In the midst of the cold turkey, Quality Street for breakfast and being discombobulated around what day it is, I caught up with Joshua Murray, Burton Albion writer at @BurtonMailSport, ahead of tomorrow’s game at the Pirelli…
Cheers for agreeing to do this Josh. Obviously you write about Burton in a professional capacity, but where do your footballing allegiances lie?
Josh: No problem at all. I am a Derby County supporter and was a season-ticket holder at Pride Park as a youngster, but my Championship allegiances are very much with the Brewers now for obvious reasons!
Must be tricky when Rams meet Brewers! But, with that cleared up… Burton’s season so far, discuss. I’m guessing Cloughie would have preferred this to be at Carrow Road rather than the Pirelli? Eight defeats in a row I understand, which given our ‘along come Norwich’ mantra makes me extremely nervous.
‘Inconsistent’ is the word I continually use, although that is misleading in a sense, because Burton have been very good most weeks on the road and have struggled for form for a while now at the Pirelli.
They are a very tough nut to crack, and their pragmatic, counter-attacking approach has worked really well away from home. When they are expected to open themselves up a little more at home, though, teams have caught them – and they haven’t helped themselves with silly mistakes and failing to capitalise when they have enjoyed dominant spells.
All in all, though, they are a point outside the relegation zone after 24 games, despite that eight-game home losing run, so that is a big positive.
‘Unable to open up teams at home and prone to silly mistakes’. Hhmmm. Has a familiar ring.
How have the locals reacted to this tough run at home? Still fully behind Nigel?
There has been some understandable frustration, but the vast majority are still completely behind the manager and the team. They were outdone by a couple of the divisions best sides in Wolves and Sheffield United, but the majority of the recent defeats were narrow, narrow misses.
The supporters can see that and know that the odd chance being taken here or a better-timed challenge on the edge of the box could turn their home fortunes.
And ultimately, Burton Albion fans never lose sight of the fact that they are watching their side take on the likes of Derby, Leeds United, Aston Villa and Norwich City when they were still urging their side to promotion out of the Conference less than a decade ago.
They sound like a sensible and realistic bunch, Joshua. Not something we’re accustomed to. So, in general, were Burton fans braced for a relegation battle this season? Or were they still hoping to build on last season’s Championship consolidation?
There were always going to be hopes that Albion could push on from what was a historic and quite unforgettable season last time out, and they have shown, in recent games, that that could still be a possibility.
But as Nigel Clough said in the summer, the primary aim for 2017/18 was just to survive again.
Given the size of the club and their resources compared to every single one of their league rivals, that in itself would be another fine achievement – and I don’t think there is a single Brewers fan who would not accept staying up on goal difference if you offered it to them right now!
Fair enough that. Recent results may not have been what Nigel had hoped for, but all very narrow defeats I notice, no thumpings. Is there a corner here waiting to be turned?
At home, certainly. A few of the earlier defeats in this barren home run saw them fall behind early on and then opened up as they chased the game.
More recently, the game has been in the balance to the dying stages, and it has just been an inability to take their chances when Burton have been on top that has proved the difference. In the end, they have wilted under last-gasp pressure.
They are yet to keep a clean sheet at home, so if they can translate their solidity on the road – where they’ve kept five – back to the Pirelli, they’d fancy themselves to string a few decent results together.
Yet to keep a clean sheet at home? Oh god, this gets worse,
As you no doubt recall, our trip to the Pirelli last season was a shocker, Michael Kightly scoring the winner. In his absence – he’s at Southend now I believe – who do they have who can hurt us?
The Brewers always look more dangerous when Lloyd Dyer is on song. He is one of Burton’s best goal-scoring threats, and his pace to beat a man is a huge asset for them on the left flank. If he can get in behind the Norwich defence, Albion will be in a good position to create some chances and test Angus Gunn
Tom Naylor is also in fine form in central midfield. He’s scored twice in his last two games and has so much energy across the field.
Cheers for the heads up. You’ve probably heard we’ve gone all Germanic, with very limited success so far. Seen or heard much of our 2017/18 journey so far?
I actually used to live with a couple of Norwich fans – and was quickly inducted into the Wes Hoolahan Fan Club – so I tend to look out for their results on a Saturday.
From the outside, it always looked like it might take time for a new playing style to bed in, but there has been the odd recent sign that it’s happening.The problem for the Canaries is that the strength and depth of the division now is unbelievable, so just to be in the top 10 requires some real consistency.
But I don’t think they’re far off that.
Nice to hear, although you’ll likely have more chance of seeing Wes sat near you in the stand tomorrow than on the green stuff (he’s only just recovered from a knock).
If you have seen anything of us this season, who has impressed you the most?
I haven’t seen many of Norwich’s games, but everything I see of James Maddison impresses me. Burton have been undone by some stunning free-kick efforts so far this season, so they’ll know not to give anything away around the edge of the box with Maddison playing tomorrow!
He has indeed been our undoubted star; the stats prove as much.
And finally… a prediction for the game… and the season…
I have a sneaky feeling that the Brewers will go out on a high at the Pirelli for 2017 and end their losing run. So, let’s go for a repeat of last season – 2-1 to Burton.
As for the season, if they can turn their home fortunes around, they look a strong enough outfit on the road to be able to build some consistent runs at the right time and keep themselves out of the bottom three.
The business they do in January will be crucial again.
Hard to contest your prediction and there’s no doubt those City players who played in last season’s defeat will be a little twitchy as a result. There’s also no doubting there enough ‘along come Norwich’ factors at play to make the collective sphincter tighten ahead of 3pm tomorrow. But… armed with very little logic other than the fact we’re wearing purple shirts tomorrow (yes… purple!), I’m going for a 1-0 nail-biter in City’s favour.
Cheers to Joshua for his time. Here’s to a good game but an uncomfortable one for him in the press box tomorrow.