Burnley will be hoping they won`t be saying ‘goodbye` to the Premier League but ‘au revoir` after losing their battle to stay in the top flight following their relegation back down to the Championship So we managed just one season playing against the elite after 33 years of trying and now we have to do it all again and try and get back next season. It won`t be easy but the Clarets are already favourites to make an instant return to the top flight. We go down in pretty good shape financially and Clarets fans will be hoping we can build a strong squad in the summer helped of course by the parachute payments.
Before all that though there is the little matter of our final game of the 2009-10 season. Tottenham Hotspur are the visitors and come to Turf Moor on Sunday 9th May safe in the knowledge that they are assured of 4th place and will be playing Champions League football next season. The match don`t forget kicks-off at 4pm and will now also be televised live by ESPN for those of you unable to get to the game.
Clarets fans will be hoping we can finish on a high on Sunday after a frustrating and disappointing season and it would be good to get our first win at home since February. Let`s hope our Premier League swansong offers something to cheer about before we start preparations for the summer. Up the Clarets!
Predicted Team Sheet
The big question I guess is whether Chris McCann will make an appearance following virtually a season-long problem with injuries. McCann has now recovered from surgery to repair a slightly torn cartilage and has since played in the reserves. Although absent from our second-string midweek 3-2 victory against Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night it will be interesting to see if Brian Laws gives McCann one final chance to play in the Premier League on Sunday. If he is fit enough, Laws might be tempted to at least have him available on the bench.
It has been a frustrating season for Chris following a long lay-off initially with a cruciate and medial ligament injury picked up in the game against Sunderland at Turf Moor last September. Although he made a remarkable recovery and was back in action by January after just two games he picked up yet another knee injury which later proved to be a cartilage problem. McCann will be hoping to have one final go in the Premier League after managing just eight games all season.
Clarke Carlisle went over on his ankle in training before the Liverpool game and has not been in the eighteen since. It doesn`t look like he will feature in our final game of the season either. Carlisle, who signed a new two year contract earlier this year it was revealed this week, has been speaking about his injury in his own blog:
“It’s been horrible having to watch these last few games without a hope of involvement. After rolling my ankle in training my season came to an abrupt end. A shooting exercise, not even a contact session, and I fell over Chris Eagles. I did score a quality goal though! The swelling was instant and massive, but the quick work of our physio team managed to contain and reduce any adverse effects”
If the Clarets were not fighting to finish above Hull in third from bottom spot and reap a £800,000 reward, Laws might have been tempted to play some of our younger professionals and those on the fringes of the first team. He might also have dropped those players who have making noises that they will not be plying their trade with Burnley in the Championship next season and will be seeking a move to Premier League clubs. Eagles was not even named in the eighteen in our last game against Brum at St Andrews last Saturday but Nugent did feature so perhaps we can expect the same again. I would though be tempted to start Thompson ahead of Nugent. Thommo has had the habit of scoring in recent games after coming on from the bench and has generally looked impressive so why not give him a start?
Caldwell this week seemed to be suggesting that he could soon be leaving Turf Moor. The captain is out of contract in the summer and has found limited opportunities to play this season mainly due to a persistent groin strain injury. Laws however named him in the starting eleven against Birmingham City last Saturday for the first time since December. Clarets fans were critical of the decision, not because of Caldwell`s comeback but because it was Michael Duff who had to make way rather than Leon Cort. Cort is seen as one of Laws favourites, having signed him in the January window whereas Duff seems to have been the better centre back of late and put in some determined, impressive performances. It will be interesting to see what Laws does this time.
I would like to see the following line-up but suspect Laws might be tempted to put out a similar eighteen to the one named for the Brum game last week.
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork, Paterson, Thompson, Fletcher,
Subs: Weaver, Caldwell, Bikey, McCann or McDonald, Blake, Rodriguez, Nugent
Burnley Team News:
McCann targeted a return for the final game of the season and it will be interesting to see if Laws names him in the eighteen against Spurs. Clarke Carlisle though looks to have played his last game of the season after picking up an ankle injury in training two weeks ago before the Liverpool defeat.
Player to watch: Jack Cork
Cork has been our most impressive midfielder since arriving on loan from Chelsea in February this year and assuming he plays this will be his last game for the Clarets before returning to Stamford Bridge. Let`s hope he can finish on a high having picked up a number of Man of the Match awards for the Clarets so far this season. Most Clarets fans will be hoping we can perhaps get him on a season-long loan next season in the Championship but Chelsea may have other ideas.
Tottenham Hospur Team News:
With a Champions League place assured, it is thought Harry Redknapp is likely to make changes with Ledley King certain to be rested. King has been suffering from a debilitating knee condition despite playing recent games for Spurs and he will be keen not to damage his chances of going to the World Cup.
Redknapp might even be tempted to give Ben Alnwick a rare start in goal. Regular keeper, Heurelho Gomes could be rested to allow him to fully recover from his groin strain ahead of the World Cup.
Niko Kranjcar (ankle/foot injury), Jonathan Woodgate (groin strain), Vedran Corluka (sprained ankle) and Carlo Cudicini (broken wrist) are also all still sidelined.
Player to watch: Gareth Bale
The Welsh international left winger and left back has come on leaps and bounds this season for Spurs. Bale was named Premier League player of the month in April after his form on the left wing inspired Spurs to victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.
The 20 year old has featured 75 times for Spurs since joining from Southampton for £10m in May 2007 and he has been rewarded this week with a new four-year contract that will keep him at White Hart Lane until 2014. He is certainly a handful and our back-four will certainly need to be alert to the danger posed. Tyrone Mears will have to mark him closely and ensure he is not caught on the break by the pacy winger.
Back to the Future
The Clarets fans will instantly want to forget the last time we played Tottenham Hotspur. Burnley travelled to White Hart Lane last September and were convincingly beaten 5-0 by a rampant Spurs. At least we won`t have to worry about Robbie Keane this time. He scored four of the goals (with Jenas getting the other) but of course has since gone out on loan to Celtic until the end of the season.
Well we will also all remember the heartbreak when we last played Spurs at Turf Moor after they knocked us out of the Carling Cup at the semi final stage last season. It looked to be all over after the 4-1 first leg defeat at White Hart lane despite the Clarets impressive first half performance when we played Spurs off the park and went into the break 1-0 up following a strike by Paterson in the 15th minute. The second leg at Turf Moor might have seemed a formality for Spurs until Burnley brought back the aggregate score to 4-4 after three goals by Blake, McCann and Rodriguez. Due to the vagaries of the Carling Cup, our away goal did not count double despite beating Spurs 3-0 over 90 minutes and so we embarked on extra time holding out until 2 minutes from time when two late goals from Pavlyuchenko and Defoe broke all our hearts.
The last time we were in the top flight in 1975-76 we were relegated in 21st spot finishing second from bottom, never to return for another 33 years. Spurs that season finished in 9th spot and back then were managed by Terry Neill. Their team contained a number of household names and some would that become so. Pat Jennings, Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle, Martin Chivers and Jimmy Neighbour were just a few players that spring to mind but they also had former Clarets favourite, England international Ralph Coates in their side. Ralph had signed for them in May 1971 for £190000 leaving Clarets fans in tears.
Our first clash that season was played at White Hart Lane on Saturday 29th November 1975. Jimmy Adamson was still manager (just!) at the time but his days were numbered and in front of a crowd of 21,222 we took the lead in the first half thanks to a Ray Hankin goal after 25 minutes. Spurs though came back strongly in the second half with goals after 63 and 75 minutes to win 2-1. We were though down to ten men in the days when only one substitute was allowed after losing both Doug Collins and Willie Morgan to injury. The return match was played at Turf Moor on Saturday 20th March 1976 and this time new manager, Jo Brown was in charge but it made no odds. I am afraid Spurs completed the double over us and by the same score, 2-1. Spurs took the lead in the 58th minute and we looked to have secured a point when Waldron equalised after 83 minutes. It wasn`t to be though and with just three minutes to go, Spurs got the winner. Just 15490 fans that day saw Doug Collins play his last game for the Clarets although at the time they did not know it. Relegation now looked almost a certainty and we remained in 21st place running out of luck and looking doomed.
Clarets fans will fondly remember Wirral referee, Mike Dean who will take charge of the game on Sunday. He of course was in charge of our Wembley Play-Offs Final against Sheffield United last season. That might have been seen as a good omen until you realise he has was also in charge of the reverse fixture against Spurs at White Hart Lane back in September last year when we lost 5-0. He was also the referee in our 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers at Turf Moor when he awarded a controversial penalty after Brian Jensen was adjudged to have tripped Martin Olsson. The midfielder clearly took a dive and no contact was made with Jensen but the penalty stood and David Dunn duly scored from the spot. Olsson himself confessed his kidology after the match. There were other controversial decisions in that match with both sides being aggrieved but at the end of the day we never deserved to win the game after putting in a poor, lacklustre passionless display. Dean also took charge of our game against Arsenal at home last December and again made a controversial decision this time ruling out a Fletcher goal for offside. Video footage clearly showed he was not offside and had the goal stood we may have won 2-1 instead of having to be content with a 1-1 draw. So it will be interesting to see what sort of reception Dean gets from the Clarets faithful on Sunday!
Dean was appointed to FIFA International Referees list in 2002. He has refereed 42 games this season and handed out 148 yellow cards with 7 players having seen Red!
As we previously stated, Spurs have already qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history after being assured of a 4th place finish following their 1-0 defeat of Manchester City at Eastlands in midweek. The Clarets might be relieved about that with the pressure now off and Spurs not as desperate for a win. Both teams though still have something to play for other than pride. Spurs will be keen to finish in 3rd spot if they can, above their local North London rivals, Arsenal. If they beat the Clarets and Arsenal lose to Fulham at the Emirates on Sunday they will leap frog the Gunners and finish third in the Barclays Premier League.
The Clarets in comparison are already relegated although there is still a financial incentive to win.
Should Liverpool defeat Hull at the KC Stadium this Sunday and we defeat Spurs, we will go above Hull and reap an additional £800,000 or so for finishing third from bottom.
With a football head on it is still difficult to see other than a win for Spurs but then we all have a heart too and it would be good to end a pretty dismal season on a high. One of the worst away defeats we have had this season was as White Hart Lane when we were totally outplayed and heavily tonked 5-0 and it would be good to get some sort of revenge for that miserable day out in North London. We also have the little matter of that heartbreaking defeat to Spurs in the Carling Cup semi-final at Turf Moor last season.
On the other hand there is nothing to suggest based on our recent performances that we have the quality or momentum to get anything from this game. Since Brian Laws became manager in January we have only won two games and drawn one. We have lost 14 League games and indeed have not won at Turf Moor since we beat West Ham back in February. All the more worrying is the fact that in our last two home games we have conceded 10 goals and scored only one against teams fighting to finish 4th!
We really are going to have to hope for that ‘Funny Old Game` moment if we are to finish the season on a high and I suspect the best we can hope for is a draw so I will go for 1-1.
We will be back in the summer to bring you match previews and match reports of our pre-season friendlies before we start our 2010-11 campaign in August. Let`s hope it will be a good season in the Championship and we can return to the top flight at our first attempt. Up the Clarets!