We hoped it wouldn’t come to this.
Leeds’ inevitable, last-gasp equaliser at home to Brighton means that the gut-twisting drama of the Premier League relegation battle will now go to the final day of the season.
Burnley fans had dreamt a win, or even a draw, at Aston Villa on Thursday, however difficult that would be to achieve, would have been enough to secure another fantastic year in the top flight.
Burnley players celebrated with their fans after securing a dramatic 2-1 win at Watford
Caretaker Mike Jackson (left) has done a fine job since replacing Sean Dyche (right) as boss
But thanks to Pascal Struijk’s 92nd minute header to level the scores 1-1 at Elland Road, even that will not guarantee it and we’ll need something from the home game against Newcastle United on Sunday, whatever happens at Villa Park, to be sure .
In truth, it is no surprise. Ever since former Burnley striker Chris Wood signed for the Toon for £25million in January, the basement battle has looked destined to go to the final day. We have feared he would return to send us down. It would be ‘so Burnley’.
Hopefully, the hip injury which kept Wood out of Newcastle’s impressive win over Arsenal will clear up after the game at Turf Moor, he’ll miss out and the prophecy will be void.
Either way, it is going to be a fraught affair, while we keep abreast of events at Brentford, where Leeds play their final game, and possibly at Arsenal, where Everton – who could seal safety tonight – will be in action.
Chris Wood left Burnley in January and could return to haunt the Clarets on the last day
‘Well, we’ll have the transistor out again, then’ was the pithy verdict of my father after Leeds’ latest Houdini act. (He doesn’t ‘do’ the internet).
For Clarets fans of a certain age, the drama conjures memories of clinging to transistor radios on the final day of a season relaying news of events elsewhere, most famously at the ‘Orient Game’ in May 1987.
That year, Burnley had sunk to bottom of Division Four and needed to win on the last day to avoid dropping out of the Football League, while relying on one of Torquay or Lincoln to lose. The Clarets famously beat Leyton Orient 2-1 at home, while Torquay grabbed an equaliser in injury time and Lincoln lost out.
In some ways, the ‘Orient Game’ shocked Burnley back to life. After years of miserable decline, the former league champions clawed their way back, emerging from Division Four, four years later.
And then the Clarets began the long climb to the Promised Land, enjoying an unexpected year in the Premier League in 2009-10 and eventually making a more convincing return under Sean Dyche.
Jack Cork (centre) has helped give Burnley more momentum since he returned to midfield
As supporters, we have enjoyed a glorious nine-year run, which has included two promotions from the Championship and six consecutive years in the Premier League. It has been a blast.
But with two games left to play, all that now hangs in the balance.
The £65m debt loaded onto the club by Alan Pace and his partners to fund their takeover of Burnley in December 2020, and the use of club funds to close the deal, has caused financial analysts to sound the alarm and it leaves fans uneasy at the prospect of relegation.
The financial situation means it is the worst possible time for Burnley to go down. League Two suddenly looks a lot closer than it used to.
Interim manager Jackson has done a fantastic job winning manager of the month in April
However, as supporters we have to defer our fears of financial meltdown or freefall until the end of the season.
This is still in our own hands. Four points from two games will make survival certain, and a point may yet be enough.
Indeed, we have some advantages. Burnley have a game in hand and a superior goal difference compared to Leeds, which means if we match their points total, we will prevail.
In addition, as Sean Dyche used to say, we are clear-minded going into the final two games.
Burnley have an identity well suited to this situation. We don’t think we are too good to go down. We know who we are; We have no illusions of grandeur or frustration at failing to fulfill our potential.
Burnley fans were shocked by the departure of Sean Dyche but stuck with the team
As a club, we have exceeded expectations – including our own – for many years. And we want to defy gravity a little longer.
It’s true this has been a difficult season. The team suffered from under investment in the years former chairman, Mike Garlick, was trying to sell the club and that had caught up with us this year, despite the additions of Maxwel Cornet and later, Wout Weghorst.
We have struggled to create chances and score, but defensively we have played well enough. No team in the bottom half of the Premier League has conceded fewer goals than Burnley. We have been as obdurate as ever.
Pace’s sacking of Dyche, and the circumstances in which he left after so many years of good service, has been upsetting and will have to be processed when the final whistle blows.
Burnley chairman Alan Pace has loaded the club with debt as part of his leveraged buyout
But to their immense credit, the players have never stopped fighting – two goals in the last 10 minutes to win at Watford was typical of their spirit. And their passion has been matched by the fans.
Interim manager Mike Jackson and his team have been a revelation, skilfully keeping continuity with the Dyche regime, while tweaking the tactics and empowering the players to give the side more attacking intent.
At Tottenham, Jackson had to contend with injuries to the two stalwarts of the Clarets’ Premier League era, James Tarkowski and Ben Mee, as well as Ashley Westwood, Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez among others.
Jackson’s coaching team have tweaked the tactics and even changed Burnley’s formation
Despite being battered and bruised, there is still belief. Jackson even departed from the Clarets hallowed 4-4-2 formation – and it worked.
It was not just a battling display, but particularly in the second half, the team showed they could play a bit, too, even against one of the league’s super powers. In the end, Burnley were unlucky to lose 1-0 to a controversial penalty.
The performance in north London gives us encouragement. Jackson’s 3-5-2 formation looks solid and we hope we can withstand the attacking vigour of Villa, who scored three at Turf Moor 12 days ago.
But Burnley carry a threat with Cornet’s pace in behind and with Weghorst or Ashley Barnes leading the line.
Meanwhile, Newcastle put in an extraordinary performance in their 2-0 win over Arsenal on Monday, with fervent support. But Burnley are at home on Sunday and the Turf will be in full cry.
This week, the fans have been loud and proud on Twitter, reminding Clarets ‘WE CAN DO THIS’. And we can… Come on Burnley!