Friday’s shock news came out of nowhere - so where do we go from here?
A new era
Like a lot of people, I suspected Sean Dyche and Burnley may part ways in the summer. I absolutely did not see us making that change before the end of the season.
It is almost impossible to sum up my feelings around it, but I’ll give it a go. I’ve written here before that I felt a bit bored of Dyche’s Burnley - having to find new things to say about his team and tactics was one of the reasons I stepped away from the podcast years ago - and that feeling intensified this season with our poor form.
If you were to strip away the context of two promotions (one with a league title), plus two top-10 finishes and an unforgettable European campaign, maybe sacking Dyche makes sense given Burnley have been largely atrocious for much of the season.
But you can’t. You also can’t ignore the fact Burnley consistently have one of the smallest budgets in the league. We made a profit in January, for crying out loud.
I agree with those saying Dyche has essentially been a victim of his own success. Had anyone told us we would be in our sixth successive season in the Premier League within a decade of him taking over, we would all have been absolutely delighted.
Given the way the sacking was handled, coming not straight after the Norwich City defeat, but two days ahead of the trip to West Ham, with no replacement lined up to come in, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the decision screams of sheer panic.
ALK Capital and Alan Pace have done some good things - I am (mostly) joking when I sum up their contribution as “new LED screens” - but this is their biggest call so far. I don’t necessarily agree Dyche should have been given the chance to decide when he left Turf Moor, but with just eight games to go? And no replacement ready? Hmmm.
The Athletic UK @TheAthleticUK▪️ A shift in the use of possession ▪️ Attacking substitutions late in the game ▪️ Familiar staff in unfamiliar positions Nothing will be the same again at Turf Moor... This was post-Sean Dyche Burnley. 📝 @adjones_journo https://t.co/fYNkBFNFOt
Speculation is probably unhelpful, but it is hard not to guess something has happened behind the scenes. The Athletic reports the sacking was “not premeditated”. It’s hard to know what to make of that, but it does suggest Pace reacted to something that happened this week, rather than last weekend’s result. I suspect we are not hearing the full story and perhaps it is telling how few of the players have said anything publicly about Dyche’s departure, despite many owing him a great deal. Ben Mee is part of the leadership team, the club captain is famed for his clear communication, but he has been silent on the sacking. Presumably he has a view. So what is it? There is usually an information vacuum in the aftermath of a sacking, but Pace made a big deal about how he would communicate with fans and he seems to have disappeared.
Surely after the Brentford defeat, a strong contender for the season’s nadir though there is a lot of competition for that dubious honour, was the time to sack Dyche. Burnley were heading into a three-week break, offering a buffer and time to get the new manager in place ahead of those crucial back-to-back games against Everton and Norwich, which we were always going to need to win given our perilous position.
I’ve said before I had doubts about Dyche’s suitability to lead us next season due to the scale of the rebuild required, no matter what league we are in, but I think we probably had a better chance of survival with him in charge than with nobody at all.
As it stands, an appointment does not seem to be imminent. The new era set a decent enough foundation with Sunday’s 1-1 draw at West Ham - though it was marred by a presumably season-ending injury to Ashley Westwood - but we play again on Thursday. If we still have Mike Jackson in charge for that game, it stinks of farce.
Sliding doors moments
As for the game itself, it was one of those matches we could have won, but arguably should have lost, so it is hard to argue with a point. As Jackson said, given the upheaval behind the scenes and the upset caused by Westwood’s injury, a point is nothing to be sniffed at. It does put a modicum of pressure back on Everton too.
I have deja vu here, but again it was slackness at both ends that proved costly. Though we were grateful to Nick Pope for an outstanding individual performance with a string of jaw-dropping saves, we created plenty of our own openings at the other end and lost two points due to giving away a daft foul and defending the free-kick badly.
It is difficult not to imagine how different the result may have been had we converted our penalty - incredibly our first in any competition for almost a year. I had no issue with Maxwel Cornet stepping up to take it. He is our key player, most confident finisher and top goalscorer. He might be out of nick but he wanted the responsibility.
That said, since the game I’ve seen Jay Rodriguez has an excellent penalty record - scoring 20 out of 22 career attempts from the spot - and Cornet has never even taken one before at club level, so maybe we did have the wrong taker over it. There are naturally parallels with our missed penalty against Leicester City that paved the way for our last relegation, Matt Taylor failing to convert from the spot. I’m loath to place too much blame on Cornet’s shoulders given we would be even worse off without his goals this term, but it is two games in a row he has missed a golden chance to score.
That miss at Carrow Road may prove to be the pivotal moment in our season. I firmly believe that if Max tucks away Dwight McNeil’s glorious centre, we go on to win the game. Maybe if that happens, Dyche doesn’t get the sack. Who knows. The penalty at West Ham is another sliding doors moment, giving us the chance to go 2-0 up. West Ham are a very good team and may have come back anyway but at 1-0 with our record of giving away sloppy goals it was hard to see us closing out the game to seal a win.
Obviously all teams can point to moments they could have been more clinical, but it is potentially a four-point swing from those two misses. We are three points from safety.
I am no Carol Vorderman, but even I can work out the sums on this occasion.
Podcasts and quiz question
In due course there will be a bumper analysis show looking at Dyche’s sacking and the West Ham game. Dave is on this show discussing Dyche’s departure in the meantime:
For the answer to this week’s quiz question, listen to the Southampton preview show:
Since 1888, Burnley have faced 50 clubs in top-flight matches, and have beaten 49 of them. But which is the only team of those 50 Burnley have failed to beat?
Birthdays and anniversaries
Nick Pope will be celebrating his 30th birthday on Tuesday this week. Our former stopper Joe Hart also has his birthday on the same day, oddly enough. He will be 35.
#OnThisDay seven years ago, we had a crucial Easter weekend win away to Blackpool.
For anyone not travelling to the Watford game, there is an anniversary dinner at Turf Moor to mark 30 years since that famous season in the fourth division. All of the proceeds go towards John Pender, the ex-captain who has motor neurone disease.
Mark wrote in with some thoughts after Friday’s news broke:
Dyche was our best chance of staying up - he's performed miracles with us all throughout his nearly 10-year tenure, being keeping us up or when we have been relegated he has brought us back up. I can't see how we will stay up now, our season is now fecked, we're going down. I hope the Dyche out brigade are happy, they should have waited to the end of the season if you ask me, and see where we finished. They sack Dyche yet still employ Barnes and Stephens who have been done for drink driving and let them off for bringing the club in disgrace, they should have been let go. I don't really know what to think or do. I will always love Burnley but Pace has made the biggest mistake whilst at the club as Dyche had signed a new contract and Pace will be spending a lot of money for sacking him.
I assume there was a break clause in the contract so people talking about £25 million due to adding up his reported wage and contract length is massively wide of the mark, with that number basically having been plucked out of thin air. But it does make you wonder how these staff changes are going to impact our summer transfer budget.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully we will have a new manager to talk about soon…