Burnley’s unlucky start to the season is down to the Premier fixture list rather than the 13 players signed by Vincent Kompany in the transfer window.
It’s not The Clarets’ fault they face Aston Villa on Sunday still looking for their first point. Their only match so far was a thankless task against Treble winners Manchester City with last week’s visit to Luton postponed because of stadium work at Kenilworth Road.
So, already two games behind most clubs in this morning’s fledgling Premier League table, there is a feeling that Burnley’s season begins in earnest at Turf Moor on Sunday afternoon.
Josh Cullen, who first played for Kompany at Anderlecht and wore the captain’s armband against City, is trying to see the positives from his side’s delayed return to action despite some players reporting back to pre-season training as far back as early-June.
Josh Cullen captained Burnley in their first game of the season, losing 3-0 to Manchester City
Last year Cullen played under current manager Vincent Kompany in Belgium with Anderlecht
He notes the team also had an awkward start to last season – yet still went on to win the Championship with 101 points.
‘It’s been a strange having a break after the first game. But it’s good because having a lot of new faces it won’t do us any harm having more time to gel,’ says Cullen.
‘Having said that, we are looking forward to getting back out there in front of our fans. It’s been a long couple of weeks since the City game and we’ve all been itching to get going again.
‘We learned last year you can’t pay attention to the league table at this stage. We’ve only played one game against the champions and came out the wrong side. No matter how many matches others have played, we will catch up on the fixtures.
‘After the first five games of last season, we were only 15th in The Championship after drawing 3-3 at home to Blackpool.
‘The manager was in his first season here and a lot on the outside were panicking as to whether he was the right appointment or whether we’d signed the right players. And look how it went.’
Cullen was born in Essex and grew up supporting West Ham. He was at the club from the ages of nine to 24 but the midfielder’s first-team pathway was blocked by the formidable presence of Declan Rice.
A successful loan spell at Charlton then led to a career-changing approach from Anderlecht where he paired up with Kompany, a rookie manager at the time. When the Belgian took over at Turf Moor, he quickly called for Cullen to follow him.
Kompany will be looking to bounce back after his loss against former manager Pep Guardiola
The 37-year-old guided his boyhood club to third in the Belgian Pro League, but left soon after
‘It was a bit of a random one to hear that Anderlecht were interested. You don’t think something like that would be on the cards,’ acknowledged Cullen. ‘I still don’t really know how he came to hear about me – I’ve never asked him! – but I imagine his scouting network is meticulous.
‘To go to such a massive club with that scrutiny and pressure, a big name in European football, was great for my development.
‘I didn’t assume I would follow the manager to Burnley but I knew I’d played a lot of games for him and he trusted me. When the call came, I was happy to come.
‘One of the biggest compliments I can give him is that he doesn’t change whether we win 3-0 or lose 3-0.
‘We’re back in the meeting room on Monday or Tuesday, going through all the good and bad, where we can improve. That never stops.
‘He sees the bigger picture rather than a roller-coaster of emotion whether we are winning or losing. It’s one of his massive strengths and gives us massive confidence as players. He makes us calm in the moment.’
Kompany arrived just as the team that had established Burnley in the Premier League was breaking up with Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski among those departing.
The former Manchester City captain gambled on a raft of new signings and spearheaded by loan striker Nathan Tella, won promotion.
Tella has gone again with City defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis so another 13 new players have arrived at Turf Moor, £14million England under-20s international Aaron Ramsey from Aston Villa the latest signing on Monday.
The club’s transfer record was broken by £19million Swiss striker Zeki Amdouni from Basel while goalkeeper James Trafford, an England under-21s European Championship winner, has joined from City.
Nathan Tella spearheaded Kompany’s Burnley side to win the Championship on loan, but has sinced secured a transfer from relegated Southampton to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen
Burnley play Aston Villa after they beat Hibernian in the Conference League Play-Off First Leg
Cullen grew up in Belgium, life in a new country wasn’t always easy during the pandemic, and Anderlecht had financial struggles that prevented them for emulating the glory of past teams.
Kompany in Lancashire is the same as Kompany in Brussels according to 27-year-old Cullen.
‘He hasn’t changed as a person or his philosophy. I just think the detail is constantly going up,’ he says.
‘He tells us as players his door is always open if we need to go and speak to him about an issue, football or non-football related. He will try and give us the best advice he can and be honest with us.’