Cuban Claret soaks up the descending disgruntlement after early season high
THERE was a Burnley move deep into Tuesday night`s cup-tie with Plymouth when a slightly backward pass to Marvin Bartley was greeted with groans of derision from the Bob Lord Stand.
Gallows humour is par for the course at these sparsely attended occasions, indeed it’s part of the entertainment, but booing our own team for keeping possession did make me wince a little.
It followed the mood from Saturday at Huddersfield where it was difficult at times to work out what was worse, the weight of negativity raining down from the stands, or the performance itself.
Carping such as ‘Get it forward’ ‘Where you going wi` it’ and my favourite Bob Lordism ‘Do Summat’ (a sheer expression of disgruntlement if ever there were one) were just some of the catcalls clearly at odds with how Eddie Howe is trying to get his Burnley team to play.
This isn`t a defence of the manager`s tactics for the sake of it – we haven`t played particularly well for two and a half games now – but jeering for retaining possession at Turf Moor is simply absurd.
It all seems a world away from the evening of smug contentment I`m sure we all enjoyed after that glorious opening day win. In seven days Eddie Howe went from a manager ‘who will struggle to keep hold of when the Premier League clubs come calling’ (phone-in after Bolton) to someone who is ‘no better than Brian Laws’ (bloke walking off from the John Smiths).
Howe also admitted that it was ‘pleasing to see your methods pay off’ in the wake of Bolton and I can`t blame him entirely for not berating them in public a week later. However, a more honest appraisal than he gave would have gone down better with the travelling supporters trying to justify their £50. I tend to agree with him that we weren`t ‘outplayed or outclassed’ but we were ‘outfought and outthought’ exactly the reverse to the job we did on Bolton. I`m sure a more wily Championship manager such as Ian Holloway or Neil Warnock would have at least reassured the fans that it wan’t good enough.
I was pleased Howe at least rang the changes for Tuesday as it gave us a first look at the likes of Luke O`Neill and Brian Stock and showed some faith in the likes of Steven Hewitt`s development and Keith Treacy`s application. Mixed results there it`s fair to say. I’m not sure that Treacy`s display was so criminally worthy of another half-time withdrawal. He showed for the ball, had a few decent touches and might have improved after the break, certainly Ross Wallace offered nothing better.
On later hearing about the abject failures of Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers, at least we got through, even if the night threw up more questions than answers.
One of those questions is just what are we going to do with our ‘wingers’?.
Reading between the lines from his press conference yesterday, there are players that Howe would ship out given the chance if it’s ‘on our terms’. It`s difficult to believe Wallace wouldn`t be one of them. Howe tried to exchange him for George Boyd before last year`s transfer window, a move that blew up in his face when loudmouth Peterborough chairman Barry Fry got hold of it. The Scotsman buckled down a bit after that and had a fruitful autumn but the overall assessment after two full seasons at Turf Moor has to be that he`s not good enough to fit into the Howe model.
Junior Stanislas is an issue more of Eddie`s making. He signed him and most of us have seen glimpses of an effective player, but all too fleeting. On form, he has a wicked cross, can be tidy in possession and can link up play; but he seems to be the archetypal ‘confidence player` and when he is stricken in that department he looks desperate. Bringing him on against League Two Plymouth in extra time was a fine opportunity for him to show some quality. On one routine breakaway he could not trap the ball and ran it out of play. His stop/start penalty routine in the shoot-out revealed a fragile mental state.
Keith Treacy might as well have the word ‘liability’ tatooed on his forehead. But if the management see fit to offer him yet another olive branch, at least give him 90 minutes.
The other question is about George Porter? Anyone answer why he wasn`t on the bench against Plymouth? He might well be injured but if not, surely a match against such opposition would have been a great opportunity to test his potential. We could do with a speed merchant right now, even if can`t trap a bag a cement, he’s got to be faster than Wallace.
I did muse what Stan Ternent would make of it. I had a read of Tony Livesey`s brilliant ‘Stan the Man` book last night to cheer myself up, recalling the chapter when he sacked four players live on Radio Lancashire.
Could you imagine Eddie Howe after Brighton?: ‘Junior Stanislas, Ross Wallace and to a lesser extent, because the fans never to took to him in the first place, Keth Treacy, will never play for Burnley Football Club again’.
No, I can`t either. Neither can I see him smoking tabs from the dugout or drinking a large vodka and tonic a la Jimmy Mullen in a press conference.
I’d like to finish on a positive note. Reading lost four out of their first six matches last season and were promoted as Champions. I believe in Eddie Howe’s methods but at present we don’t seem to have the right players to best fulfil his intentions.
An injection of new blood – even on loan – will hopefully take place before tomorrow’s match. Stephen Dobbie has been mooted, a clever player whenever I have seen him. We’ll soon see if there’s anything in that one.
From what I have seen so far I would at least bring Ben Mee in at left-back on Saturday and play Joseph Mills left midfield so we don’t have to ensure Wallace AND Junior again. Tempting to do the same on the right but O’Neill is not yet ready for Championship football and Duff’s too creaky to play there. Hopefully Pato will be back and we can recall Bartley to play tucked in right midfield. At least we’d have a right-side that puts in maximum effort and Bartley would have the pace to cover for Trippier’s marauds forward.
Brighton at home seems the ideal fixture in terms of another ‘grudge’ match but without the away following to cause us too much anxiety.
I missed both encounters with Gus Poyet`s men last season but by all accounts he`s the type of wind-up merchant that gets the opposition fans going. It seems we perform better when this is the case so hopefully the home supporters will be goaded into good backing for Eddie and the players. And please no booing when we`re in possession. Patience is virtue remember.