There is much to admire in the bravado of Brian Laws, the Burnley manager, as he tries to keep his side in the Premier League. One win in 17 games has left the club second from bottom and facing a likely return to the Championship. But Laws has hope, especially with three of the next four games being played at home, starting with Stoke tonight and relegation rivals Wolves on Saturday.
"I don't see why we cannot win them all," he said. "If we show the right application, the right attitude then I don't see why not. Everyone outside of Burnley expects us to get beaten every week, but we have changed that fact." The 2-1 win over West Ham last month was the reason for that change, but it was a rare high since Laws took over in January. His main task has been trying to cure the defensive problem of a side that has kept just three clean sheets and conceded 60 goals. A 3-1 loss at Arsenal on Saturday made it 14 defeats in 15 away games and, with 22 of their 23 points coming from games at Turf Moor, it appears only their home form can keep them up.
"We always believe we can beat teams at home. People are entitled to write us off, but with 10 games to go I think it's a bit harsh," said Robbie Blake, the Clarets striker. This is the time when the motivational qualities of managers can make a massive difference. Tony Pulis has often had Stoke playing above themselves in the two seasons since their return to the top flight. Salif Diao, the Stoke midfielder, said: "Where he makes the difference is his man management. He sees us in way that says we are footballers, but we are also men. He knows how to talk to the man, to deal with the man and so when that man is on the pitch, he wants to play for him. The manager has so much passion and he pushes you to play better."
Burnley v Stoke, 11.45pm, Showsports 1 firstname.lastname@example.org