In the end, Burnley left the Premier League not with a bang, but with a whimper. The battling spirit and never-say-die attitude that characterised the Clarets’ six-year stay in the top-flight disappeared at the worst possible moment.
While Leeds rallied spectacularly at Brentford, Burnley fell into the Championship without a fight.
A myriad of failings explain why they will start next season in the second tier, from the financial issues that place a major question mark over the club’s ability to bounce back next term to the decision to dismiss Sean Dyche that still divides opinion.
Yet at the start of the final afternoon, they still lined up against Newcastle with their fate in their own hands.
The home supporters did their bit, generating a feverish atmosphere as they let off flares before kick-off and roared incessantly despite the bad news that was filtering through from Brentford. But, on the pitch, Burnley’s players offered surprisingly little resistance in a supine finale.
Callum Wilson scored a goal in each half, slotting home from the penalty spot after Nathan Collins inexplicably waved his arm around to handle the ball from a corner, and calmly converting after Allan Saint-Maximin squared the ball across the box.
Maxwel Cornet gave the Clarets fleeting hope when he slammed home the rebound with 21 minutes remaining, but while the home side rallied to a point, creating chances for Wout Weghorst and Jack Cork, Newcastle condemned them to the drop without being seriously extended.
Caretaker manager Mike Jackson was forced to carry the can in the immediate aftermath of his side’s defeat, and while he was reluctant to discuss his own future, he was clear about what would happen next.
“I’ll suffer,” he said. “That won’t go away for a long, long time. It won’t go away, it’ll always be there. It’s something I’ll have to live with.
“It’s hard to comment given what’s happened. I think obviously there’ll have to be a reflection on what’s gone on and like everything else, small steps, you have to find a way back. I’m sure that’s what the club will do.
“I understand you’ve got to ask about the future, but I’m not really bothered about myself right now. I know I’ll suffer. I’m more gutted for the group and the fans. When you work so closely with a group like that it hurts you. It stays with you.”
Burnley’s ability to bounce back next season could be compromised by their financial position, with their most recent set of accounts having revealed that a “significant proportion” of a £65m loan taken out as part of the club’s takeover by ALK Capital in December 2020 would have to be repaid in the event of relegation. Such an unpalatable potential difficulty has now become a stark reality.
Nevertheless, Jackson remains convinced the future could be bright, even if relegation will almost certainly result in an exodus of players, with the out-of-contract James Tarkowski and the highly-rated Cornet likely to be at the front of the queue.
“Why wouldn’t it be in good hands? There’s good people here who want to do well,” said Jackson. “They want the club to bounce back but again it’s small steps, planning and putting everything in place to do that.”
The defeat that sealed Burnley’s fate felt inevitable from the moment Newcastle broke the deadlock in the 20th minute. Nick Pope got a hand to Kieran Trippier’s in-swinging corner, but only managed to claw the ball onto the raised arm of Nathan Collins. Craig Pawson initially missed the offence, but a swift check of the pitch-side monitor resulted in the award of a penalty, and Wilson stepped up to slot home.
Newcastle deservedly doubled their lead on the hour mark, with Allan Saint-Maximin dribbling into the left of the box and squaring for Wilson to claim his eighth goal of the season.
At that stage, the game looked up, but Burnley gave themselves a late lifeline. Cornet’s initial shot from Collins’ cross was saved by Martin Dubravka, but the ball fell kindly for the Ivorian to lash home the rebound.
That was to be as good as it got for the hosts though, with Newcastle’s victory ensuring they finished in 11th position, a scenario that looked extremely unlikely when Eddie Howe took over in November with the Magpies in serious danger of suffering the drop.
“I'm not sure I could have said I'd have seen it coming, to be honest with you,” said Howe. “December was a very difficult month for us. We came in and on the horizon was a very tough month, with Liverpool and Manchester City, and we had a squad that was suffering with injuries at the time, then we suffered the low of Cambridge (in the FA Cup). This was a position that seemed a long, long way away then.
“I have to compliment the players for how they have dug in, for how they have united together. There were plenty of examples throughout the team of players fighting for the shirt, giving their all, and I think the players deserve a huge amount of credit.”
Pope 5; Roberts 5 (Weghorst 46, 6), Collins 4, Tarkoswki 5, Long 5, Taylor 5; McNeil 6, Brownhill 5 (Lennon 73, 6), Cork 5; Barnes 5, Cornet 6.
Hennessey (gk), Stephens, Bardsley, Thomas, Dodgson, Costelloe, McGlynn.
Dubravka 7; Trippier 7, Lascelles 7, Burn 8, Targett 8; Guimaraes 7, Longstaff 7, Joelinton 5 (Murphy 11, 6); Almiron 7 (Ritchie 89, 6), Wilson 8, Saint-Maximin 7 (Wood 72, 6).
Darlow (gk), Dummett, Schar, Krafth, Fernandez, Gayle.
Craig Pawson 7.