Day: May 12, 2009

In Praise Of… Burnley Football Club

This evening’s Championship play-off semi-final between Reading and Burnley was a battle between old and new. In the blue corner were Reading, snatched from the jaws of obscurity by John Madjeski, who dropped them into a brand new stadium and gave them the means to challenge for a place in the Premier League. In the claret corner, representing “old football”, were Burnley. In many respects, Burnley are the anti-Reading. Stoically northern (it’s almost impossible to even say “Burnley” without lapsing into a cod-Lancastrian accent), they still play at the pleasingly onomatopoeic Turf Moor, which is one of the oldest football grounds in English football and which seems to almost sit overlooking the town as a reminder of glory days gone by. They are a club with a rich and deep history who, should they get promotion into the Premier League through the play-offs, would be taking their place in the top division of English football for the first time since 1976. Founder members of the Football League in 1888, they are one of just three clubs to have spent their entire history playing in that competition (with Preston North End and Notts County – one of the original twelve, Accrington, folded and was replaced while all of the others have managed at least one season in the Premier League). Every defining characteristic of the traditional football club is present...

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Match Of The Week: Newcastle United 3-1 Middlesbrough

It has been a wretched season for the north-east of England. Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland have all lurked near the bottom of the Premier League, and it remains uncertain whether Darlington will even get to start next season. Still, there is good news. Gateshead have won promotion into the Blue Square Premier through the play-offs, and yesterday Whitley Bay won the FA Vase, beating Glossop North End at Wembley. Tonight, however, the desperation is in the air. It is, perhaps, a reflection of how predictable the Premier League has become that this match been much-discussed in the media over the last few weeks. Over the last forty years, there have been few other parts of the country that have under-achieved as spectacularly as the north-east of England. The whole region has managed two trophies in the last forty years – Sunderland’s FA Cup in 1973 and Middlesbrough’s League Cup in 2004 – yet the cliches of a “football hotbed” remain, although none of the big three have been able to sell out most of their matches this season. It’s a sell out tonight, of course, with the combination of a local derby and the schadenfreude comes with the knowledge that three points for either team will effectively relegate their rivals. Tonight, though, is not about winning trophies. It’s about maintaining status. A status that Newcastle and Middlesbrough have...

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