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Leighton James: Players must be up for Rovers clash

In our full interview with Leighton James the Welshman says this game needs no building up.

Games between the two sides have been rare since the last win 34 years ago James was in the last Burnley team to beat Blackburn in 1979 . Tomorrow’s game is just the tenth meeting since then and Blackburn have won all but two draws, earlier this season and in 2005′s FA Cup.

Clarets legend James played down the disparity, suggesting that Rovers’ higher league placing for much of that time means it would be unfair to read too much into results.

“I can’t believe it’s been so long really, but in fairness to them they have spent a little bit of time in the Premier League and we’ve spent just the one season.

“Various reasons have been behind that - but by and large it is always a massive game when the two clubs play.”

Speaking to No Nay Never earlier this week Micah Hyde, one of the few Clarets to score at Ewood in recent years, called El Lanclassico the UK’s fiercest rivalry – and James is in no doubt that this particular derby game has a very different feel to others around the country.

“It’s quite intense because of the proximity of the two teams,” he enthused in our chat.

“We have a similar situation here in Wales with Cardiff and Swansea but there’s 40-odd miles between them so its not quite as big.

“Between Burnley and Blackburn all the towns and villages up there, half is claret half and is blue and white.

“You’ve got Accrington in the middle but in all the towns and villages everyone is either Burnley or Blackburn and that makes for an intense game.”

Starting and ending his playing career – with another spell in the middle - at Turf Moor, James certainly had ample opportunity to gauge that intensity and he told NNN he is worried the current crop of Clarets might not have that fiery desire.

Reacting to Sean Dyche’s claim that expectations from the stands are negatively affecting performances, he said players should feed on fans’ high standards rather than fear them.

“Sean Dyche said expectations are affecting the players but I don’t agree with that,” he admitted.

“I’ll tell you what will affect the players more - when the fans don’t turn up, don’t expect and support the team.

“When you’re playing to empty houses and what have you, that will affect the players a lot more.”

This is especially true for tomorrow’s derby, he says – and any players that can’t rise to their best for a game against Blackburn doesn’t deserve to wear the shirt.

“I don’t know Sean Dyche, so I don’t know what his management style is but you shouldn’t need to pump players up for this.

“There shouldn’t be a need for players to get motivated to play against Blackburn – if they do then they shouldn’t be on the field in the first place.

“They should be nervous, they should be excited, they should be looking forward to it and wanting to put on their best show for their fans.”

‘Taffy’ certainly put on his best in that game in ’79 – the Clarets came from behind at Ewood Park to claim a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Tony Morley and Brian Hall – but he admitted his memory of the day is vague.

“I don’t remember anything about it at all which is very unusual for me,” he confessed. “I’ve usually got a very good memory of games I’ve played in.

“I don’t remember very much about it but any win against Blackburn at Blackburn is fantastic. A win over Blackburn is excellent but to beat them at their own patch is even better.”

He remains very attached to the Club despite residing back in Wales and he feels Burnley are underperforming in a poor league this season.

“I watched the game on Monday and you have to say it was a very, very poor game.

“I think this year is a poor Championship. You have Cardiff running away with it but I don’t see another Premier League potential team.

“You see the odd player like Charlie Austin but I look at the teams and think ‘you’re nowhere near Premier League standard’. I think even Cardiff will have to spend a lot of money to survive [in the Premier League].”

“I follow Burnley’s results and the home form has been atrocious - I have to say they’ve got to start picking that up.

“Teams aren’t worried about coming to Turf Moor any more. They should be. They should be looking to get a cup of tea and a good thumping, the Burnley way.”

Currently working for BBC Wales, the winger would love the opportunity to move closer to Burnley, should a full-time job offer in football arise.

“I’m looking a scouting job. If it meant moving house I would be quite prepared to do that – coming back to the north-west would be perfect for me.”

Will the current Burnley squad have any problem getting motivated for this game? Comment below.

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