Turf Moor season-ticket holders Leon Walmsley and Kian Richardson are spending the week on work experience in the media department at Turf Moor.
Here, the two Year 10 students at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School give their personal views on a memorable 2016/17 campaign for the Clarets.
After the trials and tribulations of our first season back in the top flight since coming so close to avoiding relegation just two years ago, Burnley have finally made the Premier League its home!
At the start of the season, retention of Premier League football was our utmost priority, and the things we’ve achieved this season have blown that out of the water, and proved all the doubters wrong. What a journey it’s been…
Before the season even began there was a nervous excitement around the club.
Sam Vokes set the tone against Liverpool as the Reds were beaten at fortress Turf Moor
Early signings of Charlton duo Nick Pope and Johann Berg Gudmundsson were a real statement of intent from the club that Premier League survival was not only a dream, but a possibility.
An unbeaten pre-season, including an Andre Gray hat-trick against Rangers side featuring Joey Barton, set the precedent of what was to come.
August 13, 2016. The first day back in the Premier League.
The atmosphere around Turf Moor was electric. The stadium was bouncing as cries of “23, 23 undefeated” drowned out the visiting Swansea fans. A cruel late goal from Leroy Fer stole the points from the gritty Clarets side who were given an early indication that they had to fight to survive in this division, and they delivered.
The arrival of Belgian magician Steven Defour sparked the real beginning of the season. Once heralded as a future star by Sir Alex Ferguson, Defour’s introduction injected confidence and positivity into the club.
A first league victory over Liverpool since 1973 marked the start of a fantastic run of home form which set the foundations for survival, as well as a memory for the fans to cherish to ensure the atmosphere would be vibrant at every home game.
Steven Defour added a touch of continental flair
Fans would enter the ground believing they would win; a feeling the Clarets haven’t felt in the top flight for a long time. The deadline day pounce for Irish international Jeff Hendrick from Derby, for a club record fee, topped off a fantastic start to the season.
The midfielder would prove to a vital cog in the machine that Sean Dyche was building that ran through the entire club, from the players, to the staff, to the fans.
At the turn of the year Burnley sat 11th in the Premier League and it looked as though it wouldn’t get better. January began with the return of the prodigal son, Joey Barton.
It looked as though the transfer window was going to slam shut to no avail before two deadline day swoops for Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady raised the spirits again.
Barton and Brady made no mistake in (re)introducing themselves to the club with style with exceptional-free kicks against Southampton and Chelsea, sealing more vital points on the road to safety.
Ten home victories in total, including a late winner from Sam Vokes against reigning champions Leicester, and a passionate injury-time bullet from Ashley Barnes to beat Crystal Palace personified the pure love of football this club is founded upon.
Dyche’s philosophy perfectly encapsulates the mentality of our town: hard working, tough and determined. Despite the solid, no-nonsense image of the club at the surface, the Turf Moor faithful weren’t denied some world-class moments.
Tom Heaton refused to be beaten by his former club at Old Trafford
Defour’s explosive introduction against Hull and his delightful dink in the FA Cup, Andre Gray’s stunning hat-trick and Hendrick’s goal of the season, to name a few.
However, even such a successful season doesn’t come without its setbacks.
The Clarets struggled to get results away from home, despite some fantastic team and individual performances. Who can forget the heroics of “Captain Fantastic” Tom Heaton at Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford?
The former Manchester United keeper denied the Reds with an astonishing 11 saves, including ‘Schmeichel-esque’ acrobatics denying a Zlatan Ibrahimovic overhead effort.
Tom’s performance against United further consolidated his England squad spot, and proved to the rest of the league what Burnley fans have known for years, he’s England’s number one!
If, in August of last year, I was offered survival at all costs, I would have snapped your hand off. But to stay up, and to do it in the way we did is an unparalleled achievement and Dyche and his players deserve the utmost credit.
To pick a single highlight from such a successful season is an impossible task.
The Liverpool triumph? Heaton’s heroics? Keane and Mee’s masterclass?
The job Dyche has done with the resources available, and the shift put in by every single player deserves endless praise.
Looking ahead to next season, we’ll once again aim to firmly consolidate our Premier League status, and by doing so continue to develop the club from the bottom up into a solid, well-run football club following the traditions of the past.
While looking forward, we must remember how far we’ve come since avoiding the ignominy of dropping out of the Football League against Orient 30 years ago.
Burnley are still Premier League and only getting better.
Ashley Barnes provided a goal-den moment as he downed the Eagles at Turf Moor
Altogether this season, we achieved the goal of staying up, which we knew would be a tough challenge. Home form was key, as 33 out of 40 points came at Turf Moor, including some big results, such as a win against Liverpool, a point against this year’s champions Chelsea and points from all four teams from seventh to 10th in the Premier League table.
Although away form was challenging, the win against Crystal Palace towards the end of the season, which guided us to our only double over a team this year, was great for confidence and securing security in the top flight next season.
The three most stand out players for me this season were Tom Heaton, who kept us in games with brilliant saves countless times; Michael Keane whose class at the back all season earned him two England caps, in which he made no real errors; and finally, Jeff Hendrick has been brilliant at winning the ball and creating chances.
He has been able to perform as both a holding midfielder and an attacking midfielder. However, both full backs, Matt Lowton and Stephen Ward, have been fantastic at defending against wingers and going forward and getting involved in the build-up.
I believe Ward has been our most improved player this season. I can’t fault Andre Gray and Sam Vokes, scoring 22 goals between them, and they still have time to improve even more.
It was a welcome 'home' for Joey Barton as he scored on his second 'debut'
Not forgetting the manager of course! Sean Dyche has done an outstanding job with the resources available and guided Burnley to a second consecutive season in the top division for the first time since the Premier League was founded. He helped turn Turf Moor into a fortress, winning 10 times and picking himself up a Manager of the Year nomination.
There have been a lot of ups and downs this year, but there have been a lot of positive and excellent highlights such as Hendrick’s volley against Bournemouth, Robbie Brady’s free kick against Chelsea and of course, Steven Defour’s delightful chip in the FA Cup against Bristol City, which was my favourite goal this year.
Although a couple of games have gone against us by conceding very late, six important points came within the space of two home games, with last-gasp goals from Scott Arfield against Everton and Ashley Barnes against Crystal Palace.
The 2-0 triumph against Liverpool, who finished in a Champions League qualification spot, was one of the biggest achievements this year, with a clean first minute strike from Vokes followed by another first-half goal from Gray, which was set up by the magical Defour.
A lot of great goals this year have helped, but you don’t always win games on just scoring! The defence for me this year has been fantastic and obviously, Heaton has played a massive part in that.
Robbie Brady whet the appetite for things to come with his stunner against Chelsea
His performance at Old Trafford against the Red Devils was one of the best goalkeeping performances I have seen, saving Zlatan Ibrahimović’s bicycle kick attempt spectacularly (described by pundits as ‘Schmeichel-esque’) as he and the defence kept 38 shots from entering the back of the net.
Although the first away victory came in the second-to-last away fixture, four draws were key to our survival chances and in the end made life a lot more comfortable.
Also, points were controversially taken away in both games against Arsenal this season.
Burnley aren’t a team to just splash the cash, but in the summer some key players got their signature on a contract, two of them breaking our record transfer fee in one week, showing Dyche’s commitment to keeping the club’s Premier League status.
Defour was a super catch from Anderlecht, sweeping up the Belgian star for a reported £8m after an injury stopped Manchester United signing him in his younger days, while the other, Hendrick, was signed after his dominant performances for Ireland in the European Championship.
All round, this season has been a success as we achieved our goal of remaining in the top flight and gaining squad depth.
But reaching the magical 40-point mark is our biggest achievement this year and will be our main goal next year. I think Burnley are growing as a club and are doing exceptionally well to be staying up in the top flight as they are just a small-town club, without the help of the huge personal backing of individuals that some clubs benefit from.
Next season, if we can replicate our home form while getting a couple of wins away from home, a mid-table finish is on the cards.
Depth is the key to a strong side next year if we want to have a third consecutive season in the big league.
Pride of Burnley Lions helped show the Clarets belong at the top table