Burnley were handed a Battle of Britain after being drawn with Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen in the Europa League second qualifying round.
And while it’s fair to say both sets of supporters would have preferred to travel to mainland Europeand get another stamp in their passports, it promises to be a passionate affair, as Burnley return to European competition for the first time in 51 years.
donssupporterstogether.com (@DonsSupporters) gave us their reaction, and what Burnley fans can expect from their trip to the Granite City next month.
“It's an interesting draw but not the one we were hoping for! Given the proximity we're a little more aware of Burnley's ability than those of the other prospective opponents and we knew they were best avoided. Also, there will be plenty of fans who'll be disappointed that the passports won't be needed for a venture into the sunnier unknown. But at the same time, it makes it easier for fans who wouldn't otherwise travel; there are already plenty planning to drive or take the train and we'll be travelling in numbers for the away leg.
“The Battle of Britain tag is already emerging. There's a long-running and futile battle on social media between Scottish and English fans and their respective leagues. We're the pub league, the tin pot league, the my nan could be the top scorer league. It's all a bit bizarre as we don't claim the league to be anything other than modest in relation to the English Premier League. Any comparison is utterly pointless and happens only because of geography. The standard retaliation to criticism of our league is that the Premier League has sold its soul and is buying progress, leaving fans of clubs mistaking wealth for prestige. That said, Burnley seem to be a rare and refreshing exception to that, preserving a more traditional identity and finding success with it.
“Given the gulf in resources, Aberdeen have no right to challenge Burnley on the pitch. By the last accounts Aberdeen's staff costs were at just under £8m to Burnley's £61m and that gap is only getting bigger. There's also a frustration that we're facing such a huge challenge at the first hurdle. It's well-documented that this is Burnley's first European game in 51 years. Funnily enough, Aberdeen made their European debut in 1967 and have played a total of 31 seasons in Europe, winning two trophies. This is our fifth consecutive year in the Europa League yet we're the unseeded team on this occasion. It's an unfortunate product of the poor performance of Scottish clubs in Europe and UEFA’s unfavourable coefficient system, but cup football is famous for being a leveller. Weaker teams have beaten better teams.
“Under Derek McInnes, Aberdeen have been quite pragmatic. We have flair players but we’re a team built to win games first and entertain second. Over the last few years we’ve generally managed to do both but last season we struggled after losing key players and not replacing them effectively. It wasn’t pretty at times and at the end of the season it was a sense of ‘job done’ and no more. Since, we’ve lost Kenny McLean [to Norwich] who was our best player in the second half of last season. He kept the team ticking in midfield and with he and Ryan Christie leaving there was a big hole to fill in our midfield. We’ve brought in Stephen Gleeson, Lewis Ferguson and Chris Forrester in midfield so it will be a whole new dynamic in the middle of the park. Our captain Graeme Shinnie can play at left back but he’s usually in the centre of the park and with good reason. He’s hugely influential and combative with the yellow card count to prove it.
“We’ll look to wingers Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn to cause problems for Burnley with Joe Lewis and Scott McKenna to keep them at bay. Joe Lewis has been outstanding in goal since joining and Scott McKenna was a revelation last season. He started last season on the bench and ended it by winning goal of the season and captaining Scotland in the Azteca. He’s so commanding at the back and uses the ball well. We’re going into the season with three strikers fighting for the one spot and it’s anyone’s. Adam Rooney is the poacher, Sam Cosgrove the target man and Stevie May somewhere in the middle. Not one of them took the bull by the horns last season although Cosgrove ended it well.
“As for the city, there’s plenty to be enjoyed. Pittodrie is within walking distance of the city centre so there are many bars. Visiting teams taking larger numbers, like Groningen, have headed for Castlegate, a square with a good number of pubs. On the odd chance it’s sunny you could hit the beach – the ground is even closer to the sea! The ground itself has seen better days. Indeed, a new stadium on the outskirts of the city has recently been approved after nearly 20 years of trying. Aberdeen fans aren’t the noisiest and Pittodrie doesn’t hold an atmosphere too well but don’t get me wrong, on the big occasions with a full house it can be pretty special.
“We believe European football is in our blood and where we belong and we want to stay there. Plenty of Aberdeen fans remember that night in Gothenburg in ‘83, still the last time Real Madrid were beaten in a European final. A little over 10 years ago we were visiting Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich and thumping Copenhagen 4-0. And the last four years has been a series of frustrations as we aim for the group stages. It’s little in relation to the Premier League TV money Burnley will receive, but the millions the group stages would bring would be transformational for Aberdeen. It’s huge to the club and the supporters.
“European football is brilliant and we’re sure Burnley fans will be relishing it. We just hope they don’t enjoy it too much…”