Date:Friday December 9 2011
Ahead of this weekend's match against Burnley I had the opportunity to talk to Vital Burnley editor turfmanphil on his thoughts about the current state of the club and his thoughts on their chances this weekend. Here are his responses...
Eddie Howe is now approaching his first anniversary at the club and to date has had a reasonably successful spell at the helm. Do you feel he is the right man to take Burnley forward?
The truth is he is still unproven at this level and the jury is still out. Most Clarets fans are probably still optimistic he can do a good job but with the club at times not firing on all cylinders and at our lowest point, being just 12 minutes away from being in the drop zone away to Hull at 2-0 down, some doubts are bound to creep in. Others, like me believe he has not been dealt a particularly good hand by the Board. It's as though the season in the top flight has counted for nothing financially despite all the hype that it would. We seem to be back to selling all our key players again, reducing the salary cap, losing our experienced players (because they cost more?) and bringing in young kids with potential from the lower leagues. The club now spout we are a team in transition whereas during the period they wanted to sell early bird season tickets, we were a club just needing 2-3 players to become a strong, promotion-winning possibility! Yeah right!
After missing out on the play-offs by a few places last season, do you feel the club is better equipped for a top 6 push this season, and realistically what are your hopes/expectations for the season?
I don't believe we are a strong candidate for promotion now but had high hopes in the close season that we would be until the type of transfers in and out of the club reduced our chances. I think we still have a chance but now we are just one of about 15 hopefuls suffering from inconsistency. If we can crack that problem then we should have a chance being currently just five points off the play-offs positions. Two defeats (or more) on the bounce though and you are back in the doldrums again! I suspect our squad from last season, had they still been together now would have been a better bet for promotion this season but that is pure conjecture.
This year's Burnley squad looks very different in terms of youth, with only 3 players in your squad above the age of 27. Do you feel Howe has done the right thing by pushing the younger players ahead of the more experienced heads?
Time will tell, but with the FIFA Fair Play ruling about to kick in and with our low turnover, now is not the time in my opinion to experiment with transitional squads. The parachute payments will not last forever and it's critical we get promotion sooner rather than later or we will simply be unable to compete in the Championship. We should be having the financial balls to go for promotion now and show more ambition.
Confidence should be high for you boys coming into this game, after the late comeback at Hull which saw you win 3-2 after being 2-0 down with 12 minutes to play (and subsequently ruining one of my bets), which started a run where you picked up 9 points in a week. Do you feel that consistency has eluded you at times this season, and how important do you feel confidence is within such a young team?
Yes, I refer to this consistency issue above and we have certainly suffered from the lack of it. We are now on a roll so let's see if we can plough on and move up the table. We need a leader in the team to boost confidence when things are going badly. Chris McCann is the captain, but he is inexperienced and not very vocal. Some fans think we need someone who is more experienced and animated.
Who should Pompey be wary of coming into this match, which players have performed well and who is looking like the gem in the team so far this season?
Defence is our weakest area at the moment but there have been improvements recently. In midfield, Marvin Bartley can be a handful and so can Ross Wallace (flank or playing in hole). Striker, Sam Vokes, on loan from Wolves looks to be settling in well and now getting on the score sheet but our leading goal-scorer, Charlie Austin could be back on Saturday after recovering from yet another dislocated shoulder. We will probably play 4-4-2 at home, so Vokes or Austin in combination with Rodriguez up front could cause you problems.
Finally, what are your predictions for the match?
Depends which team turns up. If we continue with our recent form, I think you will struggle to get a point. We have witnessed some horror shows at home this season though so you will have to hope for one of those. 3-1 Clarets for me though!
Many thanks for helping out with this and here's hoping for a decent match. Be sure to take a wonder over to Vital Burnley to get involved with some friendly banter between the 2 sets of fans.
Their "Matchday Mayhem" thread can be found here.
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Date:Friday December 9 2011
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