Good Luck Danny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once a Claret always a Claret. Good luck Danny.

Barnes injury catastrophic but should inspire hopefuls

The news regarding the injury of Ashley Barnes was horrific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Heaton has been consistently brilliant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danny Ings, Twitter and how it all turned bitter

Imagine you’re Kieran Trippier. 24 years old. Tweeting the things you’d expect to hear from a young footballer: happy birthdays to old friends, new boots, meals at bloody Nino’s.

Yet invariably, no matter what you tweet, the first reply will always be some melt telling you you’re too good for Bournemouth.

Trippier’s fellow young starlet Danny Ings this week caused a mini-storm in his matchday programme interview by admitting he had been hurt by some of the social media abuse directed towards him over the course of the season.

Predictably, the revelation led to him receiving more of the same.

And it begs the question – are we pushing our players towards the exit?

Football was a little simpler prior to the dotcom boom. Players could have a stinker on a Saturday afternoon, spend their evening oblivious to the fact that there were three blokes calling them fit to burn all night in the Miners, and return to training on Monday to start afresh.

The QWERTY keyboard warriors of today on the other hand have barely passed the Fanzone before they’re putting the world to rights in 140 characters – tagging in all culprits along the way.

Twitter being Twitter, you’ll normally only hear from those with an axe to grind. The best restaurants can cook hundreds and hundreds of faultless meals, and the first bit of feedback they’ll get is from some thickneck complaining their ice cream was too cold.

I know what you’re thinking. They take their money at the end of the week, so they should shoulder the blame when things go haywire. It’s part and parcel of football isn’t it – especially when our extortionate ticket prices go towards said wages?

That’s maybe a fair point to make against train companies and broadband providers. For example, when I take out a broadband package I don’t usually do so with an assumption that its performance will dip over a tricky winter period. It’s reasonable of me to expect a fairly consistent service.

And in any case, these companies are essentially faceless to us. I don’t presume my tweet to Virgin Media will be fast tracked to Richard Branson. More likely to a paid social media operator who couldn’t give a shit about my online shopping.

But when we tweet Danny Ings, or Kieran Trippier, we’re tweeting an actual person. So they might be a personal hero. So you might have seen them on the tele. But underneath it all, they’re real people, who have on and off days, and react to criticism in much the same way as me and you.

If you don’t understand why Danny Ings would be hurt at unfounded accusations that he’s stopped trying, or why Kieran Trippier must be sick to the back teeth of the constant barrage of bile which fill up his notifications, then you mustn’t understand simple human motivation.

If we want to succeed as a club, we can’t demand the loyalty of our players before proceeding to piss them off and irritate them every Saturday night.

And here’s the key point – because how you choose to speak to and interact with these people will impact upon their confidence, their morale and their motivation, it will consequently impact upon the score at the final whistle.

It’s that simple.

This isn’t me trying to quash anyone’s freedom of speech. If you really do get your kicks from slagging off minor celebrities online then be my guest.

But next time Ashley Barnes cups his ears to the crowd after scoring a goal, or a player chooses to look elsewhere rather than sign a new contract, let it be a reminder that we all play a part in shaping our players’ perceptions of the club that they play for.

Danny Ings would have left at the end of this season, regardless of all this nonsense. He has been a fantastic servant to the club, deserves to be playing in the top flight and I wish him all the best wherever he pitches up.

But just bear it in mind that as fans, we have the ability to make that decision to leave just a little bit harder.

And so I return to the Kieran Trippier example with which I began.

When over the coming weeks, he tweets about his upcoming break to Marbella, the final of Britain’s Got Talent, or a meal at bloody Nino’s, remember that what you reply will partly shape his opinion of our football club.

So if you’re about to mither him about Bournemouth, get a bloody grip.

Do you agree or should players brush off social media abuse? Comment below.

Thoughts for next season

As the curtain came down on Premier League football at Turf Moor once again, and those fans who chose to stay behind waited for the players and coaching staff to complete their lap of honour, my thoughts turned to next season.

Squad

Assuming that our only casualties are Danny Ings and Shacks (the former being dramatically confirmed post-Stoke and the latter rumoured to be rekindling his partnership with Eddie Howe), then we have a pretty decent Championship squad.

Lee Hoos this week confirmed what everyone outside of the Burnley boardroom already knew – we didn’t “need” to sell anyone. Let’s face it, if we did “need” to sell given our frugal approach to the Premier League campaign then we have more to worry about than how we solve our central midfield problem!

Squad (Part 2)

We, of course, still need to invest and SD has already flirted around this subject during his pre-match presssers.

Dean Marney has extended his deal for another 12 months and Duffer is expected to follow suit next week. Sure, there are some other players out of contract but they are primarily “fringe” players and I don’t expect any of them to be retained on new deals.

The shopping list needn’t be that long, but we need a CM and a striker as top priority.

Strikeforce

Sam and Ashley appear to be our first choice partnership up front and you know what, that is a good choice. We know of Sam’s quality and I firmly believe he can recreate his dazzling 2013/2014 form even without the #vings phenomenon. Mark my words, NNN will be selling #VARNES t-shirts come the Christmas retail rush.

Let’s not be shy here though … Juke has been an unmitigated disaster and I don’t expect him to feature regularly in the team. Sure, we probably won’t be able to sell him either. That leaves us with Sordell for cover, who I still believe SD will persist with.

My number one choice for striker recruitment is Rudy Gestede from our neighbours. We take their only decent striker and they can’t buy to replace (transfer embargo). Win-win scenario.

Midfield

This has been, in my opinion, our biggest problem during the Premier League campaign. The supply-line to the forward men was non-existent. And Tripps can’t be expected to do it all himself.

We have to create more chances. To do this, we have to get our wing-men back on fire. Number one mission is to get Arfield out of CM and get him back on the wing. Give that Marney is not expected to be back until Christmas then this means we also need to add a CM to the shopping list. Depending on what austerity measures the club implement post-Villa, we do have Fredrik Ulvestad who looked decent when he briefly featured in the Stoke game.

I also predict George Boyd to run riot against most Championship midfields!

Defence

The nightmare that all Clarets are dreading is the loss of Tripps. He is irreplaceable. But let’s not worry about that for now.

Losing Shacks would be a real blow, but we can cope. We have Duffer and Keane, but if I was in charge of the dressing room, I would finally move Ben Mee into the centre and play Ward at left back.

The Championship is ace!

Here’s why:

  • More games
  • We win
  • We score goals
  • We don’t have to avoid MOTD
  • We don’t have to listen to “Little Old Burnley” tripe in the media
  • You can park near the ground
  • You can get a pie at half-time
  • The Football League show has finally been canned

The list is endless (although it did end just there – ed).

We have gone through promotion twice now in our Championship lives. The first was as play-off winners. The second was automatic promotion as runners-up.

Let’s go get that title!

Are you looking forward to next season? Comment below.

Why it must be Le Fondre

The natural replacement for Danny Ings when he inevitably leaves is 28-year-old Adam Le Fondre. The striker, currently on loan at Bolton from Cardiff, looks certain to leave in the summer and would slot perfectly into the role vacated by Danny Ings.

A player who has successfully delivered goals at every level he has played at is exactly the kind of replacement that is needed for next season, rather than taking a punt on an up and coming youngster, someone from the lower leagues or, god forbid, Marvin Sordell or Juke…

Since joining Wanderers in January, eight goals in 16 starts ensured Le Fondre ended the campaign as their top goal scorer. To score eight goals in a team that’s had a pretty poor season, finishing 18th, is testament to Le Fondre’s ability and opens up the possibility of what he could do in a team that offered him quality support, like Burnley did to Vokes and Ings last season.

In previous seasons, Le Fondre has already had a stab at Premier League level, becoming well known for scoring a number of late goals from the bench at Reading to rescue points against the likes of Newcastle and Chelsea. Le Fondre scored 39 goals in a 104 appearances for Reading. Ings (so far) has scored 37 goals in 120 appearances for the Clarets.

Like Ings, It took Le Fondre time to become established as one of the club’s main strikers, with many of his 104 appearances being made from the bench. However it took Le Fondre an awful lot longer, with 51 of his 104 appearances being off the bench, when compared to Danny Ings’ 23. However, don’t let this fool you into labelling Le Fondre as a ‘super sub’ kind of player. Back-to-back hat tricks against Bolton and Blackpool in his final season for Reading were the highlight of a campaign in which he finished on 15 goals. Previously in his career, he had ended 2009-2010 at Rotherham with an incredible 30 goals.

Some critics may point to the fact that Le Fondre couldn’t replicate his goal scoring ability at Cardiff, scoring just three times in 21 appearances. However it has been reported that the Stockport-born striker missed the north of England, that his family were all based up there and that the absence just did not sit well with him. Furthermore, Le Fondre was constantly played out of position and in a team constantly bombarded with off the pitch issues regarding kit colours, general Vincent Tan madness and so on, this was never going to end well.

So is this a move that could realistically happen or is this article just a muddle of stats and figures of a player that, like so many of our transfer targets at the beginning of this season, will simply disappear over the horizon? Cardiff’s manager Russell Slade has announced that Le Fondre will be available at a price and the striker himself has expressed an interest in staying at Bolton.

Financial pressures at Bolton might make there a permanent transfer unlikely and a move to a team who will be expected to push for an immediate return to the Premier League would surely be seen as a step up for Le Fondre. A switch to Burnley would also cause the least disruption for him and his family.

However, Cardiff are hoping to recoup most of the £3million fee that took Le Fondre to Wales and questions must be asked about whether Burnley would be willing to pay that much since we were unwilling to fork out that much more on players to stay in the top flight. Despite this, a solid replacement for Ings is needed and a big money move (big by Burnley’s standards!) could be the best way for the board to prove that it has ambition and the fight to return to the Premier League.

Burnley next season will be crying out for a Vings type partnership that took the Championship by storm last season. Le Fondre and Ings are very similar players in terms of size and goalscoring ability and to see Le Fondre in the number 10 shirt for the Clarets on the opening day of the 2015-2016 season would be the first step on the road to returning to the Premier League.

Would Le Fondre be a good signing? Comment below. 

Football has a communication problem

People are often quick to bash the Club’s communication strategy. The Club are quick to respond that they can do no more to improve the strategy. They’re as open and honest as they can be, they say. They publish interviews with the chairmen, the CEO Lee Hoos, and the manager Sean Dyche. That’s transparency, right?

But just because they publish them, it doesn’t mean they’re useful or help clarify things. You see, the game is entrenched in an abundance of cliches and statements of “nothingness”. Because there’s such a demand for content in football – for quotes, interviews, and generally knowledge — the pumps have run dry and we’re left with lazy, false content filled with words that actually mean very little.

Take Lee Hoos, for example. He has a knack for saying a lot without really saying much at all. Hoos is a controversial figure for a number of well known reasons (his ticketing policy, a perceived lack of control – however false this perception is – in the transfer market, and probably because he’s American, knowing Burnley fans) but when NNN met with Hoos back in February, he seemed a genuine guy. He seemed to care about the Club. But he’s cursed with a case of management speak.

Take the most recent statement from Hoos, posted on the official website, for example. Some of it was understandable, but some of it meant absolutely nothing. Here’s two sentences of it, for demonstrative purposes:

“There been speculation about Sean, but he is making plans for the final two games and then next season and how we take the club forward.

“The really important thing now is that if you take two steps forward and one back, you are still going forwards.”

Let’s pull it apart:

There been speculation about Sean

We knew that already, but it’s fair enough that he establishes the context of his comments.

He is making plans for the final two games

Did the aforementioned speculation assert that Sean had stopped doing his job in the meantime?

Then next season and how we take the club forward.

See above. It’s his job to make plans for the future. Why would he stop now, when he’s still under contract? No one was saying he wasn’t making plans, but rather if he’s on a rolling contract as the BBC have reported, there’s a possibility that he could leave. The whole sentence clears literally nothing up.

The really important thing now

Again, he’s establishing context. Fair enough. Maybe he’ll give us some insight into the plans for the future as the sentence goes on.

Is that if you take two steps forward and one back, you are still going forwards.

Oh. It’s just a metaphor. That really wasn’t any good to us. Fans love detail. I think there’d be a genuine appetite for fans to know exactly the plan from here. What’s the general recruitment policy? You’ve told us in that statement we don’t have to sell players, but what about adding them? That’s what we really want to know.

How long is Dyche’s contract? When are talks being held to extend or renew it?

There are burning questions, yet all we get in the statement is the facts that we’re financially sound, we don’t need to sell players, and that the board are “ambitious”. Okay, maybe vaguely interesting to some, but all those facts are essentially common knowledge and easy to work out.

I’m not having a pop at Hoos individually, he’s just an example, because it’s a much wider problem than that. Football is filled with these non-statements and stale press releases. Take a look at any club and you’ll see them. Sky Sports News interviews, where powers that be tend to simply evade the question but also pretend they’re answering it at the same time. And in some ways it’s understandable because stale press releases, statements, and interviews are safe. In an industry of intense media and fan scrutiny, the safe option will always be preferred.

But it’s boring. Absolutely boring. And it makes people think those giving statements are hiding something. The management speak and statements-that-don’t-state-anything make football look aloof and dishonest. Granted, parts of football may be aloof and dishonest, but I’m not sure Lee Hoos is in that camp. If people read things and come out the other side thinking “I’m not really sure what that said” then they’re going to think the communication is bad.

Back in February, after the transfer window, Sean Dyche offered a welcome antidote to the stale and boring press comments and soundbites. In an 11-minute video posted to the Club’s YouTube channel, Dyche spoke at length about the transfer window and was refreshingly honest.

He didn’t avoid the issue, or filibuster the question by speaking platitudes about the transfer window as a concept, his philosophies, or speak about how important it was that we made two steps forward and are taking one step back so we’re still going forward. He dealt with it. And it made a lot of fans more understanding – though not happy – of the situation.

The same goes for the Ashley Barnes incident, where the Club again posted a 10-minute video for Dyche to give his views on the matter. And they were genuine views, not fluff or guff. Dyche is well known for his soundbites — “relentless”, “good group”, “one game at a time”, “market leaders” — but at least on these two occasions, he’s bucked the trend. The Club deserve credit for that too.

But it shouldn’t be hard to answer the questions fans want to know the answers to. Maybe those in football don’t realise how frustrating it is — maybe they’re so caught up in it all that they don’t understand what it looks like from the outside. But we shouldn’t have to ever read between the lines.

If football wants to engage more with its fans, then it needs to sack off the cliches, the management speak, and the statements of nothingness that engulf it.

Dyche not blameless – but he remains my choice

Now that our relegation is confirmed a degree of “in it together” should be foremost at this time, and unlike other sides we leave the division with our heads held high, boding well for “bouncebackability” next season, to quote Iain Dowie.

There is also no reason not to calmly analyse our season and identify weaknesses for next time. It is too easy to fall into the trap of absolving the manager and players of any responsibility due to having the smallest budget, but while this is a big factor, it is not the biggest.

Are finances everything?

We are all set to battle for 18th and 19th place with two sides that have spent about £70m on transfer fees (ignoring all the other associated costs like wages) between them (according to transferleague.co.uk). Our £10m was eclipsed by QPR matching their 2012/13 investment of £36m, and Hull added £41m to last season’s £26m, proving that talent, not money, is the primary variable affecting league position. One can buy the other but it is far from guaranteed.

The term “talent” incorporates the touchline too (and the recruitment team). We appear to have fallen short in every department, but only marginally. OK, few of our players would get in any other side. The board were a touch too frugal with expenditure (maybe we had £20m left from the TV money but spent £10m). The recruitment team (including the manager) didn’t identify the correct options that we were capable of signing and would improve us. The manager has had other failings too, as I touch on below, particularly signings, player type and tactics.

I am thus unconvinced that had we left the division having spent every penny of the TV money, it would have got us to the (probable) 38 points required.

Signings

They haven’t improved the side, by and large. Our fees were spent on George Boyd, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Marvin Sordell, Michael Keane and Michael Kightly. Stephen Ward, Matt Gilks and Matt Taylor were frees. Only Taylor and Boyd were not consigned to the bench by the end of the season, Taylor (along with Dean Marney) being unlucky with injuries in a way that has cost us hugely.

Dyche has to take a lion’s share of responsibility for these signings even if he has to be blameless with people like Graham Dorrans if it is true he was in the building on deadline evening. He has to share a lot of responsibility with the board though – Trot Deeney was available for £11m I think – and that kind of quality next to Ings may well have made the difference. The model that sensible sides use in their first season is to spend about £20m (like Hull) – we probably wanted to spend it on three or four more players and ended up with none.

Dyche’s old school approach to player personality

The Premier League was the proving ground for Dyche’s famous philosophy that the glue that holds everything together is respect, good manners, good time-keeping, pride, passion, hard work, belief and integrity. Every player he signs probably has to have those qualities. That could be argued to be quite a restricted pool he could then dip into, and a second problem is that there is scant evidence that those qualities equate to Premier League success.

Too often an overpaid, self-serving, flamboyant player, often from overseas, proves the reason clubs perform well at this level. The qualities Dyche refers to can often be mixed in with less desirable ones – over thinking, sensitivity, lack of selfishness and panic.

Maybe when the pressure is on in those momentary key occasions on the pitch, there has been too big an awareness of what is at stake? Danny Ings’ cool finishing at Hull seemed no coincidence that it came after the pressure was largely off. I am one who praises Danny’s commitment even in the knowledge he is leaving, but between his ears the pressure of being the main man has seemed too much.

Tactical inflexibility

The final issue is one of tactics. Most pundits ridiculed our approach of 4-4-2 coupled with abandoning possession in order to put defences under pressure. We hoped they would be wrong. The trouble is, they were right. Our approach will lead to us scoring – though we lacked a penalty box poacher. However, at the other end this gives opponents too much possession and at this level they have the quality to hurt us with it.

We rely on blocking shots (and in my view have the division’s best blocker in Shacks). We have blocked 174 shots so far, second place is West Ham on 156. Giving opponents the ball too many times this close to goal though is a bit like Russian Roulette.

We conceded almost as many as Leicester while breaking our club’s lack of goals record twice in one season. At times our approach had clearly been outsmarted by a tactical change – yet there was usually no response from our bench.

Is Dyche still the best man for the job?

I thus feel that Dyche is the 18th best manager in the Premier League, ahead of John Carver and Chris Ramsey but behind other more experienced names (often playing at this level then managing at it). I do though feel he remains the best man for the job, and he gets my full support.

Why is he the right man? Well….

He got us up last time, fairly easily despite a shocking injury crisis in the run in, and this is a level he can be effective at.

I like him, and I like his values, despite what I say above about the effectiveness of them at this level. I don’t want to give my money to buy a new Lambo for a primadonna who doesn’t give a hoot. He didn’t have loyalty in the list (probably thought it would be ridiculous in football) but I think we should show it to him if he does to us. It makes us different.

He makes us popular. I have never heard us praised so much by other fans. I know Tony Pulis and equivalents would do well for us but I would hate it for a number of reasons.

He is good at polishing raw gems. Maybe not so good at finding them, but Burnley will always need to punch above their weight as we have for 100+ years and need a good polisher (apart from in the trophy cabinet room).

His tactics work in the Championship. Defences cannot cope with a skilled hold up striker winning a quick ball before they are set, his teammates buzzing around him, or a high press from the midfield, and it allows us to stay solid at the back too as we don’t need too many men forward.

Changing manager is a risk, and anyone who runs a business will know that avoiding risk is one key task, mitigating it is then another. Thus you should only change if you know you can get better in, and I don’t see it.

In the Premier League the managers are the crème de la crème, some of the world’s top guys trying to outsmart each other, skilled at changing a game when it isn’t working. Dyche has been outclassed by them in the fine margins of the game but this isn’t the case in the Championship.

Dyche entered the Premier League without a single day of experience as either a player or a manager at the top level. He is up against guys who have spent a career there. Next time, he will be far more experienced.

It somehow feels like we got the hard bit right but messed up the easy bit, which may not happen again. Cover for central midfield in January didn’t seem difficult. Scoring goals when creating great chances didn’t seem difficult. Being competitive in over 35 games is. But we did it.

So all in all, Sean Dyche remains the main man in my mind.

Not just because he is ginger (like me). Not just because he was born in 1971 (like me). Not because he seems to be a stats nerd (like me). Because all things considered, he gave it a good crack, and he remains the best man for the job.

Do you agree with Steve that Burnley should keep Dyche? Comment below.

Questioning Ings is ridiculous

It is strange to regard Danny Ings as a divisive character.

Warm and affable when off the pitch and driven and talented when on it, Ings possesses the necessary requisites to become a fondly remembered figure at Turf Moor when he inevitably departs in the summer.

Yet some Burnley supporters have had their tempers frayed by a perceived lack of commitment from the striker at various points over the course of the season, alluding to barren spells in front of goal and poor decision-making as signs of disinterest.

To question the ability and attitude of a man who has contributed to over 50% of Burnley’s goals in the Premier League seems ridiculous.

And that’s because it is.

Ten league goals in the 22-year-old’s maiden Premier League campaign is a respectable return, and there remains a chance that such a tally could be added to against Stoke City and Aston Villa. Four assists is also a commendable amount, and these figures mean that Ings has contributed to half of Burnley’s total goal amount this season.

If these are the stats of a striker who has lacked the mental fortitude to truly flourish this season, then some Claret supporters are perhaps more difficult to appease than originally anticipated.

Ings’ head has been reportedly turned by the prospect of joining Manchester United or Liverpool in the summer, although with an English quota to gratify the striker may be a target for more clubs than these.

There has even been mooted interest from David Moyes’ Real Sociedad, with Ings’ brief venture to Spain believed to have affected his game against Sunderland in January according to Sean Dyche.

It was bound to, in some respects. It has been a phenomenal rise from Bournemouth starlet to Premier League marksman, and rumoured vultures of this calibre circling Turf Moor would affect the thoughts of any young striker.

So the proposition of a more lucrative contract elsewhere has fast become the ideal stick with which to beat the striker each time a chance is spurned, a ready-made excuse for fans to almost feel smug that their premonitions have been confirmed.

He’s hit a post? He doesn’t care. A mistimed header? Get him out. A poor pass? I’ll pack his bags.

The way in which Ings conducts himself frankly suggests that he has been committed to Burnley all season, regardless of his destination come July or August.

The willingness to run in behind and create space has been as evident as ever, the first touch equally as ingenious. It is clear when Ings takes to the field that he is a cut above his attacking contemporaries at the club, regardless of how we may wish otherwise.

In a division as competitive as the Premier League and thus the quest for points more difficult, it can admittedly be forgotten in the moment just how far the striker has come in a relatively short space of time.

Perspective is required in these instances, and a reasonable amount of slack to be readied. Critics may look enviously to Charlie Austin at QPR, Burnley’s previous goalscorer extraordinaire, and ask why Ings hasn’t matched his exploits if he is just as good.

But a striker who spends the majority of his time in the box, poaching and waiting for opportunities, is bound to be presented with more tangible opportunities than one who drags defenders wide and who is forced to make lateral runs on the edge of the area with a path to goal blocked.

Ings was only playing regular football in the Championship for the first time last season, and likewise with the big boys this term. To expect every chance to be buried is optimistic; the integration process was slow but once it picked up pace, the goals soon followed.

That first one in particular was perhaps the most satisfying. After enduring a difficult spell in front of goal, Ings finally notched against Everton at home and celebrated by cupping his hands behind his ears and mouthing ‘What?’ in the direction of the home support.

Some spoke of arrogance, but many roared along with him. After receiving a torrid time on social media, Ings responded in a manner that is befitting of his whole character.

His celebration against at the KC Stadium on Saturday was similar; wheeling away in frenetic jubilation, albeit in vain.

So when he is plying his trade in the Premier League next year as we reacquaint ourselves with the Championship, let’s take heart from the fact we had a chance to dream of survival largely because of the efforts of Ings and his goals this term.

As much as the rest of the squad, Ings deserves the adulation of Burnley fans in these final two games.