Monday 3rd October 2016
When you get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and get back into bed nearly 19 hours later having spent a substantial amount of hard earned cash and taken 2 ferries and driven nearly 600 miles, it is very difficult to explain to someone that every little last bit was worth it due to approximately 30 seconds of utter bedlam. Except other football fans of course. They get it. 100%.
Walking up the pier to catch my ferry it was a quite beautiful morning. Although I’ve seen it time and time again, I stopped to take a picture. There is something even more beautiful when there is hardly anybody or anything about to witness it. And despite my slightly misty head brought about by an unplanned Saturday that was supposed to be quiet but didn’t quite work out that way due to a beer festival, a stop off in the ‘local’ and Al Murray at my local theatre, it was an early morning scene that comfortably lifted the spirits enough to look forward to the long long journey ahead.
If a gorgeous Autumn morning is something to behold, motorway service stations are completely the other end of the spectrum and the food we purchased on this occasion half way up the M6 could be described as ‘fuel’ and nothing else. Dreadful places. Yet we still find ourselves regularly parting with our money for their overpriced garbage that should really go straight in the bin rather than on a plate.
But, if that was the only thing we had to complain about it was time to put things into perspective. In a weekend when shockingly a fellow football fan lost his life when he was ‘guilty’ of nothing more than jumping on a supporters coach to go and see his team play, we saw as many as 4 road accidents during our return journey. Knowing that could be any one of us is a sobering thought.
Fortunately nobody was hurt but a number of travelling Gooners were also involved in an accident on Sunday lunchtime, this time on the country’s rail network. A text to one of our travelling party advised, “not sure if we are gonna get there mate, we have stopped south of Peterborough as a train in front has hit a cow!”
Reports suggest not only did a number of animals sadly die in the incident but many of our travelling army didn’t get to Turf Moor as a result. But….as far as I’m aware they are safe. And as disappointing and as frustrating as not getting to a game is for all those of us who travel the globe week in week out, that has to be the main thing.
Directly behind the away end at Burnley is the town’s cricket club. And on matchdays its facilities are open to those attending the impending football match. And for its simplicity and convenience alone it is where we headed as in previous visits. The quite glorious sunshine was the unexpected bit but extremely pleasant nonetheless. Ambre Solaire, Burnley and October don’t generally go hand in hand!
Turf Moor has a very old fashioned and traditional feel about it, none more so than the away section. But, as much as the facilities are not necessarily fantastic (although much improved to be fair), these type of stands and stadia do tend to keep a good atmosphere. And the locals certainly get behind their team.
As always much has been said about the game and in particular the winning goal. Before Sunday, our hosts had conceded only 5 goals in their previous 17 home matches, including of course a clean sheet and a victory against a Liverpool outfit impressing many this season. That fact alone should have tempered the opinion we were going to completely wipe the floor with them.
Admittedly I’m sure I was one of many that felt if we could get an early goal the whole game could change and the way we play on the break more could follow. But, the longer the game went on at nil nil coupled with our hosts obvious ability with set pieces, the game could be an extremely tricky one to come away from with a positive result.
And….so it proved.
Although I do agree we looked a little bit ‘flat’ I also feel we could be guilty once again of forgetting there are two teams out there. Burnley play a particular system. And they play it extremely well. I’ve seen very few teams in fact, that are more well drilled in doing what they are good at. Along with defending from the front all game in a bid to prevent us playing the football we do straight from the goalkeeper, the Clarets’ 2 banks of 5 and 4 in front of their own box was as compact as any I’ve witnessed. And until the very last seconds of the game it looked like it was going to work once again.
Looking at our goal in two ways there is no doubt we were a tad fortunate. Without video evidence I think the potential offside was near on impossible to see. Only replays confirmed exactly how the ball reached the back of the net for starters. Personally I think it wasn’t handball. Even if I was watching a game as a neutral I would think the same. Laurent knew absolutely nothing about it. It could have hit him on his chin, his nose or his earhole, he still wouldn’t have known. And that is the point behind my view. Having seen the referee’s view in the TV replay however, I am very surprised it was given, hence why I believe we were fortunate.
But, do you know what? I couldn’t give a flying pheasant! We kept going to the very end and nicked two extra points from a very tough game on the day. And I challenge any Burnley fan to not have felt exactly the same had it been the other way round.
With a long journey ahead I tend to head towards the exit so as to make a swift getaway at most games. But fortunately, I never leave before the end. And, as you can imagine, it was total and utter carnage. Fully grown adults leaping and jostling and cuddling total strangers is all a bit odd. But it was those 30 seconds that made the whole journey worthwhile.
Walking out I bumped into a group who had been delayed by the cow incident. They had made it to kick-off by the skins of their teeth. And that desperately late scrambled winner meant they were right to keep going when getting to the ground looked unlikely. It turned what could have been a nightmare day for them into a thoroughly good one.
Enjoy the break boys and girls and be safe.