Burnley boss Sean Dyche: “Can we stretch the finances? I think we can. Does it need stretching? Yes, it does”
Sean Dyche insists he doesn’t want to rip up Burnley’s financial model, just stretch it to try and stay ahead of the curve in the Premier League.
The prudent way the club is run is widely admired, with the Clarets effectively guaranteed a fifth-successive season in the top flight, on a budget that suggests they should be in the bottom three every year.
Dyche and his players continue to over-achieve, as more than the sum of their parts.
But constant battles over finance have had their affect, with tensions rising between the manager and chairman Mike Garlick, coming to a head over the contractual situation which led former record signing Jeff Hendrick to leave the club on a free transfer this week.
There have been suggestions Dyche could walk out in the summer, with two years remaining on his contract, with his relationship with Garlick strained, although the manager’s focus was there for all to see on Thursday night as his side ended a difficult week on and off the pitch with a big win over Watford.
That win took the Clarets 11th, on 42 points, two points behind Sheffield United in what could be a Europa League berth.
Two years ago, Burnley earned a return to European competition after a 51-year absence, and Dyche was frustrated at the failure to significantly bolster the squad that summer, and since.
So have the club lost ground in terms of capitalising on that seventh-place finish in 2018?
Dyche said: “It’s not about worrying about it, but if pre-planning and planning is not put in place, eventually you come to a moment which we’ve had recently where things come on top of you at one time.
”I can advise and inform which I do, but it still takes finance to back that information.
”The days of us nicking Nick Pope for £1.5m, Johan Gudmundsson for £2.2m, Tarky for £4m and Andre Gray for £6m, they’ve gone. It’s not the case any more.
”Leicester signed a right back who’d had one season playing for Luton for £6.6m last year.
”So where are you going to get those players? They don’t exist. I can’t find them. I haven’t seen too many of them.
”The landscape of football is changing.
”In balance to that, we’re not sure how Covid-19 is going to affect the market.
“I think the super elite will still be buying - that looks pretty obvious already - and the next waves of clubs will put some investment in.
”But the ones like ourselves, who knows?
”We’ll wait and see what will be available and what the club wish to try and do.
”And then you’ve got the divisions below - are they going to need that money and therefore can you get players slightly cheaper than we were doing? We don’t know yet.
”But generally if you took Covid-19 away, I said for a long time now, that we’ve got to get in front of the curve.
”But getting in front of the curve costs a lot of money. It’s a vicious circle.
”That’s why for two and a half years I’ve been talking about stretching it. It’s not about breaking it, I’d never do that because this club as a collective has built a really good way of working and a really solid foundation.
”Of course I wouldn’t rip that up - no way.
”But can we stretch it? Yes, I think we can.
”Does it need stretching? Yes, it does.
”Covid-19 may make that different but if you take that out of it the market is telling you that you can’t, forever, just work on a net spend of £9m a year. It’s not impossible but it’s improbable that is going to work over a long period.”
Burnley recovered from a tough start last season, and the new experience of Europe, to bounce out of the bottom three on Boxing Day, by claiming 28 points from 15 games fo reach safety with three games to play.
This season, again with limited additions in the summer, the Clarets are currently on a run of one defeat in nine, and in contention for Europe again.
But is it getting harder to keep delivering that sort of performance? “We’ll see. My words recently have been well documented but really that’s a reflection on seven and a half years.
”It’s not an easy ride all of this.
”We have to scour for players, we’re constantly trying to find the right ones, we’re trying to get the finance to do that.
”We know over time we lose players because the chairman and the board want to make money on players so that’s another adaptation we have to work around.
”So year on year is difficult. We have found a way to do it, but the challenge gets tougher because some clubs throw more caution to the wind, and this club does not want to do that, or hasn’t in my time here.
”Nothing is set in stone. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next.“