In the narrow streets around Turf Moor, they still can’t let go. There’s still the Royal Dyche pub, with the sign above its door depicting the man in question in cuirass and monarchical pose as he gazes into the distance.
Royal Dyche lager is still sold indoors, with 5p from each pint going to charity. Still the words “Sean Dyche’s burgundy and army blue” at the bar and a Maxwel Cornet scarf pinned on the way to the door, even though he’s at West Ham now.
Still the Dychian credo emblazoned on the shacks of the program vendors outside on Yorkshire Street: ‘Legs, hearts and minds’.
It was one thing to defenestrate the man, but quite another to replace him entirely with something diametrically different. Vincent Kompany, his successor, abandoned Route One and replaced it with what he knows: a circuitous, patient, elaborate route that leads to the goal.
The revolution overseen by manager Vincent Kompany at Burnley is well underway
This may tend to make fans nervous. As the team carefully handled the ball around the Preston pitch on their way to their fifth draw of the season last week, one of Burnley’s roamers could be heard bellowing: “Just lump it!”
It will take time to adapt to what Kompany has brought. On Saturday afternoon, with Burnley’s two young centre-halves standing in the penalty area to receive the ball from Manchester City goalkeeper Arijanet Muric, where they teach their keepers to pass, home fans were curiously silent.
The Bristol contingent made some noise. It sounded a lot like anxiety.
Manuel Benson celebrates with Josh Brownhill after scoring in a 2-1 win over Bristol City
Half an hour in the Royal Dyche says a lot about how the initial gruff skepticism gives way to acceptance. Some fans are done with the existential fight to survive and just want football to lift their hearts.
‘How long could all this go on like it was?’ said Sarah, a teaching assistant in her thirties. “We needed a fresh start.”
This departure included a heavy penalty. Relegation last season triggered a £32.3million prepayment penalty on investment house MSD Holdings, which loaned Burnley’s US owner Alan Pace the money to buy the club.
Kompany subsequently spent £45m less than he had recovered on summer window players, despite needing 16 additions to replace those who left. Necessity was the mother of invention.
Although the massive ranks of Nick Pope, Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, Dwight McNeil and Cornet are now scattered to the four winds, Kompany arrived with a reputation that prepared Manchester City, Chelsea and Southampton to lend their talents with him.
Ian Maatsen, who also found the net against Bristol City, receives a hug from Kompany
His status as Belgian captain and coach of Anderlecht also prompted some of his country’s best talents to follow him to these hills.
And so against this timeless and unchanging backdrop of Turf Moor – the back-to-back sandstone terraces, cotton mills and smokestacks with the Eastern Pennines stretching beyond – this land has seen a new type football start to pay off, with young, technically gifted players at the base.
Manuel Benson, signed from Royal Antwerp for £3.6million, is toughening up for the Championship by positioning himself against the more aggressive full-backs in training by Kompany and has never allowed a free-kick in this environment.
He picked up a loose ball and was out before Bristol City’s Alex Scott could set foot on it, rushing into the area to score inside the post.
Kompany replaced Burnley’s previous Route One football with a smooth passing game
Ian Maatsen, an excellent Dutch loanee for Chelsea, delivered the most skilful pass of the afternoon to give Nathan Tella, the Southampton loanee, a golden chance he really should have scored on.
When the smooth passing motions hit a dead end, the ball was recycled to Taylor Harwood-Bellis, a sleek and impressive centre-back in Kompany’s own mold, on loan here from Manchester City, who started the process all over again.
Kompany, who had also loaned Harwood-Bellis to Anderlecht, sees him as an integral part of Burnley’s ambitions.
Burnley’s old guard, including captain Jack Cork, have been merged into this new squad
And then there was Burnley’s old guard, merged into this new and obviously resurgent team. Jack Cork is the captain and the fulcrum. Josh Brownhill is a No. 10 for the first time in years and thriving. Jay Rodriguez, the most invigorated, scores goals.
It was he who headed the winner, his fifth goal of the season, from a cross from substitute Johann Berg Gudmundsson in the second half after Bristol’s Nahki Wells equalized from a corner. A tendency not to make superiority count has brought five draws this season. The team held on this time.
Kompany is wise enough to insist that he sticks to other established principles. “Burnley have always been known as a hard working team with brave lads. That’s what I wanted to keep,” he said after his team finished fourth in the standings.
Not all changes at Turf Moor are for the better. They played with the burgundy home shirt by introducing blue spots. A nice jersey like that should be sacrosanct.
But watching the players who had become so intimately familiar with struggle and toil whipping the ball around the turf in the bright autumn sun on Saturday suggested there was fun in leaving the past where it belongs.
“You have to break the cycle a bit and put it behind you,” Kompany added. “Before the first game there was a lot of uncertainty, but today there is music in the team. It’s a team that at least gives hope. And hope is important.