Are United ready to tackle Turf Moor?

A hostile welcome awaits the champions tonight at Burnley. Chris Brereton on the Clarets' secret weapon: their ground

When the football fixtures for this season were announced in June, Burnley's chief executive Paul Fletcher was quick to point out that opposition teams, in as many words, could like the Turf Moor set-up or lump it. Not for Fletcher the subservient outlook of a small-town club that snuck its way into the world's most demanding top flight via the play-offs. Yes, Turf Moor would get a "lick of paint and probably a few new light bulbs" but change does not come fast in these parts, and that includes the dressing rooms which, Fletcher pointed out, had not been improved "since I played for Burnley 35 years ago".

A million pounds has been spent by the club in bringing the press box, gantry and corporate offerings up to a Premier League standard and although those infamous changing rooms have also had minor cosmetic improvements, they are still more suitable for The Damned United than the damned United.

It is a policy the club's players endorse and if striker Robbie Blake had his way, United would almost be forced to get changed for tonight's match in the club car park. "To be fair, they've spruced the dressing rooms up a bit," he said.

"I don't think the away dressing room here was up to standard for the Premier League, now they've put a couple more showers in. I've heard it's not much more than a lick of paint and a new light bulb though – although maybe that's what they've done to ours!

"But we can't make it too hospitable for them; we can't go putting sofas in and things like that."

On a serious note, Blake's sentiments do make some sense. The temptation for many sides must be to welcome the Premier League's larger sides to their clubs – and in Burnley's case their old-fashioned stadium which holds 22,546, the second smallest in the Premier League behind Portsmouth – as if they are a team of returning prodigal sons, running around with the spit and polish aiming to please. Yet Burnley are refusing to feel like the economy passengers who have talked their way into a spot in business class.

Merit alone got them to the Premier League and merit alone will keep them there. Or maybe not, depending on the next 37 matches. Either way, they'll like it or lump it.

Of those remaining 37 matches, tonight's visit of Manchester United is easily the most significant. The fact it is Burnley's first home match in England's highest division for 33 years, coupled with competitive Lancastrian pride, should ensure a fascinating evening of on-field action. But what happens off the pitch could be equally as fascinating.

It is no secret that Premier League players expect the very best treatment these days – there was nearly a riot at the DW Stadium 17 months ago when Wigan and Reading players found no hot water available – so if the off-the-pitch surroundings can alter on-field performances, however slightly, then Blake is all for it.

"Don't get me wrong – it's not the best place to come, but we like that," he added. "We want to make Turf Moor as difficult as we can for teams to come here. It might be an advantage for us if teams are walking down that cold tunnel thinking, 'This looks a bit dodgy'."

Blake's team-mate Graham Alexander agrees with his fellow 30-something that a hint of an advantage could be garnered from the gloomy surroundings at Turf Moor.

"It's a bit dark down there in the depths of Turf Moor," he said."If you haven't experienced it before it's definitely different from the big new grounds that you get in the Premier League, and even at Championship level. But that's down to the players' mentality when they come here and if that affects them, that's better for us.

"We're hopefully going to rely on what we've got in our changing room though and not the surroundings of the ground. We're relying on what we've got in our team, the ability and quality we've got through it, and hopefully, that will be enough to get the results that we need."

What it takes to stay in the Premier League in your first season is an inexact science. And what a story it would be if Burnley's much vaunted "12th man" – vocally intimidating at best and positively bloodthirsty at worst – this year turned out to be some dodgy plumbing? Only time will tell, but it adds another chapter to an already enchanting tale.

Damned United: Revenge on menu

* Burnley have not faced Manchester United in a league fixture since April 1976, when the Red Devils beat them 1-0 at Turf Moor. Lou Macari's winner condemned The Clarets to relegation.

* Since United sent them down 33 years ago, Burnley have only met the Red Devils in three League Cup ties, losing each time and without scoring a single goal.

* Of 118 occasions on which the two sides have met, Burnley have won 43.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on