The five moments that secured Burnley's promotion
SOCCER AM with Kasabian, BT’s Life’s a Pitch with former Newcastle great Malcolm Macdonald, Radio 5Live’s Sausage Sandwich Game with Danny Baker – the media commitments are many and varied for Sean Dyche.
This is what happens when you get your team promoted to the Premier League. Everyone wants a piece of you.
On Saturday the Burnley boss was a studio guest of Sky Sports for the Championship play-off final – an event few would have predicted the Clarets to be involved in at the start of the season, let alone go one better and achieve automatic promotion.
Barring the glare of the camera lights, analysing the game and answering questions to a televised audience of millions it was an otherwise relaxed occasion for the 42-year-old as he watched 10-man Queens Park Rangers earn a dramatic late win over Derby County to join them in the Premier League.
The course that Burnley plotted was unexpected at the start of the season, after selling top scorer Charlie Austin on the eve of the big kick-off. But ultimately it was unwavering.
Dyche inherited the most porous defence in the Championship when he took the reins in October.
In less than 18 months he had made the same back four, with the addition of new goalkeeper Tom Heaton – his first permanent signing for the Clarets, the meanest of all 24 teams.
After Austin moved on, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes stepped up to form the second tier’s most potent partnership.
All in all, it was a recipe for success in making a fist for the top flight. But for Dyche, it all stemmed back to pre-season, when he put his players through what many described as the most gruelling exercise they had ever experienced.
On a hot day in Cork, the players had to manoeuvre industrial, tractor-sized tyres up and down the training pitch, working in teams against each other – winning together and losing together and getting each other through the toughest of tests.
“Those couple of days in Ireland I thought were key to the dynamic of the group and the belief within the group as a team,” said Dyche.
“That was really important.”
It was the first of five key moments the Burnley boss pointed to as he reflected on the first key moments of the season on their path to promotion.
“I think a mental marker early season was beating QPR and the fashion that we beat them – certainly our own fans, possibly even the players into acknowledging ‘we’re decent’.
“The period where we played Forest, Derby and Blackburn.
“I know that’s three things but that was a big period.
“If Derby had beat us they would have gone a point above us and if Forest had beaten us they would have gone two points behind us. And instead we all know what happened. We pulled clear and we never looked back.
“The Blackpool game was a big one because I felt that was us done. I never told anyone but internally I thought ‘that’s it, done’.
“And then of course the Wigan game because Wigan were generally going really well, really strong. People weren’t sure if we were going to beat them, especially after Derby had won away, and to deliver that kind of performance with that kind of feeling on the game was tremendous.
“I thought that was a real marker of how strong the squad and the mentality of the squad was and how the mentality of the staff, squad, fans, club had aligned.
“That real feeling about the place.”
At home, where the Clarets had gone unbeaten for a full calendar year, Dyche felt it was the perfect place - and way - to secure promotion.
“How it all encapsulated on that day was a great thing. On such a big occasion to deliver that kind of performance and it all came together was, for me as manager, that nirvana moment ... when the pressure’s on, the heat’s on, you’ve had your challenges, a couple of injured players have come back, big game at home – bang – and it all comes together. You deliver that kind of performance it was a real encapsulating moment for me personally and of course it coincided with us getting the job done. So that was of course a very happy day.”
The town and the team came together again almost a fortnight later as the town came together, lining the streets of Burnley from the Town Hall to Turf Moor to salute their promotion heroes.
Dyche says that show of unity will be particularly paramount in the Premier League.
“I hope one of the biggest learning curves for the Burnley fans this season is that when the demand from the fans is tempered with belief in the team, the confidence and the positivity remains higher for longer.
“We must ensure that’s something the group of fans have learned from because it was so evident in games like Leeds when we went 1-0 down. There was no panic, no moaning, they believed in the team. As if to say ‘these boys will go and do it’ and you can feel it in the stadium. So guess what, the lads put their shoulders back, still going at the opposition and still ready,” said Dyche, recalling another key moment.
“We’ve got to maintain it because the challenge is only going to get harder.
“Next year, wins - arguably - are not going to flow as freely. That doesn’t mean they’re definitely not, there are possibles and probables. Probably it’s going to be tough against certain clubs coming to Turf Moor or us going to their ground. Possibly not. Who knows?
“Of the probabilities and possibilities this year, everyone was writing us off and we went and got promoted, so never say never. But we’re going to need that positive energy and that belief from the fans in what we really are as a club.
“Hopefully that’s something that the fans – not just us as a team – have picked up on this year, because it was quite evident, particularly at home of course.”
It is at home - his own home - where Dyche has experienced the calm after the storm.
The day after winning promotion he was going about typical household business: mowing the lawn, building a bed that had been delivered for his son.
Apart from the inevitable increased media interest and a few more phonecalls to and from agents life has not changed much.
“I had a game of golf yesterday,” he said, after driving north for the interview. “There were a few phonecalls on the golf course. It’s never good etiquette.
“I was at tennis club last night with my boy, a few phonecalls in between, picked my daughter up from Brownies.
“I’ve just crack on.
“I’m pretty steady. I just like what I do.”
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