New faces for a new era

Posted on September 6, 2009


*Article originally appeared in When the Ball Moves

This summer’s transfer window slid rather than slammed shut, with the majority of the business on deadline day involving a few average centre-backs moving for obscene amounts of money. Business is now on the backburner until the grand January reopening, unless of course you’re Chelsea, in which case the window has been painted firmly shut until further notice. A remarkable window in terms of money spent, with Manchester City and Real Madrid spending the GNP of a small African nation between them, it also opened a new era for Burnley Football Club, one where we no longer fear bigger clubs poaching our players or lack of funds for strengthening the squad. Nine new signings have arrived at the Turf, and with only the unwanted Gabor Kiraly and Alan Mahon passing them on the way out, the squad has been rejuvenated sufficiently to compete in the Premier League.

The emphasis, quite rightly, has been on young, hungry players whose value will hopefully increase. Some were disappointed that Coyle didn’t go out and blow £6 million on someone like Kevin Doyle, but I for one am glad we have been sensible and acted with the club’s long-term future in mind. In fairness, there is no need to doubt the manager in this respect. Eyebrows were raised at the potential signings of Jason Scotland and Daniel Cousin, but it seems that Coyle has remained true to his football philosophies this summer. He hasn’t spent a vast amount of money unnecessarily. £3 million for Steven Fletcher looks like good business compared with the £5.5 million Stoke wasted on Dave Kitson last summer. The emphasis is on youth, and Fletcher, Guerrero, Easton, Edgar, Eckersley and McKee certainly fit the bill in this respect. Tyrone Mears, Dave Nugent and Andre Bikey are hardly veterans, either. So far, so good. The new signings have bedded in pretty well. Fletcher is hard-working and committed, and the two goals at Hartlepool show that he knows where the net is. Mears has been excellent down the right-side, to the point that Eckersley, much-touted as a good prospect, will find it hard to win a place in the side. Guerrero has looked dangerous whenever he has been given the ball, though doubts must persist about his strength and his ability to last a full ninety minutes at this level. Little has yet been seen of the others, but every Burnley fan has learnt that we must trust Coyle to make the right choices for our club. Just don’t mention Remco van der Schaaf.

The two most interesting summer signings, in my eyes, came relatively late in the transfer window. Andre Bikey, known to Burnley fans mostly for his exhibition of stupidity in the play-off game against Reading last year, has certainly proved his worth in his first three appearances. If he can keep his temper in check and his shirt on he could prove the acquisition of the summer. Strong, athletic and good on the ball, he is the perfect addition to a backline that previously looked a little lightweight. Clarke Carlisle also looks a better player for playing alongside him. Doubts remain about his temperament, though, and a quick scan of YouTube brings up numerous examples of Bikey losing the plot on the pitch. Coyle will need to work hard to keep him under control, and utilise his aggression in the best way possible for our club.

The last signing of the summer is the most controversial. This time last year Coyle pulled a rabbit out of the hat in rescuing Steve Thompson from oblivion at Cardiff City, and the Scotsman went on to play a pivotal role in our promotion campaign. This year, it’s the turn of Dave Nugent. Hardly a favourite with Burnley fans, due to his antics against us for both Preston and Portsmouth, Nugent comes with a point to prove having been a flop since arriving at Pompey. The fact that Harry Redknapp saw enough to be persuaded to shell out a lot of cash on him is not a ringing commendation either, as even the most average of footballers could persuade old ‘Arry to do a deal. His best football was played at the level below, and nothing as yet indicates that he can cut the mustard in this league. Burnley stand to lose little from signing him on loan, however. If he fails to fit in, then he will return to Portsmouth. If he does well, then the move will be made permanent, and we might have got ourselves a bargain. We must wait and see, but we must trust in Coyle that he can turn Nugent’s career around. If he can, we might look back on the last-gasp capture of former public enemy number one as a real coup.

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