Much like his team’s defence, he wasn’t giving much away. Quizzed on his plans under a new ownership group that was on the verge of completing its takeover of the club, Burnley boss Sean Dyche insisted he knew less about the impending deal than the inquisitive reporter.
“I don’t know where you are getting your information from about [financial] support but you know more than me,” he said at a press conference last month. “If they are going to bring support if they do come in then that’s great, and if not then I don’t know. I know nothing so I will just wait until I get told something and then we will move forward as we always do.”
The Clarets have been moving upward as well as forward. With just one defeat in their last six Premier League games, Sean Dyche has turned their season round and Burnley have climbed from 19th to 16th, opening up a five-point cushion despite narrowly losing in Tuesday’s clash with table-topping Manchester United. They have rediscovered the grit and resilience that have been hallmarks of this Burnley team under Dyche. No one will be getting carried away at Turf Moor, but the arrival of new owners and the side’s improving form bodes well for the months ahead.
ALK Capital and new chairman Alan Pace have already pledged their commitment to Sean Dyche, as well as promising an increase in transfer funds for Burnley. While Dyche largely bought into Mike Garlick’s live-within-your-means approach to running the club, he at times grew frustrated with his boss’ frugality. While the new owners favour evolution over revolution, they are prepared to give the manager more backing in the transfer market. That is a prospect that will no doubt excite Dyche, even if he spoke on Monday about “stretching [the budget]” rather than “breaking it”.
At times last season it felt as if the former Watford boss might have been approaching the end of the road at Turf Moor. Dyche was appointed by Burnley in 2012 and is the third longest-serving manager in English league football, behind only Harrogate Town’s Simon Weaver and Wycombe Wanderers’ Gareth Ainsworth. Amid links with Crystal Palace, reports suggested Dyche might fancy a new challenge elsewhere.
ALK Capital’s takeover could revitalise Dyche. He is a good fit for Burnley, and regularly speaks of the importance of the football club to the town and local community – a connection he clearly treasures. Sean Dyche takes a holistic approach to managing Burnley; he is very much a manager, not a head coach. He is unlikely to have the same influence elsewhere, but might have traded that in for a bigger budget and greater pulling power.
However, it is possible that Dyche might no longer need to leave the Clarets in order to get a budget more in line with the average mid-table club. Only Sheffield United, Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion have smaller wage bills than Burnley in this season’s top flight. Given they qualified for Europe a few years back and have been in the Premier League for the last five seasons, Burnley’s lowly position in that ranking is unusual.
Yet with more money comes more responsibility. There is much to admire in Burnley’s style of play, and their defensive organisation is testament to Dyche’s ability as a coach. However, even the most ardent Claret would struggle to argue that Burnley are easy on the eye. Graft, not craft, is usually the order of the day at Turf Moor.
Whenever Dyche is spoken up as a candidate for a bigger job, his advocates assert that he would play more progressive football if he had better players at his disposal. That might well be true, but he has shown little willingness to move in that direction at Burnley.
Dyche would be perfectly entitled to ask why he should change his methods when they have been so successful to date. But if he is indeed given a more substantial war chest in upcoming transfer windows, Sean Dyche might soon find that there is greater demand for a more entertaining style of play among the Burnley faithful.