Eight years and still counting
For a lot of people who write about a specific football club it is often the case that they can’t reflect on a manager’s first full year in charge given that, by then, he’s already been shown the door. Two years, now that’s a rarity, so there can’t be many who have the opportunity to write about a manager who has been with them for eight years.
It seems forever ago that I wrote about the current manager Sean Dyche walking through the doors for the first time, of him telling us that his minimum requirement was maximum effort, that he wanted a one club mentality.
We had co-chairmen back then, John B and Mike Garlick. The said: “Sean was the outstanding candidate following an extensive and structured interviewing process to find the right manager to fit in with our vision for the club. He is a natural leader with real presence who did a marvellous job at Watford last season in his first managerial role at a club with its roots firmly in the community.”
That looked like a good start and the start was good with home wins against Wolves and Leeds to kick things off. It was no surprise to see Charlie Austin on the scoresheet in both games but what was a surprise at the time was keeping two clean sheets. “Goals win games, clean sheets win leagues,” one former Burnley manager once told me.
Two wins gets you no more than six points and they did lift us, temporarily, into the top half of the division. It’s not always been plain sailing and I’m definitely not going to look at things match by match but it is worth noting some of his achievements in eight years as Burnley manager and therefore, also, our club’s achievements.
Saturday, 3rd May 2014 was a remarkable day. It brought to an end Dyche’s first full season as Burnley manager and we drew 2-2 at Reading. We’d won promotion with a 2-0 home win against Wigan twelve days earlier but what I always remember about that day at Reading was a reluctance to leave the ground at the final whistle. Lots of Burnley fans remained there while the Reading players went on their end of season walk round. We didn’t want to leave because we really didn’t want what had been a magical season to end.
I still look back at that season, I still compare it to 1972/73. Against all the odds, we’d defied the bookies, who thought we would be relegated, and finished second. Once more we were going to the Premier League.
It didn’t last. Inevitably for a club like ours it didn’t. We did get three points more than the previous occasion we’d been there but were soon back in the Championship. The only good news coming out of Turf Moor then was the news that we would finally be getting a revamped training ground, one fit for a club in the second tier of English football.
Some thought Dyche might have lost his marbles early in the following season when he signed one Joseph Barton who was a free agent. I could name you a lot of Burnley supporters who thought that was a shocking idea, who thought that he would be a poor signing. By the time Joey finally left us I don’t think I could find too many supporters on that list. Dyche, at the time of signing him the first time around, was asked if he thought he could control him. HIs response was to laugh and point out that Joey was in his 30s, not a teenager.
With Joey, who demanded a title, we went back up again, and as champions, even though there was no medal for our new talisman.
May 2016: a home win against QPR clinched promotion and then party day at The Valley saw us beat Charlton 3-0, win the title and book us a third visit to the Premier League. I wonder how many thought that this time we’d survive?
We did, and with 40 points. Then, a year later, we defied all logic by reaching the Europa League qualifiers. Almost four and a half years have passed since that last promotion to the Premier League and we are still there.
The new training ground is in place, the academy has stepped up to Category 2 and then Category 1 within EPPP.
There have been times in the past few months when I didn’t think I’d be writing about our manager’s eighth anniversary. His problems with the chairman are known to all and I still wonder whether he would still have been with us had there been other opportunities during the summer.
It is a one club mentality, he always insists. It’s always about ‘US’ rather than ‘HIM’. That’s his players, his staff, and there always has to be mention of Ian Woan, Tony Loughlan and Billy Mercer, and of course the fans.
We are not naive. We know we couldn’t have done all this without Sean Dyche. I, for one, am thankful he walked through our doors eight years ago, I’m thankful he’s still with us. I sometimes look in disbelief at where we are now as a club and I know we couldn’t have achieved that without Sean Dyche. I really do hope I’m writing about him again a year from today.Follow UpTheClarets:
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