From elation to deflation in less than an hour.
It is the tie for the romantics; the return of Vincent Kompany to the place where he won nearly everything. Progression, though, had represented an incredible chance to go to Wembley.
Before the season it looked like Burnley’s best chance of a trip down south would be via the Championship play-off final, but they have proven to be superior to the rest of the Championship.
That’s what made the last eight draw so enticing. Fellow Championship sides Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers were in the pot, and so too were League Two Grimsby Town. Even Fulham and Brighton & Hove Albion did not strike the fear.
Potential dreams threatened to become reality, ones that felt so far away following Burnley’s relegation, the acceptance the majority of the squad were going to leave, and the future being uncertain in June.
BREAKTHROUGH FOR BURNLEY!
They left it late, but Connor Roberts has popped up with a huge goal.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 1, 2023
The draw was the worst case scenario, and the recent memories of games against Manchester City came flooding back. The ten straight defeats, the 34-1 aggregate score and the four consecutive 5-0 drubbings at the Etihad Stadium. “Manchester City (a)” sends shivers down spines.
At least Burnley’s relegation meant no City fixtures for a season, providing they did not draw them in the cup. Oh, you didn’t know? Always drawing them in the cup is another running joke; three times in the last five years has become four in six.
However, this time there is a different feel to this game. This is a new Burnley, a group of players without the scars of the past and a playing style that can help them take the game to Pep Guardiola and his players.
It will be Manchester City of the Premier League against Manchester City of the Championship.
Kompany’s smile said it all as he reflected on his side’s dominant 1-0 victory over League One Fleetwood Town where the only ingredient missing from the performance was finishing.
The Burnley manager has not entertained talking about his former club. That was then and this is now. He wants to be seen as a manager, and leave his playing days in the past.
He does not engage in comparisons to Guardiola. He has learned and taken tips, tricks and been influenced by the Spaniard’s philosophy but Kompany is his own man, determined to create his style.
Kompany still maintains plenty of relationships at his former club, where he spent 11 years, helping them to 20 domestic trophies in 360 appearances, many as captain.
A statue was built to honour his achievements and since returning to England from managing in his native Belgium, he has visited the Etihad on numerous occasions to watch with his children.
It should give him a head start of identifying how his Burnley side could exploit weaknesses and nullify the threats of Manchester City, although focus and planning will not switch to that game until matches against Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Hull City have been navigated.
Kompany described his emotions as “calm” when he discovered who they had drawn, acknowledging it will be a special day.
“I know there’ll be plenty of hugs, there’ll be plenty of high fives, but there’s a machine that wants to win all the time,” he said.
It is the type of mentality Kompany has brought and installed at Burnley. He has created a machine that leads the Championship by 12 points and third by 19 points.
Despite the initial body blow and once the ‘what may have been’ thoughts passed among supporters, there are reasons to be much more positive about Burnley’s next adventure to the Etihad.
Not often this season have they been the underdogs but Kompany believes his players have earned this game and should view it as a great opportunity.
A young, hungry squad will arrive, fearless and playing with complete confidence. A team who wants to dictate tempo and are comfortable playing in any area of the pitch. There will be no damage limitation, no rotation. This will be Burnley at full strength.
The attacking talent of Nathan Tella, Anass Zaroury and hope remains that Manuel Benson’s injury will be healed in time for his pace and creativity to be let loose, attributes Sean Dyche’s teams rarely had.
Burnley won’t enjoy the same possession they usually have. They will need to suffer and withstand, with Jordan Beyer and Hjalmar Ekdal laying those foundations, before picking their moments to try and find the holes Manchester City have shown on occasion. The plan may fail, but the intent will be there.
It felt like fate that Kompany and Manchester City would meet at some point this season. The ghosts of the past are irrelevant, Manchester City will meet the new Burnley.
(Main image: Kompany with match-winner Roberts. Photo: Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images)