‘Robbie’s got quality and is growing but equally he is not the real deal' - Burnley boss on Brady's potential
Sean Dyche hopes hard work can make Burnley a difficult proposition for superpower clubs
Sean Dyche has a new obsession. So the big question is not whether he can stop the Premier League's best strikeforce, or penetrate its tightest defence when Chelsea visit Turf Moor this afternoon.
When the Burnley manager had finished one of the busiest press conferences of the season and put forward the case for his hard-working team, which has been assembled for the price of your average Chelsea midfielder, he was distracted by the burning issue of his day . . .
Dyche is introducing his teenage son to the joys of film classics, and today he needs a 1980s comedy. So which is better? Naked Gun or Airplane? He rattles through the gags with a willing cameraman, to the dismay of his press officers.
Surely Dyche has more pressing matters. (Don't call him Shirley.) Chelsea are coming to Turf Moor, even if it is an intimidating ground, and has been reclassified as a fortress in this, Dyche's second attempt to stay in the Premier League.
It turns out his own '80s references are relevant to the visit of Antonio Conte's league leaders, who won 3-1 at Turf Moor on the opening day of their title-winning run under Jose Mourinho two seasons ago. Burnley haven't beaten Chelsea since 1983 (the year Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, was released). If he is relaxed, he has every right to be. After 24 games, Burnley are eight points better off than they were that season and they currently have the third-best home record in the division. Turf Moor is a fortress.
They just can't win away from home, taking just one point in the goalless draw at Old Trafford in October. It was the same two years ago, when they won just three on their travels - including the last two at Hull and Aston Villa.
After next weekend's FA Cup fifth-round tie at home to non-league Lincoln City, Burnley face four away games at Hull City, Swansea City, Liverpool and Sunderland. They do not have a home game in March.
The stats, the fixture list, the league table; none of them worry Dyche. He set his standards on the first day of pre-season. Any player not prepared to match the intensity of match day on the training ground after that might as well not put his boots on. His players get it and it works.
"We know how tough it is," says Dyche. "We don't take anything for granted. We have had a few knocks in our time, we have had some great times and we have had to work for everything. So I mean sincerely, there is no, 'Oh, it's all right lads'. I don't make false or idle promises, certainly not to my players. I'm telling the truth because if you have the truth it's a good base to work from.
"There are no guarantees but what I do explain to them is that performance levels are key. And if you perform at the levels we have, then you will win games. Full performance levels eventually pay you back. Well, that's my belief anyway.
"Whether we are playing Chelsea or Lincoln, we will be diligent in our approach. I am going to get down to Lincoln after training. So we take everyone seriously and we do not think we are that powerful that we don't have to turn up.
"We have to turn up all the time, every day in training, every time the whistle blows - because football is not going to wait for little old, good old Burnley, and say, 'Let's give them a win'. It just doesn't happen.
"We have to be on everything, so that is what we do and we believe in what we do. We believe in taking up every challenge no matter who we are playing.
"It's fair enough to say it's tougher against the superpower clubs, and not just Chelsea. There's a group of them, and we all know who they are, who are a step above most of us. So we know it's a great challenge but it is the beauty of the Premier League for a club like Burnley.
"A year ago we were fighting for a chance to play against these teams. Now we are physically here and we can't say, 'Oh wow, these are strong'. You have to say, 'Right, OK, this is what we wanted. This is what we're up for. This is what we signed up for'. So we're really focused on what we're about. You have to take up the challenge authentically."
This is Burnley's third attempt to extend their Premier League stay beyond a season. Owen Coyle blew it all when he walked out in January 2010 to join Bolton. Graham Alexander took them down, Eddie Howe couldn't get them up. Burnley and Howe have recovered. Coyle hasn't, not really.
That Burnley, under Dyche, were even entertaining the likes of Chelsea for that second season in the Premier League was one of the great mysteries for the big-spending Championship teams they left behind in 2014. They had very little money in comparison but they did have an astute manager and a squad which has evolved and grown, rather than had to be completely dismantled, like Norwich and Aston Villa.
They train under Dyche's familiar bark at Gawthorpe Hall, an Elizabethan country house on the banks of the river Calder. It is a couple of miles from Turf Moor, the pitches and Dyche HQ hidden away in parkland in nearby Padiham. The satnav will direct you to a housing estate five miles away, so just follow the National Trust signs.
There are improvements afoot. Like Lansdowne, the press will, regrettably, be removed from the cottage to a shiny new, custom-made room.
And into the Burnley story walks Robbie Brady. The Ireland international is their new £13 million club-record signing and highest earner, it was reported last week. He's been introduced to the local press, a few days after his debut as a substitute in the defeat at Watford. He's happy, lifts already sorted with his pal Jeff Hendrick, whose suspension today means he misses Brady's full debut.
Burnley saw off Sunderland, Crystal Palace and West Brom to sign Brady, who is also hoping to avoid a third relegation after suffering that fate at Hull and Norwich.
Dyche insisted it was not a signal of intent, merely an opportunity to spend a budget which remains within the confines of the board's realistic and sensible approach.
"We try to do it in a model that fits this club," says the manager. "If I went to another club and I had a fellow who was going to give me £100 million, I'd try to spend it. This club doesn't and I'm not going to throw this club under a bus because of my vanity as a manager.
"Robbie was purely a player who fits with what we are as a club; the enhanced financial model. That is our top limit but that's the market. He fits into the way the team operates, he wants to work, he has a good pedigree coming from Man United. Warren Joyce brought him up in that way, where they have to work and have a desire.
"He's got quality and is growing in experience. But equally he is not the real deal. We like the players when there is a bit more to come. If he was the absolute finished article, we probably couldn't have got him here, because there would have been other clubs even bigger who would take him. But there are still some rough edges we think we can help with.
"It's like the London housing market, there's no right or wrong - it's whether or not you want to pay it. You probably had a rough idea of a player's worth in the market once, now it tends to depend more on what state the selling club is in.
"If you look in the Championship, where most of our players come from, some of the owners are worth half a billion. So they don't have to sell. In the past, say 10 years ago, clubs had to balance their books a little bit.
"Part of our growth has been to get to a level where we can compete. The harder aspect from our point of view is the wages. Premier League wages are massive. It's hard to say, 'Right, we'll throw everything at it and hope it works'. We've all seen the heaven and hell of the Premier League when teams do that, and if it doesn't work out, those teams are often in pretty bad shape."
Burnley v Chelsea
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