Lost in…Burnley

Burnley v Swansea City

Turf Moor / Premier League / 28th February 2015

“You are fucking brave coming in here…”

Welcome to Burnley. This was my greeting to the Lancashire town back in 2011. To give the aforementioned pleasant Burnley ‘hello’ some context, this was back during the year I had spent living in Liverpool and Swansea were pushing for promotion out of the Championship to the glitz of the Premier League. As home games were a tough ask living in Liverpool, my Swansea support largely came at away games (as it still does really), particularly in the north of England. Swansea would achieve promotion that year, but the Swans’ away form under Brendan Rodgers wasn’t great. I’m not sure how we finished 3rd that season with such shoddy away form actually. As just an away game goer that season, it began to feel like every game I went to Swansea would lose and my Swansea friends would shudder when they saw me, the jinx, turn up at games. In fact, that Burnley away game back in 2011 would come after I had seen 9 Swans games without them winning. I was definitely becoming the ultimate jinx to my own club.

Welcome to Burnley FC.

Welcome to Burnley FC.

On that day back in 2011, myself, Swansea fan Tom and Pete, a Man City fan just along for the ride that day, arrived into Burnley hoping to break my jinx. I had been told under no circumstances to drink in any of the pubs in Burnley town centre, as it was apparently far from inviting for away fans. However, on walking through town, Tom and Pete suggested we head into the Swan Inn, as it was a ‘lucky sign’ and would break the jinx. I protested before succumbing to the lads’ appeals to go in. I sheepishly entered and found the place largely full of elderly gentlemen in flat caps drinking bitter and so I relaxed slightly. “One drink and then we go,” was my one condition.

It was a hot April afternoon and so we headed into the beer garden. Bad move. The place was covered in Burnley flags with all sort of ‘firm’ names on them and, more intimidatingly, the beer garden was full of angry looking Burnley fans. Lots of them. I had my Swansea shirt on and they immediately turned and cornered us before declaring the opening line of this blog. We actually remained fairly cool and drank our pints, whilst the Burnley mob ogled us before declaring they wouldn’t kill as we were just kids (we were all 21 or 22) and as long as we sorted out a brawl between their ‘boys’ and our ‘boys’. I declared I didn’t know any of our ‘boys’ but they gave us their phone number anyway to sort things out later. We didn’t sort out anything.

We were trying to get out of there quickly without wasting a good pint, but our pace hastened dramatically when an elderly gentlemen came outside to tell me that some notorious Burnley thug had heard that there were Swansea lads in one of the Burnley pubs and he wanted to kill us. Drinks down. We were out of there.

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Burnley town is pretty isn’t it?

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Turf Moor from the train station.

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“Swansea boys we are here!”

4 years later, I was back in Burnley, this time with the Burnley v Swansea fixture being a Premier League game (and for just £25 too – cheap for top flight in this country anyway). Today’s arrival in Burnley was far more calm, perhaps because I knew not to go in The Swan this time. Having met a few of my fellow Jacks on the train, on alighting at Burnley Manchester Road we headed for the brilliantly named ‘Ministry of Ale’ just around the corner. The place was fairly quiet at 11am on Saturday morning with the odd Burnley fan sipping away at one of the real ales on tap. Another cool feature of the pub was the one wall covered in photos of every pub in Burnley and with notes on saying whether they were still there, closed down or demolished; a very convenient pub index of Burnley, although I was slightly concerned that the Swan still stood and was not demolished. I opted for a pint of the wonderful Czech lager Kozen – fairly cheap at £3 too. It was great to catch up with everyone after not being to a Swansea game for 35 days (the longest Swans-less period in a long time for me). After a few beers, and with the time going past 1pm, I decided to head onwards to one of my favourite features of a Burnley away day: the cricket ground adjacent to Turf Moor.

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Walking to the ground.

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Turf Moor emerges.

I headed down the hill past the town centre with Turf Moor in sight from my view at the top of the hill. Literally next door to Turf Moor is Burnley Cricket Club, which is allocated to away fans (although home fans are welcome too). I loved the cricket club on my last visit with its two floors and with its own little kitchen serving prematch food. Also, I came as close I’d ever get to fulfilling a dream here at the cricket club on my last visit.

Everybody dreams of scoring the winner for their club. It was on this hallowed turf at Burnley Cricket Club that I got as close to that feeling as I ever will. The game: in an impromptu kickabout with about 16 children from Burnley (about ages 8-14) v about 6-7 drunken Swansea fans, myself included. With jumpers for goalposts, the Burnley kids battered through us and the scoreline was becoming embarrassing. Up steps Harrison. A dribble (barging) past about 5 little ones I found myself near goal, before unleashing a superb curling effort past the 9-year-old in goals. Bottom corner. I wheeled away celebrating towards the cricket stand scattered with drunkenly cheering Jacks, as if I had scored the winner in a World Cup final. A glorious moment for me (or at least I tried to pretend it was).

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Arriving at the cricket club.

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In the cricket club with the Jack Army.

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Me and some of the Aberdare Jacks. Me, Steve and son Dylan, Luke and Nick.

Sadly, today, the rain stopped me going for a kickabout, but some of the kids were still out in the rain enjoying themselves. In fact, the adults were enjoying the game too from the top balcony of the cricket club. By now I had met up with the Aberdare Jacks and we took it upon ourselves to chant for the Swansea kids taking on the Burnley kids. Steve Pearce’s son Dylan was getting a lot of vocal support from us with me attempting to get a “So come on Dylan Pearce! Score some goals for Swansea!” chant going. If anybody is curious to the result…well, I’ve not got a clue, but I think the Burnley lot may have won.

The kids have a kickabout.

The kids have a kickabout.

I spent the next hour wandering the cricket club drinking and catching up with a few Swans fans I hadn’t seen in a while, before we then decided to leave the cricket club and head around to the away end of Turf Moor.

Burnley FC were formed in 1882 and were one of the 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888. The club have occupied Turf Moor since 1883, making it one of the longest continually used football grounds in the country. Initially, the area, which had decades before hosted cricket and even horse racing, was just a football pitch and no grandstand was to be built until 1885. Eventually terracing was also added behind the goals that could hold 5,000 spectators. The ground grew and grew throughout the nascent years of the 20th century with stands being built, knocked down, rebuilt and then even knocked down and rebuilt again in certain cases. The ground even hosted one international in 1927: a Wales victory over England with Burnley captain Jack Hill scoring an own goal to win the game for Wales.

There was a lot of chopping and changing of stands at Turf Moor and, to be honest, too many for me to be bothered to list ( I do get a bit bored of reading all that stuff after a while). Eventually the terraces in the ground, including the club’s famous Longside stand, were demolished in the mid-90s to be replace by new all-seater stands to fit into the new Taylor Report ground criteria.

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Big game today with the Swans in town.

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A very moody looking James Hargreaves Stand. I do actually love this photo.

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The concourse.

Turf Moor today still has a rather antiquated feel to it, despite improvements, and it is definitely one of my favourite grounds in Premier League, if not the entire Football League; probably because its traditional yet still sizable. The main stand in the ground is the James Hargreaves Stand, a two-tiered stand with executive boxes – this stand replaced the Longside Terrace; opposite is the smallest stand in the ground, the Bob Lord Stand, a single-tiered stand with windshields either side of it; at the far end of the ground is the two-tiered Jimmy McIlroy Stand and behind the other goal is the David Fishwick Stand – where we were being housed today. With queues a bit long for beer on the concourse and with kick-off looming, I headed straight up into the stand with its rusting roof and couple of supporting pillars. I took my perch in the one but last row ready for the kick-off.

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Our view from the back of the David Fishwick Stand.

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The Bob Lord Stand – the smallest in the ground.

I’m not sure what had the Jack Army had been drinking before kick-off, but our fans were in superb voice today. I would maybe go as far to say it’s one of the best away ends I’ve been in with the Swans for quite a while. Somebody even pulled out a flare, something I’m not really used to seeing being wielded by Swansea fans. Burnley fans were surprisingly mute throughout.

It was lucky that the away end was such good fun, as the action on the pitch was fairly drab for the whole 90 minutes. A typical ‘last on Match of the Day‘ sort of game; we were last on Match on the Day by the way too.

Chances were few and far between in the first half. The first sight of goal was to be Burnley’s as Ashley Barnes was denied from close range by ‘the big Pole in our goal’ Lukasz Fabianski.

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Match action (and the last of the smoke from the flare dying out).

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Egy rebelling against the ‘No Standing’ rule – as were the other 1,200 there.

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Match action.

Jonjo Shelvey played Wayne Routledge through, but the winger fired wide, before Bafe Gomis was also played through by Jonjo, only to put the ball wide and over with Burnley goalie Tom Heaton onrushing.

Still the Jack Army chanted on with the “Everywhere we go! Everywhere we gooooo! We’re the Swansea boys! Making all the noise! Everywhere we go!” chant proving to be particularly popular today.

Match action.

Match action.

There was little else of note in the first half and the first 45 predictably finished 0-0 at half-time.

Half-time: Burnley 0 – 0 Swansea.

The concourse was heaving at half-time so getting a pint was going to be impossible, so instead I went for a wander of the stand to take some photos, until the action got back underway. I was hoping for a bit more action from the game this half too.

I do love Turf Moor.

I do love Turf Moor.

The second half continued in a similar vein to the first with it still being a scrappy affair. The game did come to life a bit when a scramble in the box saw Burnley appeal for a penalty as the ball seemed to have struck Federico Fernandez’s hand; it would have been harsh to give it in fairness. Barnes fired the ball wide following the incident.

Then, Garry Monk brought on Jefferson Montero much to the delight of the away fans, who burst into choruses of “Viva Montero!” and soon the Swans took the lead. I’ll be honest here and say I didn’t actually see the ball go in for the goal, as following a corner into the box the ensuing scramble saw the Jacks already celebrating before the goal had actually been scored. The fans bouncing around meant I didn’t actually see what had happened after Jack Cork had sent his effort goalward. I just opted to celebrate and go crazy like everyone else around me.

“Who scored?” was the recurring question from everyone around me, but no-one seemed to know or seemingly really care who it was. Watching Match of the Day later showed that the ball had been fired at Tom Heaton on the floor, who tried to juggle the ball off the line but failed. Over the ball went and the goal was officially given to Tom Heaton as an own goal. Always nice when a former Cardiff player scores an own goal to put the Swans ahead.

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Match action.

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Match action.

To counter the lack of visibility at the back of the stand, we not only continued to ignore the ‘NO STANDING’ (why on earth is that sign even there?) but also decided to stand on the seats like the majority around us. I saw the stewards approach and thought they were going to tell everyone to get off the seats, only for them to surprisingly just tell off one person for bouncing on the seats; it seemed standing on them was fine with the stewards though.

Standing on my seat. That's right, I'm a rebel really.

Standing on my seat. That’s right, I’m a rebel really.

Burnley looked the more likely to score after the Swans opener with Fabianski making a superb save at the near post to deny Welshman Sam Vokes; why Arsenal let Fabianski on a free transfer to us still baffles me – he really is superb. His save followed another appeal for a penalty as Neil Taylor seemed to have a hold of compatriot Vokes and stop him from reaching a cross. Maybe we were a tad luckier to get away with that one.

As the 90 minutes seem to be coming to an end, Swansea looked comfortable, but I was getting slightly frustrated by how the team weren’t taking the ball to the corner to ensure we held on to the 3 points. Admittedly, my desire for pragmatism was almost misplaced, as substitute Nelson Oliveira stole the ball in the box and fired across goal from an acute angle with the ball bobbling agonisngly slowly along the goal line before being cleared away. But that was it. The final whistle went and the Swans had claimed another 3 points to get them to the magic 40 point mark with 13 games of the season still to go. A record points tally for the Premier League may well be on the cards for the Swans this season.

Full-time: Burnley 0 – 1 Swansea. A scrappy 3 points, but something Swansea have not been good at in recent seasons and something they’ve become astute at in recent months. A win is a win. Back to the cricket club.

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Full-time.

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Full-time celebrations.

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An empty(ish) Turf Moor.

The festivities continued in the cricket club with many Jacks heading back for one last drink before hitting the road again. Plus, there was the added incentive for many fans of the bar showing the late kick-off between France and Wales in the Six Nations. Much merriment was shared before a lot of the Jacks headed off home and I thought I may as well stroll back to the station too.

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The festivities continue. Steve looks particularly happy with the 3 points.

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Coming eye-to-eye with the Swan Inn again. I dodged it.

As I walked through town I came eye-to-eye with the terrifying Swan Inn. there was a mischievous part of me that really wanted to go in for the thrill of it again (although with jacket zipped up to the top of course), but I talked myself out of it. Also, there was a particularly scary looking bouncer on the door, so I thought it all just best avoided. Instead I purchased some Estrella Damm from Tesco for the train journey home and had a quick pint in the Hollywood Star, a Fayre and Square pub, opposite the station, before heading home.

A top away day in Burnley – well, they always are when your team takes home 3 points. I always love a trip to Turf Moor and I still prefer watching the Swans in older grounds like this to some of the shinier, newer ones. Plus, I do love a prematch drink in the cricket club. I really hope Burnley stay up just so I’ve got an excuse to revisit the place again next year. Ultimately though, the real winners on the day were the Jack Army. The 1,200 fans in the away end made great noise and were generally magnificent. Jack Army, I salute you. “EVERYWHERE WE GO! EVERYWHERE WE GOOOOOO!!!”

Highlights: Ministry of Ale, the cricket club, £25 ticket (bargain for Premier League), great ground – one my favourites, the Jack Army in top form, 3 points for the Swans.

Low Points: the Swan Inn, Burnley not exactly the most welcoming for away fans, poor game.

Check out all my photos from my trip to Burnley here.

2 thoughts on “Lost in…Burnley

  1. Pingback: The ‘Lost in…’ 2014/2015 Awards | Lost Boyos

  2. Pingback: Lost in…Padiham | Lost Boyos

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