After nearly 10 harmonious and successful years – one of the best periods in the club’s history – the partnership between Sean Dyche and Burnley came to an end over the weekend.
Dyche’s sacking shocked the football world, with Match of the Day host Gary Lineker among those to speak out against the decision. Burnley were languishing in Championship mid-table obscurity when Dyche arrived in 2012, whereas now they are in their sixth straight season in the Premier League, although barring a late, great escape it is set to conclude in their relegation.
The decision to sack Dyche made by owners ALK Capital and chairman Alan Pace is the biggest call they have made since taking charge at Turf Moor at the end of 2020. Pace, an American with a Wall Street background who served as chief executive for MLS side Real Salt Lake, handed Dyche a four-year contract last September but then wielded the axe on Friday.
The timing of Dyche’s departure raises more questions than answers. Deciding to dispense with a club legend is never going to be an easy decision, but there were more obvious opportunities to make a change in the dugout. Burnley recently lost a pivotal game away to Brentford ahead of a three-week break between games. International breaks are often when managers lose their jobs, but Dyche survived only to be shown the door two days ahead of a trip to West Ham.
ALK and Pace have insisted that they have a long-term plan that takes a potential relegation from the Premier League into account, but the panicked way they sacked Dyche – along with his entire first-team staff in one fell swoop – suggests that is not the case after all. Like most clubs in the division, Burnley have come to rely extremely heavily on Premier League broadcast income.
Burnley operated with one of the smallest budgets in the league during Dyche’s reign, but before the arrival of ALK the club was run in a sustainable way by local businessmen. Former chairman Mike Garlick had become unpopular due to his unwillingness to spend money on the squad, while the rainy-day fund built up over years ended up being used to fund the takeover.
ALK’s leveraged buyout, completed in a very similar way to how the Glazer family bought Manchester United in 2005, is reported to have left Burnley some £90 million worse off. Burnley even made a sizeable profit on players during the January window, with Newcastle United triggering a £25 million release clause in Chris Wood’s contract that left the Clarets scrambling to secure Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst as a late replacement for around half that cost.
Dyche’s side were already in a perilous position in January, but a failure to bolster the squad left them in an even more difficult spot as attempts to sign Aaron Ramsey from Juventus and Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb were not completed. Newcastle lavished around £80 million on reinforcements for Eddie Howe, a spending spree that has seen them climb the table, which shows what Burnley have been battling against, but it is hard to argue the change in the club’s finances did not made it tougher for Dyche to defeat the expanding odds stacked against him.
Weghorst proved a poor fit for Burnley’s tactical system, scoring just once in 12 appearances, with Burnley drawing a blank in five of their last six matches before Dyche’s departure. It is perhaps telling that the Netherlands international then found the net in the first game of the post-Dyche era, nodding home a rebound from close range as Burnley drew 1-1 at West Ham.
The fact ALK and Pace appear not to have a replacement lined up to succeed Dyche adds to the sense of panic. Had an immediate appointment been made and a new manager put in charge for Sunday’s trip to London Stadium, the decision would have appeared more logical. However, instead it was left to the under-23 coach Mike Jackson to assume caretaker control, supported by a team including ALK advisor Paul Jenkins and the injured club captain Ben Mee.
One of the few players to have been at Turf Moor longer than Dyche, Mee is yet to make a public comment on the sacking, which seems strange. Indeed, there has been radio silence from most of the Burnley squad, leaving fans left to speculate amid the continued uncertainty.
Dyche’s tactics were not always much fun to watch but there is no arguing with his record at Burnley. Both of his full seasons in the Championship resulted in promotion, while he twice led Burnley to top-half finishes in the Premier League and also took the club into Europe for the first time in over 50 years. As a result, many fans believed he should have remained in charge even had Burnley been relegated, but ALK and Pace have taken a different view of the situation.
There is little room for sentiment in football these days and, should Burnley pull off a surprise escape from the drop, the decision to drop Dyche will have been justified. Yet the overwhelming feeling is of a state of panic, with the club’s American owners throwing a last roll of the Dyche.