Despite the strong belief that Burnley’s time in the Premier League was coming to an end after five successive years in the top flight, the Lancashire side are still doing all they can to stay afloat — and they will amazingly retain Premier League status if things stay how they are following the departure of long-time servant Sean Dyche on Good Friday.
Regardless of whether they return to the Championship for the first time since being crowned champions in 2015-16, or if they live to fight another day amongst England’s elite, the 2022-23 campaign will be the beginning of a new era at Turf Moor — and Dyche’s permanent successor will certainly have their work cut out.
After all, the Clarets often overachieved under the guidance of the Kettering native — proving the football betting markets wrong as they escaped relegation time and again, and the 50-year-old will cast a massive shadow at the club should they flatter to deceive next season.
While with hindsight you could argue that Burnley perhaps became a bit stale under Dyche, and his departure has arguably been justified by the predominantly positive results under caretaker boss Mike Johnson and captain Ben Mee, you simply can’t ignore the fantastic work of the 50-year-old during his near 10-year tenure with the club.
After taking over from Eddie Howe a few months into the 2012-13 season, Dyche could fare no better than 11th in the Championship. But there was stark improvement in his first full season in charge, as the Clarets lost just five times en route to automatic promotion back to the Premier League — finishing second to centurions Leicester City.
Burnley could be forgiven for finishing 19th in the top flight the following season. In fact, it was perhaps a learning curve for Dyche and his players as they won the 2015-16 Championship with an identical record (W26, D15, L5) as when they finished second two years prior and they haven’t dropped back down since — or at least not yet, anyway.
Consistency has arguably been the issue for Burnley in the last five years though. They certainly would have taken a 16th-place finish in 2016-17, as they avoided yo-yoing back to the Championship. But a remarkable seventh-place finish the following year, securing European football for the first time since the 1960s, was followed up by a 15th place finish.
On the European football note, they failed to actually make it to the group stages of the Europa League — losing 4-2 on aggregate to Olympiacos in the final play-off round after beating Aberdeen and İstanbul Başakşehir. But again, with their tight budgets and squad, expectations wouldn’t have been high.
There certainly wouldn’t have been any complaint with a 10th place finish in the covid-hit 2019-20 campaign, with Burnley back in the top half of the table. But it has been downhill from there. The Clarets were 17th last season, not even reaching the 40-point benchmark and had the three relegated sides not been so bad then they wouldn’t have been as safe as they were.
It was rumoured that that terrible campaign was going to be the end of Dyche’s reign, but the supporters’ love for their manager and his long shelf life at Burnley perhaps kept him in the role. However, there’s only so much clubs will put up with nowadays, and with results spiralling and suggestions that he was losing the dressing room, it felt like the right time for Dyche to go.
Things might have ended sourly, with the outcry from pundits and fans alike taking over social media at the time of his sacking. But the reality is that Burnley needed a change after almost a decade. Dyche’s achievements will not be forgotten in a hurry though.