Adventures in Football #42: Turf Moor (Burnley FC)
MARCH 5, 2022
BURNLEY FC vs. CHELSEA FC (Premier League)
We’re watching Premier League today! First Premier League game of the season, first in fact since I went to Goodison Park in 2010 to watch Everton draw 0-0 with Wigan. I’ve been distracted by other stuff ever since. For those reading who ‘don’t do the north’ Burnley is just above Manchester. It’s the furthest north I’ve been this season (apart from Dundee Utd). Burnley is further north than Bolton, Wigan, Liverpool, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Scunthorpe, Doncaster and even Grimsby.
Burnley is a club with a tonne of history. They were founder members of the football league in 1888 and were founded way back in 1882. They’ve been playing home games at Turf Moor since, wait for it, 1883. In their rich history they’ve won the league twice, in 1921 and 1960 and the FA Cup once, in 1914. That 1960 may surprise a few more modern fans. During the 60s Burnley were a big deal but were scuppered by the maximum wage being abolished in 1961. Financially they couldn’t compete with big city clubs.
The decline was rapid. Burnley had an unbroken stint as a top tier club from 1949 until 1970. At the start of the 80s they found themselves in the third tier. By 1985 it was the fourth tier. In 1987 they finished 22nd in what was then division four only avoiding relegation with a dramatic last day win over Leyton Orient. Burnley fought back in the 90s winning the final division four title in 1992 thus jumping from division four to league two in one promotion! In 2000, after a few yo-yo seasons, they made it back to what is now the Championship. They’ve yo-yoed between Championship and Premier League since then but have been in the top division since 2016. This is their sixth season in the Premier League, their longest consecutive run since 1970.
Turf Moor is the second oldest ‘continuously used’ football stadium in the world after Preston North End’s Deepdale and the oldest to feature in the Premier League. The thing that most surprised me about Burnley while getting ready for the game was that the town only houses 73,000 people. Therefore, their title win in 1960 counts as being the smallest town club to ever win the league. They’re clearly very proud of their football team. On the walk to the ground we will pass The Turf Hotel, Vintage Claret and the Royal Dyche! I think that last one may be a coincidence.
A quick gander at the table before today’s game will reveal this will be tricky for the home side. Up against Chelsea, who are third. Burnley only have three league wins all season but they do have Wout Weghorst so they’ve always got a chance.
We started out a little before 10.30am and went to fill the tank up. £1.61 per litre now. On the motorway services it was £1.73. My debit card made a yelp noise as I paid for fuel. We’re getting a hybrid later in the year. Hopefully that helps! The route to Burnley is almost all motorway. We jump on just south of Birmingham, basically where I live, and the next non-motorway road is just outside Burnley. Which is fine but Maria was getting bored. At least the scenery, see above, was quite nice around the approach. Two things I didn’t realise about Burnley before this trip; 1. it’s quite small and 2. it’s surrounded by pretty hills.
Parking was supposed to be easy. Get there early and get into Charter Walk car park. We get there and there’s a queue to get in. And it’s not moving. Maria doesn’t have a lot of patience for car parks when the queue isn’t moving so we head just down the road and pull into a “private car park” but it has a ticket machine so I think we’re ok. Unfortunately, it’s £5 for four hours, taking us to 17.16. I can’t take that risk (we ended up leaving the car park at 17.12 so). The next time value is 12 hours and costs a tenner. I’d rather pay a tenner for parking than £100 penalty fare. That takes us to £130 and we haven’t got to the ground yet!
We needed to get some food and I suggest going to the ground and getting something from a vendor. That’s shot down as Maria has experienced football ground food before and is rightly dubious of the potential quality. So, we drop into a gaff called Frydays (I love a pun) and it’s packed. Most people are getting food to go though so we get a seat and nosh down some fish and chips. I have to admit, it’s tasty and we had a nice sit down in the warm. Not that I needed to worry about the cold today. The forecast was a high of 5 degrees. It was boiling! Bright sunshine all game and I had to take my coat off early doors. Off to the ground and it’s a short stroll, 10 minutes. Maria keeps trying to get selfies with police horses.
Arriving at the ground we have to go around the away end and I think there might be a short cut around the back but I want to look at the front of the stadium so we walk around. I’m stunned at how high-tech Burnley is compared to every other ground I’ve been to this season. I go to take a photo of the entrance of the Bob Lord Stand and while I’m taking it, it changes to the club badge. What LED sorcery is this? It turns out they have these everywhere. All around the outside of the ground and the inside. For someone who’s spent most of their time attending lower league fixtures this is a proper ‘welcome to the big time’.
Mascot watch: Bertie the bee! He’s ok. He’s got bee arms and a bee head and his number is 1882, the year the club came into being (bee-ing maybe). Why a bee? Well, there’s actually a children’s book called “A Bee Named Bertie” available from the club shop that details the circumstances. No, I didn’t buy it.
The ticket is just a QR code. It’s the least impressive aspect of the new high-tech world. You don’t get tickets anymore. There was no option, it’s just a QR code in the email. Here’s Maria struggling with the printed off version because the guy behind the counter can’t figure out which one I’ve already scanned in on my phone. There’s only two mate! We make our way through the concourse. I’ve given up taking pictures of concourses because they basically all look the same. I’m glad we ate already because the food menu isn’t jumping out at me.
And here we go…out onto Turf Moor. My first Premier League game in 11 years. It’s Maria’s first time watching her club, Chelsea (sorry everyone) but I’m afraid we’re in the Burnley end so she has to be quiet. Shout out to the steward. He was a nice bloke and there was a nice laid back atmosphere in and around the ground. No bully boy tactics. Very friendly.
I can tell as soon as we’re in place that I’ve picked the right part of the ground to be in. Off to our left is the Jimmy McIlroy stand. It’s a big lad and it’s heaving. We’re in the upper tier of the James Hargreaves Stand. Which is a huge erection, looking out over Bob Lord Stand opposite us.
It’s just about the most perfect view of a game of football I’ve ever seen. The sunshine coming in, the pitch sprawled out before us, the rolling hills in the distance and there’s no kind of obstruction. We’re at the perfect height for the game. It’s ideal. I don’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a game with a sense of optimism like this, where we were definitely in for a good time.
The scoreboard/highlights viewer is terrific and I take a picture of it hoping to capture today’s Burnley XI and I’m so slow I end up with the subs. Still, it’s an impressive scoreboard. The game gets underway and it’s not great. Chelsea have a tonne of the ball but no end product. I send a message to my Chelsea supporting son Josh at half-time telling him they desperately need to put Lukaku on. That isn’t what happens. But with 79% possession in the first half and one shot on target Chelsea are huffing and puffing with no end result.
Another shot here, just past the scoreboard, that shows how beautiful the surrounding countryside is. They did a historical video of Burnley’s highs over the years set to “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters. It was really nice and heart-warming. Burnley are proud of their history and rightly so.
You may have noticed an increase in pictures/picture quality. I got a new phone and it has five cameras. The difference in quality is startling. My wife used to get me to take photos on her phone because mine was crap. Now she wants the photos taken on my phone and sent to her. The worm has turned!
I’m convinced I could sit there taking photos all game long and get a bunch of decent ones. I’d rather watch the game but here are a couple to show what a) the camera is capable of and b) how awesome the view was at Turf Moor. Burnley are arguably the better team in the first half in spite of Chelsea’s numerical superiority. They get into more dangerous positions and are more creative around the box. The only thing stopping Burnley from scoring is a lack of quality in that final ball. At half time I discover the Chelsea fans chanted “Roman Abramovich” during the ‘stand together for Ukraine’ tribute pre-match.
This is awkward territory as there are a group of Chelsea fans who feel Roman is being hounded out of football and there’s an anti-Chelsea sentiment at the FA. Those hardcore Chelsea fans are the ones who would be chanting that and I understand their frustrations. Football club’s are an echo chamber at times and if you keep hearing the same conspiracy theories relating to your team eventually you’ll start to believe it’s all true. However, there’s a time and a place to show support to your owner and during a tribute to the innocent victims of the war in Ukraine is not the time and place for it. Thomas Tuchel addressed this in his interview post-match and he’s bang on. Money in football is a major problem because most rich people are evil and have fucked someone over to get that level of cash. Abramovich is a dream owner for the Chelsea fans and he transformed the club into a global superpower but if they think Roman’s cash is clean they need to look again. Most ownership arguments are a waste of time because most owners of top teams are basically bad people. Either they’re using the fans to drain the club dry or they made their money elsewhere fucking people over and football is just a vanity project for them. Either way I try not to think about it too much. Rant over, moving on.
UP THE CLARETS!
If the narrative today was that a smaller club overcomes the odds and upsets the big boys then it’s a script Reece James didn’t read. A minute into the second half he broke into the box from the right side and fired a shot across the keeper into the far post. 0-1. This was, sadly, the opening of the floodgates. A stubborn Burnley defence got dismantled several times over. There was frustration around us as Chelsea added a second and a third through Kai Havertz. It was almost too easy. The Burnley support blamed referee Andre Marriner for giving soft free kicks, a lot of Burnley players for giving the ball away and audible groans started in great numbers. The simple fact of the matter is that Chelsea are a far superior footballing outfit to Sean Dyche’s Burnley. While Burnley can catch big clubs cold they’re not in the same league as the big dogs.
“We’ve not even played ten minutes” moaned a lady behind us. In football ten minutes can be enough to end a game. People started leaving after the third goal and I get their frustration. Maria was hoping Burnley at least scored a consolation. It didn’t feel like they deserved to get a kicking like this. In all honesty, I think Chelsea eased off at 3-0 and it could have been much worse. They were opening Burnley up at will at the start of the second half. Defenders were struggling with the movement of the front three. Havertz especially drifting into space with consummate ease.
The crowd frustration got nastier and nastier as the game continued. It reminded me of when Bromsgrove Rovers started collapsing. The vitriol was aimed at Russia, Chelsea as a club and some of the Burnley players, especially Dwight McNeil. One lad shouted “go back to Russia” at Saul Niguez. He’s Spanish mate. The same guy yelled “get up you soft bastard” at Reece James after he went down injured off the pitch. Pretty sure he got kicked on the ankle and he had to be substituted a few minutes later. I do take issue with the amount of play acting there is in football but I don’t think Chelsea needed to time waste. They were winning comfortably. Oh yeah, Christian Pulisic helped himself to Chelsea’s fourth after a defensive howler. With that most of the crowd started to disperse. There’s still twenty minutes left. Chelsea fans spent the remainder of the match chanting about Tottenham, which is strange behaviour. For context Chelsea are the current reigning European champions and Spurs haven’t won anything since the Carling Cup in 2008. Their last league title was in 1961. I don’t see the need to sing about them to be honest.
I’ve seen some unpleasant scenes after games this season. Fans screaming at each other outside grounds. None of that today. We all strolled back into Burnley together down the same road. The Chelsea fans in good voice, the Burnley fans probably thinking about next season. Will they be in the Premier League? On this performance it’s doubtful. They look very one dimensional. They’ll need to finish above a club like Everton or Leeds and I just can’t see that happening.
In conclusion, I adored Turf Moor. You could feel the history of the ground and yet see the improvements. It’s what I most want in a football stadium. To experience the heart and soul of the club but also to get the modern amenities that you associate with a new stadium within that old location. Maria had no qualms about calling Turf Moor the best stadium she’d ever been to. I reckon it’s up there for me too.
And like that we’re gone. Well, we sat in a traffic jam leaving Burnley for about 20 minutes. Driving off into the sunset. I love this camera. Look at this shot. If you’re a football fan and you’ve never been to Burnley, I’d recommend it. When I sit down with Mike at the end of the season to talk about the best and worst, Burnley is getting a big shout out.