Sunday, June 14, 2015

Burnley FC - Stoke City FC (16-05-2015)

Back in Manchester for work, I again team up with my friend A., whom earlier steered me to Rochdale Association FC. This time we drive to Burnley, about 35 km (20 miles) north of Manchester, home to Burnley Football Club, founded in 1882.


We arrive at Turf Moor, Burnley FC's stadium, well before kick-off. Despite the fact that The Clarest relegated from the English Premier League (EPL) the week before, it is busy for the last home game of the season. Fortunately, it is not sold out, so wecan buy ticket at the main administrative building -- at the steep rate of GBP 35 (ca. $55).

While the prices are modern EPL level, the atmosphere fortunately is not. Outside and insider is a nice old-school, pre-EPL atmosphere, which reminds me of going to see West Ham United in the 1980s. Turf Moore is also an old stadium still located in a residential area rather than somewhere isolated on an industrial site or just off a motorway.

With Burnley FC already relegated and Stoke City FC in the middle, safe and no chance at European football, there was a high likelihood that it would be an uninspiring game. Still, several thousand Stoke City fans had made the almost 150 km (80 mile) drive up north from Stoke-on-Trent.

The first fifteen minutes saw a couple of half and full chances, although neither goalie had to make a serious safe. This changed in the 17th minute, when another set of chances led to an amazing safe by Jack Buckland, the Stoke City and England U-21 goalkeeper, who gets a chance because the regular goalie, Bosnian international Asmir Begović, is set to leave the club (for Manchester United?).


As the pace and quality of the game start to drop, the home fans start to enjoy themselves by singing “We're going down” and, to other home fans, “Your Team Is Shit”. Delightful English sarcasm.

In the 25th minute Stoke has its first ball on target, a weak header at the goalie. Almost fifteen minutes later bad defending leads to a Stoke counter, but the hard cross is headed wide from 5 meter. Half time score: 0-0.

The second half begins where the first left off. In the 56th minute a cross is missed by a Burnley defender, who hits it with his arm, which is missed by the referee, while the deflected ball is missed by a Stoke striker. And that is one of the few exciting moments of the second half!

It only picks up a bit in the last minutes of the game. In the 89th minute, after 40 minutes of terrible football, Stoke gets a surprise half-chance with a hard low shot from 20 meter, which goes just wide. In the first minute of extra time, after a corner is headed out, the return bounced just before the goalie, but is saved. Final score: 0-0.

Next year Burnley FC will be back in The Championship, where it belongs. It is too bad, but also too authentic, for the EPL. Despite the atrocious football, I enjoyed the rare retro experience of 1980s top-flight English football.

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