Opinion: An exciting but critical summer ahead for Burnley

Sean Dyche may have just masterminded one of the most successful seasons in Burnley's recent history but the hard work has only just begun for the Clarets.

Burnley are currently celebrating a return to European football for the first time in 51 years with fans taking their seats at Turf Moor on the final day of the season parading passports and Euro coins as they prepare for the adventures ahead.

However, with Burnley's first Europa League qualification fixture scheduled for 26th July, there is a lot of work for Sean Dyche and his squad to do if they are going to ensure their European trip is to be enjoyed and another successful domestic season is formulated.

Rest and recuperation

With competitive football coming to Turf Moor sooner than usual in the 2018-19 season, Dyche will have to ensure his players hit the desired match fitness levels in a short space of time. Burnley can count themselves somewhat fortunate that only a handful of players will be going to the World Cup as Nick Pope and James Tarkowski hope to join Iceland's Johann Berg Gudmundsson in Russia.

Yet those players will need a period of recovery and are unlikely to be as sharp as Dyche would like going into that first Europa League qualifier, presenting an early headache with all three players key to Burnley's success this season.

Adding in the possibility of extra fixtures, if their European venture is a successful one, and combining it with the July start, recruitment will be key to Burnley who must enlarge their current squad.


Recruitment and mindset

With one of the smallest playing staff rotas in the Premier League and the possibility of six qualification matches in the Europa League before they even get started in the competition properly, several players are required to come through the Turf Moor doors.

Dyche talks a lot about 'progression' and this will be a key factor for Burnley next season. Successful European campaign or not, the Clarets cannot afford to rest on their laurels after finishing seventh this year.

Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion have been regarded as 'established Premier League sides' for a substantial period of time but their relegations have proved there is no such thing in English football. Thus, it must be the right new faces to don the Burnley shirts and mould into an already tight unit.

With added distractions, it would be easy for Burnley to take their focus off league performances as they balance several Thursday-Sunday fixtures, racking up thousands of travel miles in the process.

After finishing fifth the season before, Ipswich Town experienced such a dip in 2001-02 as they played in the UEFA Cup but got relegated at the end of the season, following a run of one win in 18 games at the start of the campaign...they have not returned since. Similarly, Wigan Athletic went chasing FA Cup success five years ago but also got relegated before dropping down to the doldrums of League One.

Retention of key faces

We have mentioned the importance of strategic recruitment but retention will also be valuable for the Clarets. Their success has been built upon knitting a close group that passionately work for each other. However, any threads going wayward could prove costly for the Lancashire side.

With several managerial positions becoming available, the vultures will be circling around manager Dyche. Arsenal are looking to recruit Arsene Wenger's replacement, Chelsea could be parting ways with Antonio Conte and there is the possibility of Everton rekindling their interest.

Similarly, several players are likely to be on the shortlists of other clubs. After Leicester City won the league in 2016, key players N'golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater were lured away by Chelsea and Riyad Mahrez has since tried to manoeuvre a transfer elsewhere. Could the likes of Pope, Tarkowski, Gudmundsson, Ben Mee, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes be tempted away from Turf Moor?

The positive for Burnley is that they do all of the above extremely well. The question is, can they prevent individuals from being distracted by the bright lights of European football?