A repeat of last season will be a tall order for Burnley and Sean Dycheby Mike Holden / 11 August 2017, 09:48Tweet
An extraordinary win over Liverpool in August set the tone for Burnley’s survival last season. Sean Dyche’s men had just 19 per cent possession in that game and lost the shot count 26-3 but ran out comfortable 2-0 winners, growing in stature from thereon to win eight of their next 11 home matches. By the time they suffered an embarrassing FA Cup exit to Lincoln in February, they were already ten points clear of the drop zone. Michael Keane and Andre Gray have moved on for a combined fee of £43m.
There’s a bizarre hybrid quality to Dyche, whereby he is both an old-school gaffer and a marginal gains exponent at the same time. He’s big on education and devotes a lot of his time exploring the latest approaches in business leadership and sports science, yet dismisses most of it as nonsense - people reinventing the wheel. He inhabits a world of cold logic and sometimes cold-calls other managers who visit Turf Moor in a neutral capacity, asking them to give him the brutal truth from their observations.
"Two of the three teams coming up immediately go above us financially. Fans sometimes think: ‘Why are they spending more than us when we get the same TV deal?’ But look at Newcastle, they’ve got a fella behind them who is a billionaire, getting 50,000 attendances with all the corporate and shirt sales. There is a business angle and a football angle, and trying to combine the two is where it gets really tricky. The hand goes in the hat and we just hope there’s another rabbit there."
Burnley’s survival last season was no accident but repeating the trick will be a tall order without Keane and Gray. Even if Dyche finds inspired replacements, he would need to generate a significant improvement on last season’s miserable shot data. More likely is the possibility that regression bites them in a big way. Throw in the prospect that most teams will return to Turf Moor better prepared than they were first time around and the signs are looking ominous. It could be curtains for the Clarets.