Being a bit under the weather for the last few weeks meant I have not travelled away this season, however, now back in good health and I made the trip for Burnley v Newcastle, which turned out to be a very disappointing night…
I have been to Turf Moor many times over the years, in fact it is the first and only ground I was ever ejected from back on Boxing Day 1979. When as a juvenile I joined in a chorus about a certain Harry Roberts, right under the nose of a local plod from the Lancashire constabulary. ‘Out you go son’ was swiftly followed by a size 10 boot up my backside, then a lonely walk back to find the Armstrong Galley! (older fans will know what the Armstrong Galley was), memories from halcyon days of my youth.
Anyway I digress, this time I was staying over in a hotel which was said to be about 10 minutes walk from Turf Moor, it might have been that for Seb Coe but nearer 40 minutes for me!
A delightful stroll through the very clean and modern town centre and onto Turf Moor where the surroundings are both shabby and unwelcoming. Dark streets populated by a myriad of what looked like filthy kebab houses and a few pubs boldly displaying hand written ‘home fans only’ signs in the windows – policed by dodgy door staff with no ID badges, this place really is a throwback to the 1970s.
The only difference between the 70s and now is the aforementioned kebab shops, which really do outnumber the many boarded up shops that are in close proximity to Turf Moor.
Inside the ground the only change since my last visit was a sort of marquee beer tent that served cool bottles of lager and cider at the normal overpriced football rate. However, it was quick to get served and better than the over crowded concourse, it ticked my box!
Taking my seat I found myself very close to the home fans, which was not a problem until about 20 minutes from the end ( more on that later).
Years ago Turf Moor boasted ‘the Longside’, a huge covered terrace down one side of the pitch split equally between home and away fans and it served up a cracking atmosphere, these days it has to be said, like most home grounds the atmosphere is lacking.
The match itself you will all have seen was a bit of a disappointment, both teams generally poor and one goal was always going to win it. I won’t ever question Rafa’s selections but it has to be said that one or two of them did themselves no favours, be interesting who keeps their place on Saturday.
I thought one or two played well without being spectacular, we did again look solid at the back, but like the games against Huddersfield and Brighton we just could not get back on level terms.
Anyway, about 20 mins from the end Burnley nicked it, this was the cue for very exuberant celebrations from the home fans to my left, which in turn bought a reaction from our own fans. The gap between home and away is about six feet, with a waist-high fence and a mixture of stewards ranging from pensioners to students – both male and female, and for the next 10 minutes it threatened to boil over.
Initial pushing and shoving from both sides meant the stewards were more at risk than a help, and punches were traded at one point. The obligatory hoods pulled up so as not to get caught on camera was a slightly amusing sideshow to it all.The police and BIGGER stewards did eventually arrive and it calmed down for a few minutes, but did blow up again minutes later when from where I was sitting. I’m sure I saw a Newcastle fan punched by a steward, this triggered a further reaction in the away end!
The final whistle came and while we did come close to equalising it was not to be, further verbal insults were traded between both sets of fans but nothing else occurred. I wondered if it would flare up again outside but on my long walk back to the hotel it was very quiet, almost tranquil!
Now Newcastle as a city is a whole lot bigger than Burnley, but the home fans only policy is a real bugbear to me, our city affords all visitors the best hospitality in the country. Establishments in and around football grounds across the UK need to wake up and smell the coffee.
This is 2017 not 1978, and while I have spoken about a little bit of trouble inside Turf Moor, it could easily have been avoided with more efficient stewarding and better organisation.
This is not just a Burnley thing as in recent years I have seen the same at many grounds including White Hart Lane, Ashton Gate, Villa Park, to name but a few. It is outdated and discriminatory.
Incidentally, the home fans only pubs last night were sparsely populated only 45 mins before kick-off, whilst the bars in the modern town centre were busy and had opposing fans mixing freely.
Back to the football and we have a very good opportunity to put things right, Bournemouth have a very good manager at the helm, like Rafa a very likeable manager, but I do believe we will have too much for them.
What changes ? Obviously Rafa’s call but I would love to see Mitrovic back in the fold, he must be chomping at the bit, and if he can channel his frustrations in the right way, he might be the one to get us a goal or two on Saturday, here is hoping.
Away from SJP I have to mention our friends from down the road whose season hit a new low about an hour ago, mind a 3-3 sounds like a cracking game!
When did they last win a home game? How many months? How many games? Would they like some tee shirts made? Delicious my friends!
Simon Grayson getting his marching orders minutes after the final whistle against Bolton – interesting to see who they bring in next…
Have a great week!