With the exception of the Clarets suffering from yet another refereeing blunder, when match official Paul Tierney waved play on after Jeff Hendrick had his standing foot swept from under him “Wonder Woman style” by Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, yesterday’s match at the John Smith’s Stadium produced little of note and no goals.
So instead of my usual review of the passages of play, I offer my reflections on what has been an exceptional year for Burnley Football Club. A year which has seen the Clarets first confirm and then enhance their Premier League Status.
There have been so many but clearly the opening day victory at the home of the defending champions Chelsea stands out as one of the most gloriously unexpected results in the club’s history. Steven Ward’s brilliant volley followed by a duo of Sam Vokes strikes enabled Burnley to open up a three goal lead, which they stoically defended against an intense second half comeback from the Blues.
This result set the tone for the season, immediately consigning the poor away form of the previous season to history and providing an instant infusion of confidence which the whole squad has absorbed and continues to benefit from.
Another high point must surely be the club’s continuing ability to repel all advances for the services of Sean Dyche. When struggling clubs shed their managers, the work done by Dyche at Turf Moor causes covetous eyes to be cast in his direction. During the course of 2017, Dyche has been linked with vacancies at Crystal Palace, Leicester and Everton, but none have come to fruition and the remarkable body of work he has established at Burnley continues.
Obviously the win at Chelsea springs to mind, but perhaps the most significant result of the year came at Crystal Palace, when Burnley secured their first and only away win of last season to secure their continuing presence in the Premier League.
Several contenders, but for the sheer logical beauty of its conception and execution, the accolade must surely go to the flowing passing movement which culminated in Jeff Hendrick’s composed finish to secure victory over Everton at Goodison Park in October.
Others worthy of mention include Steven Ward’s aforementioned volley at Chelsea; Robbie Brady’s winner at Bournemouth; Brady’s free kick equaliser against Chelsea; and Steven Defour’s similar dead-ball strike at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Defour’s solo effort in the FA Cup tie against Bristol City was also memorable.
This has to be the home defeat at the hands of (then) non-league Lincoln City in the fifth round of the FA Cup. With a trip to Wembley only two victories away, Burnley allowed themselves to be out-manoeuvred and out-muscled by a purposeful Lincoln team who were committed and rose to the big occasion.
Player of the Year:
Ben Mee has been the pivot around which Burnley’s miserly defence rotates; the blond defender combines strength with intelligence, determination, bravery and increasing composure when bringing the ball out of defence. Alongside first Michael Keane and lately James Tarkowski, Mee has been the physical embodiment of Sean Dyche’s philosophy of “Maximum effort is the minimum requirement”.
It would be remiss of me not to make mention of the emergence of both Tarkowski and Nick Pope, both of whom seized their chance to secure a place in the team after the departure of Michael Keane and the injury to Tom Heaton. What happens when Heaton regains fitness is a conundrum which lies in wait for Dyche to resolve in 2018.
This is a wonderful time to be a Burnley supporter and 2017 will go down as one of the greatest in the club’s illustrious annals. In addition to the events on the pitch, the club have invested significant sums into overhauling the Gawthorpe training complex and have drawn up (admittedly overdue) plans to redevelop Turf Moor. Here’s to more of the same in 2018.
This Claret tinted end of year review was written by Clarets Mad feature writer, uber Burnley fan Dave Thornley. (TEC)