Here is the first of two instalments of ‘Life After The Championship’. Here I talk to Burnley fan Jamie Smith of NoNayNever.Net
We’re in our third Championship year- probably our fourth consecutive year of steady decline at Bolton. Will things get better?
Q: You were promoted from the Championship last season. Did this come as a surprise to most Burnley fans?
Pretty much, aye! One of the No Nay Never writers called it, but I think most of us were expecting mid-table at best, especially when we sold Charlie Austin two days before the season started and didn’t bring in a replacement. It didn’t look possible, but we started extremely strongly and when we comfortably beat QPR at home 2-0 in October there was a real sense that something special was going to happen. We only ever had a slight wobble and in hindsight, the promotion was never really in doubt.
Q: What would you say was the key to your success that season?
You can never just point at one thing, it’s obviously more complex than that. But when you have two strikers who score 20 goals each that is a massive help. The team unity was absolutely vital and helped us to compete against teams with much bigger budgets. Fitness was crucial too. We had a small squad but we were able to keep everyone fit and on form for most of the season. We named the same XI more often than not. Everyone knew their jobs inside out and there was none of this chopping and changing squad rotation bollocks people seem to think is important in the modern game.
Q: Do you think you’re in a better position to stay up in the Premier League than when you were managed by Owen Coyle and Brian Laws?
Hard to say really, it’s still pretty early days. Our promotion team was a lot better this time, finishing second with plenty to spare rather than sneaking into sixth, but I think the Coyle squad maybe had a little bit more X factor with players like Robbie Blake who could win us points on their own. Our chances will depend massively on whether we can keep hold on Sean Dyche though. If he does a Coyle and walks out halfway through then I wouldn’t fancy us to stay up.
Q: How do you think you’ll fare this season?
I’ve been fairly pessimistic until now, but I think the three new lads we signed on deadline day – George Boyd, Nathaniel Chalobah and Michael Keane – could make a massive difference. Boyd has something different to the rest of our attack, maybe a touch of that X factor I mentioned, while Chalobah and Keane look like they could be improvements on the current starting XI. As I’ve said, I think a lot depends on whether Dyche is here in May. Also Danny Ings hasn’t really settled yet and we’ll need him to start scoring soon if we’re going to have a good chance.
Q: How has promotion benefitted the club financially?
The timing was perfect really as it was our last year with the parachute payments. You’ve got to wonder what sort of position we would have been in without getting promoted last season – Ings and probably Kieran Trippier would have had to be sold. Burnley’s board aren’t the sort to splash the cash though and even with the TV money being twice as much as it was the last time we were in the Premier League a few years back, our spending has only been around the £8m mark, about the same as in the 09/10 season in the top flight. We’ve spent quite a bit on infrastructure upgrades, but I’d have liked to have seen more investment on players too.
Q: You’ve obviously taken a few players known to Bolton fans like Lukas Jutkiewicz, Matt Taylor and Marvin Sordell. How do they seem to be settling in?
Sordell we’ve seen very little of so it’s hard to judge, but Taylor and Jutkiewicz have started all three league games so we can have an initial assessment. Taylor has done okay for me, but a lot of fans aren’t really impressed. There are a few questions over whether he provides his full-back, Ben Mee, with enough protection and we’ve shipped a few goals down that side. But going forward he’s created chances and he made our only goal, so that’s what he’s in the team for. Juke has been good, but so far he looks like a slight downgrade on Sam Vokes who is out injured long-term. The Ings-Jutkiewicz partnership has shown flashes, but neither has really looked like scoring yet. Juke has only had one big chance, a tough one at Swansea, and he put it over the bar. I like him though, it’s just a case of adapting to the new partnership and learning how he differs from Vokes and playing to his strengths.
As we’ve seen here, life after the Championship can get better! There might be light at the end of this depressing 3 year long tunnel. Equally, things could take a turn for the worse which I’ll explore in the next installment.
Thanks very much to Jamie Smith of NoNayNever.net – a Burnley blog that I highly reccomend.