Trip to Toon hit the right note

Accrington Observer - - SPORT -

BLUE-EYED BOY’S BLACKBURN VIEW

THE FA Cup in its cur­rent muchre­duced cir­cum­stances never fails to prompt de­bate and was the sub­ject of a dev­as­tat­ingly dis­mis­sive di­a­tribe by my favourite foot­ball writer this week which, un­usu­ally, I dis­agreed with vir­tu­ally ev­ery word of but it does inar­guably of­fer a short new year pe­riod of re­lief from the in­ten­sity of league foot­ball.

It was there­fore lovely to, for once, watch a full­strength Rovers pick more than match a costly Premier League side’s squad­based se­lec­tion, put wor­ry­ing league form to one side for a cou­ple of hours and revel in a heroic per­for­mance played out in front of a big crowd with a large and in­ces­santly vo­cal way fol­low­ing and for­get about those an­noy­ing traits which have blighted re­cent der­bies and games against top six clubs such as con­ced­ing two goals in no time and let­ting in late....oh, well you can’t have ev­ery­thing.

For once even the equaliser in the dy­ing min­utes only min­i­mally de­tracted from a stun­ning dis­play for me. If we are to em­brace VAR (and I don’t) which in­vari­ably brings with it the ac­cep­tance that the mer­est brush­ing to­gether of thighs or arms is “con­tact” and there­fore an of­fence, we have to ac­cept that spot-kicks will be given for chal­lenges like Corry Evans’ on Saturday which might have barely reg­is­tered had soc­cer adopted cricket’s “hotspot” tech­nol­ogy – which I con­fi­dently pre­dict will be brought in soon.

There was no shame or dis­grace in the out­come as the home side even­tu­ally threw on in­flu­en­tial sub­sti­tutes and be­gan to take the pro­ceed­ings se­ri­ously.

Bradley Dack’s lat­est gem would have been a wor­thy win­ner of any game but as in the pre­vi­ous game against West Brom the man­ager and team emerge with great credit; though there is a school of thought which re­gards ad­di­tional fix­tures as un­wanted and da­m­ag­ing, my view of these things is to con­cur with my old cricket cap­tain Eric who would al­ways con­clude his long and idio­syn­cratic de­brief­ing on the oc­ca­sion of a Church Twos cup win thus: “Well, fel­las, the best thing about it is, you’ve got an­other game and an­other Sun­day with your mates to look for­ward to,” with all the im­pli­ca­tions of not hav­ing to visit a gar­den cen­tre or shop­ping mall that im­plied.

As far as I’m con­cerned there are seven days in a week, five of which are ru­ined by hav­ing to work on them, and the best days, the ones I look for­ward to most, are the ones Rovers play on.

One a week to an­tic­i­pate and savour is fine and dandy but a mid­week game un­der lights against an il­lus­tri­ous op­po­nent with a busy Dar­wen End... bring it on!

Whether you con­sider the cup is dam­aged goods is an­other mat­ter. It is, but I be­lieve that’s the FA’s fault with the com­pli­ance of clubs who play weak­ened teams, and I still re­vere the tour­na­ment and hold a deep de­sire to see Rovers reach Wem­b­ley in it for a sec­ond time in my life.

I was 15 months old and bliss­fully un­aware of the first such oc­ca­sion but all Roverites of my gen­er­a­tion were schooled in the trauma of the tick­et­ing farce and the ut­ter woes which be­fell the team on the day.

John Ni­chol­son, the ex­trav­a­gantly gifted foot­ball writer, more or less called for the FA Cup to be scrapped this week and re­placed with some­thing new. I be­lieve there’s no need for that. Just re­store some of the val­ues to it. Fine clubs for play­ing sides which are man­i­festly un­der strength. Hold the draw at sen­si­ble times. Move the semis from Wem­b­ley. Re­plays not shoot-outs. And stop beg­gar­ing about with kick-off times to the be­wil­der­ing ex­tent that we saw last week­end.

It was com­pletely my own dopi­ness which led me not to have no­ticed our 5.30pm start un­til two days be­fore but for good­ness sake, the fact that there could be a body of peo­ple some­where in the dis­cov­ered world for whom a screen­ing of Pre­ston ver­sus Don­caster is a pri­or­ity must surely be wor­thy of a lengthy and de­tailed an­thro­po­log­i­cal study.

Whatever, it’s 33 years since we won a home FA Cup re­play against a team from a di­vi­sion above – 3-2 against Cloughy’s For­est in 1986 (al­though we beat Premier League Derby 5-2 away in the 2000-01 pro­mo­tion sea­son).

Ten years since we won a home re­play of any kind (Sun­der­land, 2-1 in 2009). We’re surely due.

Be­fore that Mill­wall away for an­other tea-time tele­vised af­fair will be a tester.

They have come into a bit of form and are as ob­du­rate as ever at their unlovely home where they have only lost to Birm­ing­ham, Sh­effied United and Swansea in the league de­spite hov­er­ing around the bot­tom ech­e­lons all sea­son be­fore three re­cent wins on the bounce in the Cham­pi­onship.

We will of course be with­out Kasey Palmer, an­other dis­ap­point­ing Premier League loan hur­riedly shifted on­wards.

He joins the like of Byrne, Grimes, Sa­muelsen and Harper in un­der­whelm­ing but prob­a­bly with less ex­cuse hav­ing a deal of ex­pe­ri­ence at this level al­ready.

He ought to have ab­sorbed Har­ri­son Reed’s ex­em­plary les­son (and Lewis Travis’s) in forc­ing the is­sue of mak­ing a place in a side your own.

We still need a few points to be ab­so­lutely sure of stay­ing up but with Ip­swich, Bolton and pos­si­bly Wi­gan cur­rently look­ing bereft of abil­ity to close any gap, per­haps I’m be­ing pes­simistic.

Bolton’s woes are a shame and not some­thing I’d wish upon them but it makes me smile wryly to re­mem­ber them put for­ward by a Venkys Out pro­tes­tor as an ex­am­ple of how we’d eas­ily find a buyer if our own­ers de­cided to sell.

Talk about care­ful what you wish for.

Happy trav­els to the New Den, those go­ing, and see you at Ewood for the re­play. A bonus night out, I can’t wait!

KATERINA LEE’S CLARETS VIEW

IT proved a busy and some­what strange Christ­mas pe­riod for the Clarets.

Off the back of our game against Ar­se­nal, which was a loss but a very pos­i­tive per­for­mance, most of us went into the Box­ing Day match against Ever­ton feel­ing like we could win it, and eas­ily.

Then came the line up on the day – Dy­che played five at the back...at home, which was con­fus­ing to say the least.

Fast for­ward an hour and 40 sec­onds into the match – Ever­ton be­gan their com­plete and ut­ter on­slaught and tear­ing apart of our squad.

It was one of those days where ev­ery sin­gle player looked poor, out of their depth and truly like our game had been read at ev­ery given mo­ment.

I’ve been a Burn­ley fan for some 20 years now, re­mem­ber some truly dark times but this had to be up there as one of the worst.

Weirdly though, ev­ery­one seemed in quite good spir­its be­fore the West Ham match at home. Maybe it was a case of ‘things can’t get any worse’?

They could get worse, very eas­ily, but again out came the line up and who’s in net – Tom Heaton. That was all the spark any­one needed.

Then the game starts and it was like

Mark Run­na­cles

Bradley Dack of Blackburn Rovers (hid­den) cel­e­brates with his team mates af­ter scor­ing against New­cas­tle

Jan Kruger

Burn­ley’s Dwight Mc­Neil

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