Burnley: The English Football Cliché at its very best

“Are you a United fan?” the man sitting next to me asks at Turf Moor's Jimmy McIlroy Stand, ahead of Burnley – Manchester United. When we explain to him that we are just coming to see what there is to do in Burnley, he laughs. "Then you've already seen what there is to do in Burnley." Yet, later that evening, we go home with a big smile.

Burnley: The English Football Cliché at its very best

Burnley: Not the most beautiful city in england

Of course, we understand what the good man meant: there isn't much to do in Burnley. The green hills of East Lancashire provide a beautiful setting, but the town itself is nothing special. The centre is downright gloomy, with a shopping street from the sixties and a rundown shopping centre completely deserted just after closing time. It's not a city that you encounter in tourist brochures.

The Royal Dyche

But the fun starts in Burnley as soon as you pass under the viaduct on Yorkshire Street. Immediately to your right is The Royal Dyche, overlooking Turf Moor. A few years ago, the pub was named after the striking Burnley manager Sean Dyche, a man with a bouncer appearance and a voice like a lawnmower. The pub's sign - Dyche as an old portrait of King Henry VIII - is nothing short of brilliant. They even have a special 'Royal Dyche Lager' on tap. It's quite unique, a pub named after an incumbent manager, but the likeable Dyche is well within the ranks, even when the club was at the bottom shortly before his departure.

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Turf Moor

If you take the train from Manchester, you will see Turf Moor on the right-hand side. Due to the height differences, you can already see Burnley's stadium towering above the grey working-class neighbourhoods. An old stadium in a residential area, Burnley have played here since they were one of the founding fathers of the Football League in 1888. It is one of the smaller stadiums in the Premier League, with seating for around 22,000 spectators. Bigger is not necessary for Burnley, the club mainly attracts local fans. Not surprising: arch-rivals Blackburn Rovers play twenty minutes away and to the south, you have Manchester as well as Liverpool not being far away either.

Can he do it on a cold, rainy night… in Burnley?

Can he do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke? These are now legendary words from former striker and commentator Andy Gray, in a conversation about Lionel Messi, questioning how the Argentine wonder would hold up on a cold, rainy evening in English football. They are words written for an evening like this. The wind and rain fly horizontally over Turf Moor, which doesn't stop some fans from coming to the stadium in shorts and T-shirts. Cristiano Ronaldo comes off the bench after an hour, but can't turn the tide for United either. The Portuguese has already made his mark in English football, but evenings like this one are never something to get used to for a boy from the seaside. After the final whistle, he sprints straight to the dressing room: sunny Madeira suddenly seems very, very far away here.

A French Liqueur to battle the cold

In the catacombs of Turf Moor, you can arm yourself against the elements in a special way, namely by sipping away a typical local drink. At least locally: it was established in Burnley by local soldiers returning from the front in France after the First World War. It is the French liqueur Benedictine with hot water and a slice of lemon, better known as 'Bene 'n' Hot'. For only two pounds you can drink it under the stands.

Woet Woet Woet!

Someone who seems to feel like a fish in the water is Burnley's new striker, Wout Weghorst. De Tukker runs all over the pitch, stops passenger Paul Pogba and leads with a beautiful turn - where he sends two men for hotdogs - the assist at 1-1. 'Woot Woet Woet!' thunders around Turf Moor, as if we were watching Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford. The tall striker is exemplary of Burnley's fighting spirit, ultimately gaining a point for Manchester United's visit. With this spirit, they could have maintained themselves. All in all, we had a wonderful evening at Turf Moor. Combative football, an open game that bounces back and forth with some of the best players in the world in action and a stadium the way it was meant to be. Burnley is English football is at its best.

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Images: BSR Agency