It’s far too early for calls for Eddie Howe’s sacking to be taken seriously, writes Jamie Smith.
Without a doubt, Burnley’s performances in the last three games have been far from good enough. Boro away was passable for half an hour and rank for an hour. Huddersfield was utterly rancid for the whole match and Brighton was little better. Losing three in a row is always cause for concern – Rovers threatened Kean with the sack before the season started if he achieved that – but it’s too early to panic.
The international break comes at a good time for the Clarets. After a barnstorming start and a 2-0 win at home to Bolton on the opening day, Burnley have been very flat. Tactics and team selections have been strange at times. Burnley don’t seem to want to play to our strengths. Howe will now have time to work with his players, with key man Brian Stock able to get his fitness levels up with a fortnight away from action. Only a few of the first team will be off to represent their countries, so there will be plenty of opportunity to work on the training ground.
It’s very, very early days. Cast your mind back a few years to the start of the promotion season. We didn’t exactly kick that one off well, yet look how it ended up. Four games out of 46 is nothing. Anything could happen yet.
While it’s understandable for fans who pay their £25 a week to be upset at performances like the last three, some perspective is required. We’re missing two of our most important attacking players in Danny Ings and Martin Paterson through injury. New skipper Jason Shackell is still settling in. We’re getting used to having to manage without the focal point of Jay Rodriguez. Cameron Stewart made his debut hours after signing and yet some are already writing him off.
Although football has moved on and boards are more impatient than ever, it used to be said that managers should get three years to put their stamp on a club. Eddie Howe has been at Turf Moor for less than two. While progress has been very slow, good work has been done off the pitch in that time. Financially, we should be in a good position, with spending well under what we’ve brought in through player sales in recent years, added to the cash made through promotion. Gawthorpe is unrecognisable from how it was a decade ago. We still have one of the most solid boards in football, despite Barry Kilby stepping down as chairman.
But improvements have to translate to on the pitch. The Championship is perhaps more competitive than ever and it will always be tricky for teams like ours to compete with big city sides like Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City and Leeds United. Blackburn Rovers spent £8 million on an unproven striker last week. Football is going slowly more insane and Turf Moor is a relative oasis of calm. This will surely start to pay off once the financial fair play rules kick in.
Comparisons to Brian Laws are a concern. While it’s true that Laws had us in the top half and flirting with the play-offs when he was sacked, expectations were different. He was shopping in a different aisle in the transfer market, allowed to bring in players like Lee Grant, Ross Wallace and Dean Marney on big money. Under Laws, top six was the minimum expectation. We’re still going for promotion now, but it’s more of an outside hope than a demand. There’s a general acceptance that under Owen Coyle, a lot of variables clicked at the right time to result in an outstanding season and it will be difficult to replicate that.
Personally, I much prefer watching Howe’s team to the one run by Laws. Even though the tempo can be too slow and the patterns of passing too predictable at times, I’d rather see us try and keep the ball than launch it forward at the first opportunity. As time passes and our squad gets uses to the style and players develop into it, we should improve.
Calling for Eddie Howe’s head four games into the new season is pretty silly. Let’s wait until Christmas and see where we are, but he has to get until the end of the season to see how much progress has been made. A top half finish is a must.
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