Good raw materials at Burnley

Burnley rightly attracted much praise throughout their lone season in the top echelon even if the plaudits were directed more towards the way the club was run than any on pitch achievements (that never to be forgotten win over Manchester United notwithstanding).

Having recouped more than the money they paid for their only serious investment, Steven Fletcher and retained the kernel of the squad that had gotten them to the Premier League in the first place, the Lancashire club were installed among the favourites back in August. Record profits of £14.4 million were posted and proven Championship talent in Chris Iwelumo, Ross Wallace and Lee Grant brought in.

The widely scorned managerial appointment of Brian Laws and his subsequent dismissal wer harsh on a dignified man. However, on the evidence of the recent 4-2 victory over Sheffield United and much of this afternoon’s tight 2-1 loss at Reading, there is much to be optimistic about for the Clarets.

I was especially impressed with a five man midfield. Wallace and talisman Chris Eagles patrolled the flanks and were ever dangerous, with the former drilling in a low opener amidst a crowd of players and almost tying the piece with a late crossbar-scraping free kick. If Eagles can be inconsistent, as well as comfortably the most scruffy Burnley player to emerge from the dressing room afterwards, his skills are always going to cause bother for opponents.

With these flank berths reserved, Wade Elliott was forced into central midfield but looked as buoyant as ever and Jack Cork, still a Chelsea Football Club employee, was as good as I’ve seen him at the base of the quintet, gliding forward elegantly to set up a number of first half attacks.

Dean Marney, however, suffered one of those days when the banjo singularly failed to connect with the cow’s posterior. He missed three total sitters and the grumbling from the Clarets’ faithful was audible, as was the rejoicing when he made way for the homegrown Jay Rodriguez. 1 goal in 18 matches for the battling Marney perhaps tells a story.

If the midfield was Burnley’s motor today, there was also cause for hope at full back, with Brian Easton doing as well as could be expected against one of the best players in the division in Jimmy Kébé and Tyrone Mears largely snuffing out the threat of Jobi McAnuff. But Clarke Carlisle and Michael Duff struggled for pace against the in form Shane Long and Stephen Thompson failed to impose himself as the lone striker, even if the support from that flexible midfield was constant.

So the Clarets looked more than accomplished in phases, and whosoever their new manager might be, he’ll have a good raw materials to work with. Chris McCann, arguably Burnley’s most effective player in their promotion season has suffered from a debilitating long term injury and once he returns, the midfield will have a more tough minded feel to it – although Cork is going a long way to making up for his absence and that of Graham Alexander. This is still one of the npower league’s most attractive squads.

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 45 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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4 Comments on "Good raw materials at Burnley"

  1. Stanley says:

    LR, very interesting comments. The retention in large part of the PL squad was the main reason I tipped them for promotion at the beginning of the season. I'd admit, though, that the addition of Ross Wallace to the already delightful talents of Wade Elliott and Chris Eagles perhaps led me to underestimate the Laws effect. Still, the Clarets are close enough to the promotion fray to make a challenge. And, slightly dodgy centre-backs aren't necessarily a hindrance when they lie behind such a potent forward line.

  2. William says:

    Paul Lambert was linked with the Burnley job today. I doubt Lambert will move to Lancashire, given that Norwich are very much on the up these days. Nonetheless, if we might get hypothetical for a moment, Lambert uses a much-celebrated midfield diamond with the Canaries: how would Burnley's midfield personnel adapt to that?

  3. In answer to your question William, I think the diamond might work with Graham Alexander at its base (or Cork – good though he is, he might need to restrain some of his attacking instincts), a newly fit Chris McCann ahead of him, Wallace on the left and Elliott on the right. That might leave Eagles scrapping for a support striker, a free-role or, if Lambert were really tough minded – out of the team entirely. Controversial perhaps, but the talented ex-Man United man doesn't easily fit within a team pattern.

  4. William Abbs says:

    Lambert strikes me as tough minded. He's been known to drop Wes Hoolahan lately, probably the Canaries' equivalent to Eagles.

    After consulting the Norwich Evening News, the fans don't expect Lambert to leave for Burnley but given how the club acquired him from Colchester (and how open the Scot was to leaving) most people are resigned to him going should the right job come up.

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