Opposition Q & A

I hate to be too optimistic, but it looks like West Ham are inching their way to safety: after dramatically beating Chelsea last week, and picking up a sound point against Newcastle we look a more confident team. For the first of our last 5 fixtures sees us welcome Burnley, who are having another decent season, to the London Stadium. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.
Hi Tony, how are you enjoying the return to action after the mid season break?
It’s been hectic. We go all these weeks without football and then suddenly it is two per week and televised games day after day. Being of a certain age, and having underlying conditions, it has been a solitary existence for a good number of weeks so to at least have some football back has been enjoyable. I have to say though that I’m finding it very frustrating having to watch us on television rather than being able to attend the games.

I would say that Burnley are having another good season, how do you rate it compared to beginning of season expectations?
My hopes, every season, are that we can be comfortable and ensure we stay in the Premier League without too many relegation worries. Probably the lowest point in the season was back in January when we were on 24 points and had just lost the previous four games. We do seem to have this ability to get out of problems and since then we’ve been on a terrific run that has seen us reach 46 points. That’s a terrific return for a club like ours and so it can only be looked at as being another excellent season for us.

Liverpool of course have ended up as Champions, and assuming Man City are runners up, who do you think will fill the next 5 places?
I think we can just about safely assume Manchester City will be runners up. Leicester are dropping and I think both Chelsea and Manchester United will finish above them and Wolves look set to take the next place. I see why you were asking me to go down to seventh place. The way we are playing I’d have possibly said we might make it but it is going to be difficult with the squad stretched to a large extent just now. If not us, I’d like it to be Sheffield United.

Not many people will complain if Jürgen Klopp gets manager of the year, but should there be a subsidiary award for the likes of Sean Dyce, Chris Wilder, or Nuno Santo for exceeding expectations?
Chris Wilder won it last year, a big surprise. When we won the Championship in 2016, Sean Dyche didn’t even get the divisional award, it went to Chris Hughton who hadn’t even won promotion. Sean has done so, so well for us again as has Wilder and I do like Nuno at Wolves. I’m not sure you can take it away from Klopp this year though.

It looks like Norwich are down, but who are going to drop with them? I should mention your November pick of Southampton have been revitalised from their early season form.
Did I really say Southampton? That looks good now doesn’t it? It was probably a week or so after their 9-0 hammering against Leicester and everyone was predicting they would go. Norwich are all but gone I would think and I’d probably think Bournemouth and Aston Villa are the most likely to go with them. Both have looked poor in the games I’ve seen since the restart.

What have been the highlights and lowlights of the season for you?
Probably the lowest was on New Year’s Day when we were outplayed in the first half at home by a very poor Aston Villa team. Despite being 2-0 down, we should have gone on and won it in the second half but could only score one goal from a host of chances. The highlight is one I don’t even have to think about too much. In 1965 my dad took me to our FA Cup tie against Manchester United. We were winning 1-0 with just a few minutes to go but lost 2-1. I’ve waited, and waited, and waited to see us win at Old Trafford. In 2017/18 and 2018/19 we were 2-0 up and ended with 2-2 draws with late goals, one a shocking decision too. This time we won 2-0 and it was an unforgettable night.

Yes, great to win at Old Trafford! Thoughts on VAR?
I don’t think it has improved the game in any way. It’s slowed it down with the long waits, look at the one at West Ham last week that took not far short of four minutes. Despite VAR we are still getting decisions so clearly wrong so I’d much rather we get on with it and putting up with the on field referee making the mistakes.

The games are coming thick and fast, and so it becomes a bit more difficult to predict line ups, but how do you think Burnley will line up against West Ham on Wednesday? Players/Formation?
Usually I would be able to very accurately give you some team news. Sean Dyche doesn’t make too many changes but right now we have so many players unavailable it is frightening. For one reason or another we are without Matt Lowton, Ben Mee, Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes, Joe Hart, Jeff Hendrick and Aaron Lennon. We also have three players coming back from injury who are not quite ready to start games. All I can say is that the team against Sheffield United was: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Erik Pieters, Jay Rodriguez, Mat?j Vydra. I don’t see many changes from that line up.

You’re unbeaten for the past three games after losing to Man City, are you going to keep the run going? Prediction for score.
I hope we are going to keep the run going. If we do win it won’t be like the last time we won at West Ham with supporters running on demonstrating against your beloved (????) owners with every goal. I’m hoping we can keep things going with possibly a 1-0 win.

Well many thanks again to Tony of Uptheclarets for his time and thoughts. Reading his long list of Burnley casualties, I’m going to back us to take advantage. 2 – 0 West Ham. COYI

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