cheltenham knocked us out of the Cup a few seasons ago. He has made two signings, both centre backs, to add to the threadbare squad and there is the promise of the unveiling of another one in a few days time. Those few days started something like two weeks ago. Rumours vary from goalkeeper Coyne to midfielder Kinsella. The smart money is on Coyne.
It looks like the kids will get their chance this year. Kids they certainly are, being in the main third year school of excellence scholars. Some show promise but can they cope with the hurly burly of the Sheffield Uniteds of this world and the Leeds United and Sunderland mobs, not to mention Wolves and Leicester. It didn't work for Bradford City did it and there are parallels between the two clubs in the financial situations they face and the lack of experienced players. Cotterill has allowed players like West, McGregor, May and Weller to leave. Only West is fixed up with a club at Lincoln.
The season looks long and daunting. Sheffield United, just who you need on day one, is in fact the first game and will tell us all we need to know. I shall be away in Greece on the end of a mobile phone. A win will see the bottle of retsina emptied quicktime.
It's all so sad. We have a magnificent ground, a dedicated chairman, a core of fans who are loyal and long-suffering, but a chronic cash shortage and debts of 3 million we are told. Administration was very close in February but a determined cash raising campaign by fans raised £140,000 plus and staved off the vultures - for the time being. The chairman assures us we are coping and have no need to sell. But look who's here - Leeds United - sniffing at Chaplow's door and offering first half a million, then a million (allegedly) and they seem not to want to take no for an answer. With ex assistant Sam Ellis, now at Leeds, no doubt behind it, it seems only a matter of time. Personally, for an immediate million and a half, or certainly two million, I'd grab the cash, and use it to bring in at least three other players in key positions - like centre forward, where we are woefully weak, toothless and elbowless now that we no longer have Gareth Taylor. He has never been replaced since the beginning of last season. I suppose we have Ian Moore whose motto seems to be why stand up when you can dive, lose your footing, slip or just fall over at any given critical advantageous moment. Camara at fullback is a coughdrop. Fast as greased lightning, sharp as a tack, but most of his unpinpoint crosses are unerringly aimed at the River Brun, way outside the ground. (Why I often ask is Burnley not called Brunley?)
So here we are, watching a bankrupt club like Leeds United, millions in debt, signing good players left right and centre, and a squad still big enough to field two teams. Not to mention Warnock signing his usual quota. And here are BFC with a squad barely big enough to fill a minibus. Call me a pessimist, or glass half empty, but unless there are good loan signings to come we're doomed Cap'n Mainwaring, doomed ah tell ye.
If nothing else, at least the changing rooms have been spruced up and given a lick of paint and the new white away shirt is very very classy.
But football is a funny game. Who would have thought the Greeks would have won Euro 2004. BFC may surprise us all and take the bottom half of the Division by storm.
If I do this column a year from now in Division One (whoops sorry The Championship) I'll bare my bum in Burtons shop window - maybe.
Soundbites(from assorted census correspondents)
"I had my Club crest tatooed on my upper arm this summer as I am CLARET through and through........!"
"George Michal peaked when he sang club tropicana.its been downhill since then"
"I've been to Watford, it's just down the road.
You should also know that Burnley is better than Watford so this year we'd like you to play the white man and lose. :)"
"The best thing in the world is a small monkey wearing a fez and pants (help up with braces, obviously)"
"Some ribbon worms will eat themselves if they cant find any food!"
"I've been to paradise but I've never been to me"
"Never lean sideways on a Tuesday"
"I stole Chaplow's hair"
"you may notice my team for the opening day is incomplete - this is because burnley have hardly got any players at all. i'm serious, hardly any"
"My fortran program won't work!"
"Weasels can't be tempted with cheese"