The NNN 2014/15 season awards

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

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

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

James Bird

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Eyre

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Turner

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Weller

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

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

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

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

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

Robbie Coppack

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Haworth

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie Smith

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Neary

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

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

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

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

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

NNN prizes therefore go to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barnes injury worsens striker crisis

It never rains but it pours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Nugent

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

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

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

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

Will Grigg

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

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

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

Patrick Bamford

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

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

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

Adam Le Fondre

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

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

Chris Wood

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

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

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

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

Zach Clough

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

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

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

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

Jamie Mackie

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

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

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

Andre Gray

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

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

Chris Martin

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

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

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

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

Nahki Wells

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

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

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

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

Jermaine Beckford

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

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

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

Dwight Gayle

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

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

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

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

Assorted others

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

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

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

5 reasons for Burnley’s relegation

Burnley look set to be relegated at Hull this weekend. Even if the Clarets win at the KC Stadium on Saturday, other results could condemn them to an immediate return to the Championship.

Plenty has gone wrong this season, but let’s take a look at five of the main reasons behind our relegation.

Transfers

Lukas Jutkiewicz 2014

It could be argued that Burnley’s fate was sealed even before a ball was kicked this season.

Despite promotion looking certain as early as March, the club struggled to get their top targets in. The pattern was simple. Burnley would make an offer for a player. It would be turned down. The player would sign a fat new long-term contract to stay at their club. For a time this summer, it seemed like Groundhog Day at Turf Moor.

But were the targets right? Troy Deeney certainly looked a good choice to add to the forward line. Comparisons were swiftly drawn to the £11 million Fulham bizarrely paid for Ross McCormack, leading to claims the transfer market had been completely distorted by that deal. But Leicester’s securing of Brighton’s Leo Ulloa for £8 million suggests that was not the case.

Watford made it clear they wanted at least £10 million for Deeney, but even then he might not have moved. Deeney was the club’s captain and was determined to repay the club’s faith in him after he spent time in prison. His performances this season have been driven by that desire and it might be the case that no amount of money could have tempted him away. However, the drop in quality from Deeney to Lukas Jutkiewicz is absolutely vast: surely the club could have done better there?

Going after the likes of Craig Bryson, Henri Lansbury and Craig Dawson also seemed sound logic, but their clubs were desperate to keep hold of their players.

Bryson signed a huge new contract to stay at Derby and ended up spending most of the season on their bench – did we really miss out on much? Lansbury ended up being a pawn at Nottingham Forest as Stuart Pearce demanded he stay at the club. Pearce ended up leaving soon after anyway and Lansbury had an unspectacular year with Forest also missing out on the play-offs.

Burnley’s pursuit of Dawson appears, with hindsight, to have been hugely flawed. Bids seemed to increase by a few quid each go and by the time our offer was anywhere near acceptable Dawson had become indispensable to West Brom due to injuries to Gareth McAuley and Joleon Lescott. Maybe we could have sealed Dawson earlier in the summer with less faffing about, but would fans swap him for Michael Keane now?

The one player I would argue we really should have pushed harder for was Wigan midfielder James McArthur. He is the only one of the five apparent main targets who ended up moving last summer, signing for Crystal Palace for a fee of around £7 million. That is an awful lot of money, there is no doubt about that, but having seen Scott Arfield’s best efforts at playing as a Premier League central midfielder in the last few weeks it is clear serious investment should have been made in that area. McArthur was a player who could have made a big difference to our season. That was a big loss.

So that covers the players we missed out on, but what about those who came in?

George Boyd 2014

Frankly, each and every one of them have not been good enough. George Boyd is the only new arrival to have become indispensable and even he has flattered to deceive at times. For every moment of top class ability – like his winning goal against Manchester City – there has been a match where he has been ineffective, running around a lot but providing nothing else. Was he worth £3 million? Probably not, but he should tear up the Championship. Keane is one for the future but he frequently looked like he was not ready for the Premier League, regularly getting beaten far too easily in the air from set pieces, most notably against Manchester United where pub team level defending against Chris Smalling – Chris Smalling for crying out loud! – cost us a famous win at Old Trafford.

The rest? A complete waste of money. Michael Kightly cost in the region of £1.5 million and has been underused by Sean Dyche. Whatever we paid for goalless strikers Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell, probably over £2 million for the pair, the money would have been better used by throwing it straight down the drain. Stephen Ward was a decent addition but is now confusingly warming the bench. Matt Gilks and Fredrik Ulvestad have not got their boots dirty. Matt Taylor and Steven Reid might as well have retired last summer for all the impact they have had this season.

Allowing our only specialist midfield cover – Nathaniel Chalobah – to leave the club in January with no replacement arriving was a total joke. Our transfer strategy was a disaster all season.

Spending

money

The transfer strategy was dreadful, but was that because of the budget that was set by the board?

Dyche might have spent more than any Burnley manager in history – about £10 million over the course of the season – but that figure is still dwarfed by pretty much every other Premier League club. Leicester City, for example, paid close to £10 million each for Ulloa and Andrej Kramaric and are paying Esteban Cambiasso in the region of £40,000 a week. QPR didn’t spend a fortune by their usual standards but still gave Rio Ferdinand an £80,000 a week deal even though he’s finished.

When asked what he would do differently, Dyche said this week: “Get the cheque book out.”

Dyche’s frustration is obvious and shared by the fans, but why should he get off scot-free? The likes of Sordell and Jutkiewicz would not have been signed if he did not want them at Turf Moor. He plays a role in deciding the top targets, who were mostly either unavailable or unwilling to move.

Burnley could have spent more money in the summer, but if we had not found better players than the ones we ended up with, it would have just been more cash wasted.

The most baffling thing about our spending this season was the January transfer window, when we were assured that there was extra cash to spend. Apart from Keane’s loan being converted into a permanent deal – good business, admittedly – Burnley did absolutely nothing in the transfer window. Blaming the board for our lack of transfer activity is short-sighted when we brought in ten players over the season, spending £10 million in total, and only one of them is in the team. Is that their fault?

More cash would not necessarily have been the answer. After all, we got promoted last year by spending almost nothing apart from a £450,000 January deal to bring in Ashley Barnes, a fact Dyche has been keen to repeat. It is hypocritical for him to hype his achievements working on a tight budget last season then complain that more money was not spent this year.

Tactics

@BurnleyOfficial
@BurnleyOfficial

My main issue with Dyche this season, however, has been his tactics.

Burnley have played essentially the same way all year, the same way we played to great effect last season. There has been very little flexibility and almost no mid-match changes by Dyche, whose preference to leave his substitutions until very late in the game has become a running joke. We play a very direct style of football, far too direct at times, making us predictable to defend against.

Answer me this: how many Premier League clubs can you name that play 4-4-2 these days? There are hardly any. Manchester City are the highest profile of them but it is a bit different when you have Yaya Toure to play in a midfield two instead of Scott Arfield and when you have David Silva playing on the left wing instead of Ashley Barnes.

Flexibility is hugely important in the Premier League and Dyche has rarely shown any. We made a rare switch from the 4-4-2 for the away game at West Brom and got absolutely battered, an experience that seems to have scared Dyche off trying something different. But the game at the Hawthorns was a terrible time to experiment. We had a half a dozen first team players missing through injury or suspension, had square pegs in round holes all over the pitch (Steven Reid in the holding role!) and still lost mainly due to defending set pieces like a bunch of blind strangers.

Dean Marney’s injury should have forced Dyche away from his beloved 4-4-2 but he has ploughed on with it despite only having one specialist central midfielder available – David Jones – who has frequently looked slow and out of his depth playing against experienced trios. The return to fitness of Matt Taylor provided the ideal time to turn to 4-3-3 and still Dyche insists on sticking with 4-4-2, which has not worked time and time again this season.

One of the defining matches of the season was when Crystal Palace came to Turf Moor under their new manager Alan Pardew. Burnley got off to a good start and took the lead, but Pardew showed the tactical flexibility that is required in the Premier League, switching winger Jason Puncheon to a central roaming role, where he caused havoc. Dyche had no answer. Palace came back to win 3-2.

Goals

Danny Ings and Sam Vokes
Burnley Football Club

A blind man on a galloping horse could see that Burnley have not scored enough goals this season.

We are currently haven’t scored in six matches and have only scored once in our last nine games, that superb strike by Boyd to defeat the defending champions at Turf Moor.

Our top scorer is Danny Ings with nine and only Barnes comes anywhere close – he has five. Jutkiewicz and Sordell have not scored a single goal between them in the league and Sam Vokes has just one cup goal to his name since his return from injury. What about midfield? Boyd has come up with a few, but the others have barely contributed. Ben Mee has got a couple from set pieces but it’s the same story at the back.

Burnley are paying the price for not bringing in a goalscorer last summer. Jutkiewicz and Sordell were not even good in the Championship last season and we were expecting them to step up to the Premier League. Laughable.

Ings has had good patches of form, most notably just after the turn of the year, perhaps no coincidence that it was when the transfer window was open. But a lot of the time he has looked overawed by the pressures of the Premier League, especially given the fact that if he doesn’t score, we usually don’t score. His confidence has hit rock bottom in recent weeks, to the extent he allowed Taylor to take – and miss – the decisive penalty against Leicester at Turf Moor recently. Nine goals is a reasonable return for Ings in his first season in the top flight but fans will remember the chances he has missed too. Maybe we expect too much of Ings. He is just 22 after all.

Being able to bring in a striker of the quality of Troy Deeney could have made all the difference.

Ulloa’s 12 goals look like they are going to keep Leicester in the Premier League. Hull signed Dame N’Doye in January and his five goals could keep them up. Jermain Defoe has not scored many for Sunderland since his mid-season arrival but they could still survive thanks to his strikes against us, Swansea and Newcastle. QPR would be down already if it wasn’t for ex-Claret Charlie Austin.

We just don’t have someone we can rely on to score regular goals. That has been absolutely crucial.

Luck

Dean Marney 2014

Luck always plays a part and while they say it evens out over the season, it’s arguable that that’s not been the case for us.

Ings has been booked twice for simulation when he could have been awarded penalties, although with a conversion record of just one from three from 12 yards we might have missed them. Sam Vokes should have had a spot kick when he was hauled back late on against Swansea at Turf Moor.

There are plenty of other examples where big decisions have gone against us. Just last weekend FA Cup final referee Jon Moss ludicrously sent Michael Duff off, condemning us to a 1-0 defeat at West Ham. We might have still lost if Duff had stayed on, but we would have had a better chance. Marney’s injury is perhaps the biggest example of bad luck we have had all season.

We’ve scored more own goals than proper goals recently, with Tom Heaton and Jason Shackell unluckily putting through their own net. These margins make a difference come the end of the year.

They say you make your own luck and perhaps that is true – and it hasn’t all gone against us. Barnes could have been sent off at Chelsea and Diego Costa should have had penalties in both games against us. Barnes’ winner against Southampton at Turf Moor took a decisive deflection. That’s just off the top of my head. Generally it feels like we haven’t quite had the run of the ball this year, but maybe it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference anyway – who knows.

Burnley’s relegation is likely to be confirmed this weekend and these five reasons – transfers, spending, tactics, goals and luck – are why we are going down this season.

Why are we going down? What could we have done differently? Comment below.

Should they stay or should they go?

This morning has brought some welcome good news – apparently Reading want to sign Steven Reid in the summer.

Reid is one of the five first team squad members to be out of contract in the summer, and with the season entering its final weeks Sean Dyche will be mulling over who to keep and who to let go.

So let’s take a look at the five in question.

Steven Reid

In a summer of terrible signings, Reid stands alone as the worst of the lot by a distance.

He has started one game this season, the 4-0 thrashing at his old club West Brom, when he was hauled off at the break after a diabolical performance, the worst individual showing of the season so far. He was completely off the pace and out of his depth playing in front of the back four and there is no doubt we got the worst end of the bargain in the sort-of swap with WBA for Chris Baird.

The highlight of Reid’s time at Turf Moor was coming on late in the 0-0 home draw with Manchester United and taking one for the team to earn a late booking. That was his sole positive contribution in claret and blue.

It was a bad decision to sign Reid, but it would be an astonishing one to give him a new contract.

I’d drive him to Reading myself but I can’t drive, so I’ll offer to pay for his train tickets instead. I’m generous like that.

Ross Wallace

Getty Images
Getty Images

Wallace has made 17 appearances this season but the vast majority of them have been short cameos from the bench.

At the age of 29 he is at something of a crossroads in his career and he really needs to be playing regular football.

Wallace earned us a hard-fought point at Leicester with a superb late free kick, but apart from that his impact has been minimal. He impressed in a lively cameo against Aston Villa at the Turf, but other than that has not improved us when he’s been on the pitch.

The Scot wasn’t a key player last year either, playing 15 times, and it’s hard to see him being anything other than a benchwarmer next season. He’s started only a handful of games in the last two season.

I’d let him go and I’d be surprised if he went to anything more than a bottom-end Championship club.

Michael Duff

Michael Duff 2013 wide

Duff is a genuine Clarets legend and has improved the back line since replacing Michael Keane in the side recently.

At 37, there is no doubt he is coming to the end of his career and the testimonial he will have this summer is extremely well deserved.

Keane is obviously the future of the Burnley defence but with Jason Shackell showing enough quality to show he is a Premier League player – I’d expect Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth to be interested in him – Duff would be useful for another year. A Duff-Keane combination looks very solid to me.

With Kevin Long out injured long term the Clarets are short of defensive options and keeping Duff around will help to manage that area of the pitch for another 12 months.

Duff is the only Claret to have been promoted to the Premier League twice and that experience is invaluable.

He’s already working on his coaching badges and if he is willing to take a player-coach deal that could be an ideal solution.

Dean Marney

http://nonaynever.net/18856/dean-marney-will-he-be-missed/
Empics via BBC Sport

The injury to Deano was perhaps the key moment in our season. It happened when we were 2-0 up and cruising at home to West Brom, a game we somehow contrived to draw thanks to typically crap defending.

Marney has been the heartbeat of the team for the last couple of years and his partnership with David Jones in the middle of the park has been integral to our success under Dyche.

Jones has struggled of late, no doubt missing his usual midfield partner, with Scott Arfield unable to provide the energy, drive and incisive passing Marney is known for.

He might pick up far too many stupid bookings but Marney has become a real fans’ favourite at Turf Moor after his first couple of years at the club were pretty average.

Marney’s injury is likely to keep him out of action until Christmas and perhaps even longer, but Burnley should still give him a new contract.

He can be the cliched ‘like a new signing’ boost when he returns to fitness next season.

Danny Ings

Football League, Twitter
Football League, Twitter

It’s been a strange season for Ings and it is ending badly, with the 22-year-old being strongly criticised for not taking the crucial penalty against Leicester City at the weekend.

He has scored nine goals this season, our top scorer by a long way, and has contributed to 50% of the goals we’ve scored.

But supporters will remember the chances he has missed too, such as the late header at Everton, that could have made all the difference. Those who defend Ings – and I’m definitely among them – note that the service to him has often been rubbish, but he certainly could have had a few more goals.

Ings’ confidence is low right now and some fans’ have mistaken that for him not caring, which is pretty insulting to one of the most honest and passionate pros to have played for the club in recent years. But he’s an easy target to make a scapegoat since it has been obvious for months he intends to run down his contract to get the best deal in the summer.

There is little doubt Ings will move on to bigger and better things in the summer, although the mooted moves to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United may not materialise after his recent loss of form.

All players go through bad patches and Ings is certainly in one now, with no goals since his fine header at Old Trafford, but without his strikes earlier in the season we would probably already be relegated.

Hopefully supporters will remember his superb last season, in which he fired us to promotion and was named the Championship’s Player of the Year.

Your views

We asked for your opinions on the above five out of contract players on Twitter. Here’s a selection of responses:

https://twitter.com/kevr1990/status/593371323549749248

Which of the five players should Burnley keep? Comment below.

Why Sordell should start on Saturday

Marvin Sordell should be in the team on Saturday. There, I’ve said it.

Before the men in white coats turn up to take me away, let me explain my thinking.

What we’ve been doing is not working. We haven’t scored a goal in our last three matches and have only found the net once in seven games since the 1-1 draw at Chelsea. The current plan isn’t fit for purpose.

Burnley fans hoped Sam Vokes’ reintroduction into the side would spark the spluttering attack into life but it hasn’t worked out. Vokes has looked out of his depth at times, which is understandable since he spent almost a year out injured and is adapting to a higher level. The Vokes-Ings partnership, which was so effective in the Championship last year, looks lifeless.

Sean Dyche pulled a masterstroke by playing Ashley Barnes on the left against Manchester City but since then the tactic has backfired, making our play too narrow and samey with long balls pumped up to Vokes and Barnes all game. Barnes’ suspension for two brainless tackles at Everton means Dyche has to change something and since we have only won once in 12 fixtures it is time for a radical shift in our approach.

Which is where Marv comes in.

Now, before I start, let me point out that I’m no Sordell superfan. I was baffled when we signed him in the summer and he’s done nothing all season to suggest he is anything but a mid-table Championship forward. He’s scored one goal all season, a sweet volley in the FA Cup replay at Spurs, making his record similar to Vokes’ and better than that of Lukas Jutkiewicz, who still hasn’t scored in a Claret shirt. On the face of it, Sordell is not likely to score the goals that keep us in the Premier League.

But we have to try something different. Vokes is struggling to assert himself on Premier League defenders, who tend to be bigger, stronger, faster and more reliable than those in the league below. Jutkiewicz is basically a less effective version of Vokes and his confidence is clearly at rock bottom. There is no point playing him.

Which leaves Sordell. Marv has the one thing none of Barnes, Juke and Vokes have: pace. He’s not lightning quick but he can stretch teams. Considering Leicester City are the visitors on Saturday and they have one of the league’s slowest players, Wes Morgan, in their back line, selecting him starts to make a little bit of sense. Sordell is lively and direct, everything Vokes and Jutkiewicz are not, and picking him would certainly catch Leicester by surprise. That alone might be enough to make it work.

When Dyche first put Barnes into the team this season, for the home game against Hull in November, plenty of people (myself included) questioned the decision and wondered what on earth he was playing at. Barnes scored the winner that day, flinging egg in all our faces, and went on to hit more key strikes against Southampton and Manchester City. Barnes, previously described in an NNN comment as “not even a Championship player” had proved himself able in the Premier League. Why can’t Sordell do the same and surprise us all again? Dyche obviously feels he is good enough or we would not have signed him. Give him a go.

Nigel Pearson’s Foxes typically line up in a 4-3-3 formation and although Dyche has been strictly wedded to his 4-4-2 all season, sticking with it after it succeeded so wildly last season, it has looked stale and ripe for change of late. David Jones and Scott Arfield are both struggling in a midfield two and without Dean Marney’s energy in the middle of the park, it hasn’t worked. Teams are dominating the midfield battle against us and if you lose that, you usually lose the game.

Switching to a central three would allow Dyche to get Matt Taylor back in the side and the former West Ham man has shown enough in his brief cameos from the bench in the last two games to suggest he would improve us. Taylor is not quick and won’t add energy to the side but he is precise in possession and can add quality passing to the side, improving our ball retention and getting us into better attacking positions. A Taylor-Jones-Arfield trio looks pretty decent to me, even if Jones and Taylor are quite similar.

Taking out the wingers obviously restricts the team’s width but as Kieran Trippier is our main creative threat from right-back it is doubtful whether that would necessarily have a negative impact. Taking away the winger in front of him would give Tripps more room to run into and whip in those dangerous crosses that beg to be stuck away. While Ben Mee on the other side isn’t really known for his attacking play, his sublime beating of Hector Bellerin and excellent resulting cross in the Arsenal game shows he is capable.

George Boyd is out of form and a switch to 4-3-3 would benefit him too. All too often he is too deep when he gets the ball. Wingers aren’t going to hurt teams if they receive possession on the halfway line with two opposition players between them and the goal. We need to get Boyd involved in the play as close to the box as possible. Giving him some licence to roam around the final third would improve our creative options, which have been badly lacking when we get forward. Boyd is one of the few players in the team who is happy to shoot on sight and pushing him up the pitch would improve our goal threat too. His energy means he could still get back when needed, but it’s time to give him more freedom to go and score and make goals. That’s what we signed him for.

Danny Ings could thrive in a 4-3-3 too. At the minute he is too easy to pick up for opposition teams. We never get in behind so Ings is forced to drop deep in search of the ball, where a defensive midfielder can comfortably cut off his supply line. Burnley need to work their angles better instead of playing in straight lines that are easy to defend again. A 4-3-3 would free up more pockets of space for Ings to exploit and allow him to get closer to Boyd – our two most dangerous players have to be given more chances to link up. That is where we can hurt other teams. Ings is struggling at the moment and a new approach could breathe new life into his game.

So what does Sordell bring to the party?

Firstly, a nuisance factor than Vokes and Juke do not offer, although Barnes does. Sordell should fit the pressing game nicely and would be able to put plenty of pressure on the opposition. His pace gives us the option of the ball over the top, which we have hardly used all season, while adding some mobility to the front line means our attacks should be speedier and more dangerous. At the moment our attacking play is slow, stale and predictable, but a fluid front line of Ings, Boyd and Sordell, all swapping positions and getting into the box as often as possible, has the potential to cause havoc. We should look to play through the midfield, getting Taylor and Jones on the ball, instead of smashing passes over their heads.

We’re not scoring goals and we’ll go down unless that changes.

It’s time for something radical.

It’s time for Sordell.

Has Jamie gone mad or is there a case for playing Sordell? Would 4-3-3 work? Comment below.

Listen to this issue being discussed on our podcast.

Your chance to quiz Lee Hoos and David Baldwin

Before tomorrow’s match we’ll be sitting down with CEO Lee Hoos and COO David Baldwin.

It’s a rare opportunity to put your questions to the club’s decision-makers.

We’re planning to ask about areas such as transfer strategy and ticket prices.

But if there are any burning issues you want to us ask the club about, this is your chance.

Comment below with your Qs, tweet us, or email us – blog@nonaynever.net.

Barnes must rein in aggressive play

Ashley Barnes revels in playing on the edge, but he went too far in his aggressive approach at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho has successfully manipulated the media into making the story all about Barnes’ “tackle” on Nemanja Matic, rather than his side’s inability to beat the 19th placed side in the Premier League, and it is pathetic how he has the press wrapped around his little finger. No other top flight manager would be able to barge their way on to a TV highlights show to deliver a half-hour monologue, listing their many complaints and laying out their agenda.

But Barnes has been walking on thin ice for much of the season and it would have been no surprise if he had received an FA charge and a subsequent suspension in the wake of Mourinho shining the spotlight on his latest antics.

The collision with Matic is an extremely difficult one to call, even with the benefit of replays and slo-mo. It all happened extremely quickly and in the eyes of the referee, Martin Atkinson and the FA, Barnes did nothing wrong. However, Atkinson got at least three other major calls wrong on the day, denying Chelsea two clear penalties and failing to punish Barnes for a bad late challenge on Branislav Ivanovic.

First of all, it’s important to make the distinction that Barnes on Matic should not be described as a tackle. Barnes had the ball and although he did not have full control of it, he got to the ball first and knocked it away from the Serbian midfielder. Matic is trying to tackle Barnes, although the suggestion from some Burnley fans that it was Matic’s fault are laughable. How dare he attack Barnes’ foot with his shin?

The issue is whether or not Barnes deliberately left his studs up on Matic on his follow-through, which the Chelsea player evidently felt was the case. His reaction was furious, but it is worth pointing out no other Blues players were interested in making a fuss about it until Matic chased Barnes and shoved him roughly to the ground. Ex-pros have queued up to proclaim it a potential leg-breaker and had Matic’s leg been planted at the time of impact, he could well have been seriously hurt.

Examining the footage is only useful to an extent as only Barnes knows if he deliberately made contact with Matic’s leg. If he did, then he should have been sent off. If he did not, then it was purely an accident. It is natural to follow through to an extent when passing the ball, but was it necessary for Barnes’ studs to be that high when Matic arrived? Matic arrives from Barnes’ side and it is possible the striker did not see him coming at all, although he may well have been in Barnes’ peripheral vision.

Barnes’ record does not look good for him here. During a staggering stage-managed interview on Goals on Sunday yesterday, Mourinho cannily brought up Barnes’ lengthy ban for attempting to trip a referee during his time at Brighton, although the Portuguese manager, cleverly covering his backside, said this should not count against the striker. It could have though – the FA has been known to take into account previous bans when setting suspensions. Barnes received a seven-game ban for that incident.

Barnes has committed more fouls than any other player in the Premier League this season, although he has only received four yellow cards from his 24 appearances. His approach is certainly a physical one, even if it shouldn’t be described as dirty.

He was named Burnley’s man of the match after another excellent performance leading the line and it is a shame the Matic collision and his heavy challenges on Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma in the first half have overshadowed it. Barnes seems to excel in the toughest circumstances; his best performance of the season came in the Clarets’ classic fightback at the Etihad Stadium.

Barnes versus Ivanovic was one of the game’s most unseemly moments, but it did not reflect well on the terrific Serbian defender either after he screamed in apparent agony, rolled about on the floor for a bit then jumped up, evidently unhurt, to complain to Atkinson. Barnes had clattered him though, nastily going in studs first after the ball had gone. Mourinho was right on this one – Barnes certainly could have seen red for what was a dangerous and unnecessarily reckless piece of play. The ball was long gone and this one was much worse than the Matic incident. The foul on Zouma, with Barnes kneeing the defender in the back, is less dangerous but still unnecessarily strong.

Taking the aggressive edge out of Barnes’ game would change him as a player, but Burnley cannot afford to lose him to a long ban. Even though any suspension would have largely been the fault of Mourinho for making the back pages with his accusations of a “criminal” tackle on Matic, Barnes has put himself in that situation and must also take a share of the responsibility.

The way Barnes throws himself around is always likely to invite attention from referees and Mourinho’s intervention this weekend may result in him being a marked man for the rest of the season.

To take an example, Diego Costa was wrongfully booked for diving at Turf Moor on the opening weekend of the season and has had a reputation as a cheat ever since. Costa has shown an ugly willingness to go to ground too easily at times, but referees are now well aware of that and he was denied another clear penalty against us at the weekend when Jason Shackell put a rare foot wrong and pushed him over in the box. That incorrect decision by Atkinson could prove decisive at both the top and the bottom of the table at the end of the season.

If Barnes does not alter his approach he may find referees are far keener to hand out cards like confetti when he makes his trademark physical challenges on defenders. There is a balance to be achieved between winning the physical battle with defenders and being too aggressive.

Luckily for Sean Dyche, up front is one of the areas he has good cover and if the worst happened and Barnes did get a suspension – though the FA announced yesterday there will be no action taken over the Matic incident – Sam Vokes would have been raring to go and ready to step in if required.

He has had to be patient, waiting for his chance with Barnes’ form making him undroppable, but the Wales international seemed particularly sharp in his cameo at the Bridge and it might well be the ideal time to unleash the Vings partnership that tore open Championship teams on a weekly basis last season.

What do you make of Barnes’ physical approach? Should he have been banned? Comment below.