Just another Tuesday in Autumn, but for the Burnley faithful in 2012, this was a day that changed the fortunes and shaped the club for the future ahead. After Eddie Howe left the Clarets to rejoin Bournemouth, Sean Dyche was given the reigns and his book of fairytales was opened.
After leading Watford to their best finish in four seasons, he was axed after the Pozzo family took ownership of the club. Similar to the ugly duckling, he was cast aside. Seven years on and ten managers later, Watford find themselves rooted in the relegation zone, whilst Dyche’s career has seen him mature into a beautiful ginger swan.
Now in his seventh full season in charge of the Clarets, his reign has been nothing short of a fairytale. Burnley, somewhat of a sleeping beauty of recent decades, started the 90s in the fourth tier of English football. Slowly rising up the leagues, Sean Dyche, the Prince Charming of Northamptonshire, helped awaken the Clarets from their slumber, recording the club’s best finish since 1974.
It’s been a real life Jack and the Beanstalk story since his arrival. Tipped for relegation, he started his first full season with the loss of the club’s prized asset Charlie Austin, with little in terms of funds to strengthen the squad. But just as Jack sold his cow for some magic beans, something magical was growing at Turf Moor.
Spending as little as £400k on current frontman Ashley Barnes, they won promotion with a second-place finish. His time at Burnley has seen one relegation, another promotion, a new training ground and a return to Europe. Consistently underspending and being stripped of his top players, the hoarse-voiced manager has helped Burnley climb the beanstalk of success, on the brink of the giants that lie above. Sean Dyche and the beanstalk is a fairytale in its own right.
Tom Heaton was his first signing for Burnley but left the club this summer, with Ashley Barnes still a focal point of the manager’s plan. Using as little as 23 and 25 players in his two promotion seasons, this loyalty and belief of his squad helps produce a mentality which writes the fairytales.
The manager aims to maintain a consistent philosophy and mentality, building chemistry you cannot buy with a blank chequebook. Praised for their on fieldwork rate and organisation, you know what to expect when playing the Clarets.
Quoting the phrase in 2015, “Seeing through the noise”, an excellent description of how he runs his team. Drowning out the responsibilities not in his job description, the manager focuses on the elements under his control, which has sculpted the consistency we see today.
They play without fear, almost pressure free, making each game a battle for their opponents from start to finish, especially on home soil. The brick house that is Turf Moor, one of the big bad wolf struggles to blow down.
A Muhammed Ali quote epitomises the definition of Burnley Football Club, “You have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill”. With a will to keep going, Sean Dyche and his squad continue to compete and improve, the model club for any who breakthrough into the top flight.
Often dubbed as an old school manager, he questions the definition of the phrase. Once quoted “How can things like hard work, pride and passion be deemed old school?”. It’s these values that should be encouraged and embraced by any club. Fans want to see their side give everything and even in defeat can walk away proud of the club they’ve given their lives to.
You compare Burnley to Arsenal at present. Some fans infuriated by current club captain Granit Xhaka, they question his professionalism and commitment to the side. Booed off the field in Arsenal’s most recent home fixture, these are sights I doubt you’d witness under Sean Dyche’s control.
As Burnley continue to maintain their Premier League status, his ears are beginning to open to new elements of the club. Someone who was heavily involved with the development of the club’s new training ground in 2017, he painted a portrait of the image which resides in his head of the side he wants to build. Sean Dyche and his chairman have created the blueprints and infrastructure of the club’s future.
We’ve seen many Cinderella stories in the Premier League, title shocks, giant killings, but in the 2017-18 season, it was Burnley’s turn to wear the glass slipper. Recording their highest finish since 1974, they finished seventh in the league with a return to Europe on the cards.
Starting the season with a shock 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge against reigning champions Chelsea, Burnley finished the season winning as many away games as they did at Turf Moor. A usual thorn in the club’s Premier League history, their away form helped achieve a season to remember.
Unfortunately, this fifty-one-year wait for European football was unsuccessful, contributing to Burnley struggling in the first half of the season. A different story to the one of the previous season, it’s not one you’d see featured in the contents of his book.
However, Sean Dyche would argue to the contrary. Describing his last season as his best in terms of pure management; quoted “I take more value in this season, turning it around than I did last year because you are talking about real management”.
And what a turn around it was for the Clarets. Not only did they staved off relegation, but draws away at Manchester United and Chelsea, with an impressive win against Tottenham, again heightened his skills and trust in his players.
Burnley may not be able to write another Cinderella story in seasons to come. The manager’s goal remains the survival of the club and building for the future. Limited with transfer funds and wages, there’s no such thing as a quick fix at the Lancashire club. But ultimately the club continues to overachieve and with Sean Dyche at the helm, many more fairytales could be written.
The author of his own success, what’s next for ginger-locks and his claret and blue?