With one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Premier League already under their belt, Killian Keys explains why Burnley’s defeat of Manchester United restores our faith in the beautiful game.
After a summer that has seen astronomical transfer fees, long drawn out transfer sagas and questionable player loyalty, Burnley’s stunning win over Manchester United has clawed back some much needed respect for the game. Long before Robbie Blake’s wonder goal against United, Burnley had cut a humble figure in the hustle and bustle of modern football. Since becoming manager at the club in late 2007, Owen Coyle has gone about his job quietly and efficiently, working wonders in his side’s run to the Carling Cup semi final last season. Burnley Football Club really have been the game’s feel good story over the last year or so.
Burnley fans would have been forgiven in thinking that their time in the spotlight would never come again. After all, they had spent 33 years in the wilderness of the lower leagues. At their lowest ever ebb in 1987, Burnley were one game away from falling out of the Football League completely. The recovery has been slow and steady ever since. Two decades later, Burnley played Sheffield United in the Play-Off Final with a chance to return to the promised land of top flight football. A 1-0 win thanks to a sensational Wade Elliot goal confirmed Burnley’s return to the highest level.
Until this summer, Owen Coyle was one of football management’s best kept secrets. Last season his side embarrassed many a Premeir League side during the club’s run to the Carling Cup semi final. Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal all suffered the same fate, before Spurs broke Burnley hearts late in extra time of the semi final. It was enough to convince everyone involved in football that OCoyle was maturing in to a highly skilled manager, and one to watch for the future.
It wasn’t long after the Play-Off Final in May that Celtic tried to tempt Coyle back to Scotland. To his credit, the former Republic of Ireland international affirmed his loyalty to Burnley by signing a new contract and signalling that he wanted to be the man to take them into the Premier League. Unlike some of the protracted transfers of the summer, Burnley conducted their business is an effective manner. Steven Fletcher joined from Hibernian in a club record deal, while David Edgar, Tyrone Mears, Richard Eckersley, Fernando Guerrero and Andre Bikey also signed on. For Coyle, it’s not about star names, big money signings on huge wages, it’s about team spirit. Players who want to play for each other and for the shirt. This team spirit was there for all to see on Wednesday night.
Even if Burnley do go down this season, the 19th of August 2009 will be a date that will live long in the memory of their fans. It was one of those nights where everything that could go right, did go right. Burnley’s excitable supporters were duly whipped into a frenzy on 19 minutes when Robbie Blake smashed in a volley that would have not looked out of place in a compilation of Eric Cantona or Cristiano Ronaldo’s greatest goals. Then cult hero Brian Jensen, nicknamed “The Beast”, saved a Michael Carrick penalty to the delight of the home crowd. The second half was a somewhat tense affair as Burnley managed to hang on for the biggest shock in Premier League history.
After the match, Coyle responded in his usual gracious manner. “I have told the players to enjoy it because it is not often you beat Manchester United,” he said. “I felt before the game if everything went our way we could probably get a positive result.” Despite Wednesday’s result Burnley are still amongst the favourites for the drop. But given Coyle and Burnley’s past history at achieving the impossible, don’t be surprised if football’s feel good story rolls on for a while yet.