Burnley FC have twice before entered the realms of the Premier League, though twice have shortly departed from the upper echelons of the English football hierarchy. They were considered by many as an outstanding championship outfit; more than capable of competing in the top flight, though not quite of the calibre to maintain their status as a Premier League team.
The 2009-10 and 2014-15 seasons were typical of this preconceived descriptor of Burnley; season-long dogfights but falling fractionally short in the process, though the 2016-17 season under their stalwart managerial mastermind Sean Dyche has proven to take a different trajectory, and that trajectory is firmly pointed in the direction of survival. With 10 games remaining in 2017, Burnley and Dyche have amassed 31 points, placing them 7 points above the 18th placed team in the table. The 40 point mark is widely considered as the sovereign safety net, though with 30 points to play for coupled with a home record that ranks in the top-6 of the Premier League, Burnley look set to maintain their Premier League status for the first time in their history. But how has Dyche gone about facilitating this stroke of genius?
Upon arriving in the Premier League for the 2014-15 season alongside Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City, the Burnley board placed particularly strict monetary parameters on the levels of financial impetus Dyche was able to give the squad. I believe it would be fair to say Burnley were aware it was unlikely their survival in the Premier League was a possibility, and rather than spend many a million, they buttoned their bottom lip, used the exceedingly high television rights payments to eliminate their debt, and went again. 2016-17 was the final piece of the puzzle in the Burnley hierarchy’s masterplan. The previously non-existent expenditure levels rose dramatically, with the Summer and January transfer windows marking the acquisitions of Steven Defour (£8m), Jeff Hendrick (£10.5m) and Robbie Brady (£13m). Alongside these competitively priced purchases by Burnley, the spine of their team for their 3rd Premier League season included shot-stopper extraordinaire Tom Heaton, the Manchester United academy product Micheal Keane at centre-back and Andre Gray continuing to prove his worth at the top of the tree with Burnley’s other attacking options.
Dyche has crafted a squad filled with young, British talents alongside a scattering of European players with prolific defensive and offensive qualities. As a manager, Dyche was aware that this balance was requietory for survival, though turning Turf Moor into nothing short of a fortress has been central to his and Burnley’s success. Burnley lie sixth in the Premier League table on the basis of home form alone, ranking above the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United whilst level with Arsenal and the Emirates. The extent to which Burnley’s home form has proven pivotal is evident in their percentage of points collected at home, with 29/31 Premier League points coming at Turf Moor. Dyche was more than aware of the importance that Burnley’s home form would have on their survival, and he has duly delivered: Turf Moor has become an arena of battle in which Burnley have thrived.
Though typically the managerial masterminds nearer the top of the table have earnt the plaudits and praise; arguably justifiably so, therefore whilst Antonio Conte’s maiden Premier League season will likely be marked with the Premier League’s manager of the season accolade, Sean Dyche has quietly gone about his business and in my eyes, this is a man with huge future in the managerial game. If I was a Burnley fan? Come the end of Burnley’s 38th Premier League fixture, Dyche’s first, second and eleventh beer is on me.