Sean Dyche – October 2012 to April 2022
When Eddie Howe left Burnley to return to Bournemouth in October 2012 it left us searching for a new manager for the third time in under three years, a period that had seen us once again become a middle of the road Championship side.
Barry Kilby, by this time, had stood down as chairman and so it was John Banaskiewicz and Mike Garlick who led the search alongside chief executive Lee Hoos. The search was an exhaustive one with a large number of potential candidates interviewed while Terry Pashley assumed temporary control of the first team.
We were sixteenth in the table when Howe left but two wins in three games under Pashley had moved us up two places. After the second of those wins, at Bristol City, news was filtering through that we had settled on a short list of three. When I enquired as we were about to leave Ashton Gate, I was told I’d be underwhelmed. I’m not sure who we thought we could get but I was told the three were Sean Dyche, who had been sacked at Watford during the summer, and two Scottish managers, Steven Pressley at Falkirk and Steve Lomas at St. Johnstone, a club we had raided for a new manager just five years earlier.
Further enquiries on the following day led me to believe that Dyche was the favourite and by the time we got to Cardiff four days after that win in Bristol, it was Dyche sat watching in the stand as we fell to a sorry 4-0 defeat against a side led by Malky Mackay, Dyche’s predecessor in the hot seat at Watford.
Three days later, he was appointed as our new manager until the end of the 2014/15 season. I don’t think any of us could have imagined what was to come for our club over the next few years. He kicked off with two wins at home, beating Wolves 2-0 and Leeds 1-0, but there were defeats too. It was very much up and down for the remainder of the season and there was a spell in February and March when we turned in four horrible performances in successive midweeks and all at home. In a crazy season, when Peterborough went down with 54 points, a win at Wolves in the penultimate game ensured safety and a win the following week saw his finish 11th in the table.
Both Dean Marney and Ross Wallace signed new deals on reduced money and that highlighted the financial state of the club. Others wouldn’t take drops and it saw players such as Lee Grant, Chris McCann and Martin Paterson all go. In trying to strengthen his squad with no money, we saw the arrivals of Tom Heaton, Scott Arfield and David Jones, all of them on free transfers. Two days before the season kicked off, Charlie Austin was sold to QPR. There was no money to replace him and our two strikers, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes had scored seven goals between them in the previous season from a total of 78 combined league appearances.
The mountain looked a steep one to climb but we started that climb emphatically as the manager kicked off his first full season in charge. Seven successive wins early in the season put us in an incredible position. We couldn’t have maintained that sort of form but by the season’s end we were runners-up to Leicester and back in the Premier League for a second time. It really was the most incredible of seasons. Nobody could have ever foreseen a promotion but we won 93 points and played some terrific football along the way.
Against all the odds, Dyche had taken us up in his first full season but I don’t think anyone was surprised to see us come back down a year later. He made a number of signings in the summer of 2014 but it was hardly preparing for the Premier League and only Stephen Ward, George Boyd and Michael Keane, the latter two signed on deadline day, went on to become influential players. We did beat our previous points total in the Premier League but only just and it needed seven points from the final three games to achieve that.
The club, rightly, stuck with Dyche despite the return to the Championship. He repaid that faith in him over the next few years. Relegation cost us defenders Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell who moved on to Spurs and Derby. Striker Ings moved to Liverpool at the end of his contract. Among the incoming players were Andre Gray and Joey Barton. Yes, Joey Barton and that didn’t go down well in some quarters. “Do you think you can control him?” Dyche was asked in his next press conference. “Control him? He’s 32, not 18,” was the reply.
Gray linked up well with Vokes and scored a lot of goals for us but Barton was a major influence as we made an immediate return to the Premier League, this time as champions and again with 93 points. We beat Charlton in our final game of the season to clinch the title as they went down to League One. It didn’t stop us from raiding them for two of their best players Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson and Nick Pope. We also brought in such as Jeff Hendrick and Steven Defour. Barton left for Rangers but returned in January 2017, along with two more new signings Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady.
We were, by now, in a magical period for the club with Dyche taking us right up to the summit of that mountain. This time we avoided an immediate drop back into the Championship. It might have started to look a close call as we went into the final straight but we eventually ended the season with forty points some six points clear of the relegation places.
What came next took some taking in. We opened the 2017/18 season with an incredible 3-2 win at Chelsea and by December we’d moved into fourth place, Dyche claiming he was the proudest man in Proudsville in a euphoric press conference having beaten Stoke. Sadly, injuries to Brady and Defour meant we couldn’t sustain it but we ended the season with an incredible 54 points to finish seventh and qualify for a European adventure that saw us go to Scotland, Turkey and Greece.
We might not have known it at the time but we had reached the peak of our mountain although there were still good times to come. The first half of the 2018/19 season was as bad as it comes but the second half of the season yielded 28 points and we added another 54 points in the 2019/20 season although by then the cracks were beginning to show.
The season was suspended from early March until late June. By then, the squad numbers had been reduced with players due to come out of contract. We played our first game on the restart at Manchester City where we endured another 5-0 defeat, but it was the bench that caused the alarm prior to kick off. Permitted nine subs for the first time, we had just seven and that included two goalkeepers and three players with no first team experience.
The manager made his feelings very clear regarding the situation but, despite all that, the season ended superbly with only one defeat in the remaining eight games, and that on the final day of the season when anything but a defeat would have seen us break our Premier League points total best and a win would have secured eighth place, above Arsenal.
If Europe saw us reach the summit, and if we’d hovered up there largely for another two years, the slide down definitely started in the following season. With virtually no recruitment, the 2020/21 season proved to be a battle although thankfully the inept Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United ensured we were never really under too much threat other than in the early weeks of the season. By its end we’d reached 39 points and that was a huge eleven points clear of Fulham in eighteenth place.
By then, the ownership of the club had changed but the summer of 2021 saw Dyche with less of a say in recruitment although we did sign the exciting Maxwel Cornet. New chairman Alan Pace had made it clear that Dyche was part of the long term plans and in September 2021 he signed a new four year deal. Even so, the 2021/22 season proved to be a very difficult one for us. We were down in the bottom three for much of the time. We won just three times in the first 28 games but then, on an inspirational night at the Turf, we beat Everton, fellow relegation candidates, 3-2 having gone 2-1 behind to two penalties. Hopes of survival were lifted but on the following Sunday we fell to a 2-0 defeat at whipping boys Norwich but even that shocker of a performance didn’t prepare us for what was to come.
Five days later, Good Friday, I received an email telling me something was afoot at the club. Soon afterwards, I received a text from a trusted national journalist asking if I’d heard the rumour that Dyche had been sacked. It rapidly became clear what had happened and eventually the announcement came that he, along with Ian Woan, Steve Stone and Billy Mercer had gone with interim under-23 coach Michael Jackson placed in interim charge with assistance from Paul Jenkins, Connor King and injured club captain Ben Mee.
The longest reign as a Burnley manager since Harry Potts from 1958 to 1970 had come to an end, just seven months after signing that new deal. It was a shock but maybe it was the right time. What he’d achieved for us was nothing short of a miracle but now we had eight games remaining to try and save our season.
He left having managed a total of 383 league games as Burnley manager, 258 of them in the Premier League and 125 in the Championship. Only Simon Weaver (Harrogate) and Gareth Ainsworth (Wycombe) had been in their jobs longer.
An underwhelming appointment maybe back in 2012 but an appointment that brought us more success than we really could have ever dreamed of.Follow UpTheClarets:
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