Burnley look to put an end to 34 years of hurt at Ewood
CLARETS boss Sean Dyche is desperate to end 34 years of hurt for Burnley at Ewood Park on Sunday.
The last time Burnley beat old rivals Blackburn Rovers in a competitive game was on April 14th, 1979 - a run which spans nine games between the sides.
In that time, Burnley came within a game of going out of the Football League, while Rovers became one of only five clubs to win the Premier League.
Neither side go into the game in great form, but Dyche hopes he can put the smiles back on Clarets fans’ faces with victory in Rovers’ back yard.
Dyche said: “We’ll have almost 4,000 fans there, and we’re going there to try and change history.
“It’ll be a tough ask away from home to earn that first win in 34 years, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.
“They will be favourites, but games aren’t won on statistics, although we use them as a guide.
“The club might not have beaten them in nine games, but we aim to try and change that.
“The importance of beating Blackburn has been expressed to me by supporters since I arrived, and we probably did enough to have won the game at home, but we didn’t have the luck we needed.
“But myself and the players know what it means to the fans, and hopefully we can do it for them.”
While there are hopes and expectations from the fans going into Sunday, that word - expectation - has caused something of a talking point since Monday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Hull City.
It was a fifth home game without a win, and Dyche spoke of a fear factor among the players at the Turf: “There is too much fear in the group at the moment, playing with fear, and you can’t do that. I’m not disappointed with the energy or the effort, it’s just that freedom to go and be what you are as a footballer, that effervescence.
“There are too many playing in a constricted manner.
It can come with a big expectation and there is a big expectation here - a really big expectation actually - of being better, being in the top six let’s say.
“I spoke to the players about that, I said it’s not going to go away so you’ve got to learn to deal with it and still have that freedom to go and play and too many are playing with fear at the moment and it’s something they’ve got it learn to deal with.”
That was construed by some supporters as criticism of them, not helped by headlines such as bbc.co.uk’s “Sean Dyche believes fan expectation is harming players.”
Dyche was eager to take the opportunity to explain his point: “I believe in honesty, and when I give that, I don’t expect my words to be spun. I made it quite clear, it’s up to us to grow towards the expectations of our supporters, not for the fans to lower their expectations.
“It’s been spun to suggest I was having a go, but that wasn’t the case, I was stating that it is our responsibility to guide the players towards those expectations.
“I try to be honest through the highs, lows and indifferent spells, and it is our responsibility to build and grow towards the expectation - we want to deliver for the fans, and it irks me when my comments are taken out of context.
“It’s a shame because I want to be honest, but when you are misconstrued, it makes managers want to clam up and spin things, rather than tell it as it is.
“I don’t believe in that, we want to take responsibility - I’m not blaming anyone - I’m a grown man, and I don’t blame anyone.
“It’s my responsibility to grow the group and we want those expectations.
“We’re trying to mould a group that has been together for a couple of years, and try and take things further.
“Nothing has changed, we’re just trying to flex it and make it more dynamic.
“We didn’t have that on Monday, but it has been clear in games, most recently at Charlton.
“We are a work in progress, and there is no blame attached to anyone.
“The players have the freedom to attack and be clear-minded, to take the shackles off and enjoy themselves, and they were doing that up until recently.
“So it’s not a radical change that is needed, we’re just further growing into the role in order to be successful.
“The principle of it is quite clear.”
Dyche was at Ewood Park on Wednesday night to see Rovers lose their FA Cup quarter-final replay against Millwall 1-0, and he said: “It was a tough night for Blackburn, it was a big game and they wanted to go through to Wembley, but I was there to get eyes on the opposition.
“We have an away scout, but when games fall as they did this week, it was a great opportunity to view them for ourselves.”
Dean Marney remains a doubt for Sunday, but otherwise Dyche has no other injury worries: “Ben Mee, Michael Duff and Ross Wallace came through Monday night, although we had to take Ross off near the end as he has had a muscle problem and we wanted to make sure he was ok.
“Ben has come through a good few weeks’ training and Duffo had a week, so we wanted to get them back in, and they did well.
“Deano has an outside chance but I wouldn’t expect him to make it.
“Everyone else is fine.
“Brian Stock wasn’t in the squad on Monday as he had been ill, and there was nothing in Junior Stanislas missing out, it was purely to cover for the lads who were back.”