Division Two Stowaways
We have recently explored the notion of a so-called “Greater Championship” – the idea that there are a clutch of clubs currently operating at Premier League and League One level that really belong in this league. Burnley Football Club, whose pre-season chances we assessed on their departure from our midst in the Summer, are one such case. Yesterday, I had had the chance to witness first hand just how poor the Clarets are away from home and just how many players are likely to be back with us soon.
The Lancashire mill town club have strengthened since the Summer of course and three of their more feted individuals were missing for their deserved 1-0 FA Cup exit at Reading. Andre Bikey is away in Angola, much to the disquiet of that country’s stretcher bearers, David Nugent is back with Portsmouth and three million pound signing Steven Fletcher was rested. So, it was an exceedingly familiar Clarets line up that took the field at the Mad Stad.
The guilt that Joey Gudjonsson, David Edgar and Michael Duff must feel at labelling themselves top flight players must be tangible and Stephen Thompson’s new shorn look does nothing to convince us of his elevated status. Tyrone Mears’ trumped up England chances were again exposed as laughable, Chris McCann was played out of position at left half, and sub Martin Paterson looked very rusty after missing most of the season through injury. This was an XI packed full of Championship performers, and not very good ones at that.
More encouragingly, Wade Elliott and Chris Eagles looked lively on the wings although that the former started on the left and the latter on the right sounds an early alarm bell on Brian Laws’ tactical awareness. A packed midfield of five saw Gudjonsson’s prosaic talents supplemented by the classy Graham Alexander and the lumpen, but oddly effective Kevin McDonald – like a big Scottish kid bullying people in a Gorbals playground. Overall though, Burnley’s stand out man on the day was again Brian Jensen – a goalkeeper who seems to be underrated due only to his girth of ample dimensions: corpulence never bothered Fatty Foulke. That away record is a monkey on the back, but Fulham once went two years without triumphing on the road – back at full strength, Burnley still have a fighting chance to remaining topside, but there are more than a few Division Two stowaways in the ranks.