The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Burnley have just beaten Manchester United 1-0 at Turf Moor. The season is five days old, but this will go down as one of its great upsets. Burnley have the lowest wage bill in the league, haven’t seen First Division football since 1976, were fifth in the Championship last season, and play in a stadium that seats 22,000 people and includes a stand named after a local minibus salesman. They were utterly overrun by Manchester United, but held on, after Robbie Blake gave them the lead, thanks to a hailstorm of last-ditch defending and a goalkeeping performance by Brian Jensen (who blocked a Michael Carrick penalty at one point) that was like a bass guitarist shoving aside the lead and playing a solo that tore the roof off the building.
This is the same Burnley that beat Fulham, Chelsea, and Arsenal in the Carling Cup last year, and while no one saw this result coming, they have a fine history, having won the First Division in 1921 and 1960, won the FA Cup in 1914, reached the quarterfinals of the European Cup in 1961, and produced in 2002 what may very well be the greatest mascot-streaker encounter in the history of world football:
We’re going to hear a lot in the next few days about how abject Manchester United looked in this match, and what it means for their title chances (and so on, yawning). But keep in mind that Burnley—who, again, finished fifth in the Championship last season—have a better record against the Big Four over the last two years than some of the Big Four have against each other. What they’ve accomplished is really impressive, and if we don’t start to hear Owen Coyle’s name in connection with some higher-profile managerial vacancies in the near future, it can only be because the wrath of Bertie Bee has club directors too terrified to act.
UPDATE: The goal.
by Brian Phillips · August 19, 2009