“Where has the money gone?”

Posted on October 20, 2011

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“There are extreme reactions and that’s football! People do have extremes as supporters and I can understand that. It’s my job to try and stay on a level footing, aware of the results and the need to improve them.

“I would only ask the fans to stick with me and my players and see if we can come through this together. I think I am an honest guy and if it’s not then I’d be the first to put my hand up and say it’s not going to work.”

Normally fairly generic and predictable in his post-match interviews, Eddie Howe’s comments immediately after Burnley’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at Barnsley for the first time gave an indication that the manager is aware that things are going wrong and that certain sections of the Burnley support are starting to lose patience. In fairness, he would have to have some form of extreme hearing condition to miss the cries of “Eddie, sort it out!” that came from the away section during the game or the boos that followed the final whistle.

Burnley fans are always quick to get on the back of a manager. Some particularly impatient fans do it after just a single defeat, posting over-dramatic posts on message boards calling for the manager’s head. Back in 1996, manager Jimmy Mullen resigned after some idiotic Burnley fans tried to set fire to his wife’s dress in a chip shop. Admittedly I’ve been very critical of a certain Burnley manager in the past, though never resorting to such extreme levels, calling for the head of boss Brian Laws when the Clarets were eighth in the Championship. Oh, how we would love to be in such a situation now. Yet this time round, with the team clearly underachieving and the majority of this season’s results far from satisfactory, I am not a Howe-hater.

Here’s why. Brian Laws may have left the club eighth in the Championship, but in fairness he had taken over when the side was mid-table in the Premier League (however unlikely we were to last in that position). Howe took over a squad suffering a hangover from relegation and the effects of Laws’ style of play and ineptitude in the transfer market. But most importantly, Laws failed to deliver upon the expectations of Burnley fans in spite of the fact that he had been given not insignificant backing in the transfer market. He wasted good money on substandard performers like Leon Cort and Chris Iwelumo, players that failed to deliver either the results or the style of play that the supporters crave. Howe has not had the same backing. Expected to replace seasoned performers like Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears with inadequate funds, and then having the rug pulled from underneath him with the nonsensical sale of Danny Fox to Southampton, he is being expected to deliver results with resources that are just not being provided.

I blogged about exactly this topic at the start of September, questioning the board’s ambition for the club and asking where the money from our lucrative sojourn in the Premier League had gone. Results briefly picked up after that, collapsing again after an international break (which never seems to do Burnley any good). I see no reason to revise my opinion just yet. Eddie Howe is a young manager finding his feet at this level. He has received inadequate backing from a board that seem more in favour of consolidating Burnley as the average, middle-of-the-road Championship club that many no doubt feel they should be. Chopping and changing managers every few months never did any club any good, and I cannot help but feel that it would be a hindrance rather than a help to Burnley in this instance. So rather than calls of “Howe Out”, I plead for supporters to give the man more time. Given the lack of resources he has been given by a board that is inspiring increasing disillusion amongst fans, perhaps we would be more constructive by chanting “Give Eddie some money!” or “Sign some better players!”.

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Posted in: Sport