Trip to Toon hit the right note
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
Bradley Dack of Blackburn Rovers (hidden) celebrates with his team mates after scoring against Newcastle
Burnley’s Dwight McNeil