Podcast 73: Bottom six special

This week’s podcast features interviews with fans from the bottom six clubs in the Premier League in order to find out just what Burnley are up against.

Jamie spoke to James Bird from this site, Jim Knight who features on the EPL Roundtable Podcast (a Leicester fan), Jules Harris (a QPR fan), Stephen Goldsmith from Wise Men Say (a Sunderland fans), Steve Green from Aston Villa Review (an Aston Villa fan) and Peter from Tigerlink (a Hull fan).

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, where you can also find links to subscribe on iTunes. Check out our guide if you’re not sure what any of this means.

Thanks to our sponsors Neville Gee and our editor Stephen Long.

Hope renewed by City win

The landscape as it currently lies at Turf Moor is one of renewed hope. The Clarets were ruthlessly pragmatic against the champions on Saturday evening.

With Barcelona surely in City’s peripheral vision, Sean Dyche took a leaf out of the Catalan giants’ book by selecting three strikers against the Citizens. Ashley Barnes, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes are a low budget alternative to Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, yet their attitude is of the same class.

When it comes to his striking options, Dyche has been a large oak tree standing alone in a field, leaning in favour of Ashley Barnes over the middle third of the season. However, a gale force wind has been coming in from the fans in the direction of Vokes and the manager creaked, shuffling his pack to chop Manchester City down.

Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham famously didn’t get on – Vokes and Ings do. This shows in their play as the pair raided the City backline from the outset, providing Burnley with the platform to victory. It was the first time the duo started together in over a year since Birmingham City away in the Championship.

It’s tough on Barnes, who has been moved out to the left, Dyche obviously trusts the former Brighton man implicitly. Forwards have been moved out wide by successful managers to benefit teams of the past; Sir Alex Ferguson deployed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out wide whilst Jose Mourinho used Samuel Eto’o as an auxiliary winger at Inter Milan.

A word on marathon man George Boyd, who was famously rejected by Nottingham Forest for poor vision. He showed quality for all to see with his goal, catching his drive sweeter than a Phil Bardsley left hook.

Boyd has been a revelation this season. He’s the kind of guy that turns up at your house after the liquor store has closed with a six pack in hand. The former Peterborough United man has kept the party going.

The effervescent Dyche is now the fifth longest serving manager in the Premier League and 18/92 in the country at 2 years and 139 days. Burnley have now taken 40% of their points against teams in the top half of the table, so this tough period of games can be looked upon with excitement rather than trepidation.

Neck on the chopping block but here are how the next four could pan out.

Southampton (A) 2-2

The Clarets turned over the Saints in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor with Ashley Barnes’ form gathering momentum. Burnley went down 4-3 in the FA Cup at St Mary’s last season with both Vokes and Ings finding the net. I’m a firm believer in strikers having favourite grounds and with their partnership back up and running I’ll back them both to find the net.

Tottenham Hotspur (H) 1-0

The soft underbelly that Spurs usually show reared its head at Old Trafford on Sunday. Burnley have won two and drawn one of their last three games against Mauricio Pochettino’s men at Turf Moor. With a vociferous crowd behind them I’ll back Jason Shackell and Michael Duff to handle hotshot Harry Kane – with Burnley edging this in a one-goal win.

Arsenal (H) 1-2

The away fixture is the only game where Dyche has admitted he got it wrong, Burnley set up with a plan to defend and left with their tails between their legs. The Clarets boss has vowed never to make that mistake again. Burnley claimed a 1-1 draw with the Gunners in their last Premier League campaign; however I’ll take Arsenal to win it late on 2-1.

Everton (A) 1-1

Even taking Everton’s thumping of Newcastle United into account the Toffees are still involved in the relegation scrap. There is unrest at Goodison with a segment of Everton fans wanting Roberto Martinez out and if the Clarets can get under the demanding home fans skin with an early goal I can see them leaving with a share of the spoils here.

Money will only get you so far

Now that I have finished jumping up and down after the final whistle in Saturday’s game against Man City I have had time to sit down in front of a keyboard.

Before getting into the article, this is my first attempt at writing something like this so please bear with me. I am a Burnley fan based in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. My Grandpa was evacuated to Burnley during the Second World War so that’s how I came to be a fan of the Clarets from such a distance.

Having watched the Man City game on TV on Saturday evening I was left pondering a few things, and even more so after watching Match of the Day.

The team

I had said to a colleague at work on Friday that I honestly thought we had a decent shot at the three points against City. After our last performance against them at the Etihad and with the team’s work rate, with a rocking Turf Moor, I was sure we could achieve a great result.

The effort put in by the team was monumental and there was only one occasion where I felt they looked under serious threat but otherwise thought we handled the game very well. Despite our league position, which I think isn’t a great reflection of how the team have played, I am a supporter that is immensely proud to be a fan of this club and its current squad.

Key performances

I thought there were two key performances in Saturday’s game. George Boyd has proven to be an absolutely superb signing already this season but I think he stood out. His work rate is something that has been commented on already, and this game was no different. I also noticed that he has more in his locker. He showed great composure on the ball and he also displayed some great skill. His first touch was excellent and his passing ability was superb.

Then there was the goal. His positioning was excellent but then the strike could not have been any better. A perfect example of the half volley.

The other noticeable performance was that of Michael Duff. On his 350th appearance for the club after a spell out of the side he seemed to create stability at the back, which helped us. I like Michael Keane but I think Sean Dyche made the right call bringing the experience of Duff back into the side.

Officials and that penalty shout

I thought there was a lot to be disgruntled with. How Martin Demichelis stayed on the pitch is a mystery to me. There were three occasions he should have been booked. An elbow to Danny Ings, the free kick we scored from (which he received a card for) and the challenge on Kieran Trippier in the corner. There certainly seemed to be a bit of a reluctance to give too many other decisions our way and favour City on others.

Now, on to that penalty. Had we not been given it in a similar situation I may have been a little disgruntled…….BUT…… If you watch closely Pablo Zabaleta drags his back leg and then fails to plant his left foot and decides to go down even before any contact is made. Yes, had he attempted to stay up he would have been fouled and therefore a penalty would have been the correct call. On this occasion I think Zabaleta tried to anticipate the foul and I can only assume that is what Andre Marriner saw. One decision in the game that I thought he dealt with very well.

Pundits

This is a very touchy subject for me. There are not many pundits these days that I like. They all seem to have bought into phrases like “He has every right to do down there” and “This is the way the modern game is” and “You just can’t tackle like that anymore”. All three of those statements, among others, are utter nonsense. They must all read the same phrasebook before going on air. Football is a sport with its rules. I understand the way that game is played has and will evolve but the rules stay the same. If a crunching tackle is put in and the ball is won, that is a firm but fair tackle. If the player tackled feigns injury and the team surround the ref it seems a fair tackle is punished. I won’t continue or else you’ll be reading this article for about a week but you get the idea!

I also notice, as on Saturday on Match of the Day, that it seems teams that are not in the top three or four cannot play a good game against one of those teams, it is always the top team that has had a bad game. As soon as the highlights were finished on Saturday the first thing that was discussed was how bad City were. No, City were not at their best, but I thought we were magnificent. Not enough credit is given to lower teams for beating what is the cream of the Premier League.

That is where the title for this article comes from. Money will only get you so far. You can pay for all the talent in the world, but put a group of players together that want to work their socks off for each other and play some good football, and they will give these top teams a game on any day of the week.

Where from here?

I still believe we have the belief and talent in the squad to stay in this league. Dyche is an outstanding manager and I sincerely hope he stays at the club moving forward, he is a perfect match for the club. Continued hard graft and good football, I think, will see us safe.

As for me, I’ll be visiting the Turf for the Arsenal game next month and am very much hoping for a similar result against the Gunners.

Analysis: Burnley 1-0 Man City

Burnley defied the pundits once again at Turf Moor after a fine George Boyd effort proved to be enough to see off the defending Premier League champions.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team were sluggish from the off and looked over-reliant on the talent of Sergio Aguero to make things happen. Inevitably, Burnley made the moneybags pay through Boyd’s strike just after the hour mark.

1st half highlights

-After a ball was only half cleared, Fernandinho released Edin Dzeko though his shot was well blocked by Tom Heaton with the Bosnian under pressure from Michael Duff

– Joe Hart was forced into action at the other end but got down early to claim Scott Arfield’s weak drive

– Following a fine flowing move, David Silva’s cute flick for Dzeko was superbly cut out by Jason Shackell with a crucial sliding interception

2nd half highlights

– Aguero showed brilliant quick feet to turn Kieran Trippier and storm at an open Clarets back line before slipping Silva in. Amazingly, with just Heaton to beat, the Spaniard’s first touch was very poor, taking the ball far too wide and Heaton once again managed to get his body in the way of his subsequent strike

– Aguero turned from provider to attempted finisher but arrowed his snapshot from Pablo Zabaleta’s delivery wide from eight yards

– George Boyd did his best to raise the spirits of the home faithful but his volley from just outside the area had power but just lacked in conviction, sailing wide of Hart’s right hand post

BURNLEY 1-0 Man City (Boyd, 61′)

A tremendous finish.

The initial free kick ironically was a bad one with Trippier delivering poorly but Vincent Kompany’s clearing header was weak. The Belgian was actually playing rather well but some may point the finger at the lack of height and power he got in his clearance. Regardless, the strike was of the highest order from Boyd. The joint-record signing connected with the ball immediately after it hit the turf and as a result the ball fizzed away across Hart from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.

– Silva was given space to find Dzeko in the box however his effort ballooned towards the throw-in line, an effort which summed up his game, and his team’s game in all fairness

– Yaya Toure’s dink to the back post was followed up by Aguero’s lunging header landed narrowly over the net

The General Consensus

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Burnley have beaten City. Yes if you were a betting man you would certainly be more inclined to sway for the visitors – you only have to look at some of the names on their bench! Though a draw at the Etihad, a draw at Stamford Bridge, a point against United and a win against a Southampton side then occupying a Champions League spot proves this is not a fluke. These big teams are often only giving 70% effort because they expect to steamroll teams due to the egotistic and complacent nature of their players. Burnley have no egos in their team and are never allowed to be complacent due to their level-headed manager.

By no means am I saying that Burnley will win every game against the big boys but you can never rule them out. Out of the next four matches, if Burnley really want to have themselves in good stead before the Leicester game (signalling the start of a run of fixtures against the “smaller” teams), they should target six points out of the next 12. Personally, I believe Southampton away will be a little too difficult and welcoming an in-form Arsenal team will be even tougher. Though sandwiched between those two is a game against top four chasing Tottenham and for some reason, I think they have vulnerabilities that can be exploited while Everton’s league form is dreadful. Their play is slow and pedantic and their defence is shambolic. If ever there was a time to play the Toffees this could be the perfect one (provided they don’t have an upturn in fortunes in the coming weeks).

The real challenge is winning the games against the teams near the foot of the table. These teams will not start games in third gear. These teams will not give up. And it’s actually when Burnley need to raise their game in terms of dictating matches on their own turf. When there isn’t the pressure of needing to press opponents, Burnley can thrive, but it’s much harder for them to take the game to the teams that find themselves around the foot of the table.

Experience over youth

They say if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. But at the time of Michael Duff’s injury, many Clarets fans were more than happy with Michael Keane standing in. When Duff returned, Keane was now the favoured centre half. At the time, Keane represented someone far superior to the ageing legs of the veteran Duff. He had pace and was a decent distributor of the ball.

Looking back over the past two months or so, you realise that the ex-Manchester United centre half has much to learn. He may have speed that Duff lacks but it can’t hide his lack of awareness and reading of the game. The amount of headers conceded recently have reinforced these faults in his game but also highlight his slender body frame which opponents have bullied when tussling for aerial balls.

Next season, Premier League or Championship, Keane will be the partner of Jason Shackell as Duff will no doubt retire. Keane remains a snip at £2 million as with a bit of bulking up and more first team experience, he will be a excellent centre back. Presently however, he should spend the remainder of the season on the sidelines getting physically stronger and tweaking his game. It truly is the business end of the season now and that calls for experienced pros, not youngsters hoping to develop their game.

Dyche goes “dwarfist”

It has been often cited that Burnley are generally a team of “small” players. In contrast against City, Dyche fielded a relatively “big” set of players. Only Kieran Trippier, Danny Ings and Scott Arfield were under six feet for Burnley and that certainly looked to be beneficial on set-pieces where everything looked much less of a panic.

The return of “VINGS” added to this height advantage with Vokes offering a refreshed feel to an attack that has looked pretty stale of late, though I’m not quite sure moving Ashley Barnes wide is the solution. He is at his best when hassling centre halves, forcing them into errors and then doing his best with the scraps in the box. He isn’t blessed with pace or trickery or quality so I fear that playing him in that position in future isn’t the best idea. He may have worked hard to press for the ball but he struggled to get into the game, even when Zabaleta bombed forward.

Burnley MOTM

Jason Shackell 8/10: An excellent display from the skipper, no doubt helped by the return of his trusty deputy Michael Duff. Always assured and safe on the ball at the back and his superb last-ditch interception in the first half denied City an end product to a lovely passing move.

Tom Heaton 6/10: Surprisingly very little to do for the Burnley number one but managed to get his body behind strikes no matter how unconventional it may have seemed

Kieran Trippier 7/10: Great defensive performance

Michael Duff 8/10: His height, strength and reading of the game is more vital at this stage of the season than the pace and youthful presence of Keane. Very solid

Ben Mee 7/10: His upturn in performances have come at the right time for him as Stephen Ward is now back to challenge his position. Could still improve his offensive threat but did well against Jesus Navas

George Boyd 8/10: A wonderful strike capped off a fine performance built on grit and endeavour

Scott Arfield 6/10: Passing was a tad careless but decent performance nonetheless

David Jones 6/10: Fought well in the midfield but passing was occasionally pedestrian and he still for me takes too long to make a pass

Ashley Barnes 6/10: Felt like a spare part out wide as he couldn’t implement his high octane pressing on the centre halves. Worked hard but not a man who should be on the flank in my eyes

Sam Vokes 7/10: The fans’ favourite made a strong return to the first team, making himself a handful for Kompany and Martin Demichelis with his physical presence

Danny Ings 5/10: Lost the ball needlessly too many times by trying to either do too much himself or play a ball that was never on the cards

Man City MOTM

Sergio Aguero 8/10: He is a top, top player. Certainly the Argentine was at the heart of anything good City mustered and whenever on the ball, it was incredibly difficult to get him off it. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself in the second half and really should have claimed an assist to Silva. Certainly there are shades of Lionel Messi to his game in the way he moves with the ball. So fast. So skilful.

Hart 6, Zabaleta 6, Kompany 6, Demichelis 6, Clichy 5, Navas 6, Toure 6, Fernandinho 5, Silva 5, Dzeko 4

Where next?

The Clarets make the trip to St. Mary’s to take on a Southampton team who, despite a general dip in form since their blistering start to the campaign, still find themselves in with a shout of Champions League football. Ronald Koeman has built a very strong defensive spine in his side and they do have goals in them despite their lack of them in recent weeks. Two wins out of two against the big teams? I think that may be pushing it a tad. Prediction: Southampton 1-0 Burnley

NNN interviews Hoos and Baldwin: part three

Before the Swansea City match No Nay Never sat down with chief executive Lee Hoos and chief operating officer David Baldwin. The full interview is available on our podcast.

On finances

Hoos: “I think we’ve seen a big difference already since Dave has joined. If I look back at when I first started three years ago, I’ve come in and looked at a set of accounts that were like ‘holy shit, this is a bit dicey going forward’, really there had to be a complete business turnaround in how we develop a sustainable club. The one thing the directors said is that we can’t keep funding this.

“I know everybody will say ‘well, season ticket prices are too expensive’, but I’ve got to tell you, nobody had a more expensive season ticket than [co-chairmen] Mike and John because they were ploughing in millions into the club and keeping it ticking over.

“The one big difference that being in the Premier League has made to the club is that I haven’t had to get on the phone one time to say ‘guys, I need a million quid next month to make payroll’. So that makes my life a helluva lot easier and it also makes their life an awful lot easier as well.

“Because I know they love the town and I know they love the football club, but there’s only so far they can go as businessmen and they’ll tell you themselves that they’ve done well for themselves but they’re not Roman Abramovich, they’re not billionaires, they can’t just keep chucking money at the club – it has to stand on its own two feet.”

Baldwin: “Ultimately, when you look at the revenue pot that you have to generate as a budget to deliver the operation, because what you’ve got to consider is, if we had a scenario where we dropped out of the Premier League and if we had a scenario where the parachute payments disappeared, is the model sustainable in its own right with the incomes that come in?”

“The reality is that the longer you’re in the Premier League and and the longer that money comes, then that income outweighs all of the other ancillary incomes that you bring in through sponsorship, through ticket prices.

“But the biggest part of strategy planning, which we’ve booked already for the next board meeting, is about what happens in the event of a relegation and a non-promotion, and that is more important than where you are in three years. And the answer to that would be is, as ticket price income and commercial income becomes less of a priority to the club.”

Baldwin noted that if the club could become one of the “mid-band” Premier League teams, they could be much more “adventurous” with the price points of tickets to watch Burnley FC.

Train-wreck

We referred Hoos to a quote from director Brendan Flood, who said Burnley were overly cautious the last time the club was in the Premier League.

Hoos: “When I walked in here it was a financial train-wreck. The only way we, at this club, financed the second year – the first year of relegation – was by factoring in the [parachute] payments that were coming from the Premier League in the following year. So if we were cautious, then why were we losing money hand over fist?”

The new Premier League TV deal is worth over £5bn and will see more money than ever pour into the game. What are the repercussions of that for a club like ours?

Hoos: “Even the new Premier League deal, if we got relegated, does not come in until 2016/17, but it would affect the parachute payments going forward because the parachute payments are based on the percentage of the basic payment.”

Some have said there’s a risk smaller clubs might be locked out of the top flight as a result of the new TV deal.

Hoos: “Well, we’re a small club and we basically did it last year without the parachute payments was already gone when you look at the debt and the balance sheet. So we bucked that trend. We showed that actually, you can do this, it’s not just about the money.

“Most people respect what we’re doing here. There’s a couple of things I tell [agents] when they come in here. One – he’ll enjoy his football. Two – you will get paid, unlike other clubs who are playing the shell game all the time. We make sure that we pay things because we believe in that. And three – you will enhance your career, because we will bring out the best in the player and we will make sure that you might walk in as one player, but when you leave you will absolutely be a better player.”

Will the new TV deal be good for football on the whole?

Hoos: “That’s an interesting question. I think it’s important that [the money] stays within the UK, stays within England, more importantly, because you know, for me it’s frustrating when you see a lot of money going outside of the game into other people’s pockets.

“It’s obviously helpful for clubs like us, because we are a small club, let’s face it. A lot of people say to me, ‘yeah I know we’re small, but we don’t like being reminded of it’, which is fair enough. But we are really, really batting well above where we are in terms of the size of the club that we are. Payments like that really, really helps us out in terms of trying to level the playing field. Again, it’s about trying to be competitive and that allows us to be competitive in ways we otherwise couldn’t do.

“In terms of being bad for football, I’d go back to what I said about the comparison between 30 years ago and now, I think the work football is doing with local communities can only be good, it can only be good for the country and for local communities and certainly it is going to be good for Burnley, to help raise the aspiration levels.”

“I don’t think it would have the ultimate effect on teams like Accrington Stanley, whether they survive or they don’t survive, or what they actually do. They actually do benefit from it indirectly because there is a solidarity payment that goes down to them.

“But at the end of the day, when you get down past the Championship, it’s about your attraction to people and mass media being what it is, the attraction is in the Premier League, secondary it is with the Championship, so in terms of that I think it’s probably more about people saying, ‘well, I’d rather watch Manchester United and Arsenal on TV than go down to watch Accrington Stanley.’

“The League maybe needs to look at how many local clubs can they support with the system we have.”

Youth development

We’re passionate about youth development here at No Nay Never. This year we are sponsoring two young players, Kevin Ly and Cameron Dummigan.

But the production line at Turf Moor seems to have dried up. Only four players have come through the ranks in the last ten years – Jay Rodriguez, Richard Chaplow, Chris McCann and Kyle Lafferty – with the latter two names brought over from Ireland as teenagers.

So what’s being done to improve the pathway from the youth teams into the first XI?

Hoos: “The first thing is that we need to increase the categorisation level that we have. We’re current a level three academy and we need to get to a category two status.

“Interestingly enough from an infrastructure standpoint – and when I say infrastructure I mean personnel – we’re operating almost as a category two. The problem is the physical infrastructure. We need an indoor pitch, 60×40. I’m sure you’re aware, we put in planning permission for Gawthorpe to try and build a 60×40 and that is the next major step. So once we get that, that increases our level of competition.

“The same kind of things we’re doing with the first team on sports science, we’re now doing in the academy as well, to try and grow those players.”

Hoos also confirmed that the club is waiting to hear back about planning permission for work at Gawthorpe.

Turf Moor improvements

Both the Bob Lord Stand and the Cricket Field Stand were done up for the new Premier League season, but it’s quite clear that despite the lick of paint they are both getting on in years. So what plans are there in place to develop them in the future?

Hoos: “Look guys, if nothing else, I try to be as honest as I can with you. I think those toilet facilities in the Bob Lord are… substandard, shall we say? It just leaves a bad impression of things. So yes, we really need to try to look at that and take it forward. So I’d like to start on that one – touch wood – immediately, as soon as we get into the close season. Unless there is a major problem, that should be done for next season.”

We asked about a previous set of plans to build a new structure between the Jimmy McIlroy and James Hargreaves stands that would house the dressing rooms but Hoos said that proposal has been put on the back-burner.

“If I’m going to do anything right now, it’ll be directed towards what we can do to help the fan experience more than anything. The feedback I’ve had has been about the concourses – people say it’s not just cold physically, it has a cold feel about it. So I think it’s in those areas where we need to do a bit more.

Hoos said he is “really pleased” with the Fanzone and confirmed there are plans to expand it for next season.

“I thought we could get that up and running and it’s gone better than expected. I want to see more interactive things there, I want to see more things, it’s not just about a real ale beer tent, it’s about what activities we can do.”

Living wage

Finally, we asked if Burnley would commit to paying all staff the living wage. Chelsea are the only Premier League club to have done so.

Hoos: “It just depends on the job really. I mean, if you were looking at the stewarding and people like that, that’s a part-time job and based on part-time resources. But certainly from a full-time perspective, we make sure that people are rewarded accordingly.”

Parts one and two are available here and here and you can listen to it all now on our podcast.

NNN interviews Hoos and Baldwin: part two

Before the Swansea City match No Nay Never sat down with chief executive Lee Hoos and chief operating officer David Baldwin. The full interview is available on our podcast.

On the club shop

Baldwin: “I have a meeting with three ecommerce suppliers over the next month and I will be presenting at the next board meeting what my proposal is in terms of how to improve [the online shop]. As a measuring stick, we were operating at under 10% ecommerce sales in November, we achieved in December, 18% of sales through ecommerce. We’re still riding above 15%. The average is between 15% and 20%.

“Most people who are making transactional purchases now are moving to mobile from desktop. If you go on to the mobile version [of the online shop], it’s a cleaner thing. It’s got a similar look to Amazon. It’s still not what we’re looking for. The focus was, do we prettify the desktop, which is the dying part of ecommerce, or do we focus on actually having a mobile-optimised site?”

Baldwin admitted that the link between how categories are kept on the online shop and the physical store still needs to be improved.

“On the mobile-optimised site it’s just got a simple search button and it’s got four categories: leisure wear, replica, training wear and accessories.”

On transfers

January was obviously a disappointing window for Burnley, so we asked how the process works at the club and what went wrong.

Hoos: “Process-wise, how it works is that the manager says ‘I’m looking for this position’, the recruitment department says ‘here are the players we have on the radar’, and then Dyche goes ‘like him, don’t like him, like him, don’t like him’. The manager then says, ‘let’s try to get these guys in’, then I try to get the deal over the line.

“The problem is it takes two, three people to make a deal happen: us, the selling club and the player. So three different deals have to come to light. Now, [January] was an extraordinary window this time.

“When I was at Fulham, there was a photo of Claudio Reyna holding a shirt with a big smile on his face. We had agreed a deal with Sunderland, we had agreed the personal terms with him, he had done his medical and we were just waiting for the scans to come back. Then I hear from his agent and he says ‘I’ve got to get back to you, Sunderland are playing silly games regarding the balance of the signing-on fee’. Ten minutes later I get a phone call from another agent – ‘Have you signed Reyna yet? He’s on his way to Man City.’ So until everything is signed off, it’s never done.

“Now on the other side of that, I’ve had it where Brian McBride was on his way to Blackburn until he landed in London and I gazumped the deal. So until the deal is actually done, and I can tell you now, we had two deals agreed [in January]. Personal terms and terms with the club as well. One of them was actually here to start the medical when the manager got a call and was told he had to send him back because there were problems at their end.

“So to make a deal happen, you’ve got to keep the player engaged and keep the agent engaged and let’s see if we can finagle this another way. Is it a cash issue, is it a financial issue? Do we need to rejig the deal with the club?

“At the end of the day, the club wouldn’t do it and after an hour I said, ‘Sean, this isn’t moving, what do we do’ and he said, ‘well, we’ve got to send him back’, because the player is under contract to that club and there’s nothing we can actually do.

“Second player as well – the deal was in place in the morning [of deadline day] but in the afternoon, then it was like, ‘sorry, we can’t do it’. What do you mean? You said this was the valuation of the player, we’ve met it. They said, ‘we’ve talked to the manager and he’s not happy and we have to back the manager so we won’t go through with the deal now’.

“There was one that actually came down to the wire but it was contingent on them bringing in another player, but they were clear on that one, and when their deal collapsed I knew there was no way that deal was going to happen.”

We asked who sets the valuation of the players and Hoos told us he has “parameters” to work with.

Hoos: “There’s two things. If we go out and we buy a £15m player and we bring him in, then the £15m player has a £15m players’ wage attached to him, and if someone is making triple the amount of everyone else…

“Sean is very sensible about things but he does not call the shots in terms of saying what number. If the board said, ‘if you want this player, you can have him’ then yeah, he would do it. Sean is consulted [about player valuations], but we have to work with the principles and the parameters of what we’re trying to do.

“When we go fishing for players, what we’re looking for is players who are going to fit in with those parameters.”

Baldwin: “You don’t have the board identifying players. You don’t have the chief executive identifying players. You’ve got the manager and his recruitment department deciding the type of player they want to bring in that fits in with the group. They do their homework on that, they know what he can play like, what his attributes are, what his development capability is within the group.

“That department, whether that is the recruitment department or the manager, will then come to the board, including the chief executive, and say, ‘This is the candidate that we have identified, that we want in our building’. The process is that the financials then start, generally with the chief executive and the player’s agent and the other club if it involves a player who is under contract. All that dialogue comes together to determine how much does it cost to buy the player, how much does he cost to pay, what are his demands in terms of term. At that point, the chief executive has got it teed up in a domino effect and right, bang bang bang, it’s all ready, and then you’ll go back and have a dialogue with the manager and say, ‘this is where we’re at now’.

“What you’ve then got to do is to re-engage with the football department and the medical provision, they want to make sure that he meets the criteria. Now, if the manager has got an issue with anything that’s happened in phase two, that’s the fiscal side of it, then he will voice that. If he hasn’t got an issue, then you’ve got it. That’s where open dialogue happens. There’s not any miscommunication.

“What then happens is that the player will have a medical and the football department will make an assessment and depending on the information that comes out of that, the determination will be, do you then progress to the next stage.”

We then talked about a couple of notable deals that fell through, for instance Charlie Austin to Hull because of his knee and George Boyd’s move to Forest because of his eyes.

Hoos: “George Boyd is a great example because we heard he was available then moved very quickly.”

On scouting

Next up was a question about overseas scouting. It’s clear developments are happening in this area at Turf Moor as since we spoke to Hoos and Baldwin, Burnley have completed the signing of Norwegian midfielder Fredrik Ulvestad.

We pointed out that our record with overseas signings has not been the best over the last few years.

Hoos: “The reason for that is foreign players are treated like domestic players – like, ‘here you go, sign the contract, congratulations, welcome to Burnley, good luck with everything’.

“Foreign players need a lot more TLC. They need to be integrated, they need to be told what they’re doing, you know, how things work, all the things they don’t understand.

“I think we’ve now got an infrastructure set up where we can do that. But the biggest thing is, scouting is about time. That’s what it’s about, because you’re not going to go out and sign somebody on the basis of just one performance and Sean is great because he wants to know chapter and verse about players he is signing.

“Now that’s come about as like, well he doesn’t like foreign players. No no no. It means that getting the intel about foreign players is helluva lot more difficult than with domestic players. It takes more time to do it.”

We pointed out that you hear stories about players being signed off the back of YouTube clips.

Hoos: “That is not how our recruitment department works. We do something called technical scouting, which is very statistical but that is only used as a tool to identify the players we are going to look at.”

Hoos explained that there are currently 24 scouts working with the club and they will often try to watch multiple games a day, especially if they are working abroad.

We asked what the club has learned from the last couple of transfer windows in the Premier League.

Hoos: “Now that’s a funny one, because the media crack me up in this country. Some of the headlines – Manchester United batter Burnley 3-1 – and you wonder if they were at the same game.”

Hoos said one newspaper had quoted him as saying the transfer window had been “a real eye-opener”.

“I sat down and I thought, well actually this was my 29th transfer window actively dealing with players and transfers and ins and outs and I thought, do they think that for the previous 28 transfer windows I’ve just been sitting there and then BAM, what’s happening here?

“So I knew what to expect. There’s certain principles that you abide by and everyone always says the same thing – well, why don’t you start earlier? Well, actually we did. We went out and we signed Michael Keane as soon as we were able to do that.”

Keane’s move was confirmed January 8th – a week after the transfer window opened.

Hoos: “A lot of the other ones, you can’t get it done until somebody else moves. The manager and I grabbed a bite last night and I asked him if there was anybody else who moved in the transfer window who we missed out on, that you think we should have had. And he said no, so that’s kind of a tell-tale sign.

“It normally takes a move somewhere to make something else happen. So somebody moves and then somebody else suddenly becomes available and then somebody else becomes available and it becomes that domino effect. But that window never really got rolling this year.”

We asked Hoos what his immediate thoughts were when Dean Marney got injured days after the club had failed to sign a central midfielder as cover during the January transfer window.

“Well I was disappointed, as anyone would be. Nobody would have been more disappointed than the people in here and the manager and Dean himself because he had been doing very well.

“But it’s the same thing the manager always says, ‘Look, this is an opportunity for somebody else’. And so Scotty Arfield has moved in and boom, he’s done really, really well.”

Part three of this interview will be published in the coming days, or you can listen to it all now on our podcast. You can read the first part here

NNN interviews Hoos and Baldwin: part one

Before the Swansea City match No Nay Never sat down with chief executive Lee Hoos and chief operating officer David Baldwin. The full interview is available on our podcast.

On community

Hoos: “One of my proudest moments from the last year was getting promoted. But what we’ve done with the community department makes me just as proud.

“I think clubs are delivering a helluva lot more than what they did. 30 years ago, community departments delivered football courses and that’s what it did. You look at what clubs deliver now, the engagement statistics – we engaged over 14,000 people in the last year. But now we also do health initiatives, we also do social inclusion initiatives, we do educational initiatives.

“GCSE attainment levels here are diabolical, they’re 14% below the national average, and they’re rock bottom of the table in Lancashire.

“The connection between this town and the football club is extremely important. The football club needs the town and the town needs the club. So this club really needs to act as a catalyst, to help the town as well, because that’s how future families come along.”

NNN will be having a further sit-down with Lee to talk more about the work the community department is doing, including the recently-announced Grades for Games scheme, in the near future. Get in touch if there are any ideas you have in this area, or issues you want to raise, and we will put them to the club.

On safe standing

Hoos: “The whole standing issue… it’s not a health and safety issue, it is a supporter services issue. The argument is that if you get people repeatedly standing in a seated area, you get a domino effect and they all fall over but come on, you go to a concert and you’re drinking, you’re jumping up and down.

What is Burnley Football Club’s stance on safe standing?

“You’d have to redevelop a stand. The James Hargreaves Stand is way too steep to have safe standing in there. I’d do two things [to the David Fishwick Stand], I’d have a home standing section and I’d have an away standing section. The away standing section, that way the people who want to sit down, they can come in and they can have a seat but those who want to stand know they’re not blocking anybody else.”

Hoos said that if it was legal to do it, the Cricket Field Stand would be the most likely place to have a standing area at Turf Moor.

Baldwin: “The formal club position is always going to be that any club would look at what was in the interests of their supporters at the point at which legislation allowed them to do that. That’s the reality of it.

“If there’s an appetite for something, the view definitely from us as a club is that if we can facilitate something that is viable and sustainable and compliant, it’s an open discussion to be able to do that. But the bottom line is that if any of those barriers get put in front of you, and the first one is the legal position, then obviously you can’t further it.”

On tickets

Hoos said that the litmus test of the retainer will be at the end of the month when the early bird season tickets period runs out.

“Traditionally, we usually get about 80% renewal, depending on where we are, the renewal rate was obviously higher when we got promoted, but if we can crack that 80% mark and move it up to 90%, then I’d say it’s been a big success.

“We were piss poor in how we marketed [the retainer] and I’ve said that before. I apologise for the way it was marketed and it didn’t come out right. It wasn’t meant to be ‘we’re going to keep your money’, it was trying to reward loyalty.

“If you bought a season ticket in the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, that would be £229 this year, that would make it – basing it on the Premier League – £12 a game.

“The other thing I always like to point out is that people say that in the last five or six years ticket prices have really gone up. Well, six years ago VAT was 15% so I’ve had a rise to 20% in that time.”

“We’re hoping that we don’t need to do [the retainer/voucher] again. It worked last time and if we get a high renewal rate on the season tickets there will be no need for it.”

Baldwin: “Any decision you make about how you package something and present it is all based on what you achieve in your current campaign.

“The one thing that we have with the early bird campaign and that we had with the 18-month offer that we did is we were clear cut on the price point, it was introduced very early, there was a really long, extended period of time, from December to the end of March, in which to do it.

“Everyone is getting the message that you can do this easy payment and 58% so far have taken up the option to pay over a spread period.”

“As an outsider looking at the voucher scheme, the reality is it was the misunderstanding of it as opposed to the actual thing.”

Hoos: “If there is a problem with the message it is usually with the transmitter and not the receiver.”

On chain of command

Hoos: “There is me and the manager, reporting to the board. Sean and I kind of have a dotted line between each other because we have to work very closely together. Dave reports to me, he’s got all the operating areas of the business.

“I told the board it was difficult enough last year, going into the Premier League, I just said that if we are really, really serious about moving the club forward, I can’t do this [on my own] because I’d be spread from pillar to post. I have to have someone come in and help me to drive things forward. And it has to be someone who, quite frankly, if anything happens to me, can pick up the reins. So that’s what we did.

“Dave has been fantastic, he is a chief executive in his own right and he’s come in to be the chief operating officer here, driving on business areas, but we share an office so that we both know what’s going on. Nice and cosy that way! One of us is always making the tea. But the most important thing is the information flow, we both know what is going on, so nothing can fall through the cracks. He can hear what I’m doing, he knows that he can pick up things and it’s worked out really, really well.”

We asked Baldwin how he is finding life at Turf Moor compared to his previous club Bradford City.

Baldwin: “Ultimately it’s the economy of scale, the principle is the same. The operational responsibilities are very different and the external demands on the club in terms of the national and the international media – we almost have to provide an entire block for the media – whereas at League One, League Two you’re talking about half a dozen people turning up, so that’s the minutiae of practicalities.

“Lee focuses primarily on the football and the finance and the board but he’s very transparent in terms of the peripheral awareness of it. And then on the other side of it, my job is to drive commercial incomes and community initiatives, look at the way we handle matchday operations – there’s a huge operational cost for matchday operations, stewarding alone is a £500,000 bill. Compare that alone as a number to Bradford and it’s probably a £100,000 or £150,000 bill.

“We can now think more about forward planning and project planning. You only really know you’re in the Premier League in May so there isn’t a lot of time to prepare for it in a lot of ways. Talking about acquisition of players and transfer windows, you’ve got to be thinking three ahead, not just one ahead. My job is to make sure I give Lee that time to work closely with the manager, to have that forward projection.”

Parts two and three of this interview, covering topics from transfer policy to ground improvements, will be published in the coming days. You can listen to it all now on our podcast.

Fredrik Ulvestad: Who is he?

Burnley confirmed the signing of free agent Fredrik Ulvestad earlier this week.

We don’t know a lot about the young Norwegian apart from what we could glean from Wikipedia, so we asked Simon from @BFCNorge to fill us in.

“Ulvestad is a player that likes to keep the ball and has a good overall game, he is a smart player that works hard for the team. At Aalesund he was one of their best midfielders, standing out as an up-and-coming general in the middle, fighting for the team and their common aim.

“He is a good ball-passer and tends to surprise with his skills – at least did so in Tippeligaen – he is also a good penalty-taker, good with the ball, as well as being consistent and a good athlete. His main position is in the heart of the midfield, but can also play in a more offensive role.

“As with every player, he has his weaknesses and Fredrik’s are that he might be a bit too eager occasionally, something that might have consequences. He’s still young and learning: this is an area that can and will be improved. He is a talented player with potential and though he’s not yet managed to live up to that potential, he could do in the future. If you look at what Dyche did with Dean Marney, you can see what is possible for Ulvestad.

“When he was out of contract, several Norwegian top guns wanted his signature; Molde, Rosenborg and Vålerenga, which says a lot about his quality.

“He will fit right in the Burnley team, being young and ambitious as he is. The manager’s mantra has been always been “minimal requirement is maximum effort” – Ulvestad won’t have too many problems with that as he is used to working hard.

“It’s said that the Norwegian Tippeliga is at the same level as the Championship. I personally find that an appropriate description. Ulvestad – also called “Ulven”, translated to the Wolf – was one of the better midfielders for his age in the Norwegian league and will only get better.

“He is without doubt good enough for the Championship and will – under the right guidance – become a decent Premier League midfielder.”

Anyone looks good on YouTube, but here’s a compilation anyway.

 What do you make of Ulvestad joining Burnley? Comment below.

Listen to our interview with Lee Hoos and David Baldwin

On 28th February, armed with a load of your questions, four NNN editors travelled to Turf Moor to sit down and interview Lee Hoos and David Baldwin.

We covered some of the most talked about topics from the last year or so: the retainer, ticket prices in general, the transfer window and the recruitment department. Also covered were youth development, the community department, the Premier League deal, safe standing, youth development, the Club shop, as well as the general structure of the Club.

There will be written up versions of this interview on the site in the coming days.

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, where you can also find links to subscribe on iTunes. Check out our guide if you’re not sure what any of this means.

Thanks to our sponsors at Neville Gee for enabling us to do everything we do.