Before Birmingham's match against Burnley on Saturday, I interviewed Burnley fan Jamie Smith. Jamie writes a blog on the Clarets called ‘No Nay Never’, which you can find here: http://nonaynever.net/ You can also follow the blog on Twitter @NoNayNeverNet. With Burnley looking likely to go up, Jamie discusses the factors behind his team’s successful season, the importance of being shrewd in the transfer market, and Burnley’s chances of staying up in the Premier League…
Given a small squad, a limited budget and a young manager, many tipped you for a lower-midtable finish, including myself. You're now second. What's gone right?
Everything! Our summer transfer business didn't seem particularly inspiring, but the three free signings - Tom Heaton, David Jones and Scott Arfield - have all been great. They've been a step up in class on the players they replace, Lee Grant, Martin Paterson and Chris McCann. Sean Dyche has his team fantastically fit and incredibly organised. They press with a ferocity I have never seen from a Burnley side. And in Sam Vokes and Danny Ings, we have the best strikeforce in the division.
Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have formed the best strike-partnership in the league. Was losing Charlie Austin to QPR a blessing in disguise?
Could certainly argue that, but when Austin was sold two days before the start of the season with no replacement lined up, nobody was saying that. Vokes and Ings are the perfect partnership and when one is having a bad spell, the other has inevitably been bang in form.
We've been lucky they've both stayed fit really.
You write a popular Burnley blog called 'No Nay Never'. How long has it been running, and why that name?
It'll be four years this summer. No Nay Never is the club anthem, the song we sing about Blackburn Rovers. It was the obvious - well, the only - choice.
Last time you were in the Premier League, I seem to remember you started really well, beat some top teams, and then fell apart in the second half. Why was that?
It was down to Owen Coyle leaving. We'd hit a dodgy patch of form anyway, but when he walked out it destroyed the confidence within the squad that we'd built up over a couple of years. The Premier League is really tough and we probably weren't quite cut out for it, but if Coyle had stayed and McCann, Michael Duff and Jay Rodriguez missed so much of the season through injury, it might have been different. And when you appoint Brian Laws, that's a sign you've given up.
If you do go up this season, how would the current team fare, and which area of the squad would need improvement?
I think we're pretty well equipped actually. It would be interesting to see whether we would continue playing two up front, not many teams in the PL do that these days. We'd probably need a replacement for Duff, who's already 36, and maybe a winger, but other than that it would just be adding really good cover and young talent we can develop, I think. Danny Ings, Jason Shackell and Kieran Trippier are certainly good enough for the PL and a few others could step up too.
The current top two, yourselves and Leicester, have not changed too much of last season's first team regulars. Is that a lesson to the heavy-spenders of QPR and Forest, that stability is needed for promotion?
Yes, though Leicester have thrown money at it as well. We've been really careful with the type of player we bring in and that's let us reap these rich rewards. All the players work their backsides off for one another and most of them haven't tasted life at the top level yet, so they're all hungry.
And finally, your prediction for the game...
Play to our best and we'll win, simple as that. But I'd forgive the lads losing this one, they deserved a blowout after Sunday's win at Ewood so there could be some heavy legs out there. We've got an eight-point gap to Derby so we can afford a slip. But I think we'll get a result.