Burnley forward Ashley Barnes has claimed there are some referees who would be happy to see the club relegated this weekend due to an undeserved reputation for playing ugly.
Former Clarets boss Sean Dyche had a long-standing gripe about the number of big decisions he believed went against his side, and it has continued since his exit last month, with contentious decisions over penalties and a red card in each of Burnley’s last two games.
Barnes was penalised for a debatable handball at Tottenham – with Harry Kane’s resulting spot-kick the difference in a 1-0 defeat – but Burnley did not get a penalty for a similar incident involving Lucas Digne at Villa Park on Thursday night.
Mike Jackson’s side ended that match with 10 men as substitute Matt Lowton was sent off late on, a decision Burnley will appeal against, but Barnes said it was part of a pattern as they prepare for Sunday’s relegation showdown against Newcastle.
“I think in recent seasons people look at us and think we’re a hard team, being ugly,” Barnes said. “No disrespect, I think people, even referees, want us gone from the league.
“That’s just another issue we have to overcome. We’ve just got to concentrate on the game ourselves.”
Asked if referees “buy into” the reputation Burnley may have, Barnes added: “Of course they do. The whole situation when (Kevin Friend) goes to the screen at the weekend.
“(Tottenham) played on, they missed a great opportunity and everyone goes to set up for a goal-kick, but then there’s VAR, it’s like, ‘What?’
“Then he’s smiling when he comes away and no one can speak to him. Even (at Villa Park) we can’t speak to (Paul Tierney). Go and check the screen, that’s what it’s for. We just need consistency throughout the decisions.”
Despite the lack of a penalty, plus Lowton’s red card, Burnley earned a draw at Villa which lifted them out of the relegation zone, level on points with 18th-placed Leeds but with a vastly superior goal difference.
That means Burnley control their own fate in the relegation battle when Newcastle visit on Sunday.
“We’ve got it in our hands to win it at the weekend,” Barnes said. “We’ve got a good group, an experienced group who know how everything works in terms of game management in these situations and hopefully we can get it over the line.
“For us as players when we cross the while line we give it all and block out everything else. Everything rides on this game for survival, it’s a new situation, but we just have to stay calm, stay positive and concentrate on ourselves.”
Sunday’s game will allow Barnes to catch up with former team-mates Kieran Trippier, a close friend, and Chris Wood, who Barnes said was the best strike partner he has had in his career.
“We played together at Brighton as well when he was young,” Barnes said. “He has to be my number one partnership for sure with what we achieved together, it worked so well, we knew each other at all times.”
When Newcastle, who were relegation rivals at the time, activated a release clause in Wood’s contract to whisk him away in January, it was a move that rocked Burnley who scrambled to bring in Wout Weghorst as a replacement.
It would be a particularly cruel blow if Wood, who has shaken off an injury problem, were to be the one to relegate Burnley on Sunday, but Barnes said his team-mates were primed to make sure that was not the case.
“That’s it,” he said with a grin. “We’ll make sure the lads kick him a bit more.”