South West Tour ends with Cheltenham
The Clarets will be hoping to maintain their 100% sequence of pre-season friendly wins when they line-up against Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road (aka Abbey Business Stadium) this Saturday in the second and final match of their summer South West Tour. So far the Clarets have won all three of their pre-season friendlies at Altrincham, Bury and Bath City. After today`s game which kicks off at 3pm Burnley will just have one pre-season friendly left away to Rochdale on Tuesday night. It would be good to finish undefeated with a 100% record of wins before the new season kicks-off with the Capital One Cup game away to Port Vale on Tuesday August 14th.
There has been a certain amount of criticism that the pre-season games this summer have not been that challenging. All the games have come from the lower leagues. We will also not have faced any club higher than League 1 (Bury) before the new Championship season kicks off with the high-profile game against Bolton at Turf Moor on Saturday 18h August. That is a slight worry although I did hear that the club tried to fix a home game against Premier League Everton on the Saturday before but it fell through.
We shall have to hope that we don`t pay the cost but let`s now focus on today`s game against League 2, Cheltenham Town.
We last played the Robins in another summer friendly just before the start of the 2005-6 season. Our manager Steve Cotterill at the time was returning to the club he had previously managed along with former player Michael Duff, one of Cotterill signings for the Clarets. Burnley fans were waiting with eager anticipation to see how well our new summer signings would slot into the team. Who were the new summer signings? Well now here is a blast from the past! Wade Elliott and Garreth O`Connor had just joined from AFC Bournemouth and we welcomed two new signings from Stoke City with Wayne Thomas and Gifton Noel Williams both having signed in. Clarets fans were also struggling to pronounce let alone spell the surname of one Danny Karbassiyoon who had previously played the odd game or two for Arsenal. The game was our first of the pre-season preparations and was played at a pace you would expect in a 'cobweb remover`. Most players looked fit and the new boys looked promising but most lacked sharpness as you might expect for the first game since returning to training. It finished goalless with the defence never looking in danger. Our attack on another day might have scored a panful but it just never happened for the lads this time.
Cheltenham is currently managed by a familiar face, Mark Yates. Yates of course, a former Cheltenham player was first team coach at Turf Moor for most of the Cotterill era. He spent one-and-half years at the club before being given the chance to manage a squad in his own right after joining Kidderminster Harriers in January 2006. He was appointed manager of Cheltenham in December 2009 and last season led them to the 2012 League Two play-off final which they unfortunately lost 2-0 to Crewe.
So what will Burnley`s tactics and line-up(s) be today? Against Bath City a number of the players were given a 60 minute run-about before Eddie Howe decided to wring the changes. Only Brian Jensen played the full 90 minutes. In that match we lined up as follows:
Burnley Starting Eleven: Jensen, Trippier, Duff, Mee, Lafferty, Stanislas, Marney, McCann, Treacy, Ings, Austin.
Burnley Team B: Jensen, Long, Edgar, Shackell, O'Neill, Hewitt, MacDonald, Mills, Porter, Wallace, Vokes
Sam Vokes of course had just been signed that day from Wolves and made his second debut for the club in the second half but could not score on a day the Clarets impressed to win 3-1. There has been no new signings since but once again we have been linked strongly with a move for Doncaster Rovers midfielder, Brian Stock. It is unlikely though he would be signed in time to play against Cheltenham.
Eddie Howe though has virtually the whole squad again to choose from with only Marvin Bartley still recovering from injury. Martin Paterson was rested against Bath City after picking up a minor knee injury. He too though could be in contention for a place against the Robins. Paterson has been speaking himself against his spate of injuries these past few seasons trying to reassure Clarets fans the current problem is only a minor one. He told the local media this week :
"I completed the first two games (at Altrincham and Bury) and sat out Tuesday just because I had a little kick to the knee. I could have played, but there is no point taking risks, so I sat that one out and did my extra work in the gym and I`m back training hard now and looking forward to competing," he said.
"I feel I have come back the fittest I have ever been. I`ve done an awful lot of rehab over the summer and without going into too much detail I am fitter than ever.
"I had a few hamstring problems, but that is something that has now been addressed. It took a few setbacks to get to the root of the problem, but that`s solved now and I think if you ask anyone who has seen me train, they will tell you that I`m looking a lot like my old self.
"It is quite complex when you have someone who plays the way I do and expects to do many high intensity sprints. When you start picking up problems it can be difficult to diagnose, but we think we have got to the root cause and certain exercises have helped to strengthen the area.
"I am doing all the right things to keep myself fit and the proof is in the pudding. Touch wood, I`ll stay as I am."
With so many options open to Howe it is difficult to know how he will play this one although he could now be tempted to play some of his players being earmarked for a first team start in the Championship opener against Bolton for the full 90 minutes. What I will do is select what I think will currently be our best starting eleven based on current pre-season form and see if any of the teams playing against Cheltenham look remotely like it! Why not give me your choice below this article? Anyway here goes :
Jensen, Trippier, Shackell, Mee, Lafferty, Wallace, McCann, Marney, Stanislas, Vokes, Austin Subs: Jensen, Mills, Duff (or Edgar), Porter, Treacy, Ings, Paterson.