The Opposition View: Burnley

Last updated : 24 January 2011 By Jim Bonner

Clarets fan Ben Redman talks about the current Pompey manager, Nugent's time at Burnley and the former Portsmouth player now at the helm at Turf Moor.

Let's talk about Steve Cotterill first. What do the Burnley fans think of him and did he do a good job whilst he was at Turf Moor?

The majority Burnley fans won't hear a bad word said about Steve Cotterill. He arrived at a time when we'd slipped down the Championship under Stan Ternent and were hovering above relegation. He steadied the ship, organised us and ensured we were a strong Championship side that settled comfortably in mid-table.

It's easy to forget that when he arrived here in 2004, our first team squad consisted of eight first team players. With an extremely limited budget, he strengthened superbly and a 13th place finish portrayed a fine achievement. Most of our promotion team were Cotterill signings (Wade Elliott, Michael Duff, Clarke Carlisle, Steven Caldwell, amongst others) and he pulled off some major coups in the loan market too, most notably with Gary Cahill.

There were critics of the football (branded "Cotterball") and the tactics (it was never going to be pretty with Andy Gray and Gifton Noel-Williams up front), but I think we'd have been a lot worse off without Steve Cotterill. He assembled a good side that perhaps only played to their potential under Owen Coyle. His passion was never questioned and he seemed a decent bloke who always had the club's best interests at heart. The majority of our fans, I'd like to think, appreciate what he did for our club and wish him well.

David Nugent was loaned to your club last season. How did the fans take to him and do you think he was good enough to play in the top flight?

Well it was the dream start when he struck two cracking goals against Sunderland on his home debut. He certainly showed signs that he had the ability to play at the top level, but he wasn't really consistent enough to be a genuine threat.

Sometimes his turn of pace and sprightly leap could cause teams all sorts of problems but other times he just couldn't get into the game. He wasn't the best finisher either, but I think we knew that when he came.

Personally, I was always a fan of his. I like to see players giving their all and playing with a smile on their face, but I know other fans weren't convinced. Him and Steven Fletcher would have been a superb partnership this season in the Championship, but sadly we've got neither!

Coming forward to the present day, is it right to assume that promotion straight back to the Premier League is the target this season?

Well it certainly was, but I think it would be harsh to expect that from Eddie Howe so soon. He's inherited a team very low on confidence, that has two away wins in 18 months and hasn't won back to back games all season. We've got a squad of players that are the signings of three different managers and plenty of dead wood that don't bring much to the table.

So, though Howe speaks of the glamour of the job, I expect he'll know - or soon will - that there's work to be done and we're far from the finished article. Saying that, he had to act quickly at Bournemouth, and if he stamps his mark on the team quickly, we're certainly capable of finishing in the play offs. I'll take top ten, though.

What do the Clarets fans make of the sacking of Brian Laws and are you happy with the appointment of Eddie Howe?

I can't help but think the twelve months Laws was in charge here were a massive waste of everyone's time. It was the board's mistake, first and foremost, and you had to look at it from Laws' viewpoint. If you're sacked as a struggling Championship manager and a Premier League team come in you're hardly going to turn it down.

The board are known for sticking by their man (they stuck by Cotterill during a 19 game winless run) and there seemed more than enough excuses for Laws to remain in the job until at least the end of the season. They'd made their bed and most Burnley fans were expecting them to lie in it. That didn't stop fans voicing their opinions though, and when we lost at home to Scunthorpe it was the final straw for many, including myself. There was no way he was turning this round.

He'd lost the fans and the dressing room (if he ever had them in the first place). Thankfully the board saw sense and admitted their mistake, but the whole thing felt so wasteful and pointless. It has since been revealed that we nearly sacked him after we lost 6-1 at home to Man City last March, unbelievably going back to Cotterill and requesting Notts County permission to speak to him before the board changed their minds!

Regarding Howe's appointment, I'm absolutely delighted. He was my first choice for the job, and the general consensus from the rest of the fans is good too, considering some Burnley fans would find a way of moaning if we appointed Jose Mourinho.

He clearly worked wonders at
Bournemouth and for him to step out of his comfort zone and come here speaks volumes, especially considering the clubs he's turned down beforehand. It's an adventurous, exciting appointment that's already bought a feel-good factor back that's been absent for a year. Give him time and I'm confident he'll be a success here too.

Who are the key players in the
Burnley side that Pompey fans should be aware of on Tuesday?

Chris Eagles has been very hit and miss with us, but his quality can't be denied. If you do your homework on him, chances are you'll keep him quiet, but he's a threat when given space to run into in the final third, the reason, perhaps, he's more suited for Premier League football where there's more time on the ball.

Jay Rodriguez can also be a handful. He's strong, fairly pacey and has good feet. As a local lad, he has the potential to become a Burnley hero.

What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of your team and do you think your style of play will change much under Howe?

We're a threat going forward and I'd like to think, when the tactics are right, we've always got a goal in us. So far this season, we've looked average at best and it's actually quite hard to think of a particular strength! We've scored a few more from set pieces this season than usual, though. With Danny Fox whipping them in, Clarke Carlisle, Andre Bikey, Chris Iwelumo and Jay Rodriguez are all big lads capable in the air.

Our weakness is without doubt the defence. I don't know the facts and figures, but we've conceded a pathetic amount of goals over the last two and a half years. Of course, defending starts from the front, and the midfield isn't exactly protective, but there's a long-lying problem with our defence and I'd like to see Howe sort it. It'd be good to see David Edgar partner Andre Bikey at centre back, yet neither of them are getting many games.

There seems to be an unwritten rule that Clarke Carlisle has to play when he's had about two good games in twelve months, and his trademark mistakes are increasing in quantity as he gets older. Any strikeforce with pace and power usually just walks through the immobile partnership of Michael Duff and Carlisle, it desperately needs addressing.

I hope Howe gets us playing the way we did under Coyle. Neat, passing, attacking football but with the ability to mix it up. As with any club, Burnley fans want to see their players giving 100% above all else. I don't even mind if the more direct approach remains, as long as the players show a bit of passion and urgency.

Burnley have a poor record on the road this season so how confident are you of your side getting a result at Fratton Park?

To be honest, not very. On paper, the first XI of both teams looks worthy of the top six but there's obviously other factors that have prevented a more consistent start to the season for the both of us. Normally you go to watch Burnley knowing we're going to have to score two to win the game, such is the defensive problem. We've kept clean sheets in the last two so maybe there's progress there, but the goals for aren't flowing as freely as they were at the start of the season either.

It's very frustrating because the squad is more or less as it was when we got promoted. With additions like Andre Bikey, Tyrone Mears and Jack Cork - who all had their moments in the Premier League - we thought we had enough to challenge the top two but find ourselves unable to string any sort of form together at all. You always seem to beat us as well! I'd love to be wrong, but I just can't see an away win.

What sort of match are you expecting given the respective form of both teams?

I know you're not in the best of form, but whenever I see highlights on TV, you always seem to give teams a game and knock in a few goals. Nugent and Lawrence are handy at this level and the thought of Utaka sprinting at one of our centre backs frightens me! I think it will be a tight affair for the first 60 odd minutes, but you'll edge it eventually. As I say, hope I'm wrong!

Predict the outcome of the game.

2-1 to Pompey.