BURNLEY’S inconsistency this season is not unexpected in the light of a reliance on youth and lack of depth in certain departments, writes John Greenwood.
But there are times when they distinctly need to move up a gear. I was perturbed by manager Eddie Howe’s comments after the home defeat to Reading recently which were along the ines that at 0-0, with Reading pressing more and more and still 15 minutes or so to go, his players seemed to be settling for a draw.
It isn’t the sort of mentality they should be settling for at Turf Moor (conversely, keeping going to the bitter end paid dividends at Coventry a week later) and with talented skipper Chris McCann still learning the part of his trade which involves wearing the armband, he could do worse than read up on Tommy Boyle.
Boyle, the only Burnley captain to life both League Championship and FA Cup for the club in the years just before and after the First World War, and his team-mates, including slightly built winger Eddie Mosscrop and Todmorden’s own Billy Nesbitt, have been brought vividly to life by author Mike Smith in Tommy Boyle - Broken Hero.
It’s a remarkable tale but it is the on-pitch Boyle we are concerned with here, not his troubled life off the pitch, after football.
Smith brings to life Boyle’s constant rousing and harrying of his team on the pitch, barking out his instructions and gesturing - Nesbitt was profoundly deaf - to organise the team (“Mossy, Mossy, Billy, get forward!”), never letting up from the first minute to the last.
It must, says Smith, have been a remarkable sight, Boyle moderating his language somewhat in the 1914 cup final with King George V present! Seemingly unable to cope with life outside football, the pitch was the tough-as-teak Boyle’s arena and he dominated it, skippering previous club Barnsley from a young age.
I have always thought the gifted McCann would make good captain material but he has yet to grow fully into the role.
If he can do it, the side will surely benefit from better organisation on the pitch.
I don’t expect great things from this season of transition, but the Clarets need to steer clear of any relegation battle.