After last week’s debacle of a game, this weekend West Ham take on our Northern Claret and Blue cousins at the Olympic Stadium. Ahead of proceedings I had a chat with hard-core Burnley fan Tony Scholes editor of uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Hi Tony, the last time we spoke was earlier in the season, when Burnley had got off to a cracking start. Now you sit in 7th place with a historically safe 40 points, you must be delighted with your progress this season.
It’s been an incredible season for us so far. To reach 40 points with nine games to go is something we could never have dared think possible. We’ve even come through a difficult spell when we were suddenly facing all the top teams with quite often seven of our regular starters missing with injury. We finally ended that run without a win last Saturday against Everton and we’ve only been below 7th in the league for one week since mid-October.
Conversely West Ham are one of 6 teams above West Brom who are separated by 3 points: who do you think is going to go down?
This is a difficult one to answer. There was a time earlier in the season when it seemed Crystal Palace were a certainty, then it was Swansea and now it is West Brom. I do think West Brom will go but I’m not sure of the other two. Huddersfield lack the quality needed and I think they will be very fortunate to escape whilst Stoke are just not pulling away as most expected.
Sean Dyche is yet again proving that he can put out a team that is seemingly greater than the sum of its parts. Are you getting the credit you deserve? And do you worry that a bigger team is eventually going to make a move for him?
I don’t think clubs like ours ever get the credit they deserve. We played really well in the Everton win but on Match of the Day the analysis was exclusively reserved for Everton and Sam Allardyce. That’s how it is; we know it will never change. I was worried earlier in the season when so many Premier League clubs were looking for new managers. Thankfully, and incredibly, none came knocking at the door. Sean was on a one year rolling contract at the time; he’s now signed a deal until the end of the 2021/22 season which is brilliant news.
Last time we met Slaven Bilic was still our manager. How do you rate his replacement David Moyes?
Moyes did an excellent job just down the road at Preston and that landed him the Everton job and you would have to say that he was excellent there too. Then came that turbulent period. Manchester United would have been a struggle for whoever replaced Ferguson and it was surely the biggest career mistake of all to go to Sunderland. He’s certainly been a good manager. He’s just had a difficult three years or so.
Presumably Man City have got the title sewn up, I suppose most neutrals can accept that?
It will be crazy if they don’t win the league. They are a fantastic side with some incredibly talented players. We’ve played them three times this season having drawn them in the FA Cup. They scored two goals in that cup tie against us that almost had me applauding, so brilliant were they.
Who do you think will join them in the Champions League next season?
The other three for the Champions League will come from the next four because any teams from Arsenal down won’t be making it. I suspect Chelsea will be the one to miss out which would leave the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Spurs to qualify.
Which opposing teams/players have impressed you this season at Turf Moor?
I could end this right now with Manchester City. They were breathtaking at times but we hung in there and got a point in the end and not many have done that this season.
Other than City, I’d say Spurs. We don’t seem to be able to play well against them. They had some fortune early in the game with a bit of Dele Alli, winning a ridiculous penalty just a couple of minutes after he’d received a yellow card, but they were worthy winners by the end.
Which Burnley players have lived up to expectation, and who has failed to deliver?
So many players have lived up to expectation and beyond that. I hate singling out players but Nick Pope in goal, coming in when Tom Heaton suffered his shoulder injury, and James Tarkowski in defence have exceeded all our expectations. It’s always a team game at Burnley and rarely can you suggest a player has failed to deliver, and certainly not in this season. The one big disappointment has been Jon Walters. I thought he’d do a great job for us but unfortunately he’s been out for much of the season.
Last time we chatted you stated that you rated Michail Antonio, now that he has had a few games what do you think about Marko Arnoutavic?
I did, and Antonio promptly scored against us. I saw Arnautovic play twice against us for Stoke last season. At the bet365 Stadium he was, at times, outstanding. At Turf Moor later in the season he was downright dreadful. I hope he’s the latter on Saturday.
What do you find the most annoying thing about modern football?
Too many things to list but when I first started watching football we had a 3 p.m. kick off every Saturday afternoon, first team one week and the reserves the next. And we didn’t have to watch football in an athletics stadium either.
How do you expect Burnley to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation?
If you’d asked me this last week I would have said almost certainly it would have been a 4-4-1-1 formation but we shifted to a 4-4-2 for the second half last week and it was effective. I suspect we’ll start with the 4-4-1-1 though.
Finally what is your prediction for the final score?
It’s about time we won an away game and it’s about time we got another clean sheet. We’ve been done with dodgy decisions in each of our last two visits to West Ham with 1-0 defeats coming courtesy of penalties. The last one at the Boleyn Ground was a pen, no argument there, but the red card was ludicrous. The penalty last season should have been a free kick our way. I’d like it if we got a penalty ourselves, our first of the season, and won it 1-0.
Many thanks to Tony for his thoughtful replies, again Tony’s musings on football can be found at uptheclarets. Well we are in need of a win, and I am hoping that we can break out of our current malaise this weekend. So a not too confident prediction of 2-1 to West Ham. COYI
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