The hoodoo. Only the wildly superstitious in football truly believe it exists, so hello from a wild, er, superstit (check this, Ed). It becomes easier to believe in hoodoos, of course, when they are broken before one’s very eyes, and so to sort out the long-term woes at Leeds United, Bristol City and Birmingham City this season have been very welcome indeed.
Burnley’s visit to the Circle this weekend represents a hoodoo too, of sorts. It’s only five seasons since City beat them, home and away, but the Clarets have taken 18 points out of the 18 available since and have become a right pain in the backside. Last season they won by the odd goal in five at the KC as City contrived to throw away a two-goal lead in the last 15 minutes, in one of those turnarounds that had to be seen to be believed and was greeted with widespread bewilderment rather than anger. The length of time of the hoodoo isn’t great but the regular heartache we’ve gone through in playing always fairly ordinary Burnley sides means there’s another one to put to bed tomorrow.
City are in good shape to do this, of course, courtesy of last week’s excellent – if rather tense – win at Birmingham. Steve Bruce has little need to change the outfield or the tactics, especially as Paul McShane hasn’t recovered from the calf injury that ruled him out of the win at St Andrews. Liam Rosenior has recovered from his groin strain, however.
The one obvious change is in goal, with David Stockdale in line to make his debut after joining on loan from Fulham until January. Bruce has tried to stress that a new keeper was necessary because Mark Oxley has broken a finger, cutting short his loan at Burton Albion, but the standard of custodian he has signed suggests the new arrival will become the new number one. It’s slightly hard on Ben Amos if so, as he played well at Birmingham, but the England under 21 keeper has made enough errors in recent weeks to persuade the manager to look for someone else in the short term.
Burnley are 15th in the table with just two away wins all term, and a change of manager early in the campaign has not been entirely helpful, though at least for them the reason for the change was down to Eddie Howe’s family situation, and not because of poor results or morale. Sean Dyche has the most prolific striker in the country right now in Charlie Austin and has also got ex-Tiger Dean Marney, a scorer for City in this fixture in December 2006, on form in his starting XI. Winger Ross Wallace is back after serving a ban but Kieran Trippier sits this one out after being sent off last week.
One other player who will be absent is Cameron Stewart, of course, with the City winger disallowed from playing against his parent club, though his appearance record since going to Turf Moor in August suggests he was unlikely to have been considered anyway.
This hoodoo, then. Last season’s incongruous loss was preceded by a single goal win for the Clarets in 2010/11 and that horrifying 4-1 cuffing they gave us in the Premier League in 2009/10, when both sides were eventually and deservedly relegated. City, however, have good recent memories of playing Burnley too, not least the occasion in 2007/08 when Richard Garcia scored from 30 yards in a 2-0 win that also saw both sides have two men sent off. It remains the last win at home over these opponents.
Getting shut of a fourth hoodoo this season could take City up to third in the npower Championship table and instil every ounce of confidence required in the team prior to the visit of some impressive looking League leaders on Tuesday night. The Tigers are universally odds-on to win, with 5/6 the best you’ll find on a home. Our Lancastrian nemesis are are backable at 4/1, while the draw is 11/4. Gonna be a big few days, this, so c’mon City.