Jay Rodriguez on the night Burnley almost made the impossible, possible

"And the impossible, all of a sudden, is possible!"

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 8:08 am
Jay Rodriguez celebrates his equaliser against Spurs in 2009

Phil Bird's commentary still sends a shiver down the spine, recalling the night when Championship side Burnley, 4-1 down from the first leg, gave Spurs and Harry Redknapp the scare of a lifetime in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg at Turf Moor.

Robbie Blake started the fightback, with a stunning free kick 11 minutes before half-time, before, after Blake gave Chris Gunter twisted blood down the left, Chris McCann drilled in a second.

Then at the death, a 19-year-old Burnley-born forward called Jay Rodriguez popped up with a dramatic equaliser.

A deflated Graham Alexander

Half the squad, and the ground, thought the Clarets were through on away goals, but, cruelly, Burnley had to prepare themselves for extra time.

And they looked like holding on to earn the right to play Manchester United in the final at Wembley, only for two goals in the last two minutes to send Spurs through.

There were tears aplenty, on the pitch and in the stands, although Burnley would use that disappointment as the catalyst to drive them on to win promotion to the Premier League under the arch four months later.

And, as the sides prepare to do battle in the competition for the first time since that bitter-sweet night, Rodriguez, hoping to start against Spurs, looked back: "Blakey gave us that belief with the first one, then McCann got the second, and obviously I luckily scored, and a few of us thought we had got through!

"The highs and lows were crazy, but I learned a lot from that game and the aftermath.

"Maybe we weren't meant to go to Wembley in the cup, and we saved it for the end of the season, and got promoted.

"It was definitely a motivation and drive, so it could have been a blessing in disguise, we used that disappointment."

For such an agonising defeat to go into Burnley folklore is remarkable, but the pride in the performance that night still lingers: "It's a strange one, it ended and we were all disappointed, and the changing room afterwards was pretty silent and sad.

"But what came out of that night was the atmosphere and everyone's stories, the grit and determination to get back and do what people probably thought we couldn't do against a great side, just showed what that team had, and the story afterwards makes that night better, because I think it showed our character.

"With that loss, we came through and got promotion, and it is a night to remember, even though it had a sad ending.

"It was strange for me, I don't think I realised too much, maybe because of my age...I remember Duffo saying a few days after, the difference between me reaction and say Grezza's reaction was because we were at different points in our careers.

"As a young lad, you have to learn from those things and the emotion Grezza and the older players showed, but how do you flip that and use that determination to win the next game and push on to Wembley in the play-offs?

"That was a massive learning curve and something I looked up to, I thought it was a great thing to have as a young player, to have those senior players to learn from."

Rodriguez has always had a taste for the League Cup, now the Carabao Cup, scoring his first Burnley goal against Fulham as that run to the semi-final began, and he has since gone on to break the club record for goals in the competition, with his four-goal blast against Rochdale in the last round, the first time a Burnley player had scored four, since he also achieved the feat against Burton 10 years prior!

He said: "It's been good to me, my first professional goal was against Fulham in this cup, and that was an amazing feeling in itself.

"And I've been lucky enough to score a few in this competition.

"Cup nights are always special, underdogs can always make a great upset, and it's anyone's game on the night.

"Hopefully it's another great night.

"You've got to go into these cups believing you can do something, the atmosphere against Rochdale was brilliant, they brought a lot, we had a lot, and the players enjoyed the atmosphere.

"Hopefully it will be similar against Spurs, and a similar result would be brilliant.

"There's no reason why not, you have to have that belief you can progress to the next round each time you play in the cups, if you didn't, there's no point being in them.

"For us to get to Wembley would be amazing, so you always have to believe, but you've just got to think of the next hurdle, which is a tough ask, but it would be great for the club."

It remains to be seen whether Spurs skipper Harry Kane gets a rest on the night, but Rodriguez hopes the "World class" England captain is in opposition: "I feel he's the best in the country, he's got everything as a striker, as a character and personality - I don't know him, but what you see of him, he's very level-headed but ruthless on the pitch, he can score with any type of finish and he's a proven world class player, and definitely the best striker.

"It's always good to go up against these players and a great feeling. Hopefuly he plays."