Sean Dyche is rightly revered by the majority of Burnley fans; he also seems to have the trust of the footballing media and all in all it’s pretty damned hard to aim too much criticism at Old Gravelly Voice since his arrival at Turf Moor six years ago.
One area of constant sniping and whinging though from Clarets supporters is Dyche’s transfer dealings. Some of his purchases have been overwhelming success stories: James Tarkowski, Nick Pope, Michael Keane, Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Scott Arfield, Charlie Taylor, Jay Rodriguez (home fans favourite), Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Matty Lowton, Ashley Westwood, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes have all become established Premier League players to name but a few.
If we use these signings as a yardstick for Dyche’s recruitment paradigm, it becomes a mystery why a selection of his signings has been nothing less than abjectly poor. For example, the loan signing of Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea was always going to be a high-risk strategy.
Drinkwater arrived at Turf Moor on high wages, with no pre-season, no form, he was nowhere near match fit for Dyche’s exacting standards and his off-field shenanigans simply do not match up to a Burnley player’s required code of conduct.
Last season’s signing of Joe Hart fits into the Drinkwater mould; high risk, big wages, no form and lots of previous for not fitting into a new dressing room. Okay skipper Tom Heaton was injured, and the shoulder knacked Nick Pope was also going to be out for a while, but the Clarets had adequate goalkeeping back-up without breaking the bank to nab the ex-England shot stopper and relieve Pep Guardiola of a major headache in the process.
Hart has now joined Matej Vydra, Kevin Long and Ben Gibson on the Clarets’ permanent substitutes bench. Young Northern Ireland goalkeeper Bailey Long-Peacock who was signed from Leeds in the summer “as one for the future” is getting virtually no game time at Burnley but seems to be his country’s number one choice between the posts.
The future must seem a long way away when you are not playing? The same is true for Ben Gibson, once an almost certainty for an England call-up when he was plying his trade on Teesside but cannot even force his way into the Burnley first eleven now.
Another big money signing, Bermuda’s Nakhi Wells is coming towards the end of a torrid time at Turf Moor. No game time under Sean Dyche means it is increasingly likely Queens Park Rangers where Wells is currently on loan, will secure the striker’s services on a full-time basis, for a cut price fee in January 2020. Wells contract at Burnley expires in June, so Burnley will have to take the money and cut their losses or face the prospect of wells leaving on a free in summer. Ouch!
That scenario is replicated in the case of Czech international Matej Vydra bought from Derby County, the striker is getting no game time at Turf Moor. It is rumoured Vydra may be moved on to Leeds United in January in a bid to get some game time and force himself back into the national side’s first team reckoning. Burnley have had no value for money from this player purchase and it is hard to justify spending a big fee and paying high wages for a player who cannot even make the bench with the Clarets.
Sean Dyche is notoriously loyal to his players, which makes you wonder why any player would want to come to Burnley, knowing that a first team berth is far from a certainty. Dyche constantly tells the footballing world just how hard it is for a club like Burnley to attract the right type of player, at the right price and further complicated with the Clarets rigid wage structure. Realising the bench is where you will be spending a lot of your career is not an option a lot of professional footballers yearn for.
The answer to Dyche’s conundrum may already be to hand. Sean Dyche and the Burnley hierarchy have reinvented Bob Lord’s “Gawthorpe Project,” once the envy of Europe’s elite football clubs which produced one after the other of footballing superstars. Players were developed, bloodied and sold to maintain Burnley’s position as a top-flight football club. Other clubs soon caught on and Burnley suffered a fall from grace so severe the club almost went out of business.
Somehow Sean Dyche has returned the Clarets to the top table of English football and introduced a policy of recruiting and developing young footballing talent at the new state-of-the-art Barnfield Training Complex, located on exactly the same lump of land where Bob Lord’s revolutionary project was first instigated.
Dwight McNeil is the first player off the new style conveyor belt, and he is already attracting a number of covetous eyes from within the English Premier League because of his mercurial style of wing play. The Clarets Development squad is currently going great guns and from the 16-year-old scholars right up to the fringe of the first team, Dyche’s imaginative approach and zeal to find a few more McNeil’s looks to be paying dividends.
Maybe in the imminent transfer widow, the likes of Nakhi Wells and Matej Vydra will be moved on to accommodate the new kids on the block, the two twenty-year olds Joel Mumbongo and Ali Koiki are making waves at under 23 level. Perhaps Bob Lord’s conveyor belt of talent is getting back into gear and revving up again?
An opinion straight from the Editor’s Chair at Clarets Mad.