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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Doctor Lakes - Burnley

He's back. After a summer off, Soccer AM/MW's very own malpractice-suit-in-waiting, Doctor Lakes, has returned.

Throughout the season he'll be donning his stethoscope, and happily poking around with all kinds of implements from his bag in order to monitor the health of Football League clubs.

For his first physical of the new campaign, he paid a house call to Burnley. Relegated from the top flight last season, what health are the Clarets in to make an instant return?

Burnley was once famous for cloth and engineering. The Queen even visited the town the year after the football club had won the old First Division.

Admittedly, she visited to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Burnley's borough status, but still. It was a town on the up. Its football club was fighting fit and ready to go for a few rounds with Sonny Liston.

I'll skip the years in between, because it makes for some pretty dark reading. Let's just say the club was lying in bed being read its last rites and trying not to walk towards the light.

Now, Burnley are trying to bounce back to the Promised Land. They were relegated from the Premier League after a single season. Still, that didn't matter because the fans were delighted to have spent a season in the sun.

Back in the Championship, they're doing quite well. After drawing with QPR, they sit in 8th - just a point outside the play offs. They didn't weaken their squad in the summer too much and only sold a couple of players.

However, these were replaced by more than adequate additions - Chris Iwelumo coming in and Ross Wallace joining from local rivals Preston.

Despite having Brian Laws in charge, the club looks like it can bounce back at the first time of asking.

They are competing against strong opposition though - and that says a lot about the strength of the Championship with 17 of the 24 clubs having played in the top flight since the Premier League rocked up.

So, how have they performed this season? Well, they were given a very tough start at home to Nottingham Forest, then away to Ipswich, at home to Leicester, and away to Swansea.

They picked up seven points though - with defeat to Swansea and a draw with the Tractor Boys.

Brian Laws is charged with taking Burnley back up

What followed the Swans defeat was an evening to remember for Clarets fans however - a game against PNE at Turf Moor. After 80 minutes, Preston were 3-1 up and down to ten men.

What happened in the remaining ten minutes probably says a lot more about the state of Darren Ferguson's North End than it does about Burnley, but Clarets fans couldn't give a toss when they walked away from the game with three points after scoring three times late on.

All of this in front of the television cameras. The Premier League now knew what it was missing.

Since that game, the club has been up and down and looks to be lacking any real consistency. A 3-0 victory followed by a 4-0 defeat - both at home. Laws will need to tighten up his defence if the club is to stand a chance of bouncing back.

It's difficult to judge Burnley at this moment in time. They have looked superb at times, and at other times they have looked abysmal. One minute they're running a marathon, the next they are laid up in bed claiming that Cheryl Cole gave them malaria.

They are in the promotion shake-up - and that's what the fans would have wanted coming into the winter months.

Whether they can push on from here and find themselves in the automatic promotion shake-up is another matter.

Returning from the impenetrable Loftus Road with a point is a sign they should find themselves in the top six at the end of the season though.

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