Can Burnley stay up? On the eve of a six-pointer against Leicester at Turf Moor, that’s the million-dollar question Tony Dawber put to Tony Scholes of top fan site Clarets Mad.
By Saturday evening, we’ll have a fair idea whether Burnley’s attempt to defy the financial odds will succeed.
Defeat against Leicester at Turf Moor and it will be a very tall order indeed to stay in the Premier League.
Win, and the Clarets are back in the pack and with a half-decent run-in, they can still make it to safety.
If they do, it will be an incredible achievement, not least because Burnley’s budget is the lowest of all 20 Premier League teams.
That’s a fact all too clear to Tony Scholes, who runs the long-running and hugely popular Burnley fan site Clarets Mad.
‘It has been a struggle this season but we never for one minute thought it was going to be any different,’ he said.
‘We know we can’t compete with the top teams but we have to try to compete against the other struggling teams.
‘Yet the other two promoted sides, Leicester and QPR, have spent far more than us and the other sides at the bottom, Sunderland, Hull and Aston Villa, have all had far more Premier League pay-outs – Villa having had 23 years’ worth and counting.’
But as he pointed out, there are other factors that have conspired against Burnley.
‘The transfer windows of last summer and January were hugely frustrating,’ said Scholes, a life-long fan whose site has raised thousands of pounds for Burnley’s youth set-up.
‘We had targets lined up. On the day the January window closed, I was told pretty much everything was tied up on two deals but we couldn’t get them over the line. We are still puzzled as to why.
‘And sure enough, the week after the window closed, we lost Dean Marney to injury for the season. We had no one to replace him.
‘I’m not saying he is a megastar, but he has been an absolutely vital player for us. That was proved in the promotion season last year when we won just two of the eight games he missed.’
On the field too, there have been frustrations.
Burnley have compete gamely, proven by draws at Chelsea and Manchester City and then a famous home win over City. But as Scholes readily admitted, throwing away two goal leads against lesser guns West Brom and Crystal Palace could prove very costly.
‘We played well against West Brom. Though we did not do as well against Palace, that game was particularly disappointing because we conceded a late goal. Given our fitness levels, that’s something we vary rarely do,’ Scholes pointed out.
‘If we’d have got the six points we deserved from those two games instead of the one we received, we’d now be on 31 points and in a good position to stay up.’
The Clarets have had a gruelling run against the top sides and they will be happy enough to still be in touch as the final straight approaches. Soon, very soon, will be now or never time.