Sean Dyche – it’s four years
When Burnley Football Club confirmed on 30th October 2012 that our new manager was Sean Dyche I just wonder how many supporters really thought that four years later he would still be in charge.
It’s a long time to be at one club these days. Only seven current managers have been in their jobs longer and just two of those, Arsène Wenger and Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, are in the Premier League.
In post war football only five Burnley managers have held the post for longer. Frank Hill, from September 1948 to August 1954 was the first of them and all of Harry Potts, Jimmy Adamson, Jimmy Mullen and Stan Ternent can claim runs of longer than Dyche has been at Turf Moor.
Such is the job he’s done at Burnley, he can claim to be more popular now than the day he walked into the club and certainly far more popular than he was a few months in when we were suddenly flirting with relegation in a strange season when 55 points were required to stay in the Championship.
A 4-3 defeat at Crystal Palace on 6th October 2012 had left Burnley with just 11 points from the opening 10 games and significantly with a goals against column of 22. That was the worst in the league but the 21 scored was the most any team had netted.
Manager Eddie Howe came under fire from the Burnley fans at Selhurst Park that day and he himself said it wasn’t good enough. “Things have to change,” he said. “We will go away and think about it and work with the players. We expect a response.”
Howe knew then that it was his last game in charge. The rumours had already started that he was going back to Bournemouth and his appointment at Dean Court was announced on the following Saturday as we sat with no game due to an international break.
When we returned to action we had Terry Pashley in caretaker charge. We beat Blackpool at home 1-0 and then won 4-3 at Bristol City with Chris McCann scoring a stoppage time winner. By then the net was closing on the new boss and it was revealed after that game that there was a short list of three.
“Prepare to be underwhelmed,” I was told as the three names were given to me. They were Scottish pair Steve Lomas and Steven Pressley along with Sean Dyche who had been, very unfairly I have to say, dismissed by Watford during the close season when their new Italian owners wanted Gianfranco Zola in charge.
We were still a week away from an appointment as we left Bristol but four days later an awful 4-0 hammering at Cardiff was played out with Dyche sat watching in the stand. Quite why he didn’t do a runner after that I don’t know but on Tuesday 30th October 2012, just three days after the Cardiff defeat, he became the new Burnley manager.
The new manager talked about a one club mentality, about the club being part of the community and in terms of the playing side he said it needed tweaking defensively. “It’s fair to say I think it needs shoring up a bit and the framework the team uses needs tightening slightly, so we will be looking to effect that,” he said when he was presented to the media.
It all started with two wins and two clean sheets – the good news, it then descended into a horrible run of home games in the following spring – the bad news.
The worst of those home games was against Huddersfield. It ended in a 1-0 defeat just two days before he was due to attend a question and answer night for the Youth Foundation. I couldn’t believe his positivity when he arrived. When I dared to suggest it could have been better timed, given that performance and result, he said it made it a better time because the questions would be more direct. His performance that night probably didn’t have people leaving thinking he was a better manager but I don’t think anyone left without being impressed with him as he gave honest answers to every question.
Dyche and Burnley survived that season but there were scares to be honest, particularly after two successive 1-0 away defeats at Blackpool and Leeds. The Blackpool game was played on a pitch not fit for purpose but I will always remember the appalling abuse he received from a small group of prominent Burnley fans at the end; the Leeds performance three days later was dreadful and even I feared the worst as the final whistle blew. Thankfully, seven points from the last three games took us to 61 points, to safety, and another season in the Championship, but with no money to spend it seemed inevitable that 2013/14 would be another struggle.
He signed four goalkeepers that summer and then brought in Scott Arfield on a free from Huddersfield. David Jones was also training with us in pre-season, in truth he’d signed but it couldn’t be announced until 1st August, but that was it. We were certainly short up front. Martin Paterson had walked and then matters went from bad to worse when Charlie Austin, who had been expected to sign for Hull before an injury put a stop to it, signed for QPR just two days before the season kicked off.
The wonderfully positive Dyche said: “It’s an opportunity for someone else,” but the rest of us, I’m sure, feared the worst given that there was little likelihood of anyone coming in.
What happened next was like a year long episode of fantasy football. After a steady start, we went on a run of seven consecutive wins and never looked back. We clinched promotion with two more games still to play and, against all the odds he’d taken us into the Premier League.
There had been some special performances during that season. Everyone recalls that first half against Nottingham Forest and similar against Wigan on the day we clinched the promotion, but the 2-0 win against previously unbeaten QPR just four days before his first anniversary was outstanding.
A year later we were struggling in the Premier League. Two days after his second anniversary we were beaten 3-0 at Arsenal with three goals in the last twenty minutes. We were bottom of the league, hadn’t won a game and had only four points from ten games.
We recovered from that start but only very occasionally kept ourselves out of the bottom three and we ended the season in 19th place, three points ahead of QPR and two points behind Hull, the other two clubs relegated.
Yes, we’d been relegated but I doubt too many Burnley fans wanted a change of manager and there was real concern when he went odds on for the vacant job at Sunderland. The opportunity to remain in the Premier League must have been a big attraction for him but it came and went when Dik Advocaat decide to remain. Sunderland have continued to do what Sunderland do – struggle and make managerial changes – Burnley have continued to do what we do best and that is to run a stable club.
We might have lost Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell that summer but Dyche remained and there were new signings such as Jelle Vossen who was to be Ings’ replacement. We drew the first two games and then lost at Ipswich by which time Rouwen Hennings had arrived and made his debut. There were only three games gone but we were 17th with the best news yet to come.
Andre Gray arrived from Brentford. It was an undisclosed fee, around £6 million if truth be known, but it has been a source of amusement for Dyche since who has joked about the fee and I’m sure, at one time, it reached £57 million.
He started to score goals and then Joey Barton arrived and once fit he took his place in the team. Both were regulars, both were outstanding. Even so, after reaching anniversary number three, a November/December blip saw us win just seven points from eight games and as we drove home through the floods from Hull on Boxing Day we were half way through the season, had 38 points and sat fifth in the table. I was confident we would make the play offs.
We weren’t close to the four above us. Hull and Brighton both had six points more, Middlesbrough were eight point ahead with a game in hand, and that an easy one at Blackburn, while Derby sat at the top with nine points more than us.
What happened next still takes some believing. “23, 23 undefeated,” we sang at Charlton in the last game of the season where a 3-0 win saw us crowned champions even if there was no trophy in sight. We hadn’t lost since Boxing Day; we’d beaten the previous best post-war record of 20 games without defeat.
Just look at the record again – played 23, won 16, drawn seven, lost none, goals scored 42, goals conceded 12. That’s 55 points in half a season. It was ten better than the next best Brighton and an incredible 24 points more than Derby who had started that period at the top of the league.
Sean Dyche had taken us up in second place in 2014 and two years on he’d taken us back up as champions. We’d ended both seasons with identical records other than having improved the goals against column by two.
By now the club was changing both on and off the field. A £10.5 million project was well underway at Gawthorpe, a project that couldn’t possibly have started without the 2014 promotion, and, despite another difficult transfer window, we did finally bring in two record signings, firstly Belgian international Steven Defour and then Jeff Hendrick from Derby.
We’re back in the Premier League. It’s tough, we know it is, but the start has certainly been better than it was two years ago and as he celebrates four years he does so with the Clarets in 13th place.
When writing this, I was listing some of his achievements as Burnley boss and it is obvious to say that it is the two incredible promotions, both of which have seen us end the season with 93 points, a total I don’t think I ever thought I’d see us reach. That has allowed us to take the club forward considerably, both on and off the field. On the field we now have as strong a squad as many can remember and certainly it is a long, long time since we had better, while off the field we can see the progress the club is making with the changes at Turf Moor and more so, with some real significance, at Gawthorpe.
But looking for some single moments and I have to start with 9th March 2014 when the long wait for a win against Blackburn finally came. I watched those two goals, scored by Jason Shackell and Danny Ings, yesterday morning. That day was one to savour and Sean knew what it meant. As he strode out onto the pitch at the final whistle there was no applause this time for the Burnley fans. Instead he just pointed to us in a This one is for you gesture.
Two seasons later he went one better, taking us to a double over them, both 1-0 with goals from Scott Arfield and Andre Gray at Ewood and at home respectively. His overall record against them is played six, won three, drawn three and he often says that Burnley fans told him from day one that beating Blackburn was more important than anything.
But, with the fourth anniversary upon us, he only went and celebrated it with another superb day. We might not have won but I really don’t think there can be many better places to get a point than Old Trafford to celebrate four years.
Underwhelmed four years ago and the board accused of going for the cheap option because he was out of work. Whatever reason Sean Dyche was chosen, it was very definitely the correct one. I’m now looking forward to year five and writing positively about him in October 2017.Follow UpTheClarets:
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