Plenty of fish in the sea despite knock-backs

While Troy Deeney is almost certainly off the radar now with Sean Dyche himself publicly declaring the club could not “entertain” any player that commands such a hefty fee, it could also be possible that West Brom are proving too difficult a nut to crack regarding defender Craig Dawson, with interest of the player appearing to be dying down and no imminent bid of £3 million being readied as was suggested last week.

Although it may be frustrating for supporters to hear that their club cannot compete with the rest of the Premier League’s bottom half teams in terms of spending, it should be remembered that the board are making sure that Burnley is a safe and secure football club financially and one which will not fall into debt or liquidation. By following these strict guidelines it will make life more challenging for boss Dyche and his scouts though certainly far from impossible as he prepares to make more adjustments to his team before August 18th.

There have certainly been many transfer target columns on NNN prior to this one but now I feel we all now have a more transparent understanding of the restrictions which Dyche will be working under.

So here is how I (and he) could look to exploit the market.

Defence

Michael Keane (Loan, Manchester United). Efe Ambrose (£3-4 million, Celtic)

Keane is a talented young centre half who is unlikely to break into the first team fold at United yet again this season. The arrival of Louis van Gaal means a revamp of tactics and the squad as he is set to be given an enormous war chest to scour the top talent around the globe. Keane wants to play football and his performances for Blackburn on loan in the second half of last season were of a very high standard, prompting speculation that they want his signature on loan for the forthcoming season. There have been links from other Championship clubs including Cardiff though there has been little top flight interest, which could mean that Burnley seal a deal for the season.

Ambrose is a slightly more tricky acquisition to get, however if you are to believe recent speculation, it would seem Burnley are front runners for the Nigerian centre half’s signature. While he wouldn’t be the marquee signing that supporters of Burnley would love to see, he is certainly one that shows a subtle statement of intent which may go unnoticed by the pundits. You could argue that as a centre half for Celtic in Scotland’s top division, it would be easy to stand out – and you would be correct. His main traits are his impressive performances for the Glaswegians in the Champions League against world-class teams, as well as his versatility at playing both full-back and centre-back in Nigeria’s excellent World Cup campaign in Rio. Certainly, with links to both Ambrose and Dawson, there would have to be only one winner in my head.

Midfield

Mikele Leigertwood (Free, Reading), Nathaniel Chalobah (Loan, Chelsea)

I feel the midfield area is somewhere where you need experience. This is because it’s the most important area on the pitch. Mikele Leigertwood is someone who ticks that box and who could make a real impression on the Burnley team. At 31 and having just been released by Reading due to him being a high earner, Leigertwood would jump at the chance at a return to the top flight and could be a real bargain. He has experience at left-back and centre-back which are experiences that will have helped his all-round game as a defensive midfielder and at 6′ 2”, he is a fierce presence in the middle and would add steel to an already very solid and workmanlike duo of Dean Marney and David Jones.

Chalobah meanwhile is at the other end of the spectrum in some aspects but is very similar to Leigertwood in others. Firstly, he is only a young chap at the tender age of 19 and has no top flight experience other than perhaps having the pleasure of sitting on the Chelsea sidelines and watching the Blues at Stamford Bridge. What he does offer though is youth and freshness which one could argue is needed in that Burnley midfield. Personally, I would opt for an entirely experienced midfield three because of that knowhow they will possess, however, Chalobah cannot be ignored for the way he strolled into the starting eleven of Watford, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough and for his versatility at also been able to play in the defence when required.

Forwards

Matthew Etherington (Free, Stoke), Jordon Ibe (Loan, Liverpool), Danny Graham (£1 million, Sunderland)

That word is being banded about a lot and I’m going to use it again – experience. It’s certainly something offered by veteran Matthew Etherington who only a few years ago was tearing teams apart in the top flight, always contributing to Stoke with a number of goals and assists each season. But Stoke have come along way since their initial promotion and Etherington has slowly fallen down the pecking order until he was released this summer. You would be foolish to think his career was finished however as Etherington is only 32 and still has at least another two seasons of top flight football within him. He’s without doubt got that knowhow with his time with the Potters and formerly with West Ham and could teach the current crop of wingers a trick or two to help better their game.

Jordon Ibe is that one player I would categorise as being different in the list of transfers. Many of my recruits would be classed as safe bets and although they would broaden the squad, they wouldn’t necessarily add anything new, only upgrade what is already there. Ibe would be different. With the Reds revolution well and truly underway following Luis Suarez’s departure, I really cannot see Ibe making the fold quite yet – although he inevitably will in the next few years. His form during pre-season has been excellent with the young man showing pace, flair and the ability to pick a pass. He really could be a coup if a club opts to take a punt on the winger, with the only rumoured interest so far seemingly from clubs at the lower end of the Championship. He’s hardly the finished article, his finishing looks rather erratic, but what better person to nurture him than Dyche.

Finally, I would like to see fallen star Danny Graham in a Claret and Blue shirt next campaign. For anyone who only began to follow Graham since about two years ago, you must think I’m mad. He’s had a shocking run of form at both Premier League and Championship level with the Black Cats, with Hull and with Middlesbrough.

However, for those who can remember what possessed Sunderland to seal a £6 million swoop for the striker, it was his superb predatory instinct in front of goal which saw him bag 14 goals in 39 appearances for Swansea in their debut Premier League season. In fact, from 2006 up until that point, in all competitions he had eight goals in the 06-07 season (League One), 14 in the 07-08 season (League One), 15 in the 08-09 season (League One), 14 in the 09-10 season (Championship), 27 in the 10-11 campaign (Championship) – all of which is proof that this boy could finish in whatever division he played in and for whatever reason, he became an almost recluse-like figure and is now available.

Do you think Burnley could move for any of the above names? Comment below.

Boycott planned for Blackpool friendly

The ongoing saga at Blackpool has been one of the big stories of the summer.

Rumours have abounded over the future of new manager Jose Riga, while the team still only has a handful of players on their books just a fortnight ahead of the start of the season.

Blackpool fans are now planning a protest and a boycott of their team’s friendly with Burnley at Bloomfield Road on Saturday and Pool fan Rob Underdown got in touch with No Nay Never to fill us in.

“You are probably aware of the situation at Blackpool this pre season with only eight players on our books and not one of them a goalkeeper.

“Since our fall from the Premier League there has been over £100m through the clubs coffers with the final parachute payment due in the next few weeks. Out of this £100m we have constantly paid the lowest wages in the Championship with very little being spent on actual transfers, in fact in 2012/13 our chairman Karl Oyston paid himself over £500k which was more than was spent on transfers that season.

This wouldn’t be so bad if we could see some development of youth or the upkeep on the ground, but we have a training ground that hasn’t changed much since the days of Matthews and Mortenson, a ground that is falling rapidly into disrepair and all of our ‘assists’ footballing wise sold off for huge profits, Tom Ince, Matt Phillips and Charlie Adam to name three who brought in around £20m between them.

“Aside from this over £23m has been taken out of the club with a salary of £11m paid to Karl’s father Owen, the club’s owner, as a one off payment in 2010/11 and the rest going to unsecured loans to various loss making Oyston companies.

“We the fans have had enough and through protests which started last season we shall continue them this year by various means, one of which is to boycott paying any more than we have to. This includes the home friendly where I believe we have sold only 200 tickets, match day refreshments, shirts from the club shop amongst other things.

“We would appreciate it if you could pass this on to Clarets fans so that they could help us and not spend more than just the ticket money on the day! We have organised a protest outside the ground before and during the game and you are welcome to join us in our fight against greed in football. If not then I hope the Burnley fans will respect our protest and wish us well, the last thing we need would be any sort of trouble on the day.”

£40 tickets at Turf Moor

Walk-on prices have been announced for Burnley’s Premier League campaign, with £35 the cheapest price available to adults.

Eight games will be category A and priced at £42 for premium areas and £40 for everywhere else. The Bob Lord Stand and central areas of the James Hargreaves Upper are close to selling out, so there won’t be many £42 tickets available.

The remaining 11 fixtures will be priced at £35 around the ground. There is no lower price point. The obvious area to have lower prices would have been the Jimmy McIlroy Lower, but that’s deemed a comparable area to the away end, and the club would have had to lower tickets for travelling supporters as well.

Walk-on prices at £40+ don’t come as a huge shock given season tickets for the Longside are currently on sale at what works out at £36 a game. The club didn’t leave itself anywhere else to go but even further up.

With 800+ STs left to sell, those who commit to the full season will only get one free game. This is despite the club changing its mind from having six category A games to eight after it was pointed out at this week’s Supporters Consultation Committee meeting that STs on sale now don’t offer particularly good value. The club did at least listen, but the response was to put prices up, which seemed an odd reaction to the criticism that prices were too high.

Both of the televised games at the start of the season – Chelsea and Manchester United – have been categorised in the A block, meaning fans will have a choice between paying £40 or watching it at home/in the pub. With Chelsea being a Monday night game, many people from outside the Burnley area will find it hard to get home afterwards.

Chelsea could end up being the litmus test for the ticket pricing. If the Turf is full and rocking, the hikes to ST costs and £40 walk-on tickets will have been justified. If there are hundreds of empty seats, it will be clear the club has got it badly wrong.

When Turf Moor tickets rose above £30 for the first time (albeit for Championship football), I thought that was a dangerous level to cross. There’s no doubt that ticket prices across English football are out of control and Burnley’s fit into that, but it feels wrong for the club to hail its community credentials one minute and ask for £40 to watch a football match the next.

The club is also keen to note our prices are average for the Premier League – does that mean we’re going to buy some average Premier League players for our average Premier League team and finish in an average Premier League position like 11th? I doubt it.

In fact, research from Sporting Intelligence suggests only Chelsea have a more expensive lowest adult’s matchday ticket price of the teams that have announced prices so far. That’s Chelsea who have spent £85m on players this summer. Some doubt has been cast over the Sporting Intelligence data however, with the Liverpool tickets priced wrongly.

Season tickets were extremely well priced in the early bird period and 12,300 took advantage of a seriously good deal. But as 1,750 seats had to be held back for walk-ons, this is a separate issue and the “should have bought a season ticket” line doesn’t wash.

Without getting into that debate again, STs aren’t always suitable for everyone. Everyone has unique circumstances and committing to 19 games isn’t always possible. Nobody is saying the club should have options for every single individual fan, but that’s the reality of the situation. You can’t just write everyone off who didn’t buy a season ticket, whatever their reasons or excuses, especially if you want a full stadium.

The club is still confident it will sell the remaining 800 season tickets and despite struggling to sell out for matches in the Premier League last time – our first year in the top flight in decades – chief executive Lee Hoos is optimistic Turf Moor will be full every week.

He’s wrong.

It’s that simple.

He is totally wrong.

And he looks daft to even suggest we’ll be selling out at these prices.

If Hoos thinks he’s going to sell 1,750 tickets at £40 a pop, he’s got his numbers seriously wrong. It won’t be the first time his ticket strategy has been a mess. Last year, Burnley had more than 100 different matchday prices. It was a total shambles.

Flexi-tickets

There is a solution, of sorts.

Last season, Burnley introduced flexi-tickets as a bridge between season tickets and walk-on prices. Fans could commit to either four or six matches in either a premium or budget part of the ground, with the flexis working out at as low as about £20 a ticket – not bad when top whack walk-ons were paying £33 for games like Leeds.

Burnley could offer similar packages again this season, but there isn’t an awful lot of wiggle room given they still need to ensure season tickets are the best deal available. But five category B games at, say, £150, knocking off a fiver a match on the walk-on cost to bring it down to a more reasonable £30 a game, could encourage a few more people to turn up. Otherwise, it’s difficult to see Burnley shifting 1,750 tickets at £35 a pop to watch the likes of Hull, Leicester and Palace.

That might be seen as backtracking, but the club is going to have to do something to fill up Turf Moor this season. We’ll be looking at gates of 18,000 or so for some games unless something is done to make going to watch Burnley a bit more affordable.

Just one final point. With category A games priced at £40, that’s over six hours work at minimum wage to be able to pay for a ticket to watch a 90-minute football match.

Since a lot of people in Burnley are on zero hour contracts and don’t know how much work they will have from one week to the next, season tickets are out of the picture. They’re being priced out. As are expats who also have to consider the travelling costs and associated expenses when pricing up a trip to Turf Moor.

Community club?

Our Town, Our Turf?

Prove it.

What’s your reaction to the ticket prices? Comment below. 

News: Supporters Consultation Committee

Towards the end of last season No Nay Never was invited to send someone to the club’s semi-regular Supporters Consultation Committee (SCC) meetings at Turf Moor.

The first meeting of this season was last night. Present was chief executive Lee Hoos and his PA, the club’s head of community Neil Hart and the club’s new supporters liaison officer, Emily (I didn’t catch her last name). Among the ten or so supporters was former Burnley MP Peter Pike, from Clarets Trust, and Tony Scholes from Clarets Mad.

There was about half an hour picking over the minutes of the previous meeting, then we got on to the agenda proper. It was mainly tickets, so if you’re bored of hearing about them I recommend skipping down the page a bit.

Season tickets

First, some news. The club has sold 13,800 season tickets so far, with 825 left. The premium areas of the ground – the Bob Lord Stand and Longside upper central – are virtually sold out. About 12,300 were sold in the early bird period, so around 1,500 have been bought since they went back on sale. The club is confident the remaining 825 will be sold in the next few weeks.

This was our first time at the SCC, but prices had been discussed at the previous meeting. A rise of around £50 on early bird prices had been suggested and it was pointed out the price rises were much higher than this when they were eventually released, both in total price, cost per match and percentage terms. This wouldn’t be the first time I wondered what the point of the SCC was if the club didn’t listen to what the group suggested, or changed its mind afterwards.

The retainer

Inevitably, the issue of the retainer came up and the debate got pretty heated.

There were voices on either side of the argument and it was pointed out the early bird prices were extremely reasonable, especially with the payment plans on offer. However, others (including myself, representing NNN) argued that the retainer was alienating and had pitted fans against each other. Hoos denied the club had done this, although he himself used terms like “Premier League fans” on the radio, a line he is still sticking to.

Apparently he knows a Villa fan who is getting a season ticket at Turf Moor. One fan said the large rise in prices was “money grubbing” from the club. Hoos has this odd habit of leaning back on two legs of his chair when someone is having a go at him.

The club is still arguing that the retainer – now officially called a ‘voucher’ after the passionate and angry outcry – is the best way to encourage loyalty. I personally would argue it’s a form of bribery and that’s not the way to go about encouraging people to come and support the club.

Others noted the club’s communication of the prices/retainer was extremely confusing, pointing out it had to be rebranded as a voucher and a FAQ needed to be produced to address the problems. Hoos accepted the club handled that badly and took responsibility, saying he hadn’t been able to check the initial release as he was on a plane when it went out.

It struck me and others as odd that such an important thing would get messed up so badly – surely a process is in place to stop this if the chief exec isn’t around to check everything. Hopefully the club has learned lessons from the debacle.

I asked whether the retainer idea had gone in front of a group like the SCC or any sort of fan panel. It hadn’t.

I asked if the club had seen the shitstorm coming. It hadn’t.

There’s no doubt that the communication of the ST prices generally, especially the retainer/voucher idea, was nothing short of appalling. It was pointed out by SCC attendees that the club then rushed out an announcement that next year’s early bird prices will be the same as this season’s. While an admirable move to commit to a price freeze so early, it looked like a desperate move to claw back some goodwill.

Hoos denied this was the case and claimed the intention was for that announcement to be made at the same time as the initial ST prices one. A fine mess all round. Hoos also said it hasn’t been decided whether the retainer (I refuse to call it anything else) would be in effect next season. It depends where we are.

Hoos got himself in a muddle trying to work out some percentage increase thing that made no sense to a layman like me anyway and a supporter had to point out that at the proposed walk-on prices (more on which later), ST holders who bought after the early bird period would only get one free game, in effect. Not much of an incentive if you don’t think you’ll be able to attend every match.

For example, with the Chelsea game being moved to Monday night for Sky, that makes travel difficult for a lot of supporters. It’s pretty much impossible to get out of Burnley on public transport after 10pm during the week – the last train to Leeds and the last bus to Manchester both leave before the game would be over.

As someone who was still on the fence about getting an ST (I really, really want one, though I think the retainer is truly diabolical and they’re generally overpriced), not being able to get home from the Chelsea game has made it an easy decision for me. It’ll be the pub and NNN Live for me this season.

Honestly, it didn’t really feel like the criticisms of the retainer and ST prices were getting through to Hoos. He said he’d already admitted the marketing of it had been poor to the board and seemed keen to draw a line under the matter. I suspect there’s underlying bad feeling been generated by this that will spring up as soon as we have a bad run of results. Someone messed up badly and that hasn’t been properly acknowledged yet.

Community work

Moving on from tickets (at last!), next up was Neil Hart talking about the club’s new community work. Neil lightened the mood after the retainer row with a lot of statistics about how rundown and deprived Burnley is.

Anyway, Neil ran a very successful community department at Watford and by the sounds of it, lots of really great work is going on in this area now at Burnley. The community side is being run as a charity at no cost to the club and the idea is to work with local kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve their skills, opportunities and career prospects. This is all fantastic and it’s worth keeping an eye out for the work Neil and his team is doing.

Neil also introduced Emily as the new supporters liaison officer (it’s a Premier League requirement to have one) and she’ll be dealing with all complaints from now on (they should be made in writing to info@burnleyfc.com). It sounds much like sorting complaints out will be much of Emily’s job, which doesn’t really sound much like actually liaising to me, more firefighting, but anyway.

Also, it seemed wrong  to me for Burnley to talk so much about being a community club and really try to press that message, and then ask for £685 for a season ticket, including what is in effect a £100 loan to the club for 12 months. Our Town, Our Turf? If you have the money, maybe.

Forever Claret wall

The other main item up for debate was the Forever Claret wall. Again, the club made a right pig’s ear of the initial communication, which meant a clarification had to be issued.

This has been a regular theme all summer. Hoos pointed out that a lot of club staff are very stretched with extra responsibilities, so perhaps this is why things are getting missed and going wrong. He gave a couple of examples of employees who are essentially doing the work of three or four people.

Hoos indicated he is pressuring the board for more resources to address these staffing issues, although you would hope this could all have been dealt with earlier in the summer. For example, our new supporters liaison officer will be taking on that role in addition to existing duties. Other clubs have three or four members of staff who work on supporter liaison alone.

Hoos spoke of having ‘generalists’ rather than specialists in some departments, which has held back areas such as the club shop. However, the success of the community team, led by a proven community expert, will perhaps indicate the way forward.

Anyway, the wall. You’ll have seen the bricks on the Jimmy Mac stand. They always looked a bit naff and they’re looking really poor now. At the time it was a rushed job by the club as it was strapped for cash. Folk paid £45 for a brick on the understanding it would be there forever. That’s obviously not the case now, with the club saying “health and safety issues” – they’re falling off basically, why the club can’t just say that, I have no idea – means they have to come down. This has upset some people, with one fan writing to the local press to express his feelings on the issue.

The idea is to replace the bricks with some dead fancy looking granite slabs and they look like something we could really be proud of. However, the club has no database of people who bought the bricks, so contacting them is problematic. The club wants them to pay £20 upgrade to a granite slab, although people have the choice to keep their brick instead and it will be replaced at no cost if it’s damaged when it’s moved.

About 700 of the bricks were sold, so Tony pointed out upgrading all of them would be a total cost of £14,000 to fans. That’s obviously a pittance considering our sudden financial riches and it seems odd the club would ask people to fork out such a small amount, given £14,000 is essentially a player’s wage for a week, virtually nothing.

The goodwill of such a gesture would be well worth that £14,000, in my eyes. But Hoos said the club is already taking a hit on the new Forever Claret wall. It was suggested fundraising could cover the cost of the granite slabs. Hoos is also keen to find a local tradesman to carry out the work on the new wall – if anyone can recommend a Burnley fan who’s a dab hand in this area please let us know and we’ll pass the details on.

Matchday atmosphere

Matchday atmosphere was also on the agenda. Co-chairman John B is very keen to try and replicate the atmosphere Crystal Palace supporters have created at Selhurst Park. When we put feelers out about potentially having a singing area with flags and banners, the response was minimal with only a couple of dozen fans expressing interest. Perhaps that was down to it being the summer, I don’t know. But it’s a bit late in the day to be sorting things out for this season now.

Goal music wasn’t on the agenda and two hours into the meeting, I wasn’t going to be the one to bring it up. Sorry. The club is also keen to address the abuse of the under-10 season tickets in the Family Stand, but there appear to be no easy solutions to that one, unless the new access control system can somehow be utilised. Essentially, if you buy an adult ticket in that stand you get a kid’s one free, which you can then upgrade on a match-by-match basis. The club wants to stop this.

Walk-on ticket prices

The last main thing discussed was the proposed walk-on prices, which we got an advance look at. They’re due to be announced tomorrow so I don’t really want to give precise details in case they are changed after our feedback (I doubt it) but they’re broadly in the range you’d expect.

There will be two categories instead of three, with six matches in the top bracket. These will include the opening two matches, Chelsea and Manchester United, both of which are on telly. It was pointed out people might blanch at the large ticket price when they can watch it in the pub for nothing, but televised top category games has been done to death and the club doesn’t seem willing to budge on what seems a completely obvious move.

With the ST prices being as high as they are, walk-ons were always going to be a big jump on last season. Top prices STs are £685, which is a touch over £36 a game. The cheapest adult tickets will be more expensive than the costliest last season.

Hoos is optimistic the Turf will regularly sell out. As we didn’t sell out regularly the last time we were in the Premier League – our first season in the top flight for decades – I think that’s delusional.

Some 1,750 seats have to be held back for walk-ons and in an age of internet streams, dodgy pub foreign feed set-ups, social media, NNN Live and so on, flogging them all at those proposed prices is going to be seriously challenging. Again, there is no lower price point as dropping ticket prices for the most obvious area, the Jimmy Mac Lower, would mean lowering them for away fans too as that is deemed a comparable part of the ground and home and away fans have to pay the same.

We put forward four ideas to the agenda after suggestions through Twitter, as follows.

1 opening the foundation lounge/supporters bar/centre spot for televised away matches

Hoos said this would be a good idea if the demand was there. I pointed out beer would have to be keenly priced as you can drink £2 pints and watch football elsewhere in town. Is it going to happen? Dunno.

2 creation of a more formal network of supporters clubs that BFC actively supports.

I also mentioned some issues with North American Clarets trying to get official recognition – communication breakdown perhaps. Also, board members have apparently presented to supporters clubs locally. Why not do that online (via social media?) for all fans to access?

Hoos is in favour of having a network of supporters clubs, I’ve been asked to pass on contact details, which I will do.

3 beer pumps that pour multiple pints at a time to reduce queues at half-time

Idea went to catering department – they prefer to sell bottles as they’re quicker to serve. Which is fair I suppose, I’ve worked in a bar and it’s much easier to deal with bottles rather than pints.

4 improvements to tickets for troops scheme, complains it doesn’t work well enough

Club is already considering changes to the programme as it isn’t working properly and the system is being abused.

Hopefully the above gives some insight into what goes on at these SCC meetings. I might have missed some things so I will come back with an update if I remember anything else, or feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Essentially, we were there three hours, nothing really got decided or resolved, and we all agreed to come back and do it again in September. Cracking.

UPDATE: Just had a note from the club. It will be eight Category A games, not six. That’ll shift those 825 unsold season tickets. Probably.

Ulloa and calculated risks make me fond of cautious Clarets

In the next few days, we are expected to get the confirmed transfer of Argentinian forward Leonardo Ulloa’s move to Leicester for a staggering £10m fee. It is transfers such as this which make me feel that clubs such as Burnley do right in airing on the side of caution despite the extreme challenges of the Premier League.

Having seen quite a bit of all the Championship clubs last season, I cannot say that Ulloa was overly standing out above the rest of the crowd. He did notch 16 goals in 38 games – 14 in the Championship – which is a fairly sound return and many Brighton fans felt he was an excellent focal point which could bring others into the game. However, for an eight figure sum, Foxes fans will be expecting a return of at least double figures in terms of goals from the big-man this season, meaning a fast start to his Premier League career will be required, coupled with being an instigator to other goals and the occasional flashes of real quality which explain why he is their club record signing. A tall order for a man with no top flight experience, as other professional footballers have discovered.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel of Norwich and Konstantinos Mitroglou (“Kostas”) of Fulham have a combined goals to game ratio of one in thirty, a total price tag of £21 million and have contributed next to nothing as both of their respective clubs bowed out of the Premier League with a whimper. It’s fair to say if either club wants to flog off their expensive flops, they will make a hefty loss on them no matter what way they try to market it. Fulham quite clearly appear to have given up the ghost with Mitroglou after just half a season by shelling out a further £11 million on Ross McCormack – something which has inflated the Championship market quite significantly of late.

Though Fulham to have a strong financial backing by billionaire businessman Shahid Kahn and can therefore afford to paint over these financial catastrophes. Although, imagine a club such as Burnley, in Leicester’s position of sealing a £10m move for Ulloa. Immediately, fans will want to see results following the clubs hefty investment and no doubt this will be felt by the player himself. If he reaches round six of the Premier League without a goal or assist to his name, the fans become restless and the pressure of the price tag will begin to consume the player, much like many overpriced players at both ends of the Premier League spectrum.

However, more disastrous than personal feelings would be the secondary effects of the transfer on the club. We all witnessed demise of Portsmouth a few years ago. They won the FA Cup, participated in the Europa League and were a solid Premier League outfit. They felt it necessary to be ambitious and punch above their weight, signing the likes of David James, Sulley Muntari, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Niko Kranjcar and other big names, many of which cost the club a fortune in both transfer fee and wages. It was the catalyst of financial ruin for Portsmouth as they were relegated to the Championship, then League One, and then League Two in successive seasons, and their current plight sees them fighting for their Football League status.

It may be an extreme example but it’s certainly a real example and it makes you respect the Burnley board for understanding their limits and not trying to punch above their weight to gain short term success, as it could be cripple the club in the long term.

Though a lack of £7m-£10m investments should not derail confidence for the upcoming campaign either. It’s actually a win-win situation for the Clarets. If they are inevitably relegated, there will be little loss on players, much of the promotion money still intact as well as the huge funds offered from TV capital and the parachute payments given for relegated clubs. In this scenario, Burnley will still be more than financially stable and should look to rebuild sensibly and plan once more to upset the odds.

Alternatively, should Burnley turn the tables on the bookies this season, and battle their way to 17th position or better, this remarkable achievement would really enlighten fans and stakeholders at the club. It would make a statement that the top flight can be conquered on a limited budget. It would inevitably mean another profitable campaign in succession for the chairmen running the club, meaning they man sensibly increase the size of the manager’s budget, for every season in the top flight makes you stronger and stronger financially, giving you more opportunity to spend larger amounts of capital on transfers without putting the club at risk. Then slowly but surely, talk of ambition to push forward can be put into the context of the Clarets.

What the pundits will say

The beginning of the Premier League season is drawing ever closer, and I for one will be glued to Football Focus, Match of the Day, Sky Sports and BBC Radio Five Live for the ensuing months.

However, if there’s one thing that bothers me about the return of all this punditry, it’s the clichés and assumptions that the experts will come out with about Little Old Burnley.

But the question I’m asking is; how much of what they’ll say is correct?

1: “Home form is crucial for Burnley.”

I’m starting with one I agree with here.

Last time Burnley made it to the Premier League, as I’m sure all of you will remember, the Clarets won just one measly match away from home all season: a 4-1 victory at Hull Tiger City United Wanderers, or whatever they are these days.

However, this term I think things will be different, a resolute and determined Dyche will be sure to claim a few scalps away from home with that genius tactician hat of his – thought the nearer the beginning of the season the better.

Despite this great improvement in Burnley’s ability to win on another team’s patch, home form is still an absolutely vital part of survival.

The advertisement of the club has been “Back on Our Turf” accompanied with “Back in Our Town” and I feel that is a perfect representation of what next season is going to be.

It isn’t just Turf Moor, it’s the whole town, and all those who have left the area returning to watch Burnley under the floodlights, scrapping it with the big boys.

Burnley simply have to win at home often, not just to pick up points but to keep morale high, and I firmly believe that they will.

2: “Burnley have surprised everyone this season.”

Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping they’ll be saying!!

I can’t decide if I’d agree with this statement if Burnley avoid relegation. Under the circumstances, I doubt I’d care.

The best why I can sum up the scenario would be that yes, Burnley will surprise some next season – those unfamiliar with Sean Dyche and the new Burnley.

However those who have watched the Clarets over the last 18 months, or at least paid attention to them, will have seen the rapid improvement in ability and ambition from the Lancashire town club.

If Burnley stay up, for me it should not be a surprise. The team that Dyche has built for the Premier League improves with every new signing, and is already better than at least three of the current crop, and that’s really all you need to be!

Should Burnley rise to mid-table security, that would surprise me. I feel the Clarets need a good few years at the top before finishing above 12th/13th stops being surprising, safety is good enough for me for now.

3: “Burnley need to stay injury free to have any chance of survival.”

Another ambiguous one for me here.

Burnley do need to stay injury free to give themselves the best chance of survival, though I think they could still achieve it even with a key injury or two.

The injuries to Sam Vokes and Danny Ings towards the end of last season show that even losing your poster boys isn’t the end of the world, promotion was still secured comfortably.

However, that was with a confident team of players who knew that promotion was there for the taking. Should two key injuries strike with Burnley sitting two points above relegation with three games to play, you don’t have to be a psychologist to understand the mental state would be different.

Overall, for me this statement is a bit too dramatic, though not too far from the truth, unfortunately.

4. “They need time to adapt to the Premier League.”

Often used in reference to foreign players, this cliché may rear its head in reference to Burnley’s players.

There’s players in Burnley’s squad who ooze confidence and ability, such as Danny Ings and Jason Shackell, who should slot straight in to any Premier League team (okay, maybe not any), however the pundits and pessimists will no doubt have it in for quite a few others.

If a pundit has said this towards the end of the season, after proof being shown of a Burnley player not being able to keep up with the pace of the Premier League game, I’ll accept it.

However I don’t think any of Burnley’s players should be written off before a ball is even kicked, positivity is key to survival for me.

I don’t see any reason why any of Burnley’s squad won’t be able to battle away in the top division, and should at least be given the chance to prove their worth before being resigned as a Championship player.

I’m not saying all of our players will step up, but we have to believe that it is possible, they got us here after all.

5. “Diabolical.”

Only joking, Hansen’s retired.

And hopefully, we won’t be diabolical.

What will the pundits will say about Burnley? Comment below.

10 potential midfield transfer targets

David Jones and Dean Marney were superb in the middle of the park last season, but with the Clarets perhaps needing to pack the midfield on occasion in the Premier League, reinforcements are necessary.

Brian Stock and David Edgar have left the club, with Matt Taylor and Steven Reid coming in to provide competition, but Burnley still look a little short of quality in midfield, especially given the youngest option in there is Jones at 29.

Sean Dyche’s targeting of Craig Bryson indicates the Burnley boss wants a high quality addition in midfield, so assuming there will be at least one new central midfielder coming in, which players might be on the shopping list?

James McArthur

Wigan midfielder McArthur would be an excellent signing. The 26-year-old has 15 caps for Scotland and has been one of the Latics best players since signing from Hamilton Academicals four years ago.

McArthur has already made close to 300 club appearances, a huge number for his age, due to breaking through as a teenager north of the border.

He’s a classy passer who can also mix it when required and would be terrific competition for Jones.

Alex Tettey

Norway international Tettey caught the eye for Norwich City last season, with the rangy player impressing despite the Canaries being relegated.

The former Rennes man is perhaps best remembered for this incredible volley, but his energy and athleticism in the middle of the park could make him an ideal rival for Marney.

Tettey has already said he is open to a move to a Premier League club, although Norwich exercised their right to add a year to their contract, so they may not wish to sell. Tettey was a regular scorer for his first club Rosenborg, but his goals have dried up in the last few years as he’s played deeper. He could be an ideal defensive shield.

Nick Powell

Powell was expected to be one of the great white hopes of English football when he moved to Manchester United from Crewe Alexandra two years ago.

He’s still only 20 and impressed in spurts at Wigan on loan, with his versatility a big plus as he can play as a forward or in midfield. Unless Powell can quickly make an impression on new United boss Louis van Gaal, he is likely to be leaving Old Trafford.

Powell was at Crewe from the age of five and made his debut for the club at 16, going on to score 14 goals in 55 games before getting a dream move to United. He’s played for England at every age level from under-16 to under-21 and might just need the right club to propel his career forward again.

Emyr Huws

Across Manchester at City, Huws is another youngster likely to be heading out on loan this season.

Huws scored a superb volley against Burnley for Birmingham City last season and although he isn’t particularly combative, he has plenty of ability on the ball.

City would probably prefer Huws to go to a club that can guarantee him regular starts, which perhaps Burnley could not do. At 20, Huws already has two full Wales caps and looks to have a big future.

Jonny Howson

Ex-Leeds man Howson is another player who could be looking to escape a season in the Championship at Carrow Road.

Howson is a good age at 26 and is another who has already racked up 250+ appearances as a result of playing regular football as a teenager.

Paul Lambert once compared Howson’s passing to Spain and Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta. He might not be that good, but he would certainly boost Dyche’s options in central midfield.

Jack Cork

Burnley fans love suggesting former players for a comeback, but Cork is a rare example of someone who is still approaching their prime and would be able to walk back into the Clarets side after a period away.

Cork, 25, has been in and out of the Southampton side in his three years at St Mary’s and is another who was picked at every level of England’s youth set-up, while he also played three times for Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

His wages might be prohibitive and Southampton may prefer to keep him – but would Cork be one worth splashing out for?

Jordon Mutch

Sunderland are among the club to have been linked with a move for 22-year-old Mutch, who scored seven goals for Cardiff City in the Premier League last season.

While the ex-Bluebirds ultimately struggled and were relegated, Mutch regularly stood out for the Welsh side and it’s no surprise he’s a man in demand this summer.

Cardiff reportedly want as much as £5m for Mutch, so perhaps that puts him out of our price range.

George Thorne

The West Brom midfielder kept highly-rated Will Hughes out of the Derby team in the play-offs at the end of last season and the Rams want to get him signed up for the coming campaign.

Burnley’s negotiation with WBA over defender Craig Dawson seems to be dragging on, but perhaps the club could do a double deal for the pair.

Thorne is energetic and great on the ball, making him an ideal foil for Jones and Marney in the Burnley midfield.

Oliver Norwood

Burnley-born Norwood is a name that always comes up when midfield targets come up, perhaps due to his roots in the area.

The St Ted’s educated midfielder hasn’t particularly stood out in two seasons at Huddersfield Town, but at the age of 23 he should have plenty of room to develop further.

Norwood is a solid passer and a scorer of occasionally spectacular goals, smashing in a volley for the Terriers against Burnley last season.

Nathaniel Chalobah

Chelsea’s versatile 19-year-old has already made over 60 appearances in the Championship in three loan spells at Watford, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough.

Chalobah particularly stood out for Boro at Turf Moor last season, playing in both midfield and defence and looking supremely comfortable in both positions.

The Blues might want Chalobah to continue in the Championship, starting most weeks, but his height, strength and ability on the ball could make the Sierra Leone-born player an attractive option.

Do any of these ten names catch your eye or do you have another player to suggest? Comment below.

Lukas Jutkiewicz: The Boro view

Sunday October 19, 2013. A stuttering Middlesbrough side with just two wins from their first 11 games travel to fellow strugglers Barnsley, hoping to kick-start a season which already looks to be heading for calamity.

It’s early in the first half with the scores goalless, and Boro striker Lukas Jutkiewicz finds himself clear of the defence, through on goal and looking to get on the scoresheet for the first time since August.
He blazes wide. Middlesbrough concede three goals before half time. Despite a courageous fightback they lose the game 3-2. The defeat marks the end of Tony Mowbray’s time as manager, and of Jutkiewicz’s Middlesbrough career.

There were of course a few more appearances for ‘The Juke’ under new boss Aitor Karanka but no more goals, and he was packed off on loan to Bolton in the January transfer window, with more Boro fans offering to pay the taxi fare than cursing his departure.

Despite a memorable monstering of Steve Kean’s Blackburn side in 2012 (something which will go down well here), I can probably count on one hand the amount of times he genuinely impressed in a Boro shirt, and by the end of his spell on Teesside it was painful to watch him toil.

And yet now Lukas Jutkiewicz is a Premier League footballer. And what at first may seem like one of the most baffling top flight transfers since, erm, Burnley signed Marvin Sordell (sorry), may actually make perfect sense.

At Middlesbrough he was the Jukebox that rarely played the right tune, but Jutkiewicz’s successful spell at Bolton showed what he can offer to a team that suits his strengths and compensated his weaknesses.

He’s not close to being quick. He’s even further away from clinical. And he can sometimes seem more interested in wrestling his marker than actually winning a ball. But he’ll slog all day long, take a physical pounding from any Championship centre-half, and when focusing can be a real handful in the air.

And while Boro utilised him as a mobile lone front man responsible for harrying the opposition, making runs in behind and holding the ball up (a role he proved woefully unsuitable for), at Bolton he was the muscle in a front two, where his shortcomings were made up for by a nippier partner (Jermaine Beckford or Joe Mason), and his assets were maximised.

And now I can start to see why Sean Dyche stopped chewing gravel long enough to pick up his phone and make Jutkiewicz a Burnley player.

Whether he can make the step up to Premier League level after never really convincing in the second tier is a subject open for debate, but Jutkiewicz does seem to fit in on a tactics board at least.

With a partnership of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes (himself not particularly prolific before coming to Turf Moor) spearheading the promotion charge, The Juke’s Bolton spell showed why he may be a shrewd acquisition as backup to one of those forward slots, with his physical presence offering an intriguing foil to Ings’ goal-getting.

I maintain that he might never have scored another goal for Middlesbrough, and that we have done enormously well to have made a profit on him, but after Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin, Ings and Vokes, who’s to say Lukas Jutkiewicz won’t be the next Burnley striking success story?

Follow Josh on Twitter @joshhollis

Will Jutkiewicz be a success at Turf Moor? Comment below.

TV change offers perfect start for Clarets

Rather fittingly, our first two home games back in the Premier League have been shuffled about for the telly.

We’ll have to wait a couple more days to kick off our campaign against Chelsea, as Sky have chosen us as their first Monday Night Football match of the season, while Louis van Gaal and his new United team will need to jump on an earlier X43 bus to make what’s now a lunch-time kick-off on BT Sport.

I know what you’re thinking – here we go, what’s wrong with a good old Saturday afternoon? – and normally I’d agree with you.

Being in the Premier League is great, but TV schedules can also be a massive pain in the backside and make watching the Clarets a gigantic inconvenience for anyone who lives outside of the area or has inflexible working hours.

I live just outside of Liverpool and unless somebody invents teleportation in the next month, getting home after an 8pm kick-off is going to be pretty much impossible.

I do hope to make it to one or two night games where I can, but on the whole it’ll be weekends only for me on the Turf.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to have my plans of getting to the opening game ruined already (remember to tune in to NNN Live if you’re not at a game – plug plug).

But I’m willing to forget all that on this one occasion, because I think Sky choosing to move us over to the Monday could actually give us a much bigger opportunity to mark our Premier League return with a strong result.

Kicking off in the evening can make a special occasion even more special-ier at Turf Moor (that’s a word now, okay?).

Our first game back was always going to be a big ‘un, regardless of what the fixture and TV gods threw at us. But if you’d asked me, before the fixture computer spat out its long list of games a few weeks ago, what my perfect start would be I reckon I’d have asked for a night game against one of the big boys.

They always have that extra spark. Some – if not most – of our biggest and most memorable performances in recent years have come under the floodlights.

I’m not quite sure why – perhaps the lights create a more dramatic atmosphere or the extra hours building up to the game grows the tension and excitement – but there’s something almost magical about what happens when the sun goes down. A real buzz.

Some huge nights spring to mind immediately – for sheer drama that extraordinary Spurs encounter in the league cup will be difficult to beat, and the Arsenal game a couple of rounds earlier was pretty epic too. Likewise the win over Sheffield United at the end of that season that saw us cement our play-off credentials.

But one of particular note happened pretty much exactly five years ago.

“Stephen Jordan for Burnley… Paterson coming in… and it drops for BLAKE!”

Our last Turf opener in the Premier League, against Manchester United back in 2009, will live long in the memory. It remains my favourite ever game as a Claret – just about topping Wembley a few months earlier.

We were properly majestic, both on the pitch and in the stands.

As if beating United at home in the first home Premier League game wasn’t special enough, the atmosphere that night was something else. It was electric. It captured me, it flowed through my body like some kind of incredible wonder-drug.

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I’m pretty certain that the night match factor played a significant role in that victory.

We can rekindle the spirit of that game next month.

Chelsea haven’t lost an opening fixture since Boyzone topped the chart with ‘No Matter What’ in 1998 – and they’ve won 11 of their last 12 – but as Matt Hall said on Twitter, not one of those were on a Monday night at the Turf.

We broke all sorts of records when Robbie Blake’s thunder-bolt volley kicked Fergie’s men to touch back then – so why not again?

Let’s recreate that night-time Claret cauldron that has roared us to victory so many times to make a big statement on day one – and prove further that the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ moniker is an insult to Sean Dyche.

So Sky, I still hate you – but on this occasion you’re forgiven for messing up my plans, as you might just have given us our very best chance of getting a positive result on day one.

Will the change help us beat Chelsea? Or is it all irrelevant? Comment below.