Last week brought the news that Brian Jensen had signed a one-year contract extension at the club, an announcement that will have been met fondly by all Burnley fans.
‘The Beast’ is a cult figure at Turf Moor, and I think he deserves the chance to try and force his way back into the first team. At the age of 37, he is far and away the oldest member of the squad as well as being the longest serving player on the books.
He has used his enormous frame to great effect over the past ten years, and is responsible for some of my fondest memories as a Burnley fan. One that really sticks out is his performance against Wolves in a League Cup second round tie in 2004.
With the score at 1-1, Beast saved two penalties in normal and extra time before going on to save two more in the penalty shootout as we progressed to the next round. I think that was the game where the fans really took to Jensen, and he has been an immensely popular figure ever since.
There is something about Beast and the League Cup, and twice on our run to the semi finals in 2009 he was the star of the show. First he kept Chelsea at bay for 120 minutes at Stamford Bridge before saving penalties from Wayne Bridge and John Obi Mikel in the shootout to seal a famous win and see us through to a home quarter final tie with Arsenal.
That, for me, was undoubtedly his finest game in a Burnley shirt. Time and again he was left one-on-one after an Arsenal move had sliced open our back four, but time and again he denied Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner, who looked increasingly exasperated as he failed to beat his compatriot despite having a hatful of chances.
He made the best possible start to our Premiership season, saving a Michael Carrick penalty in the win against Manchester United at Turf Moor, but too often that year he was left horribly exposed by woeful defending and he spent far too much time picking the ball out of his net.
Since then, Beast has been edged out of the side by Lee Grant and last year he played very little part in the campaign. Personally, I feel there is very little to choose between either ‘keeper; both are excellent shot stoppers who pull off breathtaking saves at times. Both also have their weakness; Jensen, for a big man, often fails to command his area when it comes to collecting crosses, and last season Grant made one or two glaring errors which led to some sections of support calling for Jensen’s return.
I believe that this one-year contract will be Jensen’s last at the club as Eddie Howe looks to bring down the average age of the squad. Upon signing a new deal, Beast spoke of forcing his way back into the first team. He is certainly capable of doing so, but whether Howe wishes to persist with a ‘keeper in his late thirties is questionable. Whatever happens during this season and at its conclusion, Jensen will always have a fond place in the hearts of the fans.
As the teams run out before a game, in Jensen’s absence, I miss the familiar cry of ‘BEEEEEEEEEEAST’.