Eddie Howe has become one of the best young managers in the Football League
By Laurie Fitzgerald
Burnley will go into this weekend’s fifth round tie at West Ham United believing that they have every chance of making it through to the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time since 2003.
The Clarets find themselves in a good run of form since the arrival of Eddie Howe as manager, with just one defeat in their last seven games in all competitions.
It has been an eventful season at Turf Moor, with Howe coming in to take on a managerial position made vacant by the sacking of Brian Laws following a 2-0 defeat at home to Scunthorpe at the end of December.
Having been unable to keep them in the Premier League last campaign, Laws was given the opportunity, as well as the money, to get Burnley back into the top flight at the first time of asking.
Chris Iwelumo, Dean Marney, Lee Grant and Ross Wallace were all brought in to add to a squad that was largely retained from the season before, with plenty of experience amongst the ranks from their promotion in 2009.
However, despite finding themselves just two points off of the play-off places going into the new year, Chairman Barry Kilby wasn’t satisfied with the club lying in 10th position, and decided on finding a new man for the job.
That man was Howe, but even that had its own drama. The 33 year-old had carved out a reputation for being one of the best young managers in the Football League, taking Bournemouth from the relegation zone of League Two to the automatic promotion spots in League One.
Both Charlton and Crystal Palace tried to persuade Howe to become their new boss, but his heart seemed set on finishing the job he started at Dean Court, as he stated at a press conference that he was going to remain with the Cherries.
But the next day saw another twist, as Burnley were given permission by Bournemouth to hold discussions with Howe, and he was eventually appointed their new manager on a three-year deal.
The change looks to have paid off; despite having five of their past six league games away from home, they’ve secured wins against Portsmouth, Norwich and Watford.
The Lancashire side are now in eighth, and building momentum for a push for the play-offs.
The attention for the time being now turns to the Cup, and they will want to continue a run that has seen wins at home to lower league opponents in Port Vale and Burton Albion
While they will go into Monday night’s game as the underdogs, they have plenty within the squad to get Avram Grant’s side concerned.
Burnley have some of the best midfield options in the Championship. Jack Cork has continued to mature throughout his loan spell from Chelsea alongside Wade Elliott, while Marney seems to have stepped up a level since the managerial change.
But the standout player has been Chris Eagles. The 25 year-old has had an excellent campaign, creating opportunities for the likes of Iwelumo and local lad Jay Rodriguez and scoring 11 goals in the process.
Eagles has had an excellent season for the Clarets
Ability-wise, he is as good as anyone else in the division and as he showed last year that he would not look out of place at a Premier League side.
Add the threat of full-backs Danny Fox and Tyrone Mears, and Burnley will make sure that the Hammers have their work cut out if they want to earn a place in the Quarter-Finals.
As for the rest of the season, and with two exciting young talents in Marvin Bartley and Charlie Austin joining to add strength in depth, Howe’s side have plenty to play for this season.
They might need a very strong end to the campaign, but with all the drama that has unfolded so far at Turf Moor, the fans will be prepared for anything.
So what do you think? Burnley fans, how do you think you will do on Monday evening? What are people’s thoughts on Eddie Howe? Can the Clarets go up this season? Let us know your opinions