Changes at NNN

No Nay Never is five years old this summer and throughout that time it’s been run by a core team that make decisions about the site. There are five of us in that team now, with three of us having been involved since the very beginning.

Running NNN is usually incredibly rewarding and we’ve done some great things over the years. So far we’ve interviewed then-CEO Lee Hoos twice, spoken to a number of former players including Clarke Carlisle, made a film, and, most importantly, published hundreds and hundreds of opinion articles on a range of issues. We’d like to think we’ve raised the bar for Burnley-related discussion and debate online (though some will disagree!).

But it turns out running such a site has taken a lot out of us in a number of ways. The most obvious of these is time constraints – while five people officially run the site, we are understandably limited in how much time they can spend working on the site. There’s also money: unfortunately no one gets paid for doing this site, and at some point it simply doesn’t make sense any more for people to give up a load of their time to run the site, even though our sponsors cover our running costs. Essentially, we all have other commitments now and we just can’t give NNN the time and attention required to keep standards as high as we’d like.

We’ve also regularly faced sometimes unwarranted criticism on places like Twitter. Although this is a part of being on the internet in 2015 and we all have a thickish skin, it doesn’t do any good for our motivation to keep going. Constructive feedback is one thing, but being abused for putting forward or even publishing an opinion is another. NNN was always about opinions, after all.

So with all this in mind, we’re shaking things up.

Here’s what’s happening:

  • The blog side of NNN is stopping indefinitely. We’ve traditionally focused on the blog as the main aspect of the site, but editing articles is a big time sink.
  • The archive of the blog will continue to be online as it is at the moment, but it has relocated to a new URL: blog.nonaynever.net.
  • You’ll probably still see us answering questionsfor other fan blogs and appearing in the actual media from time to time.
  • The award-nominated podcast will continue as usual. Guests always welcome.
  • The podcast site is now hosted at www.nonaynever.net, where the blog used to be.
  • Our Twitter will continue doing what it’s doing: newz, viewz, bantz etc. Sorry, haters. We’ll do live match coverage there too whenever we can to replace NNN Live.

And that’s it. We’re hoping that by shuttering the blog side we can use the time we save have to consolidate our efforts in making the (award-nominated) podcast even better.

Please do give listening to the podcast a shot if you haven’t already. It’s great to listen to when you’re travelling, or doing chores around the house, or in bed, or wherever really. The podcast will be back soon.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who has read the site, commented on articles, listened to the podcast and contributed to the community we hope NNN has been for the last five years. We couldn’t have done it without you. Cheers.

Jamie Smith, Adam Haworth, Kevin Robinson, James Bird and Michael Bailey.

Good Luck Danny

Back in March 2014 I said that Danny Ings would be the first Burnley player since Martin Dobson to earn a full England call-up. It turns out it was Tom Heaton so maybe my crystal ball was slightly distorted. However, I still believe that he will get a first cap and probably sooner rather than later now he is joining Liverpool.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a massive Danny Ings fan, ever since I saw him come off the bench in a reserve game at Chorley against Preston North End. He was relatively unknown back then. I don’t think I knew much about him to be honest. But his feet did the talking. He was quick, agile and had great vision. Which generally mean you should be a decent ball basher.

People have criticised him for running his contract down, but they would have criticised him and the Club more if he’d left before it ended. Footballers can’t win in this department. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t. But can you really blame him for wanting to progress his career? I think its great credit to Burnley Football Club that we keep getting top notch strikers on their way up the ladder. The likes of Jay Rod, Charlie and Fletcher too if I’m being honest. At least we tend not to be getting the journeymen on the way back down. And before anyone mentions he who shall not be named, I have erased him from my memory barring a hat-trick against PNE.

Ings should also be praised for his humility. Few could argue that he has not been a superb ambassador for the Club with his tireless work for local charities and passion for helping kids less fortunate.

I will always be grateful to him for taking the time to send me a get well soon card when I was seriously ill. The fact that my mum wrote to him was quite embarrassing especially as he probably thought I was about ten years old. But no matter. It still cheered me up and one day I hope I will be able to thank him personally.

I am genuinely be sorry to see Danny leave, although my nephew isn’t because he, like his dad, is also a Liverpool fan. But whatever happens he will always be the man who scored the winner against THEM to finally get the monkey off our backs.

I will make one final prediction about our Danny. He will score the winner in the Euro 2016 final.

Once a Claret always a Claret. Good luck Danny.

Season player grades: Who is top of the class?

The challenges for which all Burnley fans longed just over a year ago proved to be too much for the squad this season.

While there were moments of inspiration and pure magic, the learning curve that Premier League football presented this season was just too steep and has immediately dispatched the Clarets back to Championship football in August. The players that return next season will undoubtedly be stronger and much improved for having experienced Premier League football this year.

Here are my final Burnley FC player grades for the 2014-15 season:

Manager – Sean Dyche (A-)

The ultimate pragmatist, Dyche possibly did better than anyone else could have, given the size of the club and budget. As expected, he won many admirers and much respect this season. Rarely uses his allocation of substitutes and often makes those changes too late in the match. Despite this, Sean is clearly the man for the job and the club should do all it can to extend his contract.

GK – Tom Heaton (B+)

Impressively, Tom played every single minute in the league this season, while earning a very respectable 10 clean sheets, deservedly earning himself an England call-up. Conceded 53 goals this season, the same number as 5th-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Awarded Players’ Player of the year honors this week. Heaton is a very consistent goalkeeper and not prone to making spectacular saves, but he is very composed and rarely makes mistakes. This results in a calm and settled back five for Burnley.

CB – Jason Shackell (A-)

Player of the year last season for many and my player of the season for this. Averaged over 11 clearances a match this campaign. A true warrior and general for the club on the park and played nearly every minute this season. The Clarets developed a reputation of being difficult to break down this season and tirelessly throw themselves in front of shots, seeking a block; Jason Shackell embodies this mentality. With one year left on his contract and no financial need to sell, Burnley would do well to retain the captain’s services. Former manager Eddie Howe and AFC Bournemouth may have their eye on Shacks as the second tier winners look to bolster their squad for Premier League football in August.

CB – Michael Duff (B-)

Missed a portion of the winter months due to injury and added stability at the back and a stronger aerial presence upon his return. Burnley’s longest serving player and the only member of the squad from both Premier League seasons. Duff’s veteran legs often lack pace, but he serves as an important veteran head along the back line as young Michael Keane waits as Burnley’s centre half of the future.

LB – Ben Mee (C+)

Much improved from the start of this season to the finish. Excellent in the air and does well bombing forward to swing in crosses. Can often be found wanting defensively and lacks pace. Lost his job mid-season to Stephen Ward until an ankle injury forced Ward out of the side again. Burnley have two very capable left-backs at Championship level as they look ahead to next season.

RB – Kieran Trippier (B+)

A truly gifted player and up to Premier League standard, many consider Kieran a future right back for England. Does very well defensively and has improved in his defensive duties this season. A massive threat bombing forward on the wing and pinging in balls from the run of play or on set pieces. Provider for many of Burnley’s goals and scoring opportunities and ranks high among defenders in the league’s Player Performance Index week in and week out as well. While Kieran is a local lad and under a longer-term contract, the Clarets will have to fend off the wolves this summer to retain his services for a return to the Football League.

CM – David Jones (C+)

Ever-present for the Clarets at the centre of the park and Burnley’s metronome. Most activity is distributed through Dave and he is one of the best passers of the ball on the team. Jones lacks pace though and is prone to making mistakes and turning over the ball at the centre of the park. Has not been up to Premier League standard for much of the season and has not been clinical enough in his finishing whilst going forward.

CM – Scott Arfield (B-)

A vital piece in the puzzle for seasons to come for the Clarets. Scotty is under a long-term contract and at 26 still has years left on his legs. Traditionally plays on the wing but was forced to centre after the untimely injury to Dean Marney. Only contributed two goals this season from midfield and seems to have lost confidence to attempt long-range efforts on goal. Can be found missing in matches and has lost his legs near the tail of the last two seasons.

LM – Matt Taylor (B)

Unlucky to miss most of the season due to an Achilles injury. Matty has been instrumental when appearing for the club though and is often Burnley’s best player when he steps on the park. By far, he possesses the most Premier League experience of the starting XI and oozes quality and composure in a side that lacks established top-flight football. Has seen promotion twice in his long career and would be key for the Clarets to hold on to him as they attempt to yo-yo across the top two divisions.

RM – George Boyd (B+)

The best signing for Burnley this season and many fans’ player of the season. The club equaled their record signing amount to secure his services and he has been excellent, scoring five goals from the wing. Lacks searing pace, but on a weekly basis leads the league in distance run. His effort and commitment to the cause is second-to-none. Burnley may face a challenge to retain him this summer.

ST – Ashley Barnes (B-)

Another workmanlike season for Ashley and actually started the year off the bench as the third-choice striker. Much like last season, he has not scored many goals, but they are often very timely in helping the Clarets capture points. Scrappy and relentless off the ball, holds up play well for teammates, but has not been clinical enough in his finishing to meet Premier League standard. Will be a better player next season for having gained the experience from this year.

As we have now received confirmation of our worst fears, that Ashley Barnes will spend a majority of next season injured due to damaged knee ligaments. A true blow to the Clarets, meaning they must be buyers over the summer in the striker department. Aye aye Ashley, here’s to a swift recovery.

ST – Danny Ings (B+)

Most talented player in the squad. Despite much criticism and controversy this season, he still scored 11 goals and had a hand (scored or assisted) in over half of Burnley’s league goals this season. Could have been far more clinical in his finishing, but has given his all to the cause this season. Out of contract this summer and likely ready for a move to a different Premier League club.

SUB – Dean Marney (B+)

Unfortunate to suffer a season-ending injury just after the January transfer window closed. Vital for Burnley’s creativity driving forward from midfield. The club had great difficulty capturing much-needed points after his season ended early in February. Has signed a new contract through next season and will be an important factor upon his return as the Clarets seek promotion (albeit after his rehabilitation).

SUB – Michael Kightly (B-)

Has been ousted from the side by the likes of George Boyd, Scott Arfield, and Matt Taylor and has appeared infrequently this season. When on the park, he has played well and delivered creativity and a spark going forward.

SUB – Lukas Jutkiewicz (D)

Began the season as the second-choice striker and has failed to impress. Held the ball up well at times for his strike partner, but is prone to giving away the ball as well.  Failed to score a single goal this season after his £1.5m move this summer and lost his starting role as well as his confidence as the season progressed. Lacks composure and quality in his finishing. Would do well to return to the Championship to find a bit of form, as he has not been up to Premier League standard by any definition.

Note: Ryan has picked out a first XI and three subs – bit-part players have not been graded deliberately.

Do you agree with these grades or should they be higher or lower? Comment below.

The NNN 2014/15 season awards

It’s awards season in football and we basically left out, so without further ado, here are the NNN Awards for 2014/15.

The five categories we have up for grabs are as follows: Player of the season, Goal of the season, Game of the season, Moment of the season and Best hair.

We’ve asked NNN contributors to give us their nominations and please feel free to add yours in the comments. Let’s go!

James Bird

Player: Tom Heaton. He’s solidly backstopped the team this year and apart from Swansea at home it’s hard to think of a time he’s put a foot wrong. There’s a lot to be said for keeping 10 clean sheets in a relegation season and there’s a few games that could have been a lot worse without his efforts in goal – Arsenal at the Emirates to name one.

Goal: Scott Arfield against Chelsea in the opener. They’d been a lot of talk before the game of how we’d be unable to compete and how even the lessor sides would have a field day against us and how our players weren’t even top half of the Championship calibre, so to take the lead against Chelsea was a special moment that reinforced that belief that Burnley fans often have. While we went on to lose that game, against a side that even then looked like the champions in waiting, the goal was still a bright spot to look back on.

Game: Manchester City at home. They can only be one choice here and if things had worked out in subsequent games this would have been the one you looked back at and thought that’s where survival started. It was a magically game and to beat the reigning champions at that stage of the season was a massive lift to everyone and really gave hope that we’d be able to finish the job and stay up.

Moment: Danny Ings’ goal at Hull. For me they’d been a lot of unfair criticism directed to Danny for his effort and commitment to the cause, so to see the celebration and how much scoring that goal meant to him and the other players was special. Even though we would be relegated that day it showed that we weren’t going down with our heads down, we fought to the end and the players showed their passion in the moments following that goal.

Hair: George Boyd. Majestic. All the great wingers have long hair, David Ginola, Chris Eagles, Jean Louis Valois and George Boyd.

Jordan Eyre

Player: Tom Heaton would be my choice. The most consistent performer from a strong pool of candidates, the Clarets’ stopper has been superb in every game and is largely responsible for our 10 clean sheets this season. Accurate and intelligent distribution, agile with great reactions and always looks good for a penalty save makes him stand out. Accountable for a good wedge of our points total this season.

Goal: Danny Ings’ header against Manchester United at Old Trafford. A goal befitting of such a stage, this goal showcased our two finest talents doing what they do best. Kieran Trippier’s willingness to get forward culminated in a typically sumptuous cross, while Ings’ movement led Chris Smalling astray in the penalty area. After creating a couple of yards of space, Ings demonstrated good agility to meet the ball and guide it home past David De Gea.

Game: Personally, seeing our maiden away victory of the season at Stoke was brilliant. Burnley showed two sides to their game that day; a killer instinct in front of goal and creativity in buckets courtesy of Ings and Michael Kightly respectively, before a resilient defence held firm in the face of a constant Stoke onslaught. The image of Stephen Ward throwing everything at each cross will stay with me for a long time.

Moment: Dean Marney’s injury in the home game against West Brom. 2-0 and seemingly cruising towards a valuable win, the midfielder’s injury was met with the collective groans of all Clarets fans. We will never know if Marney’s injury had an affect on our relegation and whether he could have helped stave off the drop, but we always felt a slightly weaker side in his absence. A turning point if ever there was one.

Hair: In a team full of conservative cuts and short backs and sides, it’s refreshing to see George Boyd’s long locks flow behind him as he flies down the wing. Perhaps costing him in speed and not the most aerodynamic of cuts, I think breaking the mould endears both Boyd and his hairstyle to Burnley fans. Expect replica wigs to adorn the walls of the club shop should be help lead us back to the Premier League.

Thomas Turner

Player: Jason Shackell – A fantastic leader who rarely looked out of his depth in the top flight. Surprised that he hasn’t got much recognition from further afield, but if it stops the vultures from circling we should count our blessings!

Goal: George Boyd (City at home) – One of those goals where you find yourself sat right in the line of the ball and just watch it fly in. Technically just perfect – and a goal which reignited the (sadly unfounded) belief that we could well stay up.

Game: Newcastle away (3-3) – It’s not often that you fall behind three times in one game and still feel disappointed not to come away with all three points. After losing three players to injury in the first 36 minutes, it was a magnificent battling performance which really highlighted the difference in the two clubs.

Moment: Ross Wallace equaliser (Leicester away) – There’s something particularly satisfying about watching a goalkeeper goad an opposition player just before the ball flies into the back of his net. The atmosphere at times in that second half was enough to make hairs stand on end. Wonderful afternoon.

Hair: Michael Duff – One of those lucky blokes who must sleep easy at night knowing they look better with grey hair anyway. Effortlessly cool. Our very own silver fox.

Paul Weller

Player: For me this is a one horse race, Tom Heaton has been the most consistent player and has improved so much as the season has gone on. He has produced some really important saves and with the quality performances he started to produce, it gave the back four as a group some real confidence. Burnley’s best player and most prized asset that we need to keep hold of.

Goal: There were a few contenders for this, but George Boyd’s goal against City stands out. After a tough run of games, the pressure was on the lads to put in a performance and boy did they do that. After half time they picked up the pace, started to pick up second balls and Boyd was one who took advantage of that. It was one of the sweetest strikes you’ll see and one that deserves to be a matchwinner.

Game: My first adventure into the away end with my little lad was at the Etihad. Up against it in the first half and my little one fearing the worst, half time came with the fear of what will this end up. But Sean’s half time team talk must of been very inspiring as the boys were fantastic in the second half and produced one of the best comebacks of the season against one of the best teams. Big performance and a great end to 2014.

Moment: Monday 2nd February at 23.00 was the moment I felt deflated, let down and genuinely thought that the rest of the season was now going to be a massive struggle. After a frustrating time on the pitch throughout January and a tough run of fixtures coming up, it was imperative that we added quality to the squad. This for me was the moment that turned our season.

Best hair: George Boyd will not be winning this title. How the lads in the dressing room have never done anything to his barnet i’ll never know, because that hair is just asking for trouble.

Robbie Coppack

Player: Tom Heaton, 10 clean sheets for a team who have been relegated is fantastic, plus an England call up. Who’d have thought that when we signed him?

Goal: Danny Ings v Man Utd for me. Showed the quality of our most prized assets. Trademark Trippier cross and a wonderful diving header from Ings.

Game: Stoke City away proved we weren’t going to be pushovers in this league. And a magnificent defensive display.

Moment: George Boyd v Man City at home. That game and that goal will be in all Claret memories for years to come.

Hair: ummm, not sure what to put this? Boyd’s, because I love the way it blows in the wind…

Adam Haworth

Player: Heaton – he’s been consistent throughout the season, and it says a lot that he was awarded the Player’s Player of the Year at the Club’s awards ceremony earlier this week.

Goal: Arfield v Chelsea – before the first game of the season, I was worried that we’d embarrass ourselves. Scott’s moment of magic was glorious, and ensured that although we suffered defeat in the match that we made a credible entrance to the Premier League.

Game: Manchester City (A) – an obvious choice here, and it doesn’t need too much explaining. Isn’t it great when the underdog comes back against the big boys?

Moment: Hull (H) – although the game itself wasn’t too memorable, the event of achieving our first Premier League win of the season is reason enough to choose this as notable moment of the season. Before this point, some fans (maybe including myself) were asking where the first win was going to come from. At least this win shut them/me up.

Hair: Maybe this is controversial, but I’m not a fan of George Boyd’s flowing locks. The hairdo looks a bit greasy and just isn’t functional. I’m going to go for Jason Shackell, who has seemingly rarely had a hair out of place all season. Just like his defensive skills, his hair looks solid as a rock. I must say that I’ve not really been paying particular attention to the uniformity of hair, however.

Michael Bailey

Player: George Boyd – There was a time as a Burnley fan when a player who could run and run and run was something we lauded. We enjoyed the endeavour and the hard working nature. It was very Burnley-like. Then it became synonymous with Ian Moore and the trait fell out of fashion as his aimless running became an annoyance. Then George Boyd happened. He brought running back into fashion, with his flowing locks and creative play he looked like a Premier League player and ran like one as well. While I’d have liked to see more goals in his game his determination to always do his best was a shining light in an all too often dull season.

Goal: Ashley Barnes v Spurs (20 December) – When selecting this it reminded me just how much of an odd team we are. We looked like we couldn’t score for toffee for most of the season but every now and then pulled a goal of the season contender out of the top drawer and Barnesey’s effort against Spurs was one of those moments. His touch from George Boyd’s pass saw him saunter pass two pedestrian Tottenham defenders before wrapping his foot round the ball to send it curling into the top bag. It’s a goal that wouldn’t be out of place in a World Cup final. What a finish.

Game: Man City 2 -2 Burnley – Being two nil down against the (then) champions of England is pretty standard fare. At least we weren’t getting humped like last time. Then we showed all the attributes that Sean Dyche likes to bang on about and little old Burnley come back thanks to some suspect refereeing and an Ashley Barnes thronker that nearly broke the net. In terms of gain it wasn’t much but it gave me the belief we could stay up and deserved our place in the Premier League and it’s moment like that that make it all worth it.

Moment: Burnley 2-3 Crystal Palace – This game is where I think it all fell down for us. Up against a rejuvenated Palace side we raced into a two nil lead and looked set to dominate the game. A win would have seen us move up to 15th and from there we could quite possibly have put together a run to stay up but a dramatic collapse and inability to match a change in tactics from Alan Pardew set the tone for the remainder of the season. I struggle to believe that this game didn’t have a serious impact on the psyche of our lads ahead of two huge games against Sunderland and West Brom.

Hair: Jason Shackell – A classy no nonsense look from our centre-back sets him apart as a leader of men. You’ll find no alice bands here.

Kevin Robinson

Player: It says much about the story of our season that I’m stuck between the two players at the heart of our defence. In the end I couldn’t choose between Tom Heaton or Jason Shackle so I asked my husband, who knows nothing about football, which one should get my vote, and he went for Tom Heaton because… get ready for this cutting-edge insight, the name ‘Shackell’ doesn’t sound as nice. In reality, both have been outstanding and probably the only two who have been consistently excellent. Boyd has had a number of quiet spells, and Ins had two periods of flats form (he was good for much of the season, no witch-hunt here). Both have stepped up their game from excellent campaigns in the promotion season – Shacks won the NNN player of the year vote – and if we can keep hold of both then we’ve got really strong foundations for another go starting in August.

Goal: Well, there are *so* to choose from I don’t know quite where to start. There have actually been some crackers in there, though. Barnes’ strike against Spurs was glorious, but my favourite is Boyd’s winner against City at the Turf. It really was a thing of true beauty. It was one of those that makes you really thankful that Vine exists; I think I watched it about 40 times without interruption. He won’t strike a ball as clean as that in his entire career.

Game: The win at Stoke was excellent not just because it was an actual win with two actual goals, but because it gave us all some much-needed encouragement optimism. It was a sign that yes, we can compete at this level. I recall back with fondness the amazement, excitement and disbelief bunching around Twitter when those two early goals flew in. There are certainly more spectacular games – both against City spring to mind – but for me this was the game that got me most excited.

Moment: My moment of the season comes from a 4-1 defeat, obviously. Scott Arfield’s screamer against Chelsea on the opening day was genuinely euphoric, and brought about similar feelings to those when Robbie Blake smashed in that winner against United in 2010. It won’t stick in the memory quite so long because of what happened afterwards, but when the ball hit the net to give us an early lead against the champions-to-be I know Huddersfield reject Scotty Art gave me a magical moment that wouldn’t be topped all year.

Hair: Without a doubt it’s Kevin Lon… only kidding.- what a travesty that thing is! I quite like Boyd’s locks, but there’s something weirdly alluring about Ben Mee’s bright blonde hair. I don’t really know what more there is to say other than that. I just flicked through the programme to check out the other contenders and realised how boring our squad is on the top of their heads. They’ve all got the same standard cut. That said, at least none of them have taken inspiration from Wade Elliott.

Jamie Smith

Player: Shacks is my player of the year. In terms of consistency I think only Heaton can touch him and 10 clean sheets for a relegated side is an incredible achievement. Whether he was playing with Duff or Keane he never looked anything less than assured. Keeping him will be key for next season.

Goal: We didn’t score many goals but there were still a few contenders and I’m going for Barnes v Spurs. Barnes has proved many people wrong – including myself – and his goal at the Lane was another example that he is full of surprises. Hit with power and precision, it was the sort of strike I did not think he was capable of.

Game: City at home was one of those games we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. It might have looked a bit smash and grab but essentially we held City at arm’s length apart from Pablo Zabaleta’s late penalty shout when Ben Mee really should have conceded a spot kick. Boyd’s winner was absolutely glorious and I really believed we’d stay up after that match. Shame it didn’t end up being the turning point I thought it would be.

Moment: Jose Mourinho on Goals on Sunday is my moment of the season. In many ways it encapsulated everything that is bad about the Premier League. Mourinho has had the press wrapped around his little finger since his first “Special One” press conference at Chelsea and the media are completely in thrall to his nonsense. Labelling Barnes’ challenge on Nemanja Matic as “criminal” was extremely naughty and the whole affair was extremely distasteful in my eyes. Mourinho’s appearance on Goals on Sunday might well be filed alongside Rafa Benitez’s “FACTS” and Kevin Keegan’s “I would love it if we beat them” in the annals of memorable managerial meltdowns.

Hair: I’ve got to go for solidarity with a fellow skinhead, so I’m going for Sean Dyche’s no-nonsense bonce.

Jordan Neary

Player: Ashley Barnes – Chewed up numerous defenders and spat them out. His picture is next to work rate in the dictionary, couple that with moments of brilliance he’s been a joy to watch. We are gonna miss him.

Goal: Ashley Barnes v City – he looked all the more sexual in that black kit as the ball hit the top corner. Came days after someone infamously commented on my article that he ‘wasn’t even a Championship player’.

Game: Newcastle away – I’ve had a slightly different view of events this season covering games from the press box – so many amazing arenas – but coming from behind three times at the magnificent St James Park, those are the games and away days you get promoted for.

Moment: MATICGATE – being inside the stadium and subsequent press conference to watch Jose Mourinho self implode was pure gold. Goals on Sunday only saw the half of it.

Hair: Michael Kightly – Apart from his assist at Stoke he’s not had much to write home about. I’m impressed with the speed at which it grows, from skinhead to crew cut in no time at all.

NNN prizes therefore go to…

Player: There were a number of good candidates for the award this year. Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier can count themselves unlucky not to get a mention, while George Boyd was similarly unloved despite taking numerous honours at the supporters’ clubs night. However, our panel has overwhelming gone for goalkeeper Tom Heaton, with Jason Shackell – who won the NNN Player of the Year award last season – in second spot.

Goal: Considering we didn’t score enough goals this season, a number of strikes could have taken this prize. Nobody even mentioned Scott Arfield’s superb individual goal against QPR at Turf Moor. But there was only ever likely to be one winner here – George Boyd wins the NNN Goal of the season prize for his matchwinning half-volley against the defending champions.

Game: Although we played in our fair share of 0-0s, there was plenty of entertainment too. The games against City stood out for obvious reasons and the comeback at the Etihad, which featured an outstanding individual performance from Ashley Barnes, narrowly beat the 1-0 home win. Manchester City 2-2 Burnley is our Game of the season.

Moment: A wide spread of nominations with only one moment being mentioned by more than one of our contributors. The NNN prize for Moment of the season therefore goes to Chelsea away and the subsequent hoo-ha over the collision between Ashley Barnes and Nemanja Matic. It was certainly one of the more memorable moments this season, perhaps due to the media’s ridiculous over-reaction to what was merely a follow-through from Barnes when he was stretching to make a pass. That’s the Premier League for you.

Hair: A joke category to round off the awards for this season, there was only ever likely to be one winner and despite a couple of nominations for the pristine skipper, George Boyd wins again. Presumably because he has a lot of hair.

That’s it! The NNN 2014/15 awards are over.

Did we get it right? Comment below with your choices. 

Barnes injury catastrophic but should inspire hopefuls

The news regarding the injury of Ashley Barnes was horrific.

It was a sad way to end what has been a real breakthrough for the striker in many ways this season; the Ashley Barnes of Brighton was often ridiculed for his apparent lack of quality though those doubters will be much quieter now that’s for sure. Though for some people within the squad, they should – in the nicest possible manner – have their mouths watering at the moment for it lowers the level of difficulty into breaking into the starting XI, even if a striker is bought in the summer.

Certainly I’m of the mind that clubs, particularly Burnley, don’t really take advantage of their youth systems. And what is the point? If you blood through young talent but continually deem it surplus to requirement it really is a pointless exercise. And it’s the same with the big clubs. Manchester City boast outstanding training and coaching to train an army of young guns yet they never get a look in as far as the first team is concerned.

So in regards to my brief rant, the promotion of Jason Gilchrist to the first team squad would be something I would certainly vouch for.

Gilchrist’s goal-scoring in the youth league’s was excellent and his hat-trick against Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup is no mean feat. His experience at Accrington Stanley for the latter half of the season gave him a real taste of professional league football and despite not finding the net, his time spent there will have been a real learning curve.

Jay Rodriguez struggled to find the net in his early loan experiences with Stirling Albion and Barnsley but it’s those learning experiences which will have helped his development massively. It was the season after these loan moves where he developed into a prolific hitman in front of goal.

Perhaps Brian Laws’ greatest achievement as Burnley manager was helping to transform a diamond in the rough by giving him successive opportunities to succeed. There is no reason why Gilchrist cannot follow a similar path if given confidence by the manager that he will have chances to get in the team this season even if it doesn’t work out in his first few matches.

In contrast, Sean Dyche has two more experienced pros in Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell who really need to seize this opportunity.

Jutkiewicz has been a disaster, there are no two ways about it, and in many ways you have to feel sorry for the big man.

He would have hardly believed his luck that a Premier League club were after his signature and following his arrival, a flurry of goals in pre-season had depicted the notion of success. Unfortunately, the Premier League is a very difficult league and after a few decent matches at the start, in which he tussled hard with opposing centre-halves, Jutkiewicz then wasn’t making those goalscoring runs, antagonising the centre-halves as much and looked scared to receive the ball. People must remember, Burnley didn’t just pull £1.5 million out of the air to secure his services, they were pushed heavily by Bolton Wanderers who were willing to bid up to £1 million for the Middlesbrough man, who they greatly admired.

The Premier League is vastly different to the Championship. In the Championship, defenders don’t hold their position as efficiently and it’s relatively easy to pick out holes, even with long hoofs up from the back. In the Championship rather than getting than one chance which you have to take, you get multiple opportunities to find the back of the net. Certainly Jukiewicz could benefit from this. It is clear in his game he was playing with zero per cent confidence and therefore people must take into account what he could potentially do with more confidence and I dare say more than has been seen thus far.

As for Marvin Sordell, he has proven to be a frustrating enigma. His fabulous, crisp half volley from 20 yards against Tottenham in the FA Cup was a sign of the young talent that once had potential in abundance. The young talent that scored with a sensational turn and rocket from 30 yards for the England youth setup against Isreal and the man who earned a big reputation with his efforts at Watford.

Yet his career has stalled and at times – in the biggest league in England – he looked disinterested and lost. He looked a defeated man as soon as he stepped on to the pitch. Amazing when you consider his rapid speed, silky skills and eye for goal, the main reasons why Dyche took a punt on him in the first instance. Mentally he didn’t look ready for the top flight but with that long, grueling season now over, the manager needs to take him under his wing and swap this pale imitation for the talented one that has been locked up. Otherwise, one can only see the forward making further declines in his career.

So in essence, the Barnes injury is pretty much the worst possible news that could have happened in the past week.

But there should be two hungry strikers and an even hungrier home gown talent itching to capitalise on the apparent striker shortage and that can only help get the best out of them.

Could Jutkiewicz, Sordell or Gilchrist step up in Barnes’ absence? Comment below. 

Podcast 79: “I admire the consistency of Shackell’s hair”

In an awards special, Jamie is joined by Jordan, James, and Adam to discuss news of Ashley Barnes’ injury, Tom Heaton’s call up, Danny Ings move elsewhere, and speculation surrounding Kieran Trippier’s future.

The panel then move on to give their picks for player, goal, game, moment, and hair (that’s right, hair) of the season.

This is the last podcast of the season and we’d like to thank everyone for listening. Gratitude also goes to Neville Gee, our sponsors: we couldn’t do the site or the podcast without them, and Stephen Long, our audio editor.

As always, feel free to email any feedback about the podcast to podcast@nonaynever.net.

You can listen online here or in the player below. To listen to all previous episodes of the NNN podcast, please visit our mini-site. Please consider subscribing to the podcast via a mobile app or iTunes to get the podcast delivered to you as soon as it’s available. Check out our guide if you’re not sure how to do that.

Barnes injury worsens striker crisis

It never rains but it pours.

Just when Tom Heaton’s England call-up and a couple of wins had lifted the mood a bit, the news of Ashley Barnes’ injury brings us crashing back down to earth.

Chris Boden from the Burnley Express reports that Barnes is likely to be out long-term, missing the start of next season.

First and foremost it is awful news for Barnes himself, who acquitted himself very well in his debut Premier League season. The challenge from Fabian Delph was a bad one but it did not seem the sort of tackle to rule someone out for several months.

Barnes will be a massive loss to the club, especially adding to the impending departure of “massive Burnley fan” Danny Ings, who is leaving at the end of his contract.

That leaves Sean Dyche with three strikers – Sam Vokes, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell. Between them they scored zero Premier League goals this season. It’s not really exaggerating to suggest a striker crisis is already developing at Turf Moor.

It was already clear we need to bring in a goalscorer in the summer but we perhaps now need to sign two new strikers during the transfer window. With Kieran Trippier seemingly on his way out of the club too, Dyche will have a large rebuild on his hands to prepare for a promotion push.

Strikers do not tend to come cheap and when players are affordable it is usually for a good reason. Take Juke and Marv as examples. The outlay on them was minimal in Premier League terms but they still ended up being poor value for money. Both will have the chance to make amends in the Championship, but they were bought to be Premier League players and must be judged as Premier League players. There is much work ahead for that pair to win over supporters.

Speculating about potential signings is one of the best ways to get through the barren football-less summer months so we asked on Twitter who fans thought we should go for. Among the daft and sensible suggestions were a few interesting names…

David Nugent

Bringing up former players is a typical Burnley fan thing to do but Nugent doesn’t seem like a bad shout on the face of it.

He is likely to be available after he found himself on the fringes at Leicester during the last season, but his wages could prove to be prohibitive.

Nugent has always been a regular goalscorer in the Championship and he seemed to enjoy his loan spell at Turf Moor a few years back – would he be keen on a return?

Wages would presumably be the big hurdle here and that might be the case for a few others names on this list.

Will Grigg

We probably aren’t going to be shopping in the Championship top scorers list, so MK Dons striker Grigg may well be a very interesting suggestion.

The 23-year-old scored 23 goals as the franchise club won promotion to the second tier and he was particularly prolific in the run-in when the pressure was on, hitting 10 in their last 12 games after a dodgy spring.

Grigg would probably not be cheap, but Charlie Austin and Danny Ings are proof of how valuable players from the lower leagues can turn out to be after a couple of years of development.

Patrick Bamford

Bamford will be at the top of a few shopping lists this summer and the young Chelsea man is certain to be in demand.

Prolific in various loan spells, Bamford is expected to go out on loan again, but perhaps a return to Middlesbrough is most likely for him.

Jose Mourinho may want him to be tested in the Premier League, but Dyche should certainly be asking the question. Bamford pretty much guarantees goals in the Championship.

Adam Le Fondre

Tom Farrar has already made a powerful case for the former Reading striker, who has hit double figures in his last two seasons at Championship level despite moving around a lot and being played out of position.

It’s only a couple of years since Le Fondre was boshing them in at Premier League level. He scores goals, and lots of them.

Chris Wood

Wood is another striker to have moved around a lot in the last few years and in that regard there are perhaps parallels to be drawn with Sam Vokes, who was positively nomadic before settling at Turf Moor.

The last season has been a bit of a write-off for Wood, who scored just once, although that was for Leicester City in the Premier League.

He has previously scored plenty in the Championship and would presumably be surplus to requirements at the King Power.

And on Football Manager he scored an absolute ton of goals for me a couple of years ago. So there’s that…

Zach Clough

My own selection is Clough, the 2o-year-old Bolton attacker who’s been compared to Lionel Messi and dubbed a “wonderkid” in the press.

He’s extremely raw but six goals in 10 appearances before a dislocated shoulder ended his season in March showed he has heaps of ability.

Clough is going to be in demand this summer and whoever gets him is signing a striker with vast potential. Sticking my neck on the line, he’s a potential £10m+ player and a future England international.

Bolton will be keen to hold on to their prized talent but they are in such a huge amount of debt that any serious offers will simply have to be considered.

Jamie Mackie

Mackie certainly fits the profile as a Dyche-type signing. He works his socks off and you know what you’re going to get from him.

It’s fair to say the 29-year-old’s career has stagnated in the last couple of years but he is not too old to make a success of himself elsewhere.

He’s never been prolific but he has also regularly been asked to play on the wing because of his high work rate.

Andre Gray

Gray didn’t have much of a career to write home about before this season, but he scored 18 goals to almost take Brentford into the Premier League.

Strong, fast with an eye for goal, Gray is certainly a player worth keeping an eye on, but Brentford are well-backed by a wealthy owner and will be under little pressure to sell one of their main assets.

Chris Martin

Martin’s injury perhaps cost Derby County a place in the Premier League as their form collapsed without him.

Scoring over 20 goals two seasons in a row is no mean feat and Martin is certainly one of the top strikers in the Championship.

At the age of 25 he has plenty of time to develop further, but perhaps he is a little similar in style to Juke and Vokes?

And after the palaver we had trying to sign Craig Bryson from the Rams last summer, could we seal the deal this time?

Nahki Wells

Wells is a name that always seems to come up and it is no wonder – he is a serious goalscorer.

Last season was a strange one for the former Bradford City man as he found himself in and out of the Huddersfield side.

Despite that, he hit 14 goals in 37 appearances, although three of those strikes did come at Chesterfield in the Capital One Cup.

He’s quick and he scores goals, but is he good enough?

Jermaine Beckford

Beckford caught the eye in the League One play-offs, scoring a hat-trick to send Preston North End back into the Championship.

Released by Bolton, Beckford certainly put himself in the shop window and there will no doubt be plenty of clubs happy to take a punt on him on a free transfer.

At the age of 31 his best years are arguably behind him, but he was a fine player at the highest point of his career.

Dwight Gayle

An £8m player not so long ago, Gayle has been on the periphery at Crystal Palace since the arrival of Alan Pardew, who preferred Glenn Murray up front.

Gayle is rapid and certainly knows where the goal is, but he may see his future in the Premier League.

Palace would certainly want to recoup a large percentage of their outlay on the former Peterborough man, but he would certainly score plenty in the Championship.

It might be a push financially, but Gayle is definitely a player of the right quality if we could afford him.

Assorted others

I’ve barely scratched the surface here, but there were far too many names suggested to go through individually.

Here’s some more: Izzy Brown, James Wilson, Rudy Gestede, Darren Bent, Will Keane, Marvin Emnes, Andi Weimann… the list is almost endless. Although this is the end of it. (Jamie added this joke to Natalie’s piece a little while ago while editing it, so I, as the editor of this piece would like to point out the lack of depth in Jamie’s joke reserves – ed.)

Do any of the above names catch your eye? Got anyone else in mind? Comment below.

Analysis: Aston Villa 0-1 Burnley

A headed finish by Danny Ings was a fitting way to conclude his eventful Burnley career as Tim Sherwood’s men slipped down the table, finishing the season only one place above the drop zone in what should signal a reality check to all Aston Villa supporters ahead of their FA Cup final against Arsenal.

1st half highlights

Aston Villa 0-1 BURNLEY (Ings, 6)

Kieran Trippier’s lofted pass into the middle was hopeful and indicative of Burnley’s struggles in carving out chances this season. As it is, the Villa defence only half cleared out to the edge of the box where the presence of the forward thinking Fredrik Ulvestad was felt. His returning header to Ashley Barnes resulted in the ex-Brighton man continuing the flow of headers, nodding across the box to strike partner Danny Ings who in turn finished with a fine lofted header across helpless youngster Jed Steer

– After Fabian Delph’s partially cleared free kick, Leandro Bacuna’s sweeping return was nodded down for Ron Vlaar though the big Dutchman’s venemous drive from just inside the box arrowed narrowly wide of the top corner

– Superb footwork from George Boyd bamboozled Nathan Baker and his excellent delivery fell on a plate to Ings who lashed high and wide on the volley from eight yards with the goal gaping

– Christian Benteke’s excellent chest control from a raking ball from deep set himself up as he turned, swivelled but his flashed shot took a slight deflection and flew just wide

– Almost immediately after his first opportunity, Benteke was in the thick of the action again, towering above and bullying Kieran Trippier in the air to reach Delph’s pinged cross but Tom Heaton was quickly across to make a fine tip around his near post

– Ashley Westwood reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box and – with back to goal – orchestrated a fine powerful strike, forcing Heaton into another fine fingertip save

2nd half highlights

– Having skipped inside Michael Keane and Jason Shackell, Benteke couldn’t pull the trigger and the ball squirmed to Gabby Agbonglahor with only Heaton to beat but his finish was far too conservative and weak, allowing the Clarets keeper to block with his leg

– Ings had the Villa defence backpedaling not for the first time in the afternoon, and his delicate through pass to play Boyd in on goal was first class, much like the quick-thinking of keeper Steer who rushed from his line to block the shot

– Delph strode forward without an outlet to find and so powered a 25-yard piledriver at goal which stung Heaton’s gloves; he did well to dive and push the ball to safety

– A weak clearance by Keane spelled trouble as it gave Charles N’Zogbia an invitation on his rocket of a left boot from the edge of the area. Once again however, Heaton was on hand to make an impressive sprawling push over the top to thwart the subsequent howitzer

– Once again, the impressive Delph had found room before cutting across the ball and striking it narrowly wide from 35 yards

A case for Fred

In the centre of midfield it was a case of two polar opposites. In David Jones, a man who has been at lots of clubs and can read the game well. His style of play consists of graft and ball retention. The latter is both important but also frustrating as passes are often sideways or backwards and without Dean Marney’s ability to usher the team forward, it is more and more evident. In Fredrick Ulvestad, you have a potentially younger version of Dean Marney. His energy and willingness to tackle, albeit not as forcefully as Marney, is there to see but his role in the opening goal, acting as a midfielder pushing towards the edge of the opposition box, is something that has been missing recently.

Certainly this performance and his cameo against Stoke last week offers hope that Burnley may have found (without spending a penny), an effective alternative in the middle should one of Marney or Jones be unavailable in periods next season but nonetheless, a fourth central midfielder should still be considered.

The Burnley spine

Every team has a spine. It’s what holds the team together. Every team has its flair players that create that bit of magic to decide matches yet it’s the spine that is the key. Manchester City won the title last season with a spine of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. Chelsea won the title this campaign with a spine of Thaibaut Courtrois, John Terry, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. Yes, David Silva was involved heavily too in the former, and of course Eden Hazard was in the latter, yet without the base of those respective four players, the team as a whole would not function to the best of its ability. And that is the same with any team.

Burnley’s spine is Heaton, Shackell, Marney and Ings. The past few months, the absence of Dean Marney in the middle has been severely felt and has hampered the survival bid. Being the cog in the wheel that linked defence and attack, it could be argued that his loss would have been greater than the loss of any other members of the Burnley spine, such was his influence at both ends of the field. Though the problem that will arise is what happens when the spine is heavily fractured? What happens when it is highly plausible that Marney may be the only remaining member of that spine?

In Tom Heaton, Burnley had found a diamond in the rough after his release from Bristol City. His England call-up recently will no doubt spark waves of interest from many top flight teams with Southampton most notably in for a shot stopper to fill the spot of injured Fraser Forster. Many will forget though sitting on the sidelines, the Clarets have Matt Gilks, a former player of the year at Blackpool who has both Premier League and Championship experience under his belt. Not for one moment am I suggesting he is better than Heaton – he is not – though keepers in the mould of Heaton cost a good few million and it’s highly doubtful that the funds Sean Dyche has available will be spent in that position.

Jason Shackell – as mentioned in my player ratings – is now a very solid centre half that could do more than a job for your West Hams, Newcastles and West Broms. Should he move on to a bigger club, it is his vocal presence that will be missed the most. His marshaling of the back-line in the past two campaigns has been nothing short of outstanding and the way he is able to neutralise some of the best attackers in English football shows how far he has come in the way he handles himself and doesn’t allow himself to be dragged out of position. Thinking logically though, the signing of Keane in January was a signing based on the near future rather than the remainder of the season. Most would have expected he would replace the ageing Michael Duff though with the veteran set to extend his contract by a further year, the duo may strike a partnership mixing age and experience with youth and development which can sustain many of the second divisions attacking threats.

Then of course there is Danny Ings. The talisman that played a massive role in Burnley’s promotion, and an equally massive role in the survival plan with his signature rumoured to be being pursued by giants Liverpool and Manchester United. While I am not doubting his ability and the potential he has for the future, I can’t help but feel he is not a top six or top seven player. In all seriousness, he’s too good for Burnley and too good to be fighting the drop next season, so deserves a spot with a smaller club pushing for bigger things, like Swansea or Southampton. Wherever he does end up, I’m sure all Burnley fans will be greatful for all his contributions while at the club and will wish him well for his future career.

The issue with Danny Ings is that there is one obvious avenue in place to deal with his absence though it may not be as fruitful as one may expect. In Sam Vokes, Burnley have a man who hit 20 Championship goals last season so should be considered potent at that level of football. In Ashley Barnes, there is a footballer who could be argued wasn’t really fit for regular Championship football though his performances over this season of grit, determination and a touch of quality would condemn those thoughts. When Steven Fletcher left, Jay Rodrgiuez stepped out of the shadows. When Rodriguez left, Charlie Austin stepped up to the billing. When Austin left, Ings – and to a large extent Vokes himself – were on hand to fill the hole. When Danny Ings leaves, will Vokes and Barnes take charge?

Only time will tell but the last year has been a torrid one for Vokes in terms of injury and his performances post-injury have been a tame imitation of what he produced last season. Equally, Barnes is not a proven goal-scorer, nor does he look like getting 15-20 goals a season and so the burden would be well and truly on Vokes to rediscover his form.

There is then the option of delving into the transfer market and trying to replace Ings but in truth, you’re letting a £10 million player go for potentially less than half his true market value (when the compensation does arrive). Quite simply, Burnley would most probably have to break their transfer record by about £7 million in order to sign someone of equal quality to Ings as the lack of scouting means most business is between clubs in England. His first touch, bits of magic, dribbling ability and finishing nous made him the most complete player at the club and so you’re not just losing a striker, you’re losing a playmaker, a workhorse and a magician. You’re losing a top drawer player.

What if Trippier leaves?

Because he is not essentially part of the “spine,” I hadn’t included him in the above, though his departure for me would be on a par with that of Ings. While Ings is not just a striker, Trippier is far from being just a right-back with his powerful surges down the right, the catalyst for five goals this season and a staggering 14 the season before. His influence on the team cannot be replicated as attacking full-backs that can defend as well as they push forward are a rarity and that’s why Trippier will be sought by Premier League clubs.

My solution is a tad obscure but it certainly worked for Chelsea, move the secondary left back to right back. Well, in Chelsea’s case, Cesar Azpilicueta, who has in the last eight months or so been labelled the best defender in the country, was playing second fiddle to the formidable Branislav Ivanovic on the right side of Chelsea’s defence and so was drafted in on the left.

Stephen Ward for me is far too good to be sitting on the bench because of Ben Mee. With all due respect to Mee, I can’t for the life of me see why Ward has not taken the left-back berth as he is superior both defensively and offensively in that position. Though the Irishman is well known for his versatility – playing up-front with previous clubs – and certainly you could envisage him slotting in at right back and doing more than a job in that position, considering the fact he is as comfortable with his left foot as he is his right.

Burnley MOTM

Tom Heaton 8/10: Has kept Burnley in many games this season with his performances and has deserved a place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the level of consistency displayed throughout the season. Made five very important saves, including two excellent pushes over the bar, to deny Villa at least a share of the spoils.

Kieran Trippier 7/10: A comfortable performer in the top flight now and a dangerous threat when bombing down the flank

Michael Keane 6/10: The 22-year-old has the potential to be a top quality centre half but moments of indecisiveness in the match highlight why Duff was preferred during the back-end of this campaign

Jason Shackell 7/10: Has evolved into a defender of Premier League standard now with his reading of the game and he will no doubt have suitors from clubs in the bottom half of the top tier

Ben Mee 6/10: It has been a inconsistent season for the Clarets left-back, with some very good performances balanced out with some very poor ones. The Championship will provide a more stable ground for his feet

Scott Arfield 5/10: Back out wide though often not in the game and when on the ball, his crossing flattered to deceive

Fredrik Ulvestad 7/10: Nothing too spectacular but a promising debut for the Norweigan which highlighted his eagerness to push the Clarets up the pitch in a similar vein to Dean Marney. It would seem foolish to believe that he won’t play a part in the promotion push next season

David Jones 6/10: Tackled well in the middle but outshone by his young counterpart who’s attacking prowess worked in contrast to his safe, conservative and at times uninspiring game

George Boyd 7/10: Best appearance for a some time in a Burnley shirt. Terrorised Baker in the first half to tee up Ings and latched onto Ings’ through ball, forcing Steer into a smart save

Ashley Barnes 5/10 (Sam Vokes 5/10): Neither striker particularly made a notable impact on the encounter as the latter replaced the former after his back injury. Though one would expect both of these forwards to up their game as it may be the new-look attack that is aiming to fire Burnley to promotion

Danny Ings 7/10: A truly menacing display that really reinforced what a hole Burnley will have to fill as a squad to cope with his departure. Lovely goal and some fine runs and passes caused problems

Aston Villa MOTM

Fabian Delph 8/10: An epitome of the attacking intent and freedom Tim Sherwood asks of his players when they go into every match. Buzzed around the middle of the park and played some fine passes to his team-mates to create openings. Tried his luck from distance on numerous occasions and although the final product was slightly lacking, his ambition and confidence should be commended

Steer 6, Bacuna 7, Vlaar 6, Baker 6, N’Zogbia 6, Cleverley 5, Westwood 7, Agbonglahor 5, Benteke 7, Grealish 6

Heaton has been consistently brilliant

Naturally, it’s been a difficult season for Burnley fans.

Promotion to the Premier League has given us a few highs: that first victory at the tenth attempt against Hull in November; four points off defending champions Manchester City; a draw at Chelsea and so on, but largely, adapting to the trials and tribulations of top-flight football has been a frustrating experience.

Even over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had our relegation to the Championship confirmed and been told – as if it was ever in doubt – that Danny Ings would be departing this summer. The chinks of positivity have almost been nullified by the negatives, but those demanding fixtures in the Premier League have not been entirely in vain.

Tom Heaton, seen by many as the club’s best player over the course of the season, has been rewarded with a first call-up to the England squad for the Three Lions’ games against the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia next month.

Heaton has been consistently brilliant for us during his time at Turf Moor and, given his quality and family ties with the club, it feels like the only regret is that we didn’t sign him sooner.

A division-best 17 clean sheets in the Championship last season proved pivotal to our promotion, and the keeper has gone on to record nine more in his debut season in the top tier.

The adjustment to keeping out the likes of Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez has been seamless for the former Manchester United stopper, who ranks as the sixth busiest keeper in the league according to WhoScored.com.

With the Clarets bound to conceding more chances, shots on target and goals themselves, Heaton’s saves per match record of 3.3 stands up alongside the likes of Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris and West Ham United’s Adrian. The very best keepers in the division inevitably make fewer saves as they face fewer shots, so for Heaton to be joining such company brings to light his endeavours.

WhoScored.com also revealed the Burnley stopper has the best rating out of any of his contemporaries to play over five matches since the beginning of March, almost three months ago. The rating, at 7.36, means that over the season he has averaged out at 6.77 – a figure surpassing the likes of Joe Hart, David De Gea and Fraser Forster.

Heaton has saved the second highest number  of shots from outside the box in the Premier League too with 54, edging out compatriot Rob Green (53) and narrowly behind Lukasz Fabianski (58).

While the stats make for impressive reading, they only reveal half the story. It is clear to anyone who has watched Burnley this season that Heaton has made a series of excellent saves to keep us in matches and, to a further extent, winning points. The obvious example comes from last year’s home match against Southampton, where a penalty save from Dusan Tadic saw the Clarets record a clean sheet and a priceless 1-0 win.

Heaton has aptly demonstrated the facets of any good goalkeeper’s game, from distribution and decision-making to organisation and handling. It breeds confidence, and gives the club’s attacking outfield players a licence to play and that safety to go forth, knowing they have a solid performer behind them between the sticks.

Murmurs of a call-up emerged as recently as late March for England’s double header against Lithuania and Italy. Heaton missed out on that occasion, but with Ben Foster and Fraser Forster sidelined and Jack Butland selected for the U21s, Burnley’s No. 1 joins QPR’s Green and Joe Hart that make up England’s goalkeeping contingent for next month.

Actual game time may elude Heaton, but should he grace the pitch he would become the first Burnley player to wear the Three Lions in over four decades. Roy Hodgson’s hand may have been forced somewhat to select Heaton due to mitigating factors, but it is still a sign of the manager’s faith.

It’s a deserved call-up for Burnley’s most impressive performer of the season, and here’s hoping he gets time to impress in an England shirt.

How do you feel about Heaton’s call-up? Comment below.