Opposition Q & A

Well we’re in the doldrums again. Over the years we’ve had worse starts and ended up mid-table, but things are not currently looking good. This weekend we travel away to play against a Burnley team who are always up for a game. They lost to Sheffield United 3 – 0 last week and will be looking for a better result at home. We will be hoping to end our losing streak. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.

Hi Tony, good to talk again. In general are you satisfied with Burnley’s position when you consider that most of the past 45 years you’ve been in the lower leagues, or do you think ‘forget all that we’re in the Premier League and we’ve got to keep on improving.’?
You can never be blasé about Burnley being in the Premier League. I was brought up at a time when we were one of the country’s top teams but they were different days. Yes, we would love to keep improving and that is always the aim but we know we are probably the smallest club in the Premier League and I think any fair minded Burnley fan will think we are doing OK right now, a fourth successive season here and with that Europa League adventure last season.

How do you rate your recent purchases/loans and are any of them forging a permanent place in the Burnley line-up?
Only Erik Pieters of the summer signings has been able to win a regular place and that was due to a pre-season injury otherwise he would have had to wait like the others. Jay Rodriguez has been in for the last three games because of injuries but those two apart the team we’ve been turning out are players who have been here for three years and more.

Where if anywhere do you think you most need strengthening and will you be looking to buy in the winter transfer window?
I doubt we will be looking to do much, if any, business in January but if we do it will be the continuing theme of just strengthening the squad. We certainly won’t be pushing the boat out to bring in any expensive players, that’s just not our way.

Who have been the best three Burnley players for you over the past few years?
I think Steven Defour would have been top of this list had he not suffered with injuries almost constantly throughout his time with us. I’d certainly have Ben Mee in my top three. He’s been a constant performer in the centre of defence and I’d also include Ashley Barnes who has become a very good striker for us. It’s difficult picking players out but I’d probably add Tom Heaton who is now with Villa. He was our captain and a damn good goalkeeper for us.

Who have been the best three Premier League players you have seen at Turf Moor over this time period?
Undoubtedly we’ve seen some quality but it’s so difficult to pick out players from one performance so I’d be tempted to go with the obvious players such as Sergio Aguero who always seems to score against us. The ones that have stood out though in one game were Cesc Fabregas and Samuel Eto’o who probably turned in his one good Everton performance against us.

Give us the current feeling towards Sean Dyche if you wouldn’t mind. From the outside it looks as though you are a perfect fit.
He’s just completed seven years with us. When he arrived we were struggling in the Championship but he’s given us two promotions, with 93 points in each, and five seasons so far in the Premier League. That’s probably as perfect as it gets. There were some questioning him at this time last year when we were seriously struggling but I can’t think of anyone I would prefer managing us.

It looks as though once again Liverpool and Manchester City will fight between themselves for the league title, who do you pick to win it, and who will join these two in the Champions League positions?
It’s a toss of a coin almost for the title and should Liverpool win this weekend against Manchester City it would take them into a very healthy position. I think, right now, my money, if I were a betting man, would be on Liverpool.
Who else in the Championship League positions? Spurs seem to be blowing up, there are problems at Arsenal and Manchester United are simply just not good enough. That opens the door to the likes of Leicester who are looking good and I think they might just make it with Chelsea.

Where do you think Burnley will finish the season? I won’t ask where you think we’ll end up!
I think we’ll be OK and clear of the relegation back. We are good enough to get up into the top ten but that’s a big ask so I’ll say around 12th. I’ll let you decide on West Ham.

Who are your early picks for relegation? Your selections at a similar time last year proved prophetic!
Hopefully that meant I went for Cardiff, Fulham and Huddersfield a year ago at a time when we were right down there. I think, this season, I’ll have to be boring and go for the current bottom three. Norwich are a certainty for me given the number of goals they give away, something has gone seriously wrong at Watford and I think Southampton are a poor, poor side.

How are you enjoying the introduction of VAR into the Premier League this season?
I believe this is one of the worst changes ever introduced into the game. We’ve fallen victim to it more than once with two ridiculous decisions not to overturn poor decisions on penalties and then the pure farce of our equaliser being ruled out at Leicester when it wronged a previously correct decision. I decided I would give it a chance and not judge too soon but if I were making the decision as to what to do with it then I’d suspend it immediately. It’s destroying the game.

How are Burnley going to line up against West Ham on Saturday? Prediction for players and line-up please.
This is a difficult one in this particular week with Sean Dyche having suggested changes after our performance at Sheffield United last week. I do think there will be a couple, could be even more, but we will play 4-4-2 I think and the likely line up is Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Barnes, Wood.

I suppose you’ll look at our fixture and the next two against Palace and Watford as a chance to get some points on the board leading up to Christmas, but I suppose you might also have included Sheffield United in that list as well. Are you going to get back to winning ways against us? Prediction for score?
I very much hope we are going to get back to winning ways. Sheffield United was bitterly disappointing but tomorrow is another day and a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win will go down just fine.

Well many thanks to Tony again for his time and thoughts. There’s no way on earth that I’ll predict a West Ham win this week so the most I can hope for is a 1 – 1 draw! COYI

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