Burnley`s Brave New World
Burnley`s Brave New World
EVERY now and again, the Clarets Player on Burnley FC`s official website reminds us that it is actually worth a little less than 10 pence a day to reach for the "behind the scenes" life at Turf Moor."
One of those occasions I enjoyed earlier this week. During a turgid international encounter between England and Wales, I enjoyed a glass of white wine and a stroll around Gawthorpe with Clarets chief Eddie Howe.
Until this point I`d not actually realised that he and his assistant Jason Tindall had been the visual engineers of what looks to be a very pristine facility. And although I was aware that Cotts, Owen and Brian had trained their respective Burnley teams while nipping over to the Turf for a wash afterwards, it was only really when taking this virtual tour that it dawned on me how dilapidated our training ground was. We were the first team in the country to own a separate training facility (so I remember Jimmy Hill once saying on Football Focus) and here we were attempting to be a Premier League outfit in facilities not even at "League Two level".
It was pleasing to see a proud Eddie holding court at Gawthorpe. He`s often looked like a fish out of water in his brief tenure at the club but when you see how he`s lovingly curated the players` environment, there`s a growing sense of comfort in how he fits into the surroundings.
It was a little amusing to see the official site describing the Clarets boss as "Content Eddie Howe" when referring to his transfer window dealings. Everybody knows he`s at least two or three short from where he wants to be as he is at pains to point out in his bulletins.
But in fairness Eddie did look happy with his lot on the training ground, even if the last few weeks have not been free of irritations for him.
He has handled himself with great poise and professionalism despite obvious concerns. He doesn`t make excuses and appears to be focusing on what he has got, rather than what`s been lost. He managed to channel all of that into a really positive performance from the team at Derby. I was lucky enough to be at that one and it felt like a genuine turning point.
The enforced break was not too welcome after that and the Middlesbrough game can`t come soon enough.
It seems the sparse amount of football action has been buried by events and non-events off it.
Ever since the departure of Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears on the eve of our pre-season visit to Torquay - coupled with Jack Cork`s decision to make the more lucrative move to the South Coast and Southampton - there has been mounting scepticism from supporters.
Barry Kilby`s cautionary response to our downwardly spiralling fiscal condition was a little too honest for many. He might have simplified it all by saying. "Well we had some spare cash but Brian spent it all on players."
Eddie was at his lowest ebb after Crystal Palace, where we were, by all accounts, poor. The team that had needed a "few tweaks" a few weeks earlier, had become a "team in transition".
Since, buoyed by both a win and three "anywhere across the line" young attackers, Eddie is in offensive mood, "content" with life but accepting that "not all of it was planned".
So what was in the plan and what wasn`t in the plan? The sale of Danny Fox - it seemed - was not in the "plan". Brendan Flood had a different plan. But did all the plans come together for the deadline day decision to pack Wade Elliott off to Birmingham?
It appears that it was even in Wade`s plan! Somewhere along the line, it turns out that our Wade, my mum`s favourite player, and one of the finest Clarets of a generation, "wanted away".
One could be forgiven for thinking that the player described below was just what our Burnley squad needed ahead of the transfer deadline day.
'He can play anywhere across that midfield area, he's got an offensive ability and can score goals.
'He's also a fit lad who knows the Championship very well. If you look at his record of games over the last six or seven years he doesn't miss many games.
'He's a reliable player and with the amount of games we've got this season then you need somebody with that reliability.'
With no small irony, this was of course the assessment from Birmingham boss Chris Hughton on his eleventh hour capture.
Elliott`s south coast comrades would not, after all, be helping him see out a Turf Moor swansong. There would be no new lease of life from the Bournemouth connection. 283 games, a fans favourite and a consistent first teamer for his three previous managers, but not welcome in the nu-school or the new changing rooms.
Is it a shortcoming of Eddie Howe`s management skill that he struggles to get the best out of experienced players? Or was it simply that Wade had reached the end of the line in a Burnley shirt?
Whatever, experience appears to count for little in the new strategy being adopted by Burnley FC in terms of player recruitment. Eddie has swapped our six-season man and immortal Wembley hero (not to mention a man who Clarke Carlisle described as being "much more intelligent" than the country`s brainiest footballer) with a rough diamond 21-year-old new father of twins. Welcome Junior!
Grooming fresh talent and polishing up rough diamonds is what Eddie is all about. Or at least, it seems, it`s what the Burnley FC Board think he`s about. There is no obvious place at Turf Moor for those on the wrong side of 30 years old who consider first team football the norm.
Initially, I felt only indignation that we had decided to let Wade go. But such frustrations tends to subside. It's only football after all.
The upshot of the squad upheaval has been far greater than any of us could have imagined and now, more than for a long time, will this young team and manager need united support from the stands.
It`s a time for new heroes. For my mum. For all of us.