We might, on that opening day of the season, have reached for an easy conclusion on Burnley, one that declared this team, that was so gallant, so true to itself in winning promotion to the Premier League last season, to be out of its depth. A 2-0 defeat at Stoke City allowed some prejudices to breathe, those that consider small clubs from small towns somehow unable to survive in this league. We might have allowed these thoughts to take hold, and we might, too, be regretting them now.
Four league games into the season, Burnley can point to consecutive 1-0 victories over Manchester United and Everton at Turf Moor as evidence of the merit of their values. Burnley might never overwhelm opponents in the top flight, but the insistence of manager Owen Coyle that the team plays to certain principles, chiefly the right to express the best of yourself whoever you are playing against, carries a hopeful enthusiasm.
"It's an amazing spirit we've got, the gaffer instils it and breeds it that we can beat anyone on our day," says midfielder Graham Alexander. "He concentrates on what we can do, we don't feel like underdogs. The first game didn't go too well and we got written off, but we shut them up with the next two results."
Burnley lost 3-0 at Chelsea in their last fixture and their next assignment is a trip to Anfield, an opening run of games that feels like an act of malevolence. The players remain buoyant, finding freshness in the idea of not seeking to stifle then bludgeon teams, but to pass the ball constructively, to open games up and try to find a fluency that is both pleasing and effective. To Coyle, this is the only way to play the game, but he will also be alive to the rousing effects of a sense of injustice, which his players felt in the aftermath of the games against Stoke and Manchester United.
"The gaffer has certain beliefs and wants his teams to attack," Alexander adds. "We realised we'd be favourites for relegation, but people looked at one result and it confirmed their beliefs. We knew different. Our home form is fundamental to us surviving, but we're good enough to win away as well. We've had a bit of stick about our changing rooms and so forth, people making a joke about it with regard to the Manchester United players. It's to be expected, but hopefully we don't have to rely on stuff like that to get results. We're good enough to get them on our own merits."
We might keep reaching for something lasting to say about Burnley, but this is a club that feels most alert, most animated, when it is confounding expectations. "There's a lot to prove" says Alexander, "but I'm a believer, me." He might as well be speaking for all of his team, and his manager, and his club. This conviction is an act of faith.Reuse content