Date: 30th December 2010 at 3:52pm
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It`s all happening at the club this week of course following the sacking of Brian Laws but can caretaker manager, Stuart Gray get off to a winning start by beating Sheffield United on New Year`s Day this Saturday at Turf Moor?

The Pre-amble

There is already some new found optimism around the place at the moment and a number of Clarets fans are now looking forward to getting our promotion campaign back on track under a new manager. Following the departure of Brian Laws and Russ Wilcox this week the man in charge for the next three games at least will be caretaker manager, Stuart Gray aided and abetted by Terry Pashley and Graham Alexander.

Gray will be keen to stamp his authority and get off to a winning start and make it a prefect beginning to 2011. We currently are in 9th spot following the debacle of the home defeat to Scunthorpe United on Christmas Bank Holiday Tuesday . That 2-0 defeat and quite frankly woeful performance was the death knell for Brian Laws, so now we have to pick ourselves up and get back on track for a promotion push. The defeat could have been worse had other teams around us taken advantage but we are still in a reasonable position to gun for a play-offs spot since we are currently just two points off 6th placed club, Reading with a one game advantage over them. We are going to have to start winning consistently now though and string a good run together.

Automatic promotion though continues to look a distant dream unless we can somehow catch League leaders QPR who are already fifteen points ahead of the Clarets albeit having played a game more. The next three clubs are all on 40 points, eight points more than the Clarets. Cardiff are second having played a game more than Burnley and Swansea and Leeds are third and fourth respectively although both have now played two games more than the Clarets and could be catchable.

Sheffield United have had their own managerial problems recently following the departure of Gary Speed to become manager of Wales. It is not clear if they too will have a caretaker manager in charge when they face Burnley on Saturday although at the moment it looks very much like Micky Adams will be in charge taking over from caretaker manager John Carver. Port Vale manager Micky Adams has now been offered the vacant manager’s job at Bramall Lane. BBC Radio Stoke understands that, once a compensation package is agreed with Vale, Sheffield-born Adams will depart for the club he followed as a boy.

United have struggled this season and they are currently fifth from bottom in 20th position just two points clear of the drop-zone. They will be keen to dampen the new found hope of Clarets fans and ease their relegation worries with a victory on Saturday. We simply have to make sure they go away with their tails between their legs again.

The Blades away form though must be a worry. They have only won one of their last six games on the road having lost four of them. They will be keen also to ensure they don`t lose three games on the trot after going down 3-2 at home to Hull City before losing 4-2 to Norwich at Carrow Road over the festive period.

Burnley Team News:

There is no news of any injury concerns following the Scunthorpe game so it looks like Gray will have the luxury of a full squad to choose from with the exception of the long-term injured Chris McCann and our players currently out on loan. Leon Cort`s current loan though at Preston ends on New Year’s Eve so they will need to be quick to extend the loan. That might not be that easy since both clubs are currently manager- less! Cort has been linked with a permanent move to Preston in the January window but he could be back at Turf Moor on New Year`s Day if no agreement can be reached! He is unlikely to be in contention for a place against Sheffield United though should that happen.

Player to watch: Chris Eagles

It really is time for Eagles to be given a starting eleven place. We badly need his earlier season form before the back injury affected his play and eventually kept him sidelined! We need to service the twin strikers up front and with Chris that should happen in bucketfuls plus he is always a danger getting on the score sheet himself.

Sheffield United Team News:

One player who definitely won`t feature is 24 year old Republic of Ireland international, Stephen Quinn. He was shown a straight red card for a foul on Wes Hoolahan in the Blades last game away to Norwich.

Sheffield United defender Andy Taylor could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines after picking up a leg injury.

The full-back sustained the damage during the Blades’ Boxing Day defeat to Hull City, and was consequently absent for their 4-2 loss at Norwich on Tuesday afternoon.

Caretaker manager John Carver admits he does not yet know how serious the injury is, but says the 24-year-old will be out for at least two weeks.

‘We don’t know how bad Andy’s problem is yet,’ Carver told the Sheffield Star . ‘It’s going to be a while before we can get him in for a scan.

‘Until that happens it’s going to be impossible to say how long he’ll be missing for exactly.

‘At the moment we think it’s going to be at least a fortnight. But that’s at the very least. It could be much more than that.’

Clarets fans hoping to see Stephen Jordan return to Turf Moor are also likely to be disappointed. The Blades left-back landed awkwardly and damaged his ankle ligaments in a game against Bristol City back in November. It is thought he would need six weeks to recover and it looks like he will be sidelined until after the festive season.

Blades skipper, Chris Morgan is also out for the rest of the season after a scan back in November revealed he had cruciate ligament damage.

Player to watch: Ched Evans

Evans is the Blades leading goal-scorer with six goals so far this season including a brace in the last home game against Hull City. Sadly for him they still lost 3-2!

The Welsh international,22 year old striker signed from Manchester City for a fee of £3m on a three year deal in July 2009. His form recently seems to have improved in terms of hitting the back of the net but his overall strike rate for the Blades is only about 1-in-5 but we will still need to be on our guard against him.

Team & Tactics

So what will Stuart Gray do? He must surely be prepared to wring the changes after the woeful performance against Scunthorpe.

Will he stick with his former Master`s Voice (er Choice) or twist?

If Martin Paterson is fit, I would include him in the side immediately and have him play up front in partnership with Chris Iwelumo. Now all we have to do is ensure they get good service something the strike pair could not enjoy last Tuesday!

The midfield choice is easy for me and sorry Grezza but you have to make way for younger legs and concentrate on the management coaching side whilst you have the chance!

Wallace too I think has to be dropped from the eighteen let alone the starting eleven, his performance on Tuesday was woeful and he looked completely disinterested. We can`t reward that attitude.

Let`s go 4-4-2 with Eagles, Cork, Marney and Elliott in midfield

There is also still an argument for recalling Michael Duff to the side with Carlisle in particular looking distinctly off form these past few games in the centre of defence. I would not change anything else though in the back four but I just wonder if there is now a chance for Jensen to feature with the demise of Laws. Grant did not play a blinder against the Iron and anything we could do to keep Jensen on the books might be worthwhile considering.

Maybe also it is time to freshen up the bench and try something different.

I am going to be completely radical in my team sheet then. It`s not one I would predict seeing but it`s one I would like to see:

Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Easton, Eagles, Cork, Marney, Elliott, Iwelumo, Paterson

Subs: Grant, Carlisle, Fox, Edgar, McDonald, Guidetti, Thompson (or Rodriguez)

Ref Watch:

Derbyshire referee, Rob Shoebridge gets this one! Aged 31 he has just completed his second season as a National List referee. He started refereeing when he was 13 years of age and progressed through the Central Midlands and Northern Premier Leagues to reach the National List of assistant referees in 2003.

He has featured in 15 games at Championship or lower league level this season handing out two red cards and 26 yellows. His last game involving the Clarets was this season at home to Doncaster Rovers back in November. Only one yellow card was handed out that day though! He seems generally reluctant to show Red and in 31 games during 2009-10 last season only handed out the one!

Match Prediction:

Let`s get off to a cracking start to the New Year and thump the Blades. 3-0 Clarets!

Next Match

We play our fourth game in nine days on New Year`s Day Bank Holiday Monday when we travel to the Madejski Stadium on the 3rd January to play Reading hoping to avenge the 4-0 thumping we got at Turf Moor back in October.