OK, so if you’re expecting sarcasm and a general belittling of Burnley, then I suggest you look for another article somewhere else on the internet. There will be no mention of pets, the diet of Burnley’s population, nor its voting habits. Just a simple look at the side’s footballing credentials and what next season means to the Claret fans.
So, let’s be honest, did anyone outside of the UK not from Lancashire originally or over 50 years old know where Burnley even was before they stormed to the Play-Off’s on the last few weeks of the season? In my footballing watching and supporting life, Burnley have never been anywhere near the top division in just over 30 years, so it may have caught plenty of people out, but as I’ve mentioned previously, Burnley and their fans aren’t expecting a good press.
Nope, they are this season’s cannon fodder if you believe everything you see written about them so far. Odds on to come straight back down by every bookmaker in Britain; the omens do not look good on paper, yet no-one wins things with paper players. Burnley made a dreadful start to last season, only scoring 1 goal in their first 4 games, but then began to make a steady climb up the table from September onwards. Coupled with the fantastic run in the Carling Cup, which saw them beat Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal and be two minutes from Wembley until Jermaine Defoe saved Tottenham’s blushes, Burnley ruffled feathers all season.
With bigger clubs and considerably larger budgets brought down to earth, Owen Coyle created a side that played neat, tidy and incisive football for the majority of the season. As it drew to a close, they hit a tremendous run of form, with just 3 defeats in the final 18 league games and as Cardiff City imploded, Burnley could still have missed out if results had gone against them. Yet, when it came to the play offs, they were imperious, beating Reading home and away before easily dealing with Sheffield United in the final.
Coyle has certainly got Burnley playing football, which can cause sides problems at any level. Becoming the first team to beat 5 Premiership sides in a season without actually being a member is an enviable record. The key question is can they bring their cup form in to a full Premiership season. As daft as it sounds, it may be easier for them to play football in the Premiership this season, with sides prepared to match them stride for stride.
As with all newly promoted sides, home form is crucial and there is no doubting the level of support the Clarets will receive. Turf Moor, whilst not the ramshackle, ancient ground some commentators will make you think it is, it can still be an intimidating arena for visiting sides. Contrary to popular belief, Burnley is not colder than Russia in December, so watch out for sides being warned about “not fancying it up north on a cold November night”. Oddly, that didn’t help either Newcastle or Middlesbrough last season, but it’ll still be bandied about by cliche addicted commentators.
Signings wise, it was obvious that the team needed strengthening and Coyle has so far brought in several players. Tyrone Mears returns to the UK after a year at Marseille, the promising Steven Fletcher finally gets to try his hand in English football and a trio of promising young defenders have signed up. Brian Easton comes south, from Hamilton Academicals, Richard Eckersley joining from Manchester United and David Edgar left Newcastle on a Bosman. The key factor for me with these signings are all under 27, hungry and eager to prove themselves, something Coyle looks to capitalise on.
Added to the two major signings they made last season, Chris Eagles and Martin Patterson, Coyle is building a team that can keep progressing. Whilst questions may be asked about the age of the new signings, Coyle may be working with the attitude of a younger team showing less fear. Overall, I have to say it’s going to be tough for them, but as with the two other promoted sides, there are other teams in the Premiership that could continue the dreadful form in to the forthcoming campaign.
Hull City and Portsmouth are both finding it increasingly difficult to add to their squads, which could give Burnley heart. Also, Burnley’s start for a newly promoted side is hellish! Starting away at Stoke, they then entertain Manchester United and Everton, before trips to Chelsea and Liverpool. Any points at all from those 5 games will be a fantastic achievement, but if not then they have to take strength and realise they’ve got those games out of the way. Their run in is a considerably easier task to face and could be crucial come the final few weeks of the season. No-one gives them a prayer, but Hull City showed what a team spirit can get you for 3 months and Coyle will be keen to keep Burnley fighting all season.