Opposition Q & A
This weekend West Ham welcome Burnley to the London Stadium for a Claret and Blue Derby. West Ham will be hoping to get back to winning ways, whereas our opponents will be hoping they can end their recent bad run. Last year’s corresponding fixture, was perhaps the low point of the season, when the pitch was invaded, and we lost. Ahead of the game I spoke to hardcore Burnley fan Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss the season past and future, and Saturday’s game.
Hi Tony, great to talk to you again. We are playing you on the back of you losing your last 2 matches 5 – 0 and 0 – 4. I think (I say think because I have selectively forgotten it) we had a similar experience at the beginning of the season, playing against Man City and Liverpool. Those moments hurt don’t they?
They are not enjoyable, that’s for sure. The 5-0 at Manchester City wasn’t quite as bad as it looks. They should have had a player sent off in the first 30 seconds and their second goal should have been disallowed for at least three different reasons with the assistant referee, who missed the ball going out of play and an offside, admitting he’d switched off.
We started well against Chelsea, didn’t get a goal and then paid for it. It’s quite simple really, for us to get anything against these teams they have to have an off day and we have to be right on it. When teams like that play well, as they did, it makes it very, very difficult for us.
You’ve not got off to such a great start as last year, what’s the big difference this season?
I don’t think the Europa League helped. We were warned about it and I think it contributed to the disappointing start. We’ve also, unlike last year, not had a settled team because of those games. We’re out of the competition now so time will tell whether that was the main reason.
Has your success over the past few seasons meant that less of the Burnley youth are choosing to support one of your many northern rivals?
Burnley fans are Burnley fans, they don’t support anyone else no matter what. We will get the 20,000 crowds in this league but no more.
You’ve lost a few of your players over the past couple of seasons, which of those departed players are you missing the most?
We lost Michael Keane and Andre Gray to Everton and Watford in 2017 but last summer there were no departures other than Dean Marney and Scott Arfield who were both released. Marney hadn’t played, because of injury, for over a year and Arfield had played less and less so I don’t think either are really being missed now although both made massive contributions to our recent success.
How about your new recruits? Which of them are set to become Burnley legends up there with the likes of Leighton James?
We only made three signings and only Joe Hart, who you will know all about, is in the team. That signing was made because of losing two goalkeepers to dislocated shoulders. Despite the goals against column, he’s playing well and keeping Tom Heaton out of the side.
Which other players will be crucial for you this season?
We hope it will be Robbie Brady and Steven Defour. Brady was ruled out from December last year until returning last Sunday. Defour came back for his first Premier League game a week earlier having been out since January. They were two of our key players last season and their absence has had an effect, no doubt. Hopefully they’ll both be getting stronger over the next few weeks which will, in turn, make the team stronger.
What are your thoughts, if any, on the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini to be West Ham’s manager?
It wasn’t one I expected to be honest. He obviously won the league with Manchester City but any manager there is at any advantage. I thought David Moyes, eventually, did enough to earn another go at it although you might think differently.
We both currently sit in the bottom half of the table? Where do you think ultimately Burnley will finish the season, or will you be just satisfied with staying up?
I think for a club the size of ours it is always satisfying to stay up, but after an incredible 2017/18 season we were perhaps hoping we’d continue where we left off. I think we’ll be clear of the drop zone though no matter what.
Where do you think West Ham will finish the season?
Below us hopefully. For every team that’s below us, that’s one less chance of us going down should things get tight.
It’s pretty close at the top: who are your picks at this early stage of the season to win the league?
Obviously both Liverpool and Chelsea are looking strong but I really can’t see past Manchester City. They have quality just about everywhere on the pitch with some seriously world class players. Everyone talks of Aguero & De Bruyne, but then there’s the brilliant David Silva. We’d take him if they ever wanted rid of him.
Similarly which three teams do you think/hope will be relegated?
I think it is going to be very tough for both Cardiff and Huddersfield. I think they will both go with one of Newcastle, Southampton and Fulham. And I’ve just realised I’ve selected the only five teams currently below us.
Which West Ham players if any would you like to see pulling on a different claret and blue shirt?
You are not catching me out with this one again. Last time I answered that question, the player I selected only went and scored against us. So I’ll stick with a no comment on that one this time.
Conversely which of your players would you prefer to see playing for us on Saturday?
We’ll be in either black or white this Saturday. I wouldn’t want to see any of our players in your claret and blue.
How will Burnley line up this weekend against West Ham? Team/formation?
Jack Cork is a doubt so if he misses out it is likely to be similar to that which played last week in 4-4-1-1 formation.
Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, J?hann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Steven Defour, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Sam Vokes.
Are you confident you can turn around your recent losing spell? Predictions for the score?
I am, we are good enough to get out of it and we did win two and draw one before playing the big teams. I’d like to think a second away win of the season will come our way with a clean sheet so I’ll go for a 2-0 Burnley win.
Well many thanks to Tony for his thoughts, although I am going to see his prediction and raise it to a 3 – 1 win to us. COYI