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FA CUP PREVIEW: Jem Maidment eyes a fascinating trip to Turf Moor

PUBLISHED: 13:56 31 December 2007 | UPDATED: 14:38 07 September 2010

Burnley v Arsenal Sunday BBC1, 2pm FA Cup third round Turf Moor Few grounds evoke memories of the bygone years of English football better than Turf Moor, home of Burnley FC. One of the 12 founding members of the Football League back in 1888, now the pro

Burnley v Arsenal

Sunday

BBC1, 2pm

FA Cup third round

Turf Moor

Few grounds evoke memories of the bygone years of English football better than Turf Moor, home of Burnley FC.

One of the 12 founding members of the Football League back in 1888, now the proud old club is languishing along way off from the 21st century's footballing elite.

For Arsenal, who travel to the Lancashire side on Sunday lunchtime for their FA Cup third round clash, in years gone by this would have been deemed one of the toughest places to visit in English football.

As recently as the early 1960s the Clarets were league champions and among the Big Three - rubbing shoulders with Bill Nicholson's Tottenham Hotspur and neighbours Manchester United - before a terminal decline almost saw them relegated from league football.

Since those dark days in the mid-80s, the club has slowly turned itself around and is now holding its own in the Championship under new manager Owen Coyle, who arrived from St Johnstone before Christmas.

And Coyle knows all about facing Arsenal in the FA Cup.

He scored for Bolton against the Gunners in a 2-2 draw back in 1994 at Burnden Park before the Trotters, then managed by future Highbury manager Bruce Rioch, stunned George Graham's side with a 3-1 extra-time win in north London.

How Burnley are dreaming of a similar money-spinning outcome.

Back in 1937 Arsenal - who were the cup holders and had thrashed Manchester United 5-0 in the previous round - secured their biggest ever away win in the competition at Turf Moor, with Ted Drake scoring four times in a 7-1 win in the fifth round. It is a club record which still stands today.

On that icy cold February afternoon manager George Allison opted to give many of his fringe players a chance as his side were locked in a titanic battle with Charlton Athletic at the top of the first division table at the time.

But his side, with a smattering of experience in the form of Drake, Cliff Bastin and Alf Kirchen, still managed to produce a delightful display of pass-and-move football.

Arsene Wenger is expected to do the same, with one eye on firmly on a busy January programme in the Premier League.

Expect wholesale changes from the side which faced West Ham United on New Year's Day.

One Burnley player who could have been pulling on a red and white shirt is Romford-born John Spicer.

The midfielder played alongside the likes of Jermaine Pennant, Ashley Cole and David Bentley in the Arsenal youth set-up before making his one and only appearance for the club in a league cup tie against Rotherham United back in 2003.

With first team chances limited, he moved to Bournemouth before pitching up at Burnley where he has slowly built a reputation as a solid performer. He recently returned to first team action after a spell out injured and will be relishing facing his former employers - if selected.

But not as much as his excited boss. "It's a fantastic tie for everyone involved with the club," said Coyle.

"They don't come bigger or better than Arsenal - the whole town of Burnley is buzzing at the news.

"I'm sure we'll have Turf Moor sold out and we want the fans to be loud and make this a difficult tie for Arsenal.

"We will give them the utmost respect, but we will go into this game looking to make things difficult for them and, hopefully, even win the tie."

The spirit of the cup clearly means much to Arsenal fans, despite gorging on a rich diet of Premier League and Champions League fare.

Arsenal's allocation of around 4,000 tickets sold out quickly. Many more are expected to travel ticketless - and they may find spares easy to come by.

Burnley have put tickets on general sale as they struggle to fill their smart, 22,000-seat stadium - an indication of how times have changed in the old mill town. It's a far cry from that home drubbing 71 years ago when 54,445 squeezed into Turf Moor.

But Wenger will be more concerned in improving a poor recent record in the competition.

After four final appearances in five years, the Gunners have failed to get past the fifth round in the past two seasons - and the Frenchman will need no reminding on both occasions the end came in cold, unwelcoming Lancashire.

In 2006 they lost 1-0 at Bolton in the fourth round before elimination by the same scoreline a round later in a replay at Blackburn last season.

Can Burnley make it an unlikely treble on Sunday?

editorial@hamhigh.co.uk

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