Armchair Misery from Vicarage Road

06 February 2017 07:39

The Premier League’s decision following pressure from supporters’ groups to put a £30 ceiling on tickets for visiting supporters has been of direct benefit to fans such as myself.

It has facilitated a significant increase to the normal quota of Burnley Premier League away fixtures I am able to attend. Not however, Saturday's trip to Watford.

A variety of factors meant I was obliged to follow the match via Sky TV’s Gillette Soccer Saturday, a programme on the face of it, designed to deliberately  torment armchair viewers like me.

For those of you unfamiliar with the format, the progress of every match in the English and Scottish leagues are fed to the viewer via rolling score updates at the foot of the screen. These are embellished upon by an army of reporters assigned to almost every fixture.

Some, like the excitable Chris Kamara (who it seems has trouble believing anything which happens on a football field), Ian Dowie and the alluring Bianca Westwood appear in vision, whilst others are confined to voice only.

The games which are considered to be the most prominent are covered by four blokes in the studio watching them unfold on TV. There’s cheeky Charlie Nicholas, old-school Scouse grump Phil Thompson, cool-dude Matt Le Tissier and ex-Arsenal wide boy Paul Merson, who regularly strays into the realms of incoherent babbling.

The whole thing is bound together by Jeff Stelling, a consummate TV professional, who effortlessly assimilates the statistics fed to him as though he keeps such facts as Peterhead’s unbeaten home sequence, or how many second half goals Stenhousemuir have scored in his head. On the negative side is a tendency to make quips which even a pantomime producer would dismiss as impossibly corny.

Thus it was that Burnley’s match at Vicarage Road was covered by Paul Merson, my heart immediately sank. Burnley never seem to thrive whilst he is watching. After just six minutes he dealt his first blow, reporting Burnley's Jeff Hendrick had received a red card for a challenge, charitably described as reckless.

After just ten minutes Stelling trilled “Goal at Vicarage Road! Which way has it gone, Merse?” I didn’t need “Merse” to tell me, I already knew. Any hopes that Burnley could re-organise and hold firm were dispelled in first half stoppage time, when Watford went two-up, engendering an irrational hatred of Paul Merson which the propelling of cushions at the TV screen did nothing to sooth.

The second half went slightly better, Ashley Barnes halved the deficit from the penalty spot and Merson was forced to concede that Burnley were “giving it a right good go”. But ultimately, of course it was to no avail, as yet another away game slipped by with no points accrued.

Burnley’s form away from Turf Moor has become an albatross around the necks of the players and manager. It cannot be denied that with an only slightly better record on their travels, Burnley would now be assured of safety and looking towards a European place instead of still casting the odd nervous glance over the shoulder.

It is hard to pin down the reasons why Burnley have been so unproductive away from home; unfamiliar surroundings and missing the warm embrace of the home support are no doubt factors, as is the high quality of opponents faced. But one thing is for certain, picking up points away from home is rendered doubly difficult if you are obliged to play for eighty five minutes with ten men.

Following next Sunday’s home fixture against Chelsea, Burnley face a run of away games, these matches will, in all likelihood define the course of the season. It is therefore vital that the away-hoodoo is cast aside.

Burnley will have to contest some or all of those fixtures without the services of the injured duo of Dean Marney and, Steven Defour and the now banned Jeff Hendrick. Joey Barton’s impending FA hearing into his ill-advised gambling habits, also cast serious question marks over his continuing availability to the Clarets' cause.

As these problems in the Clarets midfield section mount, thankfully new recruits have arrived in the form of Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady. They will need to hit the ground running as they commence their careers in the claret and blue shirts of Burnley Football Club.

There is though the resilience, togetherness and strength of character in the Burnley squad to face down and overcome these difficulties. A shock victory over Chelsea would be the perfect tonic.
 This article was written by uber Burnley fan and Clarets Mad contributor Dave Thornley. (TEC).

Source: DSG