What happened last season?
Do you know I can't remember how many points we got by the end of last season at Burnley? Was it the magic 60 or just a few less? It tells you one thing: if it was not a season to forget, then it was certainly a season that when all is taken into account there was no great need to remember. We survived and there in a nutshell is the end of the story.
However, as a compulsive scribbler even a story that has a quick end has various events leading up to it - so here we go.
Yesterday's man, Stan Ternent you may remember, or maybe not, was replaced by the up and coming Steve Cotterill - he who hadn't lasted long at Stoke and then hadn't lasted long at Sunderland and had then kept his hand (or feet I suppose) in at Leicester doing a bit of coaching. Burnley chairman Barry Kilby clearly thought that Steve would last longer at Turf Moor and handed him the keys to the front gates and the kitchen at Turf Moor and a three-year contract. Barry, mindful of our lack of money didn't hand him much of a budget though. Steve took what he had and spent it wisely on quality rather than quantity, McGreal, Sinclair, Duff and Coyne and then with a very small squad set about staying in Division One - I still refuse to give it that ridiculous title Championship.
The Ternent regime of shouting and hitting his players (read his book) was replaced by something more scientific and thoughtful so that goalkeepers were coached to dive about and make more saves than ever before and full backs like Camara were coached to cross the ball more accurately. Steve, once he located the kitchens, even introduced team breakfasts and lunches, proper diet essential, but this being Burnley the cost was taken from the players wages (allegedly). We, the ever loyal supporters, knew that something new and better had arrived when we discovered that the summer training tour would be to Austria and not the ghastly Isle of Man. Not quite the Champions League obviously but we can dream. We were after all, back in Europe after a long absence.
Of course he inherited the diamond that was Blake and the nugget that was Chaplow and for a while yes Blake single-handedly won us a string of games and nobody else ever seemed to score. But sadly that well known jolly scouser Paul Jewell of the JJB unsettled our Robbie with blatant poaching, undermined his loyalty to the Burnley wage packet (considerable) and the unhappy Blake went ironically not to Wigan but Birmingham where basically he languished on the bench but picked up one presumes an even bigger pay packet so at a guess he was happy enough. And then of course Chaplow was sold to West Brom but he too hardly got a full game there but such is football.
Thus in mid season Burnley picked up quite a bit of unexpected loot plus we beat the European Champions Liverpool (I think I'll write that again) we beat the European Champions Liverpool in the FA Cup and that earned some more loot and then the Blackburn games earned yet more loot - but somehow don't ask me how we are still crying poverty and sold the ground to a property group (hmmmm) but our chairman, his goodliness Saint Barry, owns the property group so that's all right then (I think).
So onward we went and ground out a few results and draws and wins and kept many clean sheets and we the fans nodded off during a few end of season games when basically what we watched would be classed as effective, functional and efficient which is a polite way of saying it was crapbutgotusafewpoints and a mid table position which we'd all have settled for at the beginning of the season when we knew how small the squad was and if you'd said to us then that Blake and Chaplow would be sold in mid term we'd have said yer must be joking God 'elp us that's the end of us then.
So credit to Cotterill then, gawd knows how he did it but he did. Well actually we do know how he did it, he got on loan one centre half by the name of Cahill from Villa and this 18-year-old lad then proceeded to win man of the match in game after game and if he maintains the progress he made at Burnley he'll play for England one day. He and McGreal together were just outstanding. Then our man Steve went back to Stoke and bought man mountain Akinbyi who actually shorn of his dreadlocks didn't look quite so big and terrifying and looks like the proverbial bloke next door. His debut was rather special. He came with an injury so it was a while before we saw him in action. Towards the end of the Sunderland game on he came as sub and lasted a couple of minutes before he was sent off for head butting a Sunderland player. We were all quite stunned and didn't know whether to laugh or cry, I elected to laugh it was so absurd. Anyway he was very sorry afterwards and apparently went round the whole club, tea ladies and all, apologising - so that's all right then. And Cotts was very impressed when he apologised to his teammates in the dressing room afterwards. And somewhere along the line in atonement he chopped off the dreaded dreadlocks and we all worried that like Samson he'd lose all his strength but no, we were all impressed when he scored 4 goals (or was it 5) by the season's end and helped cement our place in the Cha… Division One.
But God we saw some crap last season, sorry Steve, sorry Barry, it has to be said, but we know it was all in the cause of survival and it obviously worked otherwise Matt at Watford wouldn't have asked me to write this piece for the Watford website, and things can only get better.
But, let's end by remembering that glorious night we beat the European Champions 1-0, and to be honest we outplayed them. Benitez thought he could put a few reserves in but he still had two thirds of his first team out on the field and we ended up show boating and making fun of them and it truly was one of those great Turf Moor nights when the roof comes off. When Traore scored that ridiculous own goal you could never ever have imagined that this lot would go on to win the Champions League and win my neighbour over £7000 when at halftime, losing 3 - 0 and with the odds at 350 to 1 she put an internet bet on. And then Blackburn the old enemy came and just one touch of class won them the reply when it was all even at 1 - 1 and really was anybody's game.
So, all in all, we are satisfied because we know that SC is taking this club by the scruff of the neck and changing things, and laying down foundations at the training ground, and investing money in new pitches, building up a good back room staff and such like. And rumour has it we have one or two good young uns coming through so who knows next season might just see better things… so more of that later. Tell you one last thing though I might not have mentioned thus far - we beat the European Champions in the FA Cup…the European Champions… bloody hell.
What's going to happen next season?
Only two things are certain next season. One team will be champs and one will be bottom. Less certain is that Burnley will come somewhere nearer top than bottom. I wouldn't have said that last season. This time round though it is just possible there is cause for more optimism as Stevie C gathers his troops and adds one by one to his tiny squad. If there is one thing that will count against us though it is just that, the squad size.
The fifth summer signing was made today, a 20 year old American left back released by Arsenal with an almost unpronounceable name - K… K something. One hopes that his Arsenal background gives him a reasonable pedigree. Already signed from Bournemouth are half back O'Connor and Elliott. The latter gave us a torrid time on a cup game last season and Cotterill obviously put his name down in his little Claret book under the heading "must sign".
If this lad can provide the service for the twin battering rams of Akinbyi and Gifton Noel-Williams, the latter signed in the summer, then Burnley do indeed possess a physically strong pair up front that could wreak havoc a la Roberts and Ellington at Wigan last season. The only slight problem is that even the most blinkered Burnley fan would recognise that Akinbiyi and Gifton are the poor man's Roberts and Ellington.
But hey, what the hell, never mind, Cotts is clearly going for pace and power and size. One of his first remarks when he arrived at Burnley was how physically small the players were. We now possess more than our fair share of 6 footers. I haven't seen a club win this league yet with small players. The plan seems to be get the big buggers in. It has always worked for West Brom - more than once - although they do seem to come straight back down again most seasons.
There is no truth in the rumour that Stoke City are our official feeder club even though we have taken one of their youths as well as all the rest. This one is a 6' 3" centre half. Told you we are going for size this year. It is mere coincidence that we have signed five of their players - the two strikers and O'Connor (he of the carrot top) and Wayne Thomas a full back of power and pace. Stoke fans will not know who to boo first when we step on their turf next season - they already dislike Cotterill, now they have five more upon whom to vent their spleen.
And how long will Cotts stay I hear you ask? Once again he is a hot property after his miracle working last season. I sense it won't be long before a bigger club comes sniffing round if he has another good season at BFC and don't forget a good season for us will be anything in the top half and a bit of cash coming in from any gratefully received cup runs.
Our chairman, the venerable Barry, keeps telling us that with our limited budgets we are continually punching above our weight. That may well be true but the average Burnley fan just once in a whole would like perhaps to hear a more optimistic message now that we have consolidated our debts, solved one or two monetary problems and have a bloody good manager, who with a decent sized squad would I am sure have us in the top six. Only just over 8000 season tickets sold though as I write this at the back end of June. Not good.
We tend to trust Barry. He is probably the only chairman who actually played for his club - though that was in the youth ranks many years ago, and he is a committed Claret unlike some Chairmen who appear out of nowhere, sell the ground and then disappear with the takings and build a supermarket.
Meanwhile Cotts jets around the world looking for talent. So far he has been to Spain, Germany, and latterly the USA to watch two international games. I would not be so churlish as to suggest that this is a nice way of seeing the world, I've done enough travelling to suggest that a flight to the USA and back in the space of a couple of days in a cramped seat barely big enough for a battery hen is anything but pleasant.
We were linked with Leroy Lita but it seems that has come to nought, reports suggest he is on his way to Reading. Maybe there will be a couple of loans to supplement the squad. If there is one consolation from having such a small number of players maybe it is this - in training they can have a ball each.
Ah well I'll be bold and suggest a top half finish if we can cop hold of a few more players. If not let's prepare ourselves for another struggle. And Cotts will be headhunted before long methinks as he slowly re establishes his reputation damaged at Stoke and Sunderland.
Soundbites(from assorted census correspondents)
"We will take any young player on loan, and return him better! Guaranteed!"
"we are the egg men i am a walrus coo coo ca choo"
"Can't be bothered picking a team when we only have 12 players"
"what the flying f*ck is this website all about?"
"What do you mean 9 digits on each hand isn't normal!"