In the first half it felt like another typical Burnley performance that saw us relegated. Despite some bright spells we conceded the obligatory early goal courtesy of more kamikaze defending, followed by a second to almost kill the game off.
However this is a Burnley side that have begun to find its feet again over the last few weeks and quickly started to make amends. It was like watching us at the start of the campaign again as our confidence began to grow and grow and once Wade Elliot pulled one back from a fantastically worked move we never looked back.
Many may say Spurs had nothing really to play for following their securing of the Champions League qualification spot for next season in midweek but take nothing away from Burnley, they never gave ‘Arry’s side a minute on the ball and at times played some incredibly probing attacking football.
Martin Paterson in particular starred from the right hand side with a typical workman like display fused with some excellent delivery. I still feel that without his and Chris McCann’s injuries this season the league table may look slightly different right now. The rest of the team rallied too, Bikey and the skipper Caldwell kept things ticking over at the back, while the central three of Elliot, Cork and Alexander dominantly buzzed in midfield.
I know I keep talking about ifs and buts in this piece however those who’ve read this blog over the last few months will testify that it has been my intense belief that if we hadn’t switched to 4-4-2 for vital games against the teams around then we may not be on our way back to the Championship. The same goes for the decision not to play Bikey at centre back until the weekend. For me they are all decisions that form part of the litany of tactical and selection mistakes we’ve made over the past few months.
That swings us nicely onto the future of Brian Laws as manager. I personally still remain undecided. Despite relegation things have definitely picked up for him on the pitch over the past few weeks, a settled side and formation has helped as unlike earlier in his tenure the changes he’s made have pretty much been enforced.
As much as I think we have thrown away survival part of me still thinks he deserves a chance to have a crack at the job away from the immediate glare of the watching eye of the Premier League media’s pressure cooker. It’s definitely been a difficult job for him post-Coyle which is why I’m willing to be more lenient with my analysis of his position.
What we can’t get away from though is that results haven’t been good enough. The failures in tactics and selection in particular have been disappointing and I do remain slightly worried that this naivety could resurface next season in high pressure games now he’s expected to better his best ever finish in the Championship by some way. Mine and others leniency towards Laws may quickly change as we now quickly go from pretty much relegation certainties to expecting a top six finish.
Laws popularity is also a worry, while I try to remain as philosophical as possible in my disappointment with our relegation others do not. The manager was booed by some during the player’s lap of honour on Sunday while the same minority also applauded the Spurs fans chants of Laws imminent sacking during the first half.
Given this I sometimes wonder whether this general lack of acceptance may be too much for him to turn around as a few bad results at the start of next season would heap more pressure on the board to relieve him of his duties after a preseason of allowing him to start to build his own team. Could it be best to get rid now and wipe the slate clean from our Premier League season? I’m still not sure of the answer.
Laws though can go to the board having beaten Spurs and finished above Hull in the table earning the club a tidy eight hundred thousand pounds in the process. This will surely strengthen his case to be given more time, as will the fact he got the club to thirty points and above the rumoured threshold that would’ve seen him paid off on the cheap.
My fear of a mass exodus has subsided slightly although I do remain worried we may lose some key players in the summer. I expect the likes of Tyrone Mears and Steven Fletcher to be courted by others in the Premier League while there are rumours Owen Coyle may be sniffing around the likes of Wade Elliot.
Then there are the out of contract players. With Clark Carlisle seemingly the only one having put pen to paper so far, I’d love to see Brian Jensen, Michael Duff, Stephen Jordan, Steven Thompson and Robbie Blake stay to be part of our squad next year.
Finally I’d like to talk about Robbie Blake who looks set to leave Turf Moor this summer. The striker turned wide man is most definitely the most talented footballer I have witnessed during my time supporting Burnley Football Club. Blakey’s flair, quick feet and eye for a goal have brightened up my afternoons watching the clarets and he will be sorely missed if he decides to walk away.
During his two spells at the club I have seen him score some remarkable goals, most notably against Preston in seasons past and Blackburn and Manchester United this term. He is truly the sort of player that I would love to have seen see out his day at Burnley Football Club. I understand his reasons if he does decide to go in search of regular first team football, but I do think he will have a big part to play with us in the Championship if he decides to stay.
As fans we certainly let him know how much he means to us on Sunday and I just hope that was not the last time I see him in Claret and Blue. What I’d really like to say to Robbie is that he could move and not achieve first team football all next season wherever he goes, but what I do know is that if he remains a Burnley player every single fan will sing his name and will him onto the pitch whenever he is not in the team.
Sometimes it is definitely better the devil you know and I hope that he doesn’t act in haste to leave a club that holds him in such high esteem. If it is to be the end then I think everyone will join me in saying thanks for the memories and agree that Robbie Blake will always be a claret.