North west neighbours aim to restore golden era
It seems fitting that Ross Wallace has ended up plying his trade in the footballing heartlands of Lancashire, last making a summer switch from Preston North End to Burnley. The Scotsman would not look out of place in the heyday of Lancashire football, resplendent in billowing white shorts.
Proximity dictates that it was not a popular move among supporters of the former but these two clubs have bigger fish to fry in terms of rivals – both are currently casting envious eyes towards the Premier League, to Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers respectively. But more of that later.
Wallace, an old-fashioned darting winger with a nice line in beating his marker and whipping in a cross, is a heartwarming throwback to past times. It is a past that Preston and Burnley are refreshingly unwilling to discard, with Deepdale and Turf Moor still untarnished by sponsors’ names and stands still named after heroes of a bygone era.
Not that time is standing still for these two former giants of the English game. Both are adapting, with Darren Ferguson still finding his feet at Preston and Brian Laws attempting to establish Burnley as, at the very least, a West Bromwich Albion-style yo-yo team.
Both also won important home games at the weekend. Ferguson answered his critics by overseeing a 1-0 success over Portsmouth while Laws led Burnley to a 3-0 win against Leicester City.
The winning habit
Burnley’s margin of victory flattered them. Until just shy of half time, the visitors had enjoyed marginally the better of a poor game of few chances. A fortunate killer blow before the interval, Wallace’s speculative shot looping into the far corner via a heavy deflection off Leicester defender Moreno, provided Laws with a platform upon which to build a victory out of nothing.
The Clarets fielded the formation du jour. Chris Iwelumo played as a lone striker with Wallace and Martin Paterson swapping flanks either side of him. It looked blunted for long periods but bore fruit early in the second half when Wallace’s cross from the byline picked out Iwelumo at the back post to double Burnley’s lead. A Graham Alexander penalty completed the scoring.
It was a game that only Wallace’s mother could love as both sides misplaced passes on a regular basis, but it also drove home a key message for supporters of second-tier teams. Make the most of the Championship. Love it for what it is.
Burnley’s fierce rivals Blackburn are currently in the midst of takeover talk while negotiating another crucial start to a Premier League season. The prospective new owner, Ahasan Ali Syed, is ready to pump huge sums of money into the club and has repeated the same grand ambitions that others have previously proclaimed elsewhere. Apparently, “Real Madrid and Manchester United were not born as giants”.
That well may be, but there is only a certain amount of room at the top. Other cornerstones of the early English game, the likes of Aston Villa and Notts County, are discovering that. Manchester City have spent their way onto the top table but there is precious little room for anyone else and someone will be left disappointed.
Burnley fans can rightly feel satisfied with their team’s start to the season and look to the rest of the campaign with positivity, despite the impending investment at Ewood Park. Over at Deepdale, Preston supporters have far more licence to grow weary of another stuttering Championship campaign after years of near-misses and the sudden ascent of their own garishly-adorned neighbours.
Blackburn are advised to be careful in their attempts to spend their way to the improbable. Preston’s defeated opponents on Saturday, Steve Cotterill’s struggling Portsmouth, would be the first to replicate that advice.
Now Ferguson’s side have their first victory on the board, they can look to the future and the recent successes of both Blackpool and Burnley are showing the way.
Things are looking up in the north west.