“Ginger Mourinho! Ginger Mourinho!” Half an hour after Burnley’s historic 2-0 victory over Wigan has been gloriously accomplished, the cry of the Clarets faithful was still ringing around Turf Moor and audible throughout Burnley Wood.
What had begun as a light-hearted taunt towards the end of last season had become Sean Dyche’s greatest accolade.
In 1978 Jimmy Adamson was having a difficult time managing Sunderland FC and after a 3-2 defeat at Bramhall Lane early in the season he was talking with Danny Blanchflower in the bar behind the Sheffield United directors’ box.
“How’s the job going?” Blanchflower asked. “Oh, it’s not about football,” Jimmy replied. “It’s about understanding how people work; it’s about knowing how the players and the fans are feeling.”
I never forgot that snippet of overheard conversation between the two great men. Adamson’s wisdom is surely at the heart of Sean Dyche’s and Burnley FC’s latest spectacular achievement.
The football managers through the history of the game who have recorded the most enduring and endearing success are not those who can perform flamboyantly in the transfer market (sorry Mr Redknapp) but rather the “special ones” who can take “ordinary” players and, with limited resources, encourage them to take deep personal ownership of a shared vision and promote an ability and willingness to play each other’s strengths (think Brian Clough).
Writing in the Watford programme before Burnley’s recent away game Dyche said: “It’s the job of manager to align mindsets and get everyone focussed in working towards the same aim and the same direction...That’s not just in football, by the way, but life in general I think...Belief is a constant for me – it is not a temporary feature. Opinion will come and go, but my self belief is steadfast.”
It was Albert Camus, the famous French novelist, journalist, philosopher and goalkeeper who said, after his career was cut short by serious illness, “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.”
Throughout the season Sean Dyche’s mantra of “one game at a time” has featured in just about every post-match interview, reminding us all that if we concentrate on the journey, the destination will take care of itself – an astute and undeniable statement of truth.
Closing his comments in the Watford programme, the Burnley manager celebrates “The biggest thing I’ve enjoyed seeing so far is a group that is prepared to be open-minded and will accept what I think is important and use it wisely.” I hope all the inhabitants of the town that have come to know and love you will continue to do just that Mr Dyche.
Sussex Street, Burnley