Although it is extremely disappointing to be relegated to the Premier League our fall from grace is softened greatly by our healthy bank balance. After seeing the team I love struggle to combine survival and success on the pitch over the last few years it is amazing to see Burnley Football Club in such a strong financial position.
It has been a joy to watch our small town club go toe to toe with the leagues big boy and even better to turn some of them over, but the way we set up to tackle the Premier League was always going to prove to be more prudent than potent. We go down not only able to compete on the pitch against the rest of the Championship, but for the first time ever we are able to challenge some of the leagues bigger clubs for the best players in terms of budget.
On the whole the season has been an amazing experience, growing up I never thought I’d see the day my team beat the likes of Manchester United in a league match. Of course there are some regrets and little frustrations that eat away at you. In those quiet moments you think about what would’ve happened if we hadn’t suffered the disruption of Owen Coyle leaving? What if we’d have picked up an extra point here, or a win there? And particularly for me, the sadness that we are down with two games left to play.
All season I’ve said that if we go down I’d like it to go down to the final day, then we could go back to the Championship knowing we pushed those around us to the limit. Unfortunately, the likes of West Ham have pulled themselves clear of relegation when in reality ourselves and Hull have not taken advantage of their inability to get results over the last few months.
Looking at the way we played against Liverpool I genuinely believe that if we’d have got that starting eleven set up in that particular way earlier in Laws’ tenure we might still have a chance of staying up. The energy which we showed would’ve been enough to get us wins against Wolves and Portsmouth at home and probably one or two other results too. Instead the manager persisted with 4-4-2 more often than not until that hammering by Manchester City.
That six one spanking and the home defeat to Rovers a week previous will go down as the two major lows on the pitch during the campaign but looking back there are so many more positives to take. I’ve already mentioned the Manchester United victory; then there were the wins over Everton and Sunderland at home, a tremendous night at Turf Moor where we drew with Arsenal and of course our first away win at Hull.
Liverpool weren’t four goals better than us on Sunday but the game proved another harsh Premier League lesson. Our two main faults this season have been defensive lapses and not taking our chances; against Liverpool it was chances squandered in the first half that cost us. The score line didn’t reflect the way we played and the passion that was on show but in the end it didn’t matter as without those three points we were down anyway.
The major low off the pitch is obviously the whole Owen Coyle scenario. Whether he was right or wrong to go our former deity jumping ship in January devastated the football club. In fact the whole town was left rocked as he and the majority of the coaching staff also went “sideways” to the Reebok.
For me he will always be remembered for the remarkable job he did in taking Burnley Football Club into the Premier league. It is a feat that should never have been tainted but sadly it has been as I will always look back on what might have been if he had shown us the loyalty I think we all feel we deserved. Whether we did or not is a different story; football is a fickle game and in truth both Owen and Burnley got what they wanted from each other. We secured our future with a dream season in the Premier League and he got to become a top flight manager beyond this season.
Would we have stayed up with Coyle still in charge? I think we would have. We may have been on a bad run that continued further after he left but with the signings he took to Bolton and the way he picked us up from a poor run of form last season I think he’d have got us getting results again.
That’s not a dig at Brian Laws either, in my view the job he inherited was much more difficult than the one Coyle vacated. Laws has tried his very best to keep Burnley up against a backdrop of rising unpopularity, tales of infighting and post Coyle gloom.
Sadly we lost vital home matches against Portsmouth and Wolves and drew with Stoke when in reality considering our away form we had to take a minimum of seven points from those three fixtures. From then on the gradient on which we were fighting our battle for survival was dramatically increasing week by week.
There is no doubt that the Premier League is an extremely tough place to be. With fewer games to get results that millions of pounds depend on we have often found ourselves up against teams that have spent big in order to simply get their hands on their next paycheque. It’s a viscous circle that is bad for football, especially when you see the likes of Portsmouth and Hull who like us came to the Premier League after spells in the wilderness and blew it all.
Out of the three relegated clubs Burnley will be in the strongest position for a return back to the division next season. Whether that can be achieved is another thing but I am sure that we’ll give it our best shot. Promotion last season was the beginning of a new chapter it the life of Burnley Football Club and I’m glad to say relegation won’t be the end of it.
Whether Brian Laws will be the man at the helm remains to be seen. I have thought he will be given the chance to build his side next season but now I am not so sure. With talks set to take place at the end of the season and rumours abound of points clauses in his contract which could see him paid off on the cheap may make the decision easier for the board.
Talk of a Europa League place if Fulham win the competition in a couple of weeks have also added to this bizarre campaign. Although I would be delighted to see Burnley venture into Europe once more deep down I do feel the place would be better offered to the likes of Everton or whoever manages to finishes highest. Despite this, I’ve still got my “Former Soviet States” holiday brochure on order ready to check on availability for potential destinations for the qualifiers in July.
In all seriousness, I want our only priority to be making ourselves a force in the Championship next season. If that is going to happen we must add to our squad, fight to keep our best players and most importantly learn to win again. There are pros and cons to Europe, it may help attract a better standard of player and help keep the ones we have but it could also go the other way and stunt performances on the pitch.
Whatever happens with that I the future is bright, I remain sure of that and with two games to go in our Premier League campaign I urge everyone who has an interest in the football club to go out on a high.
It has been a real roller coaster ride and one I have enjoyed immensely. Being given the platform on this site to speak about Burnley to a worldwide audience has been a joy. Everyone who has read my words over the season will know how much it has meant to see my team reach the Premier League against all odds. Words can not describe how proud I am of all Burnley Football Club has achieved over the last eighteen months; in fact just thinking about it now is bringing a genuine tear or two to my eyes.
Up the Clarets and remember, Burnley will be back.