It’s nearly time for that lot to roll into Turf Moor. The former Premier League champions come to town a shadow of the club they once were, carrying huge debt and harbouring a squad of borrowed players and also rans, led by a man sacked by Aston Villa.
You’d think a healthy swell of blue and whites will make the short trip across East Lancashire. The character and lustre of Turf Moor is lost on those from down the road who forever bemoan the wooden seats of a famous old stadium.
We expect the moans, it is music to the ears, and then we expect them to cry into their post-match pints of bitter – well, one can only hope. Not in my lifetime has a Burnley team been in a better position to deliver a battering to Blackburn Rovers.
The Clarets, led by the effervescent Sean Dyche, have been astute and calculated in the transfer market, keeping a tight squad – the 22 players used by the ‘Ginger One’ is the lowest in the league.
After the Forest win: “We make sense of it and move on to the next one”. Dyche is like a trained killer moving from one target to another.
The club has been the model in how to run a business, which football effectively is these days. If you don’t keep an eye on the bottom line you can easily slip into the abyss, like Burnley’s latest victims, Bolton Wanderers.
The club’s chairman, Mike Garlick – a boyhood Burnley fan, who when he joined Burnley in 2006 said the aim was Premier League football – could oversee the Clarets’ third appearance there in his decade with the club.
A mill town team led by a local businessman, who cares about the future of the club and living by the motto of ‘not betting the ranch’ in order to bring success to the Clarets? This is the antithesis of the Venkys group, who took charged of Rovers six years ago, and are now nowhere to be seen.
The Clarets lost some key men last summer yet replaced them with quality of the ilk of Andre Gray, Joey Barton, Matthew Lowton and James Tarkowski.
Rovers have seen the exits of Jordan Rhodes, Martin Olsson, Tom Cairney and Rudy Gestede with the money from those sales either swallowed by the crippling debt, or funding wages for players such as Chris Brown and Nathan Delfouneso.
With 29 league goals between them, Gray and Sam Vokes are the most potent pairing in the division, and are only four goals behind Rovers’ entire season total of 33.
Burnley should beat Blackburn, that’s what the fans are saying, that’s what the form table says – the Clarets sit atop that list in the last 10 games (W7 D3 L0) scoring 19 and conceding three.
Rovers will be bang up for it though – their win over Middlesbrough was their third in four league games. The renaissance has been led by the talented Jordi Gomez, a standout player for a team struggling at the wrong end of the table.
I have faith in Burnley because of the tremendous spine the team now has. Tom Heaton, Ben Mee, Barton and Vokes are the leaders for me. They are the lynchpin for the rest of the team; they do the dirty jobs so in some cases the more talented players can kick on and win matches for the Clarets.
This Burnley team has parallels with two years ago; a famous win against the old enemy was the springboard for that famous promotion in 2014.
The Turf Moor crowd will be baying for blood, each win over Blackburn has been by the odd goal – this is the time for the Clarets to make a statement to the league and stick a few past them. Rovers showed no mercy on April Fool’s Day in 2001, when Craig Short initiated a rout as Burnley were pasted 5-0.
It’s only the ‘Cotton Mill derby’ but it is our derby and the Turf will be a cauldron of hate, passion and, most probably, chickens come Saturday lunchtime.
They still cling on to the fact Burnley haven’t beaten Rovers at Turf Moor since Boxing Day 1978 – some 38 years, clutching at straws. Saturday is the day the Clarets put Blackburn Rovers to bed; time to leave them behind, football did not start in 1995.