Following an exhausting Tuesday night, playing for 89 minutes a man short, it’s swiftly back to St James’ again for the visit of Sean Dyche’s Burnley this Saturday. 

These are testing times for those of a black & white persuasion. Fourteen games in with zero wins on the board is the stuff of nightmares, and whilst the Clarets at home should be filed under ‘must win’, it’s never going to be a stroll in the park versus the gravel voiced, bouncer’s side. 

Burnley are the archetypal ‘turd that just won’t flush.’  Year in, year out they flirt with a return to the Championship, but always just manage to put a run together to keep out of the clarts before the trap door shuts in May.  A flat-capped, Lancashire chap reading this may take umbrage at being likened to stubbornly buoyant faeces, but actually I see it as a bit of a back handed compliment.  Burnley are rarely pretty, don’t mind a bit of gamesmanship, but you have to admire their fortitude. 

They’ll arrive on Barrack Road snugly ensconced in the bottom three with their hosts.  Although, their recent cancelled match v Spurs, (due to Turf Moor looking like a scene from the Planet Hoth) means they have a game in hand. They’ll also begin proceedings three points ahead of us. Lush. 

As you’d expect, with only ten points from a possible 39, their results look rather dismal. However, their most recent form points to that grit I mentioned earlier.  They turned Brentford over 3-1 at home, and then drew with Chelsea away (1-1), Palace at home (3-3) and most recently 0-0 away at Molineux. 

Their playing roster hasn’t changed wildly from last season, but they did break their transfer record with the €15M purchase of Ivorian, Maxwell Cornet from Lyon.  From what I’ve seen of him, they may well have a player on their hands (before Spurs or someone snatch him next summer – natch).  He’s largely been employed as a wing back in Ligue 1, but the ‘Ginger one’ has also been utilising his pace and flair up top to decent effect.  You know, a bit like what Arsène Wenger did with Thierry Henry, back in the day.  He’ll start on Saturday with an impressive five goals from eight Premiership starts, and a quick glance at the highlights of their recent match at Southampton might give you the willies.  So, if you’re a Scaredy Cat like me.  Avoid. 

What of Eddie’s Mags?  Firstly, as a Clark myself, I must apologise for the lobotomised behaviour of my namesake on Tuesday.  I’d change my name to something like Clarkson, but he’s an even bigger ‘back to front.’  Oh, and whilst I’m in ‘sorry’ mode (rare, for this only child) I think that the minority of folk who booed at the end of the previous fixture should take a decent look at themselves.  I was marooned on my ‘covid couch’ a couple of miles up the road, but could clearly hear it on Amazon Prime.  I’d imagine that they’ll be too thick headed to admit their obvious wrong, so I’ll do it for them. Soz, Mr Howe. They know not what they do. 

On Saturday, our manager once more has a few tricky decisions to make.  He’ll have his skipper available again, and Matt Ritchie too.  Having made the faux pas of ignoring Fede thus far, I hope he doesn’t immediately relegate our Argentinian stopper to the bench.  I’d also prefer him to keep Jamal Lewis in situ too.  I remain ‘jury’s out’ on our Afro-ed Norn Irishman, but LB/LWB is his proper position, whilst (IMO) Sir Matt just can’t fulfil this role in the Premiership any more. 

Another one Ed needs to get right, is in central midfield.  The happy-go-lucky, swashbuckling loanee, Joe Willock is currently a distant memory.  I don’t know whether he’s just pissed off that he left his boyhood club, is not fully fit or is simply a young lad suffering the vagaries of form in a struggling side; but his last good game for NUFC was in a Puma top and we require a great deal more than the lethargic shifts he’s putting in this season.  So, stick or twist with him?  It’s a ‘toughie’ when you know what he’s capable of and the other real option is the industrious yet erratic, Almirón. However, I think I might plump for the Paraguayan on this occasion. 

Prediction Poser

I mentioned ‘must win’ at the top of this preview.  Well, we’ve had about five or six of them now, and have failed on each occasion.  I began the week fancying four points. Three from Norwich, and one from Burnley.  The Canaries have flown home with a point and I have to admit, I’m struggling to change my original opinion for Saturday’s fixture.  

Whilst Burnley are clearly beatable, so are we.  They’ll be hard working, belligerent and will look to punish us from set pieces.  We need to get into them from the off, and I’m sure we will; but I reckon we’ll require 2 or 3 goals to win this.  A big ask, currently. 

I’m going 1-1 again, I’m afraid.  Wilson for us, that plank of Wood for them.  A point would clearly not be enough, so please prove me wrong. 

HTL 

Nick Clark

@Clark5Nick