Don't mention the 'C' Word
"CONSISTENCY" has become the buzzword of every manager in The Championship.
They`re all talking about it but not many are finding it.
Darren Ferguson can`t move for it. Steve Kean thinks he has it. Being played off the park by Middlesbrough was merely a blip in his team`s inevitable parade to promotion apparently. It`s sad indeed that the Agent appears to be fast running of rants. The end could well be in sight.
Simon Grayson and Gus Poyet are the stand-out upholders of the 'C word` so far. Brighton have won five on the trot now and they have pretty much brushed aside all-comers in that run. They impressed at Turf Moor and looked like a team with a game plan but we were awful, so possibly hard to deduce just how good a team they are. Huddersfield, meanwhile, turned a promising start into a head-turning one by doing Blackpool on their own windswept turf on Monday night. Another of the quartet of teams to make us look second-best. Their game plan is undoubtedly aided by Oliver Norwood, their Burnley supporting midfielder who stands over all their set-pieces. He claimed two assists on Monday and looked like the best passer on the park. Now there`s one that got away :(
If truth were told, consistency has been an elusive commodity for Eddie Howe since leaving Bournemouth in League One and heading north to Turf Moor.
For his hometown club, he won nine out of the first 10 matches at the start of the League Two promotion campaign (2009/10). That season culminated in a strong finish too. The Cherries lost just two of the last nine to clinch runners-up spot with 83 points.
Ever since, Eddie has only been consistent for his inconsistency. Three wins on the bounce is his best sequence of victories in the league and our longest unbeaten stretch under his tenure amounts to only four games.
Compare this with our successful 2008/09 campaign under Owen Coyle. Including our cup games, we had one 9-match unbeaten run, four 6-match runs and one 5-match run. All in one season!
We`re a world away from showing that type of form but we live in eternal hope that it could be round the corner. Eddie Howe has had 84 matches in charge at Burnley now. 34 wins, 33 defeats, 17 draws. A model of inconsistency.
Long unbeaten runs seem so last decade that even back-to-back wins would suffice for now. If nothing else to at least appease the supporters` constant scrutiny (not guilty m`lud ;). At least I held my breath after the Leicester game. I really felt we`d lose that one and win at Derby. I`m terrible at predicting football results in general but Burnley are falling into such a familiar pattern.
One win and one defeat is better than two draws of course but, in some ways, proving we`re not so easy to beat by earning two draws on the road would be a welcome occurrence if it helps build the squad`s confidence.
Eddie pondered the "C" word in the aftermath of our fortunate win at Pride Park, our first away win of the season. Back-to-back victories do not mean consistency, but it is a start.
And so on to Millwall, who are in some ways to us what we are to Derby County. A right pain in the arse. I was pleased to see this fixture turn up in September, and not March or April, as Kenny "The Beaver" Jackett, has, for two seasons running now, brandished the dagger through the heart of our campaign, his team`s twice scoring thrice.
The problem with symmetry such as this is that if we fall behind, the fear of failure will no doubt engulf our players, as appeared to afflict Nigel Clough`s Derby. Eddie and Jason will put their hands deeper into their shiny tracksuit trousers and Turf Moor will evacuate circa 16.40 when number three hits the back of the net and another Millwall hero will emerge with the only 'brace` of his career.
We have to put an end to situations like this. Eddie has been up north long enough now to be able to form a guard of resistance against mediocre southern opposition stealing points from this supposedly hostile outpost.
So Eddie needs to put another bogey to bed to meet his aim of two successive wins. By all means take one game at a time but a distinctly out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday front up the following Tuesday.
Being consistent enough to win Saturday / Tuesday has always been a trait beyond most Burnley managers. Howe has managed it once, early in his tenure, when we beat Swansea then Middlesbrough. He did also manage two home wins on the bounce inside the Christmas week (Doncaster and Hull).
Remarkably, Leicester City were the only team in the division to win twice in this last round of a double home week.
The required momentum requires a more rounded collective effort. Eddie backs his players and rarely lays into them in the aftermath of a defeat, but this week he has said it`s "no good playing well one minute and poor the next".
This was as close as he gets to admit his despair at the situation, but only he can mastermind a change in form.
At Leicester he set the team up being more difficult to beat. Hence Brian Stock made his long awaited first league start and played well. He only lost his place due to the demands of playing twice in a week but thanks to Charlie Austin`s opportunism, we got away with it.
It looks like Stock (or Crock) will be reserved for away matches - especially given Eddie`s tendency to play 4-4-2 at home.
The League Cup defeat at Swindon was greeted with some concern from many but I would have been more surprised had we won than lost. Four games in 10 days is too much for this squad and Swindon are a team in great form at home.
I just hope we can overcome that fatigue for Saturday. We showed a considerable improvement in tempo in the last home league game and if we can match that over the course of the next two matches, with less tippy-tappy football and a more direct course to the final third at times, it might just provide the platform towards a run of form that could have us looking up again. The C Word can come later.