Burnley’s home form has been an astonishing quirk of a largely surprise-free season. Of course, Sean Dyche doesn’t have the aura of a man easily astonished; you imagine if presented with empirical proof that aliens built the Pyramids at Giza, he’d meet it with typical Northern deadpan. Aye, they know how to graft, those reptilian humanoids.
Still, the Clarets’ record at Turf Moor has been remarkable, whichever way you spin it. Of the 32 points they have pinned on the board since mid-August, 29 (twenty-nine) of them have been amassed down Harry Potts Way. Including some flagship victories against Liverpool, Everton, Southampton and Leicester, the current, still-sounds-weird-to-say, champions.
Much of their success, on home soil at least, has been built on the defensive firmness of perhaps their two brightest talents: Michael Keane and Ben Mee.
Both are familiar with the feeling of rejection from a Manchester superpower— Mee featured in one solitary League Cup game for City back in 2011 while Keane clocked up a marginally better five appearances over four season at United before moving on.
Now, though, at Burnley, Mee and Keane have formed one of the most reliable backline unions in the division. The pair feature in the top two positions for the most blocks and clearances made this season, as well as remaining in the top 20 for interceptions. It may not be pretty at times, but when the heat is on for the Lancashire club, their domineering centre-backs throw their bodies on the line with classic English bravado.
Rio Ferdinand, Keane’s self-styled mentor, had this to say about his former teammate: “Michael is a throwback – and other youngsters should look at him for inspiration.”
As ringing endorsements go.
For Tottenham, Burnley’s opponents this Saturday afternoon, once again the talk is of how we might cope without Harry Kane. Happily, any potential conundrum about who should fill the yawning, striker-shaped gulch has been made much simpler. Vincent Janssen was sent home during the midweek internationals, with a reported illness, so is unlikely to feature tomorrow. Heung-min Son, then, the critic’s choice, will lead the line as he did against Southampton.
A must win for Spurs.
Here’s how they might line up: Lloris, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Wanyama, Dembélé, Eriksen, Alli, Son. Subs: Vorm, Wimmer, Trippier, Sissoko, Winks, N’Koudou, Onomah,