Dear Eddie - Welcome
Feature by Richard Oldroyd
Updated Monday, 17th January 2011
Eddie, welcome to Burnley. Congratulations. You've landed a big job, a challenge which offers huge opportunities.
I must admit, you weren't my first choice for this job. I thought it was the time for a more experienced hand, because of the opportunity provided by the enormous parachute payments of the next 18 months. As you will know better than anyone, there are plenty of unanswered questions on your CV - inevitably, given you've only been in management two years and you're only 33. I have to confess to being a little alarmed at the prospect of Burnley having a manager young enough to be my big brother.
But as this process has developed, I've become increasingly interested in your candidature. You've done a brilliant job at Bournemouth. I've heard you speak and you're impressive: articulate, thoughtful, authentic and very, very intelligent. You obviously developed enormously strong bonds with your players at Bournemouth and I can believe that you might have a touch of stardust about you.
I am sure that relocating from Dorset to Lancashire will be a challenge, and a bit of a shock. But for all the differences, you will find some similarities between Burnley and Bournemouth. They are both family clubs, for a start. Although the scale is bigger, Burnley is in the shadow of Manchester in much the same way Southampton and Portsmouth leave Bournemouth in the shade. Both are clubs with a culture of developing young players and playing good, flowing football.
I understand that's the sort of football you coach, and that will give you credit amongst Burnley's supporters. You might have noted against QPR that the Turf Moor crowd is quick to get frustrated when the ball is punted carelessly and aimlessly forward, but is equally quick to applaud invention and slick passing even when it is unsuccessful.
And you will inherit a dressing room containing some good players, suited to playing that way. But you will need additions. This squad lacks leaders, both with and without the ball. It lacks a centre half capable of organising and driving others to produce their best. It lacks a midfielder with the strength of character and nous to manage a game and halt the momentum of opponents, and to orchestrate our attacking play.
As you will have seen yesterday, the likes of Elliott, Eagles and Rodriguez are capable of producing some terrific and incisive interplay, especially down our right flank. Jack Cork is a good supporting midfielder, tenacious and comfortable in possession. But he is not the deep-lying playmaker to supply ammunition to those forward players, capable of piercing the first line of opponents' defences and stitching our moves together. Graham Alexander used to fulfil that role, but bearing in mind he was half way through a normal career span by the time you started yours, it's unsurprising that he is now faltering.
Those are your two priorities, but if your budget can stretch to a more mobile centre forward or left winger with pace, then either would be useful in adding balance to the team.
But whilst it is important you act quickly to bring in those reinforcements, be wary of trying to change too much too quickly. Although circumstances were somewhat different, Darren Ferguson made that mistake at Preston and he acknowledges that he paid the ultimate price. There really isn't that much wrong, here: there are those finishing touches required to the squad, but it was the leadership which was wrong under the previous regime.
You've already demonstrated your astuteness by retaining Stuart Gray. He'll be a valuable source of information about both this squad and the Championship in general: having been concentrating on the lower divisions until now, I assume you will be less familiar with the division than you might be. You might consider approaching another senior figure to act as a sort of consultant, providing you with advice on transfer targets, and managing the dynamics of a dressing room filled with ambitious Championship players.
But make no mistake, your inexperience isn't necessarily a handicap. Indeed, it might prove a virtue, certainly in the short term. As supporters, we're ready to embrace someone who is young and represents an exciting future after a sterile, sapping 12 months in the hands of experience. I suspect the players are too. The idea of you developing as a manager as a youthful, exuberant team matures alongside you is an alluring one.
The target remains promotion, or at least qualification for the play-offs given that the automatic promotion spots are now a long way away. But regardless of that aspiration, you will get the time and understanding that Brian Laws was not afforded a year ago because you have captured the imagination in a way Brian never did and never could.
And if you can harness that excitement, you can do great things at Burnley. Again like Bournemouth, Burnley is a club which generates energy internally when momentum gathers, because there is an unusual bond between supporters and club. Owen Coyle managed to exploit that a couple of years ago.
Tapping into it requires you to form a personal bond with the supporters; I think your personality - your ability to communicate emotion - gives you a chance to do the same. That may prove difference between your relationship with the fans and that which Brian Laws endured. Despite knowing the club intimately, he was never quite able to articulate a vision which touched the nerve-endings.
I hope you are as successful as Owen Coyle was at Burnley, and that once your mission is accomplished here, you move on to still bigger stages and greater deeds. But please, if and when that time comes, please do it with greater tact and dignity than Coyle managed. That episode left a wound which is only now healing properly after Brian's departure.
This is your stage now - immerse yourself in it. We're all with you. Once again, good luck. You may have heard the ovation Jimmy Adamson received on Saturday; we remember and cherish our heroes at Burnley. One day, that could be you.