The beast of Burnley turns into giant-killer

Unsung and underrated, Jensen intends to keep thwarting the top flight's finest
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The Independent Football

He is a prophet without honour in his own country of Denmark, but in Burnley Brian "Beast" Jensen is a folk hero, who even has a sausage named after him (apparently a sign of great affection). "Beeeeeeast" they bellow after the strapping goalkeeper's every save, the most notable of which this season have tipped Chelsea and Arsenal out of the Carling Cup. Tottenham should have gone the same way too, but with the Championship side two minutes from a place in the Wembley final, Roman Pavlyuchenko and then Jermain Defoe rescued them.

Now it is the FA Cup, and Arsenal again, though a rather different team to the one Jensen defied during a 2-0 victory at Turf Moor in the December quarter-final. "They will remember what happened last time, but it is probably going to be 10 different players against us on Sunday," he said. "They will have a bit of respect for us, but I'm sure they will also be thinking of getting some revenge for what happened at Turf Moor. They won't want it to happen again. They are at home too, but if they give us a little bit of respect because of the last game, then we will have done our job."

The one outfield player he expects to be up against again is his countryman Nicklas Bendtner, the victim of half of Jensen's six saves when Arsenal players were one-on-one against him in the extraordinary first game. Yet while Bendtner is an established Danish international revered in his homeland, Jensen is comparatively unknown there. Having been one of those substitute goalkeepers who spend far more time sitting watching than actually playing, he appeared only four times during six frustrating seasons in Denmark and one in Holland before joining West Bromwich Albion in 2000.

"I have never been a big star back in Denmark," he admitted. "The game we have been playing here for the last couple of months has raised my profile back home but I have not really played any football there, so people don't really know who I am. I am more well-known in Holland and England than I am in Denmark.

"I would love to go back home when I leave England and play there for a couple of years, just to show people what I am capable of. People in Denmark wouldn't recognise me, but they hear the name 'The Beast' back home and it would be nice to show them why I have played over 300 games in the Championship."

At Albion he was in and out of the team, playing fewer than 50 games in three years. Since joining Burnley he has had to see off various other contenders for the jersey, as well as being dropped at the start of this season. "I'm used to it by now. It happens every year. They don't just bring in a new goalie, they bring in an international [Diego Penny from Peru], so it's another kick in the teeth; you just feel, 'Here we go again'. You think it's going to be a hassle to get back into the team, but you just work hard and do your stuff. I always had the philosophy that hard work pays off in the end, and so far that has proven to be the case."

Most of his previous five seasons at the club were spent at the wrong end of the Championship table. Now, under the impressive Owen Coyle, Burnley stand within a point of the play-off places, Jensen giving the former St Johnstone manager much of the credit. "He has been absolutely smashing since he came here to Burnley. At the time, we were probably a bit down and things weren't going great for us, but he had his philosophy about how he wanted us to play. He wanted us to be confident and positive in what we do and we adapted to it."

Now supporters are dreaming again of the days when Burnley were regularly in the top six of the top division: champions in 1960, and therefore European Cup competitors, and runners-up in both the League and FA Cup in 1962. There was a top-six finish again as late as 1974, but only 13 years later they had to win their final match of the season, against Leyton Orient, to avoid relegation to the Conference; on a day of stomach-knotting tension in front of almost 16,000 they did, 2-1, and Lincoln went down instead.

The road back to respectability has been a slow one, but Burnley have made it, and this season's exploits in two cup competitions have improved their profile hugely. "We will be massive underdogs again," Jensen acknowledged. "But we know it's going to be completely different this time, probably similar to playing at Chelsea, because we are away. Arsenal have a great record down there, and if we sit back they will just pass it around us.

"It is going to be hard," Jensen concluded. "We were a little bit lucky on the day last time. Kev McDonald scored two great goals and I had some luck in goal. Everything went our way that day, and we need the same to happen on Sunday."

Today's games

Arsenal v Burnley (1.30, Setanta Sports 1)

A tricky team selection for Arsène Wenger, who will want a stronger line-up than the Young Ones who went out of the Carling Cup to Burnley, but also needs to rest players before Wednesday's Champions' League tie in Rome. Owen Coyle will put out his best team and tell them to go for it.

Everton v Middlesbrough (4.0, Setanta Sports 1)

Much of the confidence that Boro derived from successive 2-0 wins over West Ham and Liverpool will have been drained by that 4-0 drubbing at Tottenham in midweek. Home advantage gives Everton a great chance of a first major semi-final since 1995.

Steve Tongue