Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Burnley FC

Burnley FC 1-1 FSV Manchester City FC
Turf Moor, Burnley

Date of visit: Saturday 3rd February 2018
Ground number: 2
League: Premier League
Ticket: £30
Programme: £3
Beer: Carlsberg £4, They also had a bitter (maybe Tetley's)
Attendance: 21,658
Final score: 1-1

Turf Moor, Burnley

Let's get one thing straight - I despise Burnley FC. I genuinely hate them more than any other club on the planet. My second match since starting this blog just happened to be one of theirs and as you can see from the picture above...I was right in the middle of their main fans. Happy days.

If you google 'most fierce English football rivalries' and Blackburn vs Burnley isn't in the top 10 you can forever ignore that website as a source of trustworthy information. I'm a Blackburn fan and Burnley is and forever will be our biggest game. It's the same for them even though they are currently playing in the top half of the premier league. I have the misfortune of being outnumbered at least 20-1 in terms of Burnley and Blackburn fans within my own family. Growing up was great...we were good, they were shit. Nowadays the table has turned somewhat...for now.

I've been to Turf moor many times watching Blackpool and was also in the Burnley home end watching them against John Barnes, Ian Rush and co in the FA Cup 3rd round. I know the town and the stadium well. Apart from one season we shared with them in the first division back in 2000-2001 we hardly played each other in my lifetime so my first opportunity to visit Turf Moor watching Rovers was when we drew them in the FA Cup in 2005. The match finished 0-0 and the situation could be summed up by the opening paragraph of the Guardian's match report that day.

'With riot vans parked outside and police helicopters hovering above, it is tempting to imagine the Chief Constable of the Lancashire police spraying a mouthful of coffee across his desk when he heard this would go to a replay.'

I had a ticket for the game after skipping university to stand in a 6 hour queue. A week before the match I got a letter from the Lancashire police. It was informing me that under no circumstances was I to drive to the game, take the train to the game or get any form of public transport to Burnley that day. My only option was to drive to Blackburn, park up at Ewood Park and get on the official supporters coach. Then and only then would I be given my ticket. The same rule applied to the poor Rovers fans living in Burnley, some of whom lived only a few metres away from the stadium. They had to travel to Blackburn, get the coach, go to the match, back to Blackburn then back to Burnley. There was no escape. The police closed the M65 motorway and we set off. 79 double decker coaches each surrounded by 3 police motorbikes. As we drove through Burnley itself it seemed like every house had its residents standing on the porches. Mums, dads, kids, babies...all giving us the finger and wanker signs. We felt pretty special. As we got off the coach we were escorted into the stadium by police. The noise for an hour before kick off, the entire 90 minutes and an hour after kick off was deafening. I can still remember every detail. That's a real football derby.

Thirteen years later and I'm back again. This whole thing came about as I drunkenly told my cousin I'd go to a game with her Burnley-mad 7 year old daughter. She reminded me in January and I thought 'why not?'. It was against Manchester City so there'd be a good chance they'd get a pasting and i'd heard so many stories of 7 year old Rosie on away trips (mingling with all the hardcore fans, pubs before games, playing pool with some pretty tough looking gentlemen) I felt I had to see it for myself.

One thing that strikes you as you approach Turf Moor is the current attention they have compared to just a few years prior. Sky and BT trucks everywhere, security, anti-terrorism barriers....they are premier league now and they don't look out of place. 
The new kind of visitors at Turf Moor

Despite being a premier league club, walking around the outside of the ground it still has the traditional feeling it used to. The old ladies selling raffle tickets, the old men selling programmes and the smell of Bovril coming from the catering vans. The club shop looks like it's had a makeover but I didn't bother having a look for obvious reasons.

It was a cold day and obviously I couldn't wear my new rovers hat and scarf that's been serving me well throughout the Czech winter so I had to break out a Sparta and HC Litomerice combo. I had also brought Rosie a Sparta hat from Prague so at least she wasn't fully claret and blue. Rosie was under strict instructions not to mention to anyone that I was a Blackburn supporter and I have to say, given she's seven years old, I still felt a little nervous that she'd have an outburst mid-game. I was put even more on edge when she informed me in the stadium, with a straight face, that 'Lancashire is full of tits, fanny and clarets.'

with Rosie....my guide for everything Burnley and Sparta's new fan!

Burnley started the game quite well until Danilo hit an absolute sreamer from 25 yards to put City 1-0 up. Burnley lost all shape after that and it was one way traffic. Luckily for the home side it was only 0-1 at the break.

If you follow me on twitter you probably know that the current state of English football grinds my gears a bit as I think they have little respect for the football fan but one thing that would make it more bearable would be to relax the regulations. It's the same old story here and across most British stadiums. Half time comes and you are packed in like sardines as you are not allowed to drink alcohol within sight of the pitch. Madness. The funny thing is you can go to the exact same stadiums for rugby matches and happily enjoy a pint at your seat. It's a hangover from the 80's and needs to be stopped. 

As I went downstairs at half time to attempt to order a pint of the finest Carlsberg (urgh) while trying not to be crushed I saw a sign for 'Bene & Hot £2'. This is a bizarre part of the Burnley experience that I guess everyone should sample (once). Benedictine is a french herbal liqueur and quite amazingly 30 percent all of Benedictine consumed in Britain is done so in Burnley. This all started with the 11th battalion of the East Lancashire regiment during the first world war. During the freezing winter of 1918 the battalion was based in Normandy (where Benedictine is made) and the troops drank it with hot water to keep warm. On their return they brought some back and passed on their taste for 'Bene & hot'. Today one working mens club in Burnley goes through over 1000 bottles a year and I'd be willing to bet that Turf Moor is the only stadium in the world offering it as a half time tipple.

Bene & Hot....only in Burnley!

I went back up for the second half and it was quite a strange experience to have everyone around me, on cue every seven minutes, singing 'No nay never....til we play Bastard Rovers...no neveeer no more.' I just stood in silence. I can handle that but around the hour mark the chants turned into 'Jack Walker is dead, dead, dead' which was a bit much. 

Apart from the pathetic chants the atmosphere was poor. Burnley fans have never really been that good at making some home noise (that goes for Rovers as well) but the Man City fans were even worse. Away games in England are usually an opportunity to let go and outsing the home fans but City were absolutely shocking. They were at least a couple of thousand strong and hardly made a peep all game.

After soaking up pressure from City Burnley managed to snatch a late equaliser. I stood silence as everyone around me erupted with joy. I won't lie...I was a little bit happy. These were some of the world's best players against little old Burnley, their fans were rubbish and Burnley deserved the point.

It was an interesting afternoon in East Lancashire and I'm really hoping my next visit here is for the derby. Until we meet again, dingles!

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