Not even rumours that Celtic want to make Owen ‘God’ Coyle their new manager can bring Burnley fans down from cloud nine, as they turned Roses rivals Sheffield United over at a baking Wembley in the Championship play-off final to earn a place in the top flight for the first time in 33 years.
61 games for the Clarets this season but it didn’t show, as the sheer desire of the players, coupled with an undoubted superiority over their opponents, saw them through.
In truth the scoreline flattered the Yorkshire club, who once again could find no way past Burnley’s immense centre-backs Clarke Carlisle and Steven Caldwell.
Wade Elliott’s beautifully placed strike from twenty yards after just thirteen tense, error-strewn minutes was enough to separate the sides, although Burnley squandered chance after chance on the break in the second half.
Blades boss Kevin Blackwell will bemoan referee Mike Dean’s decision not to award either of two penalties that looked like they could go either way, but after his blatant attempts at gamesmanship pre-match, and the terrible cheating by substitute Jamie Ward who was sent off for two bookings, on both occasions trying to punch the ball into the net, he can have no complaints. Lee Hendrie also saw red right at the death for swearing at Dean as the Blades lost their heads.
Burnley were simply the better side. United had started the brighter, but Elliott drove forward and played a slinky one-two with McCann before opening the deadlock with his fine strike. That settled the Clarets’ nerves and neither goalkeeper was really tested for the rest of the half. Steven Thompson was inches away from doubling the lead with a cross-goal header and that was the closest either side came.
And the Clarets had by far the better chances of the second half too. Joey Gudjonsson – on for Chris McCann who limped off midway through the first period – inexplicably failed to turn home a delicious knockdown from Thompson in the six yard box, before twice a poor final ball let Burnley down when their attackers outnumbered the defenders.
At no point did the result ever look in doubt despite the penalty shouts in front of the desperate Blades fans, although the narrow margin of victory had Burnley fans biting their nails for five long minutes of injury time.
But as Jay Rodriguez superbly worked the clock down in the corner, Dean raised his arms and blew his whistle long and hard, sending the 36,000 assorted Clarets into a bemused, confused delirium.
Even when Caldwell stepped up to collect the play-off trophy it didn’t sink in for the Clarets supporters, who had been strangely muted throughout much of the game.
But when the players made their way out onto the pitch accompanied by the delighted chairman Barry Kilby and his proud-as-punch manager Owen Coyle to celebrate further, the carnival atmosphere kicked off big time.
Burnley and the Premier League doesn’t seem to fit together. It doesn’t sound right. But with thousands of Clarets rolling the words around their mouths and brains for the next few weeks, it soon will.
Burnley are back. I can barely believe it.Basically this is what I would love to do for a living. Writing about Burnley was always my dream.
[This article was originally published here]