Ahead of the trip to Turf Moor this weekend, we had a chat with The Cricket Field End on the season so far, thoughts on the match up and much more, including VAR …
Q. Looking back, how do you rank last season, now that the dust has settled?
It was such a topsy-turvy season for us. We had the hassle of the Europa League which breaks up the training pattern and preparation for league fixtures which were moved to be Sunday games. Finishing 15th was a respectable position especially after the awful start to the campaign we had. Luckily we went on a great run of results towards the back end of the season which steered us away from a relegation battle.
Q. What were your hopes for the season and how does that compare with how the season has gone so far?
I’ll always take consolidation in the Premier League, 17th and above always has to be the objective. Staying in the division and developing has to be key to any side, particularly ones with not such a strong budget or unlikely to attract names to the club. Without that pressure of Europe and a full pre-season this year, I felt we could push better than 15th a little and 13th for me would be where I would put us. I cannot say I envisaged us being sat in 7th place above Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United at this time of year, but the festive period is creeping upon us and the Premier League throws you many twists and turns.
Q. Is there a fear that Sean Dyche could be tempted by another job after his lengthy stint at Turf Moor?
There is always going to be rumours, it comes with the job, especially when you’ve done such a great one. I must admit, I doubted his appointment when he first came in as I hoped for a more accredited manager but how wrong I was. I think it was Big Sam who said in an interview recently that Dyche should be considered for the big jobs, he may not have won major silverware but neither had Pochettino at Southampton and he got the Spurs job. The West Ham job, Everton job, potentially even the Arsenal and United jobs could be available at some point this season. Will Dyche be considered for the latter two? I don’t think so but does he deserve the chance? Yes. (Stay with Burnley though Sean!)
Q. How was the summer transfer window for the club? Were all needs addressed?
This is a tough question, you ask any Burnley fan about losing Steven Defour and Tom Heaton in the same window and it’s heartbreaking. We never saw the full heights of Defour due to injury but what a player he was and what a keeper Heaton was. Nick Pope was more than ready to take his chance and we replaced Heaton with Leeds United keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. We lost Stephen Ward to Stoke and signed Erik Pieters in practically a swap deal and the return of Burnley born Jay Rodriguez really pleased the crowds. Deadline day brought us Danny Drinkwater and apart from a cup appearance we haven’t seen anything of him, it’s a shame but I think we won’t see much more of him either. I don’t think all needs were addressed personally, a solid midfielder is needed for me.
Q. The introduction of VAR this season has not gone to plan so far – what is your view of the system and how it is being used?
Scrap it, it’s shocking. Maybe in time it will help but right now it’s wrong. You have officials at Stockley Park helping their mates out every weekend. There is still a big club bias and not one referee has consulted the pitch-side camera to review their own decision, it’s embarrassing.
Q. One to watch for Burnley this season?
Easy, Dwight McNeil. Just turned 20, playing at under 21 level with England, I personally think he should be in the first team set up but as he is not at a big club, he won’t see that. It’s not fair that players like Hudson-Odoi who is hyped up by the media, Tomori who played for Derby last year now back at Chelsea, gets called up but yet a young man at Burnley who for two successive Premier League seasons has assisted more than Jesse Lingard and Hudson-Odoi. He’s not just one to watch for Burnley but I’m sure he’ll be one to watch for the future of English football.
Q. If you could pick one Palace player to sign, who would it be and why?
Luka Milivojevic, without a shadow of a doubt. In my earlier answer, I said Burnley needed a midfielder and what a midfielder this guy is. Free kicks are brilliant, penalty king, can strike a ball with venom and fits the mould of player that we had in Dean Marney and Joey Barton, more the latter. May annoy Palace fans saying this, but I’d love to see him in a Burnley shirt.
Q. Which Burnley player do Palace need to keep an eye on in the game?
It has to be our strike-force, our two big physical lads in Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes are a nightmare for any defensive unit. If I had to pick one, it has to be Barnes. He ruffles your feathers, gets in your face early and won’t give you a moment’s peace. He’s an old school forward, he’s the type of player you love in your side but hate to play against. If Palace can keep him at bay then there is a chance you may snag a point.
Q. Perhaps you could share your views on what you expect from Palace this season?
Palace at Selhurst Park is always a very tough and intimidating place to go. I said earlier I’d take 13th at the end of the season which you currently occupy and quite frankly I don’t want to swap positions right now! Going forward you have a pacey side and keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha and having an in-form Andros Townsend really helps the side. I can expect plenty of twists for Palace, you have a good manager in Roy Hodgson but making Selhurst your fortress will be key to your points tally this season.
Q. Your prediction?
Turf Moor in the summer is as bad as Turf Moor in the winter, it’s hard to knock Burnley on home soil. In fact the memories of the 3-2 win over yourselves in the last minute of the game rings many a bell. Do I envisage the same scoreline? Sadly not. I think it will be a close affair, either team nicking it by a goal. I hope I’m wrong and we get another 3-0 victory though!