Burnley and Huddersfield are very similar clubs; both represent post-industrial North of England towns, neglected by central government and suffering from lack of investment whilst both clubs’ glory years are increasingly distant memories.
The Premier League would probably prefer that the achievements of Burnley and Huddersfield remain as footnotes in the history of the game, since their presence in the league doesn’t fit with the image of slick cosmopolitan cool and metropolitan elite. They would no doubt rather have Aston Villa and Leeds occupying the places Burnley and Huddersfield currently hold.
Fortunately, football doesn’t work quite like that, and after years of meetings in the second and third tiers, these two clubs of noble tradition finally engaged each other in the top division yesterday at Turf Moor.
Huddersfield are indeed this season’s “Burnley”, they are enjoying the goodwill generated from been seen as quaint, naïve and parochial new-boys; wide-eyed innocents “giving it a go”. But like Burnley, they have also built their success on the solid foundations of defensive strength and rigid tactical discipline.
And, that was the problem yesterday. Two teams who effectively cancelled each other out.
Under Sean Dyche, Burnley are committed to keeping their shape and maintaining their tactical framework. When met with opposition of a similar mind-set, however, this can result in a certain lack of fluidity and an inability to create enough attacking opportunities to win games like yesterdays.
It was deeply frustrating to see all of Burnley’s attacking sorties hit the buffers of Schindler and Jorgensen, who were excellent at the heart of the Terriers’ defence. Most of those sorties were the product of the industry of Stephen Defour in the Burnley midfield.
The little Belgian maestro played with urgency and commitment throughout the match and his display, along with another assured display of goalkeeping from Nick Pope, were rare highlights for the Clarets in game that was never drab, but which equally never established a shape and a rhythm.
Burnley need to find a way of unpicking defences like the one Huddersfield erected yesterday, it is the next stage in their development and one which needs to be established soon if Burnley are to maintain and enhance the status everyone at the club has worked so hard to achieve.
This is important for Sean Dyche too, for the development of his own managerial career. As it is, the truly big clubs when looking for a new manager, are unlikely to look in Dyche’s direction whilst his management style is so strongly bound up in the perception of discipline, organisation and tireless running.
His career trajectory would then be limited to clubs who need a fire-fighter to extract them from a mess, and Dyche is better than that.
Ultimately, a point is a point and whilst frustrating, it isn’t a disaster and keeps up the momentum Burnley have established in their early season endeavours. But if this start is to be built upon, then work needs to be done on improving the creative side of Burnley’s play.
Finally, it was a nostalgic pleasure to see Steve “Skippy” Kindon doing the Clarets half time draw yesterday. His forthright, muscular attacking play and blinding pace was a joy to behold in the sixties and seventies. He served both clubs with distinction, but he will always be a Claret at heart.
This Burnley centric match report was written and conceived by uber Burnley fan Dave Thornley. (TEC.)