Thursday 22 August 2019

Making sense without being boring

Sean Dyche has been at Burnley for five years and the changes he has made are likely to last

Sean Dyche: ‘I speak to varying businessmen and do you know in any other industry, pragmatic is a golden word . . . in football, it is, oh no, he’s a bit pragmatic, he’s boring' Photo: PA
Sean Dyche: ‘I speak to varying businessmen and do you know in any other industry, pragmatic is a golden word . . . in football, it is, oh no, he’s a bit pragmatic, he’s boring' Photo: PA

Colin Young

When Ireland's Burnley contingent returned to their lovely country home base on the edge of the Lancashire town last week, manager Sean Dyche didn't need to say a word. Everyone at the club felt their pain.

Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward played in the win against Swansea, Brady providing the assist for new England international Jack Cork's opener against his former club. Kevin Long was on the bench, where he has been all season. Jon Walters got a mention in the press conference last week. He is making good progress and must have a Christmas return in mind.

It is hard to see Dyche walking away from it at this stage Photo: PA
It is hard to see Dyche walking away from it at this stage Photo: PA

Dyche was asked about the playing trio in the build-up to the Swansea game, and never considered leaving them out. Reputations, resilience, response, he said. Dyche declared himself delighted with his 'Irish collective'.

"I cannot speak for the nation," he said on Friday in the newly built media centre at Gawthorpe Hall, "but everyone here was very disappointed for them and I know what it means to them. I know how much they care about what happens on the international scene.

"The collective got a little bit of stick in some quarters and people sometimes forget how harsh it is on them. That was their chance to go to a World Cup, imagine that, a World Cup. So to get beyond that and come back here and perform in an important game for us, I was pleased for us and pleased for them.

"But being a professional is exactly that. You are professional and cannot wallow in things, good or bad. The responsibility of success is just as important as the responsibility of failure. You have to get on and do better, even when you are successful.

"The Irish lads we have here have a positive edge to their characters and they are a strong part of our group, not just on the pitch you understand, but as people. They are good characters who get in among the group and they have that wit and charm that the Irish often have. It sounds mad but football is a team game and that camaraderie is an important part of it.

"I signed Robbie Brady because I think he's a good player, not because I knew he was Jeff's mate. I didn't. It's mythical but they play their part in the group, they have all done well in their own right, they have all done well in the team and I am pleased how it balances out."

So does he see similarities with his Burnley team and Martin O'Neill's Ireland? "We are similar in the sense that we are both often the plucky underdog. Ireland have to fight against the riches of countries with massive amounts of players, in our case it is sometimes literally playing against the riches, as in the finances of some clubs in the Premier League. So yes, there are some crossovers. Both teams know their lot, both teams are proud of what they do and there is a desire with both teams to be successful."

When Dyche is in full flow, his audience know not to interrupt. In preparation for the Arsenal game today, cameras off, the Burnley manager leaned back in his chair behind a desk lit up by bright neon claret and blue lights to enjoy another round of sparring with a gathering of local journalists.

Tony Pulis's sacking by West Brom came up, Dyche shook his head. And he was off. "My TV is massive, does everything, and do you know what I do? I turn it on, watch a programme, switch it off again. I guarantee that in three years' time I will change it. I was brought up in an era when you wouldn't change your TV until it was broken. Now, you just change it.

"So why is that any different to our demands of sport? The theatre? Cinema? We want better seats, the popcorn to be better, water that doesn't cost nine quid - don't get me started on that - bigger screens, better views, 4D so spray comes out at you and smoke. I am serious.

"I am 46, I have two kids, life is changing but does it surprise me about Tony Pulis? No. People want a different version of them, different rhetoric, different mannerisms on the sideline, different voice. But often, and I have analysed them, and I am not going to name the teams, but the style of football does not change. They have changed manager and he is doing exactly the same as the last one and it has not changed a bit. But it is a new face to front it up.

"Three things happen in football management. You go, they get you out or you resign. Arsene Wenger has had many highs and lows, especially latterly, but they are still an unbelievable side to me. I know you could throw at me that they haven't won trophies, etc, but when he does go, all they will get is a different version of him."

Although he hadn't seen or heard Jamie Carragher's suggestion that he take the Everton job and Dyche's 'style of football' was holding the Goodison owners back, he has been made aware of the gyst. His answer was to continue to extol the version of Burnley which is growing under his command.

And who can blame him? Dyche has been at Turf Moor for five years and the ground, the team, the hope, the ambition, the training ground have all changed in the assured, measured and sensible way the manager clearly likes, understands and embraces. And in a world gone money-mad, he is far from finished. Carragher may disagree but Dyche knows he has time at Burnley to continue building an empire. They can go sixth if they beat Arsenal at a rammed Turf Moor today.

Like his team, Gawthorpe Hall is a work in progress and the builders will be gone by the summer. The team, however, will need further tinkering and strengthening then. It is hard to see Dyche walking away from it at this stage.

"It's a bit rough round the edges and not finished yet but we are getting there and certainly by next summer it will be more or less done. It has been a long time but it is invaluable for the future of the club and my future within it and years and years beyond me.

"The way football has moved forward is in the importance of the training and the quality of training to go into games. You need high quality training pitches and then the literal structure of the buildings, and everything that goes with what you want to do in the future.

"We get the good and bad on the pitch and there are so many people who don't get recognised working behind the scenes to get to this stage. It is protected, safeguarded and we can continue to build. You are looking to give yourself an enhanced chance. There are no guarantees but if you push the boundaries it increases your chances of success.

"The name of the game is to win. Winning always come first. I speak to varying businessmen and do you know in any other industry, pragmatic is a golden word. We have a man who is pragmatic, fantastic. Someone who gets the job done, brings things forward, builds things, brings in revenue, brings in business. 'How's production?' 'Going up?' 'How's revenue?' 'Going up.' 'How's the building?' 'Going up.' In football, it is, oh no, he's a bit pragmatic, he's boring.

"We have had to be pragmatic in the early days of being here to build all this and now we are just trying to mould it a little bit more, not going far away from what we are about. Slaven Bilic said after the game: 'you kept the fundamentals of how your team operates but you are playing better football in better areas of the pitch, but still sticking to the work and the belief'. I thought it was a tremendous compliment from someone I really respect but we are not the real deal yet. I am trying to move forward, that is pragmatic, but still trying to be innovative."

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