Back in my early English soccer groundhopping days, I went to a game at Burnley FC but didn’t do a whole lot of research. That is, I went to the game, grabbed a Subway and retreated to my hotel room.
Now that I have actually written and published my book, A Groundhopper’s Guide to Soccer in England — buy one today! — I am a bit more dialed in on what to look for around town and ground.
So here is a report from my return to Burnley, in which I unfortunately saw them take another comprehensive Premier League beating. Last time it was 0-2 to Everton (look at me, using the English style of reporting scores!) and this time it was 0-4 at the hands of Chelsea. I hope they let me come back!
The first thing I “found out” this time is that Burnley is in a lovely area. Many English folks will chuckle at this, but I love me some rolling-hills sheep country, and that’s what I saw between Manchester and Burnley. It was a Sunday morning, so the trains weren’t of much use; this put me on the Witch Way bus service appropriate for the late October date. And the bus wound through the neighborhoods of northern Manchester before striking out through the high moors on the outskirts of the Peak District.
I had also done some actual research and found out there is a sight to see in town — or just outside of it. The Singing Ringing Tree is a statue of pipes that (I am told) sings in the wind. It wasn’t singing when I was there, but the views are lovely. Can you spot the football ground Turf Moor in there?
This was a £20 return taxi ride, and by the way I managed to get a cabbie who didn’t even know where this thing was! As a hack myself, you need to know where the One Sight In Town is, good sir.
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He dropped me back down on Yorkshire Street, and I went looking for pubs and grub — and immediately discovered a real gem. Sean Dyche has been the manager at Burnley FC for six seasons, got them to the Premier League and has kept them there with organization, dedication and a raspy post-game voice that has apparently endeared him to the local hearts and minds. I don’t know what this pub was called before, but long may it be the Royal Dyche!
I stepped inside, snapped a few pictures, wondered as always what the locals thought of somebody snapping photos and ordering nothing, checked out the beer garden out back …
… and was recognized by somebody in the pub! First time it ever happened. Check out the back-and-forth on my Instagram account:
I enjoyed some local color on the way to a chippy I had found online.
And the chippy was a delight! It’s called Norman’s, just a few minutes’ walk from the ground, and the first indication it would be good was twofold: it’s on a residential corner, and it does fish and chips almost exclusively. The other good indication? They asked me, while I was in line, if I would want fish … so they could pop in a fresh piece for me!
I ate it so fast that I didn’t take its picture, but I did admire the pies:
A note to English people, though: you can stop making up American foods any time. You want a spicy burger, that’s fine, but there is literally no such thing as the following, or Maryland Fried Chicken, or Texas Steak Burgers, or Kansas Anything. And we don’t put salad on burgers.
Next it was off to the ground for the game, which as a neutral I kind of enjoyed. Chelsea are just on a different level, and as Dyche said afterwards, Burnley’s season isn’t about these teams; it’s nice to beat them, but they are in a different league. Chelsea competes for trophies, while Burnley is trying to stay in the Premier League.
Here is a video I took that starts right at the end of the pregame moment of silence:
When it was all over, I walked around to check out some parks and pubs, then headed for my train back to Manchester. I wish I could get more Americans to come out to places like this; Burnley is a lovely and fun day out, a chance to see Premier League football (at least for now!) in a small ground with devoted fans and be one of very few foreign visitors. Compare that with many of the other big league clubs, and crowded cities, elsewhere in the league, and I think people will really like seeing a game at Burnley.