The story of a remarkable season, beginning with August and September
Sean Dyche was to be named the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month for September after he had guided Burnley to nine wins from the opening twelve games at the start of an unforgettable campaign.
Perhaps suitably, a special season began with a special anniversary fixture. Fellow initial members of the Football League Bolton Wanderers paid visit to Turf Moor on the opening weekend of the Championship campaign as the world’s original league football competition celebrated its 125th birthday.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw, but there were already signs of things to come. A flicked header by Sam Vokes set up Danny Ings for the Clarets’ very first goal of the season. The striking partnership was developing at such a rapid pace that it would soon be nicknamed ‘Vings’.
Just three days later, Burnley recorded their first – and highest – victory of the campaign as they ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in a first round Capital One Cup tie away at York City. The travelling Clarets supporters filled nearly 25% of the stadium and watched both Ings and Junior Stanislas get on the scoresheet.
Free signings David Jones and substitute Scott Arfield netted their debut goals in new colours on a warm, summer evening in Yorkshire, too.
The first league win of the season came the following weekend at Hillsborough. A goal each from both Ings and Vokes sent Dyche’s team on their way to a 2-1 triumph over Sheffield Wednesday before a late strike from Keith Treacy, just moments after coming on the pitch, proved crucial to a 2-0 home success against newly-promoted Yeovil Town.
The only little blip of the initial part of the campaign arrived on August, 24.
Burnley suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion at the AMEX Stadium in a game that saw new number one goalkeeper Tom Heaton controversially sent off for a second bookable offence.
It was the first time the Clarets found themselves on the wrong end of a score this season.
Very few similar occasions would follow.
A free-kick by Kieran Trippier and another goal from Ings in a 2-0 derby victory over Preston North End at Turf Moor followed as Burnley made it through to the third round of the League Cup before registering their joint-highest away league win of the campaign.
A sensational solo goal by Ings, coupled with captain Jason Shackell scoring against his former club, contributed to a 3-0 triumph against Derby County at Pride Park where the Clarets ran out victorious for the fourth consecutive season after Tom Heaton saved a crucial penalty with the score at 2-0.
Immediately after the first two-week international break of the campaign, there was only ever going to be one game on the minds of everyone in East Lancashire. And when substitute Stanislas hit a left-foot screamer to give Burnley the lead over local rivals Blackburn Rovers, Turf Moor must have felt that was the day. Unfortunately, a late, scrappy equaliser courtesy of Jordan Rhodes meant the Clarets had to wait to break their derby hoodoo.
That time would come…
Dyche’s men never looked back, though. A precise far-post header from Arfield sandwiched in between an Ings double gave Burnley a comfortable 3-0 midweek home win over Birmingham City before a rare victory away at Leeds United followed. Arfield scored again and Vokes was on target, too, against his former club, in a 2-1 win in front of the biggest crowd that watched the Clarets all season at Elland Road.
Meanwhile, Burnley also kept progressing in the Capital One Cup as they came from behind for the first – and not the last – time this campaign to beat Championship opponents Nottingham Forest 2-1 at Turf Moor. Ings got both goals, the first an audacious effort from just inside the box and the second a flicked header that whistled in the far corner of the net after Matt Derbyshire had put the Reds in front.
Finally, the Clarets rounded off September with one of their best performances of the season when they ran out convincing 3-0 winners against Charlton Athletic in a Lancashire sunshine. Unsurprisingly, Ings opened the scoring in the first half before a Vokes double put the Londoners to the sword after the interval amidst a seemingly never-ending stream of Burnley attacks towards the Jimmy McIlroy end.
The Welshman would later highlight his first goal in that match – a lovely chipped finish on the counter-attack following a ball through by Dean Marney – as his favourite all season. Mind you, his second – a first-time near-post volley from a corner – wasn’t bad, either as the Clarets finished the month in second place in the Championship table.