They’ve punched above their weight for years, belying one of the smallest budgets and leanest playing squads to stay competitive in the English Premier League.
But will the time soon be up for Sean Dyche and his old-fashioned Burnley side in the division?
The team from a quaint Lancashire town that was once the heart of world textile production are heading into the second half of the season in the relegation zone. Not unusual, some would say, for a club used to residing in the bottom half of the table.
Except this time it’s just different.
A league win all season – at home to promoted Brentford in late October – is clearly a concern. Just like his derisory total of three clean sheets, a sign of the newfound fragility of a team which has so long placed so much importance on being tight and well organized at the back.
Then there is the gut punch that was delivered on Thursday, when Burnley had no choice but to sell star striker Chris Wood to relegation rivals Newcastle after the outbreak of the £25 million ($34.5 million) release clause. The New Zealand international – a ramming centre-forward and the epitome of Burnley’s often direct style – is the team’s top scorer in the Premier League with 49 and a contributor of 29% of all his goals since his debut in August 2017., according to Opta.
In and out of the Premier League from 2009 to 2015 and a permanent fixture over the past six years, Burnley – with its charming 22,000 capacity Turf Moor stadium, no-frills approach to play, gruff voice of Dyche – was a fixture in the English top flight. This is also partly what prompted the American consortium ALK Capital to buy Burnley, one of the 12 founding members of the English Football League in 1888, a year ago.
“Britain’s favorite underdog” is how Burnley chairman Alan Pace described the club on arrival as their first foreign owner. Yet at the current rate the team will fade from the Championship with barely a moan unless Pace can perhaps improve the team significantly in the remainder of the January transfer window and Dyche can make another miracle.
After all, under Dyche, who has been in charge since October 2012 and is the Premier League’s longest-serving manager, Burnley unlikely qualified for the 2018-19 Europa League, giving the team’s fans a first run in European competition in half an hour. century and one of their best moments since their last victory in the English Premier League in 1960.
Since then Burnley have finished 15th and 17th in two of three league campaigns and this season find themselves in 18th place and suddenly lacking identity as Dyche tries – unsuccessfully – to add an attacking push to his side. .
With 16 goals in 17 games, Burnley are the third lowest scoring team and have just lost their best striker to Wood. Maxwel Cornet may have made an impression since arriving from Lyon last year, scoring six goals in 10 league appearances, but he is out of the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast and has had physical fitness issues.
Where will the goals come from heading into a key part of the season, which will see Burnley take on Leicester on Saturday and relegation rivals Watford on Tuesday? Dyche’s side have more games to play – 21 – than any other team due to three postponements before Christmas.
There will be no FA Cup on the way, however, after losing at home to second-tier Huddersfield in the third round on Saturday.
“Experience and knowledge of (surviving in the Premier League) is good,” Dyche told local media this week, “but you don’t want to be naive to think it will be fine then. I assured that. the players, I said: “No, no, it does not work.”
“You have to be much better than good to be sure you’re taking care of yourself. We are considering this scenario, and because we have experience and know the challenge, that doesn’t mean he owes us anything. We have to go out and win it.”
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