Tomorrow I’ll be spending Sunday lunchtime with former Downing Street press chief Alistair Campbell. Well, to be honest, so will 25,000 other people at Turf Moor for the big Burnley v Blackburn FA Cup tie.
Campbell is a genuine Burnley fan as anyone who saw the television images of him suffering towards the end of our FA Cup triumph against Liverpool would realise. There is nothing fake or ‘post-Hornby’ about his passion for the club and he has a great column in The Times today looking ahead to the game.
IF BEATING Liverpool in the FA Cup third round took Burnley fans to paroxysms of joy, victory against Blackburn Rovers tomorrow will spirit us to the outskirts of heaven. Indeed, as the Turf Moor song goes: “If it weren’t for b***ard Rovers, this would be a paradise.” This is the big one.
Just as our songs tend to be about them, so even when they were up there with the big boys, playing in the European Cup when we were scrapping for the LDV Vans Trophy, their songs have always been about us. I used to hate it, hearing them on TV from some far-flung European city: “Are you watching, Burn-er-lee?” We were, and willing them to lose, as we prepared for an away trip to Hartlepool or Aldershot.
They were grim days and they will make a victory on Sunday all the more sweet, as Campbell notes:
I cannot tell you how much we want this, and how long the impact will linger in the homes and workplaces of East Lancashire.
In contrast to Campbell, I just don’t get the feeling that Jack Straw, who as well as being Foreign Secretary is MP for Blackburn, really is a genuine football man.
The Times balances things out in their two-page coverage of the derby by giving Straw some space too:
IF YOU’D told me 20 years ago that I’d end up with an obsessive condition for which there is no known cure, I’d have snorted with derision.
But I am now so diagnosed. It’s called supporting Blackburn Rovers. Its symptoms are a continuing, overwhelming anxiety about Rovers’ fate.
Meanwhile Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager and former Manchester United and Barcelona striker, knows how big the game is but perhaps slightly over-eggs the pudding a little:
Hughes said: “Make no mistake, this game is up there with all the derbies I have played in, even the Barcelona versus Real Madrid game.”
For those of you interested, the game is live on BBC tomorrow. It is the first time the BBC have broadcast a whole game live from the Turf since the 1960/61 season when we played Hamburg in the European Cup – a game my Dad attended.
While I’m in the football fever mood and in Lancashire I’m off to watch another famous name from the birthplace of professional game: Accrington Stanley .
Update: Cracking match with Stanley trouncing top of the table Barnet 4-1. Same result on Sunday would do very nicely.