If you wanted any further evidence that the FA Cup is dying, it came not with the sight of the competition being spread out over four days or the constant, desperate harking back to the golden age of It’s A Cup Final Knockout but the sight of the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, forlornly empty.
The stand is Turf Moor’s Stretford End, its Gallowgate, its Kop. It was named after the man who played in the 1962 Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur, a game whose spirit the match programme, beautifully designed in the style of late Harold Macmillan era England, attempted to recreate.
The programme contained an interview with Jimmy Robson, part of Burnley’s championship-winning side of 1960 and who had a goal disallowed in the final against Spurs. “In our era, the idea was just to score more goals than the other team,” he said.
It is the same in this era, although until Harry Kane and Sam Vokes were introduced in the second half you might have wondered. Kane, the young man who had humbled Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea machine on the opening night of the year, inspired Spurs to take the lead.
That might have been that but Vokes, whom injury had made a ghost in this Burnley side, added a rare dash of romance to this tie with a goal that forced a replay.
It was Burnley’s third successive draw and although it lacked the passion and brilliance of their points at Manchester City and Newcastle, it demonstrated that, however under-resourced Burnley are, they are now a match for anyone, especially when they fall behind.
The reward for whoever wins at White Hart Lane is a fourth-round tie against Leicester City. Given the way the modern FA Cup is run, the two teams naturally knew the identity of their opponents before they kicked off.
It did not appear to inspire them. It is hard to know who would want a replay less; the club struggling to keep its head above water in top-flight football, the one embroiled in the Europa League and fighting for its place in the Champions League, or the people who will pay to watch.
Those that had travelled from London came to Lancashire buoyed by the crushing of Chelsea, although the side that Mauricio Pochettino put out resembled the heroes of White Hart Lane in neither their play nor their personnel. There were seven changes in all and of those who started, only Christian Eriksen looked inspired by the occasion.
It would have been hard to better Aston Villa v Blackpool as the worst tie of this third round, but for the opening 45 minutes these two had a fair old go.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche at least put out the kind of team that Turf Moor is used to seeing week in, week out — there are simply not the resources here to allow for much squad rotation.
They played like Burnley’s Premier League side, too; plenty of effort but not a great deal in terms of cutting edge. Tottenham played their reserve keeper, Burnley their regular one and for a very long time neither had much to do.
During the interval, perhaps alarmed by the prospect of having to put his supporters through this again, Pochettino put on Kane and, within two minutes of the restart, the game finally produced a shot.
Soon after, there was a goal as Nacer Chadli, who had scored the fifth on New Year’s Day, scored the first here. Ben Davies began marauding down the left flank and the Belgian controlled his cross and rammed his shot past Tom Heaton.
Chadli’s goal produced a response from Burnley and a lovely story of the kind the FA Cup still cherishes.
More than almost anyone else on Dyche’s playing staff, Vokes was responsible for Burnley’s promotion. The last of his 21 goals had come in March, when his season had been wrecked by a knee injury.
He had watched Burnley first struggle and then come to terms with the Premier League from the stands and, lately, from the substitutes’ bench.
This was only his second appearance at Turf Moor and he was lurking by the penalty spot when he met Kieran Trippier’s cross to give Burnley the prospect of a replay.
It will hopefully be more inspiring and surely better attended than the original.Reuse content