Burnley boss Sean Dyche: Midfielder Josh Brownhill was competition – not a Jeff Hendrick replacement
At the Etihad Stadium on Monday night, there was a familiar sight for Burnley.
A central midfielder playing narrow on the right, sporting a hairband, diligently working hard against the ball, while trying to use it well in possession.
But it wasn’t Jeff Hendrick, it was Josh Brownhill, making his first start after his January switch from Bristol City.
Hendrick wasn’t involved at City as talks over extending his contract ultimately fell down, and the one-time record signing has now played his last game for the club.
Brownhill slotted in, but boss Sean Dyche insists he wasn’t brought in should Hendrick depart, but to add competition for places.
The Clarets had to fight off a rival club for Brownhill’s signature just before the transfer window closed in January.
A club came in offering a better financial package for the player – believed to be West Ham United.
A clause in Brownhill’s contract made him available for a fee of £7m this summer, and had Burnley waited until the close season, the deal might not have happened at all.
But the club timed their business to perfection on that occasion.
Asked whether the initial plan had been to bring Brownhill in in the summer, to protect against the possible departure of Hendrick, Dyche said: “No, not really.
“We brought him in to support the midfield and try and grow into the midfield, as regards the Premier League – he’s experienced at Championship level.
“But he was there to add in, not replace others.
“We wanted true competition and felt he could do that, which he has been doing, of course.
“Jeff can play centrally or wide, but with the injuries we’ve had, it allowed Josh the chance to make his debut, and in tough circumstances as a group and for him individually against a top, top side, I thought he did well.”
Dyche was pleased with his performance, despite the result on the night at Manchester City: “I thought he did really well, in a slightly-unfamiliar position.
“Don’t get me wrong, he has played that role for Bristol City a number of times, but to play in that game...
“They are a top side and you have to work constantly without the ball, and I thought he did a good job actually.
“He’s a very fit lad, that’s for sure, we know he can cover the yards, and the team covered a lot of yards on the night.
“So I accept there was no lack of effort, just the details.
“They were missing, and Man City really do punish you.
“But Josh delivered a good performance in tough circumstances.”
Hendrick, therefore, will need replacing in between the end of this season on July 26th, and start of next – with a potential start date of September 12th pencilled in for the Premier League.
Dyche now has only three senior central midfielders, with Brownhill, Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood.
And with the departure of Aaron Lennon, Dyche will also be looking for another wide player, especially with injury concerns over Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady.
Another goalkeeeper could be required to replace Joe Hart and Adam Legzdins – although Burnley are still well-stocked in that area, with Bailey Peacock-Farrell, brought in from Leeds United last summer, and young Dane Lukas Jensen on the bench at City.
Asked how many players he will need to bring in ahead of next season, Dyche said: ”It is difficult, because we don’t work with budgets here.
“You can align players but never know quite what is going to fit in with the realities.
“It’s a peculiar way we do work, but we’ve found a way of making that work.
“So there are some targets, whether or not they fit into the budgetary situation will be interesting.”