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Burnley and Derby flying the flag for the Championship

Paul Fletcher | 11:10 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009

The Football League has two representatives in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup this week as Burnley take on Tottenham and Derby face Manchester United.

"No-one would ever try to pretend there was not a massive gulf between the Premier League and the Championship, but to have two clubs from that division - and two of the game's great old clubs like Burnley and Derby at that - in the last four of a major competition is fantastic," is how BBC football expert Alan Hansen appraises the situation - and that seems pretty accurate to me.

Yet there is little else that currently unites the two Championship sides, as they go into their ties with sharply contrasting fortunes.

Burnley are reaping the rewards of a clear strategy and a bold managerial appointment that is paying handsome dividends.

Derby, managerless and alarmingly mediocre this season, have yet to recover from their disastrous one-season stay in the Premier League.

Burnley celebrate their Carling Cup victory at ChelseaThe Clarets know they cannot compete financially with many of their rivals and have to box clever to thrive. There are no parachute payments at Turf Moor, while Burnley itself is a modest town of 70,000 and the club competes for supporters in a county congested with clubs.

Chairman Barry Kilby, who recently celebrated 10 years at the helm, openly acknowledges that Burnley are to some extent reliant on directors who support the club and are prepared to invest with no guarantees of any return.

I have interviewed Kilby in the past and he is a sensible and forthright man who clearly has the good of the club he has loved since a boy at heart. He must be delighted by what has happened since he appointed Owen Coyle as manager in November 2007.

The club had a lengthy list of contenders to succeed Steve Cotterill - one that did not feature the name of Coyle until the former Bolton player was recommended to Clarets director Brendan Flood by Trotters chairman Phil Gartside.

By coincidence Kilby had a holiday booked at Gleneagles and arranged to meet Coyle, then in charge at St Johnstone. The Scot quickly impressed and saw off several more high-profile contenders to land the job.

The club has implemented a policy of trying to sign young, talented players like Chris Eagles and Martin Paterson - footballers who can flourish at Turf Moor and flourish alongside more experienced professionals such as Graham Alexander. It seems to be working.

Coyle's team are currently fifth in the Championship and have defeated Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal to reach the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.

Nobody could say the Clarets are not excellent value for their place in the last four because they are a team that play with ambition and spirit.

Danish keeper Brian Jensen, much maligned at times during his career, has been in outstanding form this season but the Clarets are not a defensive team who try to stifle their opponents. They have two excellent wingers in Eagles and Wade Elliott and play an expansive, attractive brand of football.

As Coyle said of his strategy for the first leg at White Hart Lane - "We go there with no designs of being negative."

Coyle, compared by Flood to a young Bill Shankly for his determination and enthusiasm - not to mention teetotalism - has quickly become one of the hottest managerial properties in the Championship and victory over Tottenham would only enhance his standing.

Derby, on the other hand, host Man Utd on Wednesday with Chris Hutchings in temporary charge following the resignation of Paul Jewell.

The Rams have a much bigger fan base than Burnley, a better stadium and - on paper at least - a more experienced and talented squad. But if the Clarets are punching above their weight this season, the Rams have taken some heavy punishment.

The instant return to the Premier League that Jewell promised after their horrific season in the top flight looks unlikely to materialise. They are 18th in the Championship and cup competitions are proving to be a welcome distraction to both their league position and rumours of a takeover at the club.

Derby scraped past Forest Green in the FA Cup on Saturday and have been rewarded with a tie against East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest, now managed by former boss Billy Davies.

It is a thrilling draw for both Derby and Forest, but a late winner at the New Lawn to edge past non-league opponents does not suggest the Rams will trouble Man Utd. Derby were given an FA Cup scare at Forest Green

Derby face a team that has already brushed aside one struggling Championship outfit in the last few days. United's 3-0 win against an inexperienced Southampton side in the FA Cup on Sunday was routine. The Rams do at least have experienced players to call upon and Hutchings needs them to show against United when the first leg takes place at Pride Park on Wednesday.

United play Chelsea in the Premier League next weekend and may field a second-string team but even so, do you really think Derby can beat United over two legs?

The prospects for Burnley look better, even though they are also firm underdogs.

Spurs are struggling in the Premier League and have been drawn against Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup. They have reached the last 32 of the Uefa Cup but retaining the Carling Cup looks to be the club's best chance of silverware.

I don't expect manager Harry Redknapp to be caught cold by a team that have already sent three top-flight teams packing.

But Redknapp does have serious injury problems and claims that he cannot select Hossam Ghaly or Gilberto because "the crowd don't like them". The Spurs boss is expected to have a busy month in the transfer market so it might not be a bad time to play the London club.

Coyle himself said after the goalless draw at QPR on Saturday that he "loves the cups" and there are examples through the history of the League Cup that provide encouragement to both Burnley and Derby.

The first final at Wembley in 1967 saw third division QPR defeat West Brom, while two years later Swindon - also a Division Three club - beat Arsenal 3-1.

Sheffield Wednesday defeated Manchester United as Ron Atkinson famously managed the Owls to victory over his former team in 1991.

That was the last time a team from outside the top flight won the competition, although Tranmere in 2000 and Birmingham one year later reached the final while playing in the second tier of English football.

It would be fantastic for the Championship if they had a team in this year's final.

As Hansen said: "Only time will tell if one can advance to the final, but it enhances the reputation of the Championship to have two teams in the semi-final - and its status will increase even more if one can reach Wembley."


  • Comment number 1.

    Would have liked Burnley and Derby drawn together but it wasn't to be.

    Still a chance of a big team off guard upset in the final though.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's hard not to be impressed by Burnley. They are a great club with a proud history and I fully expect them to make the jump to premiership football within the next 5 years. Having overcome both Chelsea and Arsenal this season they'll provide as stern an opposition for Spurs as any premier league team but as a Spurs fan I hope we have enough to overcome them over two legs. Derby on the other hand I fear are lambs to the slaughter for United and I would still expect the final to be Spurs Vs United.

  • Comment number 3.

    Burnley could have a chance, Derby have none.

  • Comment number 4.

    Coyle worked wonders at St. Johnstone beofre flourishing at Turf Moor.

    Give this guy all the creduit he deserves because he could easily be managing in the PL as soon as next year.

    The best thing is he doesnt take any **** off of players so teams like Newcastle would be much better with a guy like him.

    Plus my dad coached him at Glasgow to thwe Scottish cup final

  • Comment number 5.

    People shouldn't be so quick to wite off Derby's chances. Fergie will persist in playing his younger and fringe players, a policy which I support but has lead to early exits in the past, like our 2-0 defeat to Coventry last year. Having said that, I could still see us beating Derby quite comfortably; it all depends if the team are ready to get stuck in or not. Burnley Spurs is a great tie, I'm really looking forward to seeing that one. Having beat Chelsea and Arsenal, they arguably deserve to win the competition!

  • Comment number 6.

    TBH, Derby are woeful, Burnley have got a better chance of getting in the final with United, but i think it shall be a Spurs vs United Final at Wembley, COME ON UNITED!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    I am a manchester united supporter and i am not just saying this but i think it will be man.u vs tottenham chelsea lost in the final but i think man.u have a good chase well a very good chase of doing the quad

  • Comment number 8.

    Owen Coyle is Irish isn't he. He played for the Republic of Ireland didn't he?

  • Comment number 9.

    Yes, he played once. For 7 minutes. Against Holland. Replaced Tommy Coyne who had scored for us. Impressive intrnational record

  • Comment number 10.

    Coyle was born in Scotland (Paisley or Glasgow I think) of Irish ancestry (drank Guinness), hence the Republican caps. Perhaps a future national manager.

    Fancy a Burnley v Man U final.

  • Comment number 11.

    i can't wait for tomorrow night, spurs are a top side but we've got to fancy our chances otherwise whats the point. if we keep it tight tomorrow then thre is no reason why we can't turn them over at the turf in 2 weeks time.


  • Comment number 12.

    Owen Coyle was born in Paisley, and is tee-total. He just bought Guinness, didn't drink it

  • Comment number 13.

    If he's from Paisley he didn't buy it! Their notorious for short arms and deep pockets!

    Anyway, looks like he is turning into a top class manager and from what I've seen sets teams out to win.

    It would be good to see a non premiership side win something and of the two left I think only Burnley stand any chance.

  • Comment number 14.

    I fully anticipate Derby to beat Man Utd. Cup form out of the window. Derby will win at PPS on Weds 3-1 and only lose 1-0 at Old Trafford with Fergie fielding a full strength team but with Roy Carroll in top form against his old employers..........

    YAAAAAWWWWNNN....... That was anice dream.

    C'mon you Rams!

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm a Derby fan but I fear for them over two legs. The win over Forest Green, coming back from being down and out, will have given them confidence but belief is at such a low ebb that I could imagine United romping away to double figures over the two legs. But you never know. Ferguson might take his eye off the ball and play a bunch of kids who freeze on the occasion. The best result for us might be a 2-0 loss in the first leg which would have Ferguson settling for a weakened side in the second leg. A goal in the last 10 minutes of the second leg would make it interesting.

  • Comment number 16.

    The main Problem Derby have is if Man Utd do put out a "weakened" side (let's face it the team that beat Southampton still looked very good) and lose 1-0 at Pride Park. Then when the game goes to Old Trafford the big guns (ronaldo, Rooney etc...) appear on the starting XI team sheet.

    The Best result in the first leg for both teams would be to lose 1-0 and hope as someone said above that Spurs and Man Utd carry on playing their reserves in the second leg.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think in an earlier round you could put a cheeky bet on either Burnley or Derby, but I honestly believe over 2 legs neither have a chance.

  • Comment number 18.

    From a Man United point of view, Derby really shouldn't be an issue.

    Things is, that probably puts us up against Spurs at Wembley and anything could happen there.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm a London based Burnley Fan and i've been doing the victory dance ever since we beat Chelsea and Arsenal!!! I can only imagine what might happen if we beat Spurs!!! I do think we have a genuine chance although at this stage i think is gonna be harder that our previous games. How exciting is it that people are finally talking about Burnley as a potential premiership club!

    Owen Coyle is the man. Hope we go up soon cos i think he will be poached at the end of the season otherwise.

  • Comment number 20.

    Coyle was indeed born in Paisley and I'm told that he is one of nine children.

    Everything I have read and seen about the Clarets boss seems to hint that he will go a long way in the game.

    I particularly like one quote that I saw regarding a unhappy player who had been dropped.

    The manager said "It might be the wrong decision, it might be the right decision but it is the decision."

    Enough said.

  • Comment number 21.

    You're a star, love your articles.

    Would also love to see a "Where Are They Now?" on the players from the 1962 Cup Final, Spurs 3 vs Burnley 1. Some have sadly passed to the White Hart Lane / Turf Moor in the sky, but some are thankfully still with us.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'll bet hardly no-one outside Bolton and Scotland had heard of OC before he joined Burnley but he's doing a fantastic job and even if he reaches the play offs then his stock will have risen ten fold. I fear he'll be poached by a premiership club who have limited funds and need his enthusiasm and motivation.

  • Comment number 23.

    "But Redknapp does have serious injury problems and claims that he cannot select Hossam Ghaly or Gilberto because "the crowd don't like them""

    He also said that the FA Cup game was an opportunity for Adel Taraabt

    He then proceeded to keep him on the bench all game.

  • Comment number 24.

    I came here to post a comment as Alan Hansen's column doesn't give the facility.

    Alan states that the "There is the prize of a Wembley final, with the nation watching, the prospect of silverware and a place in Europe."

    I'm not convinced that the Carling Cup does now give a place in Europe with the revised Europa Cup but can't find any definitive answer on official websites.

    The Uefa (CL and Europa Cup) access list for 2009/10 highlights 7 English entries. i.e. 4 league positions for CL, the FA Cup Winner and 2 league positions. With 3 leagues in Europe getting Fair Play places like Man City did last season.

    The above is slightly complicated by the Cup title holder getting back into the competition. So if e.g. Villa come 4th and if Arsenal come 5th and also win the CL then Villa wouldn't get into the CL! Similarly the UEFA Cup winner gets into the Europa Cup next year taking one of 3 league places in the event of an English team winning it.

    Does anyone know for definite if the Carling Cup winner will get into Europe next season?

  • Comment number 25.

    I love cup competitions and as an Aston Villa fan should love the Carling Cup. Unfortunately I don`t. I just don`t see the point of it. Can anyone tell me another country which holds two domestic cups? What would be interesting is if no premiership clubs where involved in it and as oppose to the play-offs, the winner claims a place in the Premier. I`m not sure how this would work it any outfit outside of the Championship won it but it would be interesting. I would let one team go up via automatic promotion, one team would go up via the Carling cup. I would however, have four possible relegated teams of the Premier league. Last place would be automatically relegated for the winners of the Championship. Second to last replaced by the winners of the Carling Cup, then the highest two of the four relegation places in the Premier would face play-offs against the subsequent teams in the play-off positions in the Championship. I`m not sure if that makes total sense the way I explained it, but something similiar is done in Spain and it`s cracking.

  • Comment number 26.

    I was there at the spurs match.

    Too right no one likes Ghaly , it was quite funny to see him get up and then go sit back down. Got to feel for the lad though (i guess)

    I want to see Taarabt, even though he doesn't really have any end product he is quite fun to watch haha


  • Comment number 27.

    im a burnley fan and i think we have a real chance
    i wunt mind a 1-1 at white heart lane because i think we could sneak it at home but if we won away id b over the moon especially 2 get soe away goals on our side

    derby- i doub they could win but i hope they win because we've beat them -0 this season already

  • Comment number 28.

    It's just sad that clubs like Cardiff, and probably every club in the football League who has reached a playoff final has played in the new Wembley but Arsenal have not.
    It just shows how weak they are.
    Anyways congrats to Burnley and Derby and I hope one of them wins.

  • Comment number 29.

    #25 mukalai

    The Scots, the English, the Irish, the Welsh, the French and the Portuguese have one – and the Finns look like they have a winter competition.

    Germany had a league cup from 97 to 07 and Russia had a league cup for one year in 03 only.
    useless fact - Australia has no cup competition at all (with only 8 teams this year in the league)

    only France, Scotland and England have given the league cup winner a place in europe

    it used to be that only teams with 3 uefa cup places could use the league cup to give a uefa place (total 14 countries), however with the europa league 50 of the 53 countries have 3 europa entries

    I'm surprised clubs dont appreciate the fact that as few as 6 games including a 2 leg semi final can get you a place in europe (assuming this years Carling cup does get you into europe - tbc)

  • Comment number 30.

    Will Rallph Coates be at the game? What is he doing now?

  • Comment number 31.

    Re 24. Yes they will.

  • Comment number 32.

    **** U SUPERSTRIKERSHIVAM! We may be serious underdogs against united but we have seen bigger upsets in the history of the Carling cup havent we! All we need is a few wins in the league and the rams will be up and running! We have come this far in the competition so i dont see why we cant go all the way to the final, We have built up our club unlike united who are one of the richest clubs in the world, so go bak out there and rather than being a glory supporter find a proper football club, not a buisness empire! (No offence to MUFC fans)!

  • Comment number 33.

    SCREW U SUPERSTRIKERSHIVAM! We may be serious underdogs against united but we have seen bigger upsets in the history of the Carling cup havent we! All we need is a few wins in the league and the rams will be up and running! We have come this far in the competition so i dont see why we cant go all the way to the final, We have built up our club unlike united who are one of the richest clubs in the world, so go bak out there and rather than being a glory supporter find a proper football club, not a buisness empire! (No offence to MUFC fans)!

  • Comment number 34.

    Just to say that Ralph Coates never played in the 62 Cup Final. The Burnley Team were Blacklaw, Angus, Elder, Adamson, Cummings, Miller, Connelly, Mc Ilroy , Pointer, Robson and Pilkington. I was there come on ye Clarets !

  • Comment number 35.

    The states is a surprise that two championship clubs are in the semi-finals, look at last years semi-finalist in the FA Cup - it was Portsmouth, West Brom, Cardiff and Barnsley - three championship clubs, the gulf is getting smaller. It only takes a look at the last few Premier League seasons to see the 'surprises' ofthe promoted clubs like Wigan, Hull,and Reading.

  • Comment number 36.

    Tottenham 4-1 Burnely HA!

  • Comment number 37.

    Woohoo 4-1 haha, we stormed them

  • Comment number 38.

    "Burnley are reaping the rewards of a clear strategy and a bold managerial appointment that is paying handsome dividends.

    Derby, managerless and alarmingly mediocre this season, have yet to recover from their disastrous one-season stay in the Premier League. "

    Derby could have been described the same way as Burnley two seasons ago, as they pushed for promotion from the Championship.

    It only goes to how quickly a lean, progressive, Championship side promoted to the Premier League can become a bloated, directionless, Championship side relegated from the Premier League, suffering from indigestion after feeding on the fat of the Premier League for just one season.

  • Comment number 39.

    Ronaldo is the only man in Manchester who walks away from a serious massive car crash but spends five minutes writhing in agony if someone pulls his socks down.

  • Comment number 40.

    Ronaldo is the best i am his great fan


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