English Premier League

Burnley’s Hero Says Goodbye

On Sean Dyche’s shocking dismissal and where Burnley must go from here…

Well, I was not quite expecting for us to be here, but here we are…

Burnley announced about a week ago that they have parted ways with long-time manager Sean Dyche effective immediately. The longest tenured active manager in the Premier League, as well as seemingly his entire back room staff, have packed up and left. A decision that seemed largely unexpected, completely out of the blue, and seemed much more like a sacking rather than a mutual parting of ways leaves Dyche now out at the club that he loves and the project that he built, leaving the Clarets in the drop zone with six games remaining.

And man, I just do not know about this.

Sure, I do think there is some justification to finally remove Dyche from his post. Burnley’s winning percentage under Dyche over the last 12 months is not only the lowest of any team in the Premier League, but it might be among the lowest of any team in England’s top four divisions during that time period. Burnley have been very poor, they are deserving to be in the position in which they find themselves, and ultimately part of the blame has to be taken by Dyche. It is not completely unreasonable to believe that it was time for a change at Turf Moor. It is possible that Dyche’s defensive and brutal Burnley might finally be running out of time.

And this seems to coincide with the change in leadership at the club. We are over a year on from the takeover at Burnley FC by American investment firm ALK Capital. New club chairman Alan Pace has been vocal in his desire to advance the Burnley project that Dyche started, and that has shown in recent transfer activity. Burnley paid a significant sum (by their standards) this season to sign winger Maxwel Cornet from Lyon and striker Wout Weghorst from Wolfsburg, two exciting attacking players who have the potential to add some vibrancy to a mostly one-dimensional Burnley side. They showed desire to slowly but surely transform what was previously an aging Burnley team, and by all accounts, they seemed intent on doing so with Dyche at the helm. Even if they did not, it would be fairly understandable. This could be the sign of a new direction, a refreshment that has been needed within this Burnley team. With that logic, moving on from Dyche makes sense.

But this decision, in this moment and in the manner in which they did it, is puzzling at best and dramatically idiotic at worst, and there are multiple issues with this.

Firstly, why now? Why specifically did they choose to drop this news on a random Friday afternoon? What was the catalyst for this happening? Was it due to the loss to Norwich? If so, then why was this not addressed when the team got back on Monday? Was it a growing trend? It is not like this team has not had issues all season, so why was this decision not made before the international break, or during any more reasonable and responsible time? Why did they wait until crunch time to actually do something if they really wanted to make a change involving the manager and staff?

Burnley literally play a game in two days (as of time of writing). On Sunday, they go to East London to face a West Ham team fresh off of the biggest win in their club’s modern history. They then play three more games over the next two weeks, a set of fixtures which includes a relegation six pointer away to Watford. They must go into at least the West Ham game without a manager, and quite possibly without an entire back room staff. Who is going to be the manager on Sunday? Are they going to get the youth team coach to do it? The kit man? The tea lady? Are they going to make Ben Mee or James Tarkowski be player-managers? Have they thought about any of this? The statement from Alan Pace says that the process for replacing Dyche “has started”. What does that mean? Do they have a final choice picked out? Down to the final three candidates? The final five? Do they even at least have an interim coach in mind?

(Update: Burnley drew 1-1 with West Ham and beat Southampton 2-0. New manager bounce without a new manager?)

This is why this is so staggering and perplexing to me. Want to sack Dyche? Sure, I can see some justification for it. But what benefit does Burnley get from sacking him now? Yes, the loss to Norwich, and Everton’s subsequent win over Man United, is a big blow for Burnley’s survival hopes, but it certainly does not end them. There are six games left in the season, 18 total points up for grabs for Burnley to overcome the one point gap between them and Everton, and Burnley have the much easier run to the end of the season when compared to their relegation rivals. It is difficult, yes, but not impossible, but with this move and the manner in which it happened, Burnley are giving up any advantage that they have left.

And that brings up our second point: who are they actually going to hire who will be any better? This is not exactly an ideal circumstance for a new manager to come in, and it is not easy to sell managers on this situation. Add in Burnley’s financial situation and general location, and you are looking at a significantly limited list of realistic candidates. Sam Allardyce? David Unsworth? Rafa Benitez maybe? Pull an ex-Burnley man from the lower divisions like Joey Barton or Michael Duff? I cannot think of much else.

And would any of them be better than Dyche? Allardyce’s status as the famous relegation firefighter was ruined last season with West Brom’s demotion, so are we sure he has the capability to work miracles here? Rafa Benitez is probably spiteful, and the storyline of him going to Burnley to relegate former employers Everton seemingly writes itself. But given how poorly his tenure on the blue side of Merseyside went, are we sure he would be able to save Burnley? Do we trust Barton or Ball or Unsworth given their lack of experience? Would someone like Wayne Rooney or Ole Gunnar Solskjær risk taking this project now when they could just wait until the summer for their next gig? There is no good answer here.

Look, Sean Dyche is not the perfect manager. I think we can all agree on that. But there is a reason why Dyche got Burnley to the Premier League, and sent them on a European tour, and kept a club like Burnley up as long as they have been. There is a reason why he was the longest-tenured Premier League manager. He is the closest that the Premier League has gotten to a Sir Alex Ferguson/Diego Simeone-like figure. Like with Cholo Simeone at Atlético Madrid and Sir Alex at Man United, Sean Dyche forms this dynamic force around which everything at Burnley revolves. The players are with him, the coaches are with him, the fans are with him, and the directors, until now, were with him. If there was anyone who could have figured out a way to keep Burnley up once more, it would have been Dyche. And even if he had failed, even if Burnley get relegated, there are very few managers who would be more capable of getting them back into the Premier League than Dyche, the man who got Burnley promoted automatically on two separate occasions.

Well, just like how I was not sure how to start this, I am not sure how to end this. I did not expect this to happen, especially in this manner. Burnley basically “Friday news dump”‘d the dismissal of maybe their most important modern era manager, possibly sealing their relegation to the Championship with a fairly arbitrary and difficult to justify decision. As an Everton fan, I am selfishly happy for any bit of news I can cling to as a sign of our potential Premier League survival, but from an objective viewpoint, I just do not think this makes any sense and have no idea where Burnley go from here.

And above all else, this was not how Sean Dyche deserved to go out.

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