As the decisions went, it was an unpopular decision.
After Premier League club Burnley sacked longtime manager Sean Dyche earlier this month, shock and condemnation came quickly.
Pundit and former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher called the decision a “joke”. Another pundit, Gary Neville, who played for Manchester United, said Dyche did “one of the great managerial jobs in the history of the PL (Premier League)”.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank said he was “massively surprised” and suggested Burnley build a statue of Dyche outside their Turf Moor stadium. West Ham manager David Moyes said he was “shocked”.
Dyche had been at the club for 10 years and was widely considered to have done a fantastic job. He has led Burnley to two promotions from the second-tier Championship and has kept the Clarets in the top flight for the past five seasons, despite having one of the competition’s smallest budgets. In 2018, Burnley finished 7andqualifying for European competition for the first time in 51 years.
However, after completing 17and last season, Burnley struggled again this season. The decision to sack Dyche came with the club 18and and in the relegation zone, four points from safety. His last game in charge was a defeat against last club Norwich City.
Explaining the decision, Burnley chairman Alan Pace, who led US consortium ALK Capital which took over the club in December 2020, said in a statement: “During his time at Turf Moor, Sean has been a credit to both on and off the pitch, respected by players, staff, supporters and the wider football community.
“However, the results this season have been disappointing and, although it is an incredibly difficult decision, with eight crucial games of the campaign remaining, we believe a change is needed to give the team the best possible chance of winning. retain Premier League status.”
Pace had not been in charge of the club for a year and a half and had sacked a manager who fans considered a hero. With no permanent replacement, Under-23 coach Mike Jackson was placed in charge on an interim basis.
Given the financial chasm between the Premier League and the Championship, relegation would have a significant impact on Burnley’s finances. The parachute payments would soften the blow somewhat, but there are already concerns over how the takeover of ALK Capital would have added debt to the club.
For Pace and his board, sacking Dyche and continuing to be relegated would be a quick way to alienate fans.
Instead, there is a surprising sense of optimism at Turf Moor after three impressive results over the past 10 days. Burnley picked up a creditable point at West Ham in Jackson’s first game in charge and then won successive home games against Southampton and Wolves.
Burnley overtook Everton and slipped one place above the relegation zone. Burnley have 31 points after 33 games. Everton have 29 points but have played one game less.
There is still a lot of football to play and Burnley have three away matches in their last five games. The first, however, is at 19and-placed Watford on Saturday. A win would give Burnley a cushion of five points and put the pressure firmly on Everton ahead of their tricky game against Chelsea on Sunday.
There is still a big chance that Burnley will be relegated and the decision to sack Dyche will look like an error in judgement. But Pace will have known the decision would be unpopular. They decided that the considerable risks of relegation justified this decision. It’s certainly risky, but in football, small margins – not to mention luck – often make the difference between success and failure.
This unpopular decision could be the one that saves Burnley’s place in the Premier League.