Date: 20th August 2010 at 1:29am
Written by:

We already spoke to Vital Burnley editor Phil Lea ahead of Saturday’s Championship clash at Turf Moor, but we thought we’d get a second opinion…

1. A good start for Burnley so far, wouldn’t you agree?

Absolutely. We’ve hardly set the world alight, but we’re two games in and have four points with two difficult fixtures out of the way early on.

First game in Forest looked fitter and sharper than us, but that should all return in time. What worries me is that we played with three central midfielders, yet were second to every ball and didn’t at all take advantage of that extra man in the middle.

Forest were a big, strong side, and our wingers were drawn central in order to nullify their threat, rather than making runs beyond their markers on the flanks. The one time we advanced down the middle and pulled their full back out of position, we broke down that flank and scored.

Still, we kept a welcome clean sheet (despite some major scares) and followed it up with a good, last-gasp away point, so I shouldn’t complain. Onwards and upwards.

2. Relegation last season was not the way a fairytale first season in the Premier League was supposed to end, but back in the Championship once again, can you do it all over again?

I’d like to think so. When I compare the squad that achieved promotion with this one, it’s hard not to feel confident. The experience of the team last season, however painful, will hopefully benefit us in the long term, and every player in the squad should know what to expect coming back down into the Championship.

The experience of playing at venues like Anfield and Old Trafford, and against the Rooneys and Drogbas will hopefully have made our lads better and generally more confident in their own ability.

Still, there’s 44 games to go, each one as unpredictable as the next and no doubt we’ll suffer a few setbacks. Let’s hope it’s all worthwhile come May, because I really can’t call it now.

3. Brian Laws was a surprise appointment last season, and by no means everybody’s favourite. Nevertheless, has he made the right noises in the summer?

The one thing that will never let him down is his mouth, and he speaks very positively in public. His appointment was terribly underwhelming, but he walked into a club that was more or less already preparing for Championship football again, albeit in a much stronger position than previously.

The feel-good factor went with Owen Coyle and it was clear to see on the faces of players and supporters alike. Laws seemed to be public enemy number one with everyone last season – me included at times – but I think it’s only fair to start with a clean slate now and judge him in May.

He seems to have bought well in the transfer market, and all the signs looks positive from the camp. This is his squad now (the best he’s ever worked with, apparantly), so let’s see what he can do with it.

4. Losing Steven Fletcher in the summer has got to hurt hasn’t it?

A striker of his calibre in this league would have been frightening, but for £6.5 million plus he had to go really, especially considering we’ll always be a ‘selling club’.

He also went in the right manner (unlike a certain ex-manager) which didn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth, saying he’d like to stay and would only leave if the club agreed to sell him. He goes with our best wishes, while his replacement, Chris Iwelumo, offers us something completely different and maybe something more beneficial in a more physical league.

5. Several established Championship players have walked through the door at Turf Moor this summer, are you happy with them all on initial inspection?

As far as first impressions go, the new arrivals look promising. Chris Iwelumo, Dean Marney and Ross Wallace have all experienced promotion from this level before, and why we’re waiting until Brian Jensen cocks up again until we drop him for Lee Grant, I don’t know.

Everyone knows what Iwelumo offers up top, Marney’s engine and forward running creates valuable space for his teammates, while Wallace provides natural width on the left flank that we haven’t had for years. Jack Cork has recently signed on loan again from Chelsea after his successful spell with us last term. Incredibly comfortable on the ball, he should be capable of controlling games at this level.

6. Is there any area of the squad that needs strengthening in particular with the window still open?

It looks like 4-5-1 is here to stay, which puts Iwelumo under pressure to score goals. Looking at last season’s top scorer chart, it looks like a 30-goal-a-season striker is out of the question, so we need a decent return from him with the midfield chipping in fairly regularly.

Paterson got around 20 in our promotion season, but with him now being employed on the wing, there’s no guarantee now. If anything I think we may bring in an additional striker on loan, but we’ve more strength in depth than we’ve ever had before so it will be interesting to see how the season pans out.

7. Who should we be particularly worried about from the Burnley lineup?

Andre Bikey at the back is a man-mountain and looks one of the stronger centre halves in the league. Martin Paterson and Wade Elliott are capable of pacey, jinking runs, and both can produce a pin-point cross; a dangerous attribute with a forward as awkward to mark as Iwelumo waiting in the six-yard box.

8. And who would you love to drive to their next club?

Brian Jensen. Doesn’t talk to his defence, can’t kick it, can’t catch it. ‘Good shot-stopper’, yes, but surely all ‘keepers are. His first touch this season was a goal kick that he scuffed into touch. But, hey, as long as he saves the odd one and everyone roars ‘Beeeeeaaaast’ at him, who cares how many points he costs us a season? I’m probably sounding a little harsh, but last season was the final straw for me. Good servant, really poor goalkeeper.

9. How do you feel Leicester will fare this season?

It was a good point last week, and you seemed to create a few decent chances against the side everyone fancies – though you must be hoping the goals don’t dry up like they did for Sousa at Swansea. I don’t think that’ll be a problem however, and players like DJ Campbell and Matty Fryatt will always cause problems. Steve Howard is a real handful to deal with on his day and always seems to score against us. I think you’ll get top 10, though we all know how hard this league is to predict.

10. And finally, how’s this one going to end?

I can see a draw, 1-1. (but the usual 0-1 in the reverse fixture!)