It is five years since Sean Dyche took over as manager of Burnley, an age in modern footballing terms, but as I write, it is a matter of conjecture as to whether his tenure will be extended for another five days, let alone years.
Everton continue to bat their eyelashes in Dyche’s direction, a troubling scenario for all Burnley supporters and one not helped by Jamie Carragher who availed himself of the platform afforded to him by Sky Sports to enthusiastically canvas Dyche’s credentials for the Goodison Park position.
If Monday night’s televised win over Newcastle does indeed prove to be Dyche’s last as Burnley manager, then it is fitting that he will have been sent off with a performance from his team that was quintessentially Dyche.
Dyche has, during his time at the club, developed a method of playing which enables his team to win matches like last night’s, a goal from a cross, followed by a stern rear-guard in preservation of the lead. It sounds simple, but it takes practice, concentration, dedication and resolve from everyone involved to make it happen. Were he to go, then results like last night’s will be Dyche’s lasting legacy at Burnley.
Journalists and pundits enthralled and seduced by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, may have grumbled at the spectacle served up at Turf Moor, but their opinions are irrelevant compared to the sight of Burnley’s lofty position in the league table.
It would be lovely to see the Clarets open up teams by weaving intricate passing patterns, or have players popping up in the opposition penalty area seemingly out of nowhere, but the fact is that Burnley do not have players capable of that style of play, or the financial means with which to acquire them.
What Sean Dyche has done, and hopefully will continue to do, is get the absolute best out of what he has at his disposal. Under him, Burnley are a formidable team.
After a bright and breezy first quarter of an hour or so, last night’s match settled into the pattern that most would have predicted; a no-quarter given, no-holes barred struggle to establish the upper hand between two teams of similar standard.
This was a match that was always going to be decided by one goal. It arrived after seventy four minutes, when pressure from Stephen Defour and Jack Cork allowed Johan Berg Gudmundsson to pick out Jeff Hendrick, who had curtailed his irritating tendency to wander offside to find himself unmarked on the far post and apply a finish which was trickier than it first appeared.
After which Burnley retreated to the edge of their penalty area and repelled all of Newcastle’s advances. Whilst this may seem an overtly negative tactic, it illustrates the faith shown by the players in Dyche and in each other, that they have no apparent problem in sacrificing possession and soaking up pressure.
Cork was excellent at the heart of Burnley’s midfield. He is a player who spreads calm to all around him by virtue of his ability to break up attacks and use the ball intelligently having done so. Most of Burnley’s successful teams down the years have included such a player, be it Graham Alexander, Paul Cook, Tommy Cassidy or Doug Collins. Their work often goes unnoticed but their contribution is invaluable.
Finally, a nod of appreciation to the travelling Newcastle supporters who turned up in their number for a Monday night fixture which would not see them return to Tyneside much before one in the morning. Few clubs enjoy such loyal and fanatical support, and I would venture to suggest that had this fixture been in Brighton rather than Burnley, they would have still made the journey to follow their team.
As Burnley prepare for their own long trip down south to Southampton on Saturday, it is now a matter of serious conjecture if Dyche will celebrate another five years with Burnley Football Club.
Written by David Thornley for Clarets Mad, (TEC).