Sean Connery died yesterday; he was, of course, the original James Bond, a role he held (with one break) for a period of nine years.
Another Sean – Dyche, completed on Friday a period of eight years in his own role, as manager of Burnley Football Club.
Eight years at one club is an eternity by the standards of modern football and, like Connery with Bond, whatever he does in the future, he will always remain associated with his work at Turf Moor.
That the club has advanced beyond all recognition during Dyche’s tenure is beyond question, but after yesterday’s home defeat at the hands of Chelsea, he now has the unenviable record of overseeing Burnley’s worst ever start to a football season.
Let that statistic sink in for a moment; Burnley have been relegated with better starts than this. It is only six games into the season of course and there is no need to panic, but it is both sobering and a daunting prospect.
Most of us are all too familiar with Burnley’s and Dyche’s problems: a disastrous transfer window in which leaving players were not replaced, and no serious effort to strengthen a first team squad, which was good enough to finish tenth in the English Premier League last season.
The Clarets are suffering from an injury list, which stubbornly refuses to lessen; empty stadiums have severed the vital link between the team and the fans; and the turmoil at the club continues as talks of a takeover swirl around.
It is the equivalent of Bond embarking on a mission only to find that his Walther PPK has been loaded with blanks and none of Q’s gadgets work.
Dyche of course, retains the support of the majority of Burnley fans; but as defeat follows defeat, that support will inevitably diminish, especially when as witnessed yesterday, the players commit the sort of blunders that we have become to assume had been eradicated.
Chelsea have some excellent players, and they undeniably played well yesterday. But their three goals were each, to some extent, the result of some un-Burnley like play from the Clarets.
Dale Stephens was flat-footed and seemed reluctant to throw his body in the path of Hakim Ziyech’s first half opener. Kurt Zouma was left unchallenged as he headed in a corner; and finally Matt Lowton’s ambitious attempt at a Hoddle-esque long range pass resulted only in allowing Chelsea to build the move which culminated in Timo Werner’s neat finish.
These problems simply must be addressed – and quickly. Burnley’s next two fixtures are away to Brighton next Friday tea time (ridiculous, I know!) and at home to Crystal Palace after the international break. Points simply must be gained from those two fixtures. If they are, then things will seem a whole lot brighter.
Finally, I could not conclude this piece without paying tribute to Norbert (Nobby) Stiles, who died on Friday. He was the heartbeat of both Matt Busby’s Manchester United and England under Sir Alf Ramsey.
On the face of it he was an unprepossessing figure; diminutive, chronically short-sighted, and Nobby famously displayed a chasm where his front teeth should have been. Without question, he was a genuine footballing tiger on the playing field.
In an era when most teams were equipped with genuine hard men, Nobby was one of the most prominent. Perhaps the most abiding memories of him (along with his jig of delight around Wembley holding aloft the Jules Rimet trophy) was the “job” he did on the brilliant Eusebio in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup and the final of the 1968 European Cup.
Rest in peace, Nobby.
Great sentiments indeed, from Dave Thornley honouring one of our own true footballing legends from the 1960’s. And to finish - Buck up Burnley, please? (TEC).