Season player grades: Who is top of the class?

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

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

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

Manager – Sean Dyche (A-)

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

GK – Tom Heaton (B+)

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

CB – Jason Shackell (A-)

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

CB – Michael Duff (B-)

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

LB – Ben Mee (C+)

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

RB – Kieran Trippier (B+)

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

CM – David Jones (C+)

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

CM – Scott Arfield (B-)

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

LM – Matt Taylor (B)

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

RM – George Boyd (B+)

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

ST – Ashley Barnes (B-)

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

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

ST – Danny Ings (B+)

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

SUB – Dean Marney (B+)

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

SUB – Michael Kightly (B-)

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

SUB – Lukas Jutkiewicz (D)

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

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

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

The NNN 2014/15 season awards

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

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

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

James Bird

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Eyre

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Turner

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Weller

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

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

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

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

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

Robbie Coppack

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Haworth

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie Smith

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Neary

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

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

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

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

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

NNN prizes therefore go to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

NNN interviews Hoos and Baldwin: part three

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

On finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Train-wreck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turf Moor improvements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living wage

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

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

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

NNN interviews Hoos and Baldwin: part two

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

On the club shop

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

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

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

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

On transfers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On scouting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NNN interviews Hoos and Baldwin: part one

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

On community

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

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

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

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

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

On safe standing

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

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

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

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

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

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

On tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On chain of command

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What’s our best defence?

Browsing through the web during a bored hour at the weekend, it seemed like the blame game has started for who is responsible for our goals conceded.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion (though Michael Keane has been bearing the brunt of recent criticism) and simply looking at goals conceded per match is flawed because errors are often made by teammates, rather than the player in question.

So I decided to watch every goal back again this season and make a few notes as to who seemed to be the culprit. I have set a very high bar so a slack bit of defending leading to a goal has been tagged as an error, when in fact official stats say we are one of the best sides in the division at preventing goals from direct defensive errors, believe it or not.

I have also awarded errors for a goal to two players at times, so the error count exceeds the goals conceded count (for example Keane and Kieran Trippier for losing Charlie Austin at QPR). It seemed fair.

The table below relates to errors leading to a goal in the league up to and including Manchester United.

 

table 1

Some interesting findings, some of which have surprised me:

  • Tom Heaton, though he is superglued to his line, has not made one major mistake (such as a spill) leading to a goal (I ignore Raheem Sterling’s winner, as the error was initially Keane’s for losing him).
  • Trippier and Stephen Ward look by far our most solid full backs, though to be fair to Mee, five of his errors came in early games and he has been more solid since.
  • Duff has been very solid, and some of his error allocation could be viewed as harsh, because for three of the goals (against WBA, Leicester and Arsenal) I have judged one of his colleagues equally responsible.
  • Keane I had previously rated but we concede over one goal every two games due to his own culpability so unfortunately this analysis suggests he is (so far) the weak link. Remember when he was done by the quick Spurs free kick; the recent headers from corners; playing Joe Cole onside; falling over twice and letting Papiss Cisse nip in for Newcastle? Sadly most of these goals have cost us one or two points too.

I have also studied Keane to see why he seems to suffer so much more than his teammates. Five goals have been scored by opposition headers, five shots. Four of the ten from corners to which I attribute a bit of ball-watching and a lack of physical presence. The main reason for the rest seems to be thinking a little slower than opponents and not spotting the danger (for examples Sterling, Austin and Cisse’s runs). Maybe due to being new to this level.

The most counter-intuitive of this bit of analysis is that of physical presence as Keane seems to tower over players and often when seen in the tunnel is far taller than his teammates.

However, the Premier League official website says he is about 172cm (5 ft 8”) which seems crazy (maybe they have him mixed up with his brother), and also says he is 68kg, which seems more realistic as there isn’t much on him, and this makes him the second lightest player in our first team squad behind Ross Wallace according to the same figures. Other sites say he is 6 ft 2” which if true may make him capable in open play as it is a low to average Premier League centre back height, but susceptible against bigger centre backs. For example, Chris Smalling is two inches taller than that, but more importantly over 10kg heavier, presumably due to muscle.

No doubt I have my own “cognitive bias” in this because of my own views as to what constitutes an error, and also because I have read the debate about whether to play Michael Duff, Keane, Ward or Mee I will have looked at them the most, but I have tried to be fair.

Perhaps there is an argument that statistical saturation – studying average time between high intensity sprints – leads to the wood not being seen for the trees. Put simply – minor errors at this level lead to goals conceded, no matter what the level of haemoglobin oxygen saturation is.

Some may say that it is too negative to point at errors from individuals, but surely the main way one can assess a defence is to judge the error rate, just as it is goals and assists with forwards? The players are surely aware of this too so it is hardly new news to them.

Also, our young players may benefit from this “proving ground” in future seasons, but for this season, will that be too late? The debate therefore needs having now.

My own conclusion is this – we should play Trippier, Duff, Shackell and Ward and as soon as possible please, Mr Dyche.

Then stick the young guys back in again in August whatever the division. For now, experience seems to equate to a tighter defence.

What’s our strongest defence? Comment below.