Burnley fury at late Cup call-off

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The one thing Steve Cotterill dislikes about managing Burnley is training in ceaseless rain and last night he and his club were counting the cost of the Lancashire weather.

For the second time in a week a game at Turf Moor was abandoned because of heavy rain. But while the Championship match with Leicester, called off after a quarter of an hour, merely inconvenienced Burnley, the postponement of last night's FA Cup tie with Liverpool could cost more than £200,000. It is money the club desperately requires.

Some £150,000 of that is the fee Sky would have paid for transmission while the rest is lost corporate business. The only chance they have of recouping that money is to hope that when the match is replayed, probably on Tuesday 18 January, there is no FA Cup replay that is more attractive than Burnley v Liverpool. Since Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all have very straightforward home games over the weekend and there are no all-Premiership ties, Burnley may well be lucky.

Their chief executive, Dave Edmundson, was bitterly critical of the decision of the referee, Mark Clattenburg, to call off the match half an hour before the scheduled kick-off. "We are extremely disappointed," he said. "Matches have gone ahead when the pitch has not been 100 per cent fit and in my opinion the pitch was 95 per cent playable.

"If we had more time, we may well have got it 100 per cent fit but we were up against it because we had to make a decision whether to open the turnstiles. The pitch may well have been difficult in some places but that is part and parcel of playing football. If the replay is not on television, it will cost us £150,000, which we literally cannot afford. We will be pleading with Sky to televise it."

Clattenburg agreed that the pitch was 90 per cent playable but the problems at Turf Moor centred around a strip in front of the Bob Lord Stand that was pure mud rather than turf and which would have interfered with any wing play. It was so muddy that Cotterill joked that he dared not risk a pair of new shoes bought for the occasion.

Since the abandonment of the New Year's Day fixture with Leicester, the ground had been under cover and the Football Association's pitch advisers, who had provided water extractors to use on the strip, told Burnley at lunchtime that the tie could go ahead.

Nevertheless as the rain continued to hammer down over the Pennines, Clattenburg said the water extractors became saturated and the groundstaff began putting down sand which made the surface, in the referee's opinion, dangerous to play on. "The other 90 per cent of the pitch was fine", he said.

Liverpool, their side already weakened by a series of injuries, and with the manager, Rafael Benitez, choosing to rest his captain, Steven Gerrard, would have had few complaints about not having to play through heavy mud. Their problems will come if the rescheduled match is drawn, which would lead to some serious fixture congestion at a club that is already committed to two Carling Cup semi-finals.

"The fans have had to travel here and they will have to travel back and we have lost some valuable training sessions," said Benitez. "And now we are going to have to fit this game into a very crowded fixture schedule." Still, as Cotterill said with a grin, at least Burnley had made it through to the fourth-round draw.