Brian, sort it out!

Posted on February 27, 2010

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*Article originally appeared in When The Ball Moves

I write this in the bleak aftermath of the humiliating defeat by Portsmouth at Turf Moor. Often during the season fans, players and managers talk about “pivotal” moments and “turning points”. Mostly phrases like this are used in a positive sense. Yet it strikes me that this latest defeat is a pivotal moment that could be potentially devastating to our survival hopes.

A win against Pompey and we would have been clear of the drop-zone, albeit by the skin of our teeth, and could look forward to crucial home matches against Stoke, Wolves and B****burn with optimism. Realistically we are four wins from safety, and any right-thinking fan must have thought that our home game against a team bottom of the league, in administration and having shed its main assets must have been a dead cert for three of the points we need. In the light of the loss- and it was a loss that we thoroughly deserved, unlike the game at Fratton Park earlier in the season- Burnley supporters must rightly be wondering where on earth the points are going to come from. The win against West Ham and spirited performances against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea apart, it has been a desolate few months.

Brian Laws has it all to do convince the fans that he is the man for the job. Like most people, he wasn’t my first choice. He wasn’t even in my top ten. And the West Ham match aside, he hasn’t exactly confounded expectations. We’ve been good in parts, and competed manfully against United, Chelsea and Villa. But there are concerning signs. At Fulham we were swept aside, suggesting that Laws’ promise to tighten us up hasn’t happened. At Villa we were obliterated in the space of thirteen second-half minutes. We went with barely a whimper at Reading. And against Portsmouth we were dire. Absolutely abysmal. A better team would have ripped us to shreds.

Something needs to change, because with performances like Saturday’s we won’t get another point, never mind twelve. A brilliant servant to our club, Brian Jensen is beginning to look out of his depth. There is no better shot-stopper around, but his distribution is terrible and his decision-making ridiculous. He chooses to punch when he should catch and come for it when he should stay. Clearly warned about this by Laws, his solution against Portsmouth was simply to come for nothing at all. He is beginning to play with the lethargy of a man who is beginning to sense that a new deal might not be on the table come the summer. Laws signed Nicky Weaver, so he must have some faith in him. Give him a chance.

Pompey cut through our midfield like a knife, and it is a sad commentary on how weak we are in that department that we are literally crying out for the return of Chris McCann, unproven at this level, and the ageing Graham Alexander. I still see Bikey as a centre-half before anything else, and McDonald just hasn’t done enough to convince me that he is ready to play regularly at this level when only last year he wasn’t deemed ready to play in the league below. This is a department in which Coyle has really let us down. Instead of bringing in the likes of Easton and Eckersley, who have hardly featured, he should have been shoring up a midfield that was clearly too reliant on Alexander. With the greatest of respect to the great man, he cannot be relied upon for too much longer.

There are still plenty of points to play for and plenty of games that, on paper at least, are certainly winnable. Rediscover the form and the desire of early season and we certainly have a chance, but carry on like this and only a fool would bet on us to still be in this league come August. Up the Clarets.

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Posted in: Sport