Sean Dyche is a Burnley legend. No ifs. No buts. He has a pub named after him and they should probably build a statue as well! What Dyche has done for this football club is nothing short of remarkable. The question is whether he could make the step up to a bigger club.
Greatness from small beginnings
Dyche joined Burnley in October 2012, replacing Eddie Howe who decided to re-join his home-town club Bournemouth. Back then, the Clarets were a very different entity. Howe played an expansive brand of football that often entertained but it left Burnley very vulnerable defensively. They were a middle of the road Championship team. The transition was huge and it was a rocky first season.
In his first summer, Dyche had no money to spend but he had to sell star striker Charlie Austin to Queens Park Rangers in order to help balance the books. There was little optimism for the upcoming season. Burnley were tipped by many to be involved in a relegation scrap so for the Clarets to achieve promotion was absolutely incredible. This was all down to Dyche and the ideology that he instilled within the squad. He told his players that the minimum requirement was maximum effort and built a strong collective mentality within that slogan. There was no time for ego or flamboyance; it was about doing what was necessary for the cause.
During his first season in the Premier League, Burnley were woefully under-prepared for life in the big time. The board were more focused on protecting the club’s financial future as opposed to giving Dyche a lucrative budget. George Boyd, at a mere £3-million, was the most expensive buy of that summer. The task of survival proved to be too steep but the recovery from adversity was really impressive.
Dyche deserves a lot of credit for keeping calm after relegation back to the Championship. He was given more money to spend and that allowed him to re-build the squad which was able to power itself to the top division at the first time of asking. Since then, Dyche has managed to make Burnley a stable top flight outfit and, although the European adventure never really kicked off, the way this club has progressed under his management has been truly remarkable. However, does that mean he should be given a bigger job?
Dyche has never been able to get the anti-football money off his back. Burnley fans are accepting of the style because it allows them to compete against other teams but many are quick to criticise. It is in stark contrast to how many modern day visionaries would like to see their club play football. The current era strives to play out from the back, dominate the possession and score sexy goals. Dyche believes in getting the ball into the forward areas as quickly as possible and does not advocate risky passing out of the defence.
Burnley have Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Matej Vydra. These are the kind of players who have the eye for an intricate pass. It is a myth that the current Burnley squad aren’t good enough to play more expansively. The argument would be that doing so may upset the balance; the obstacles of transitioning into a different style could be very costly in the short-term. When the stakes are so high, it’s common sense to stick with what you know.
Still, it’s hard to see Dyche being able to succeed at bigger teams who demand a style with their results. He doesn’t believe that style matters anyway and he has provided little evidence of wanting to shift away from his low-risk tactics. Contrast that with former Burnley manager Howe and the difference is clear for all to see. Howe’s Bournemouth play with much more freedom but are notorious for their leaky defence. Nonetheless, Howe is more likely to be courted by a bigger team because he is more in-line with how the masses want football to be played.
It would be very hard for Dyche to re-brand himself now. He knows that. When the mainstream media illustrate someone as something it can be very hard to change perceptions. Dyche has made his bed and he will probably have to lie in it for the remainder of his career. He will get grouped with Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis as managers who can steady a ship and work on small budgets. Burnley fans, though, will tell you he is worth his weight in gold for them and that is why the current situation works.
It is also worth noting that Dyche has a mixed record with transfers. Many modern clubs let a separate group of people deal with transfers but Dyche basically runs this football club; other people may suggest players but Dyche will always have the final say. The likes of Tom Heaton, Scott Arfield, David Jones and Ashley Barnes all came in for next-to-nothing and proved to be inspired purchases.
However, Ben Gibson, Nahki Wells and Vydra came to over £30-million in transfer fees. All of these players are expected to be written off. The manager shows loyalty to those who have been with him for many years but his refusal to integrate in numerous big-money men will no doubt frustrate his employers.
At a bigger club, it is unlikely that Dyche would have total control on arrivals but maybe that’s a good thing. He worked miracles when on a tight budget but has struggled to adjust to actually having money. It’s like somebody’s wage suddenly trebling; they race to the shops and splash it on some fancy gear before realising that they don’t know how to use it! It remains to be seen whether Dyche could actually cope with getting the best out of players with huge value.
Dyche will not accept a lethargic attitude in training and has put in various fines for negating the rules. This policy works in keeping players at Burnley grounded and in touch with reality but would not necessarily work with players who have bigger personalities. Dyche isn’t a manger who deals in niceties. He isn’t a monster by any means but he isn’t the type to offer a shoulder to cry on. It works for Burnley but it wouldn’t work for everyone.
'Dyche Out' nonsense
There have been some bizarre calls for Dyche to leave after a disappointing run of form. That is simply nonsensical. It’s disrespectful to a club legend and it throws the future of Burnley into unknown territory. It wasn’t long ago when Dyche was being hailed in some quarters as a viable candidate for a top-six job. Again, those plaudits seem to be a little wide of the mark because his style of management just isn’t suited to that calibre of team.
Burnley and Dyche are a perfect fit. Dyche has proven himself to the club and the club have rewarded him for that. He has a higher salary than any player at the football club. And like the ageing man who is stuck in his ways, perhaps it is better to stay with that life partner than to seek better fortunes elsewhere. The grass isn’t always greener and there might not be that many genuine fish in the sea!