When a 30-year-old warhorse and a raw teenager helped Town to win at Burnley
- Credit: Phill Heywood
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 122 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he recalls a visit to Burnley’s Turf Moor from nine years ago
Whenever I dwell on Town’s current plight, slipping down the League One table (before the Coronavirus impact intervened), I think of the comparisons with other clubs who used to play on an equal footing with Town, or even quake in their boots at the prospect of playing the Suffolk side.
In particular, I look at those clubs who used to be deemed ‘inferior’ to Town, only to now be moving in much higher circles.
Burnley is a case in point.
These days, of course, the Clarets are a well-established Premier League club, commanding the sort of status and reputation that present-day Ipswich could only dream of emulating.
They have been in the top flight since 2016, under the shrewd guidance of manager Sean Dyche, and are currently 10th in the Premier League table, where of course they will remain for the foreseeable future.
But it was not too many years ago that Burnley, particularly back in the 1970s and 1980s, were plying their trade mostly in the third or fourth tier, more likely to be in East Anglia to visit Colchester United’s Layer Road or Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium than to nip into Portman Road or even Carrow Road.
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In fact, such was Burnley’s fall-from-grace – they were twice top-flight champions of England, in 1920–21 and 1959–60, and won the FA Cup in 1914 – that Town never even met the lowly, off-colour Clarets for a league match between 1976 and 2003.
Burnley, one of the 12 founder members of the Football League, were finally getting themselves back up the football pyramid when I paid a visit to Turf Moor, during Paul Jewell’s tenure as Town boss, nine years ago.
I remember it well, because Town won, and it remains their last victory at Turf Moor.
Burnley, under manager Eddie Howe, were pushing for the Championship play-offs when I parked up in the main car park – I had been allocated a media slot, a big fillip for me when considered that I had street-parked on all my previous trips, leaving the car down some dubious alleyways.
The Lancashire club were only three points adrift of the top six, while Town were floating around in mid-table.
I was fully expecting a home win, for the ambitious Clarets, but Town, perhaps relaxed in the knowledge that they had very little to play, surprised me and the home faithful by sprinting into a two-goal lead inside the first 25 minutes, and eventually holding on for a 2-1 win (on April 2, 2011).
On reflection, perhaps I should have been more hopeful when I took my seat in the press area, perched to the rear of the top tier of the main James Hargreaves Stand, affording a terrific view of the pitch, and the rows of terraced houses in the distance with the rolling hills beyond.
Town, despite their mid-table slot, had won four (at Derby, Doncaster, QPR and Cardiff) and drawn the other two (at Barnsley and Leeds) of their last six away trips, their impressive unbeaten away run stretching to eight with this win at Turf Moor, and then a 1-0 victory at Bristol City just a fortnight later.
First-half goals by David Norris (I described him as a ‘30-year-old warhorse’ in my match report for Monday’s newspaper, meant as a compliment) and Connor Wickham (just two days after his 18th birthday), did the damage.
Town were on fire, and it all seemed to bode well for the future.
I remember thinking that if the wily Norris, out of contract that summer, could be persuaded to sign a new deal, and young striker Wickham could resist any tempting offers from Premier League clubs, then the future looked rosy at Portman Road.
Perhaps a return to the top flight would be on the horizon?
Of course, not for the first time, I was to be proved wrong. It was to be Burnley, not Town, who ended up in the Premier League, in 2016.
- Club: Burnley
- Founded: 1882 (138 years ago)
- Ground: Turf Moor (since 1883)
- Town’s first visit: 4-3 away defeat on August 22, 1961
- Town’s last visit: 0-0 draw on January 2, 2016
- Town’s overall record (at Turf Moor): P22 W7 D4 L11
In the early days, Turf Moor consisted of just a pitch. The first grandstand was not built until 1885, but now it has an all-seater capacity of 22,000. Burnley have played there ever since 1883, the longest continuously used ground of any of the 49 teams who have played in the Premiership.