Chris Wilder won't want my sympathy, says Burnley boss Sean Dyche, ahead of Sheffield United clash at Turf Moor
Burnley boss Sean Dyche won't be offering close friend Chris Wilder any sympathy following Sheffield United's sticky start to the season.
But it's not out of spite. The Turf Moor chief simply knows that his Premier League ally - now in his fifth season of management at Bramall Lane - wouldn't want it.
The pair have chewed the fat on many occasions during the pandemic - with earlier conversations turning to how much wine they had quaffed over lockdown.
And talk has continued to circumvent the topic of football, even in light of the Blades' current predicament in the top flight.
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Tonight's visitors to Turf Moor are without a win in 15 games this season - which is the joint-worst start in English football.
Dyche certainly has an understanding of the challenges that Wilder faces, and has empathy for his situation, but he feels the term 'sympathy' doesn't belong in football management.
He said: "I'm not going to start throwing words like 'sympathy' about because that's not for football management, in my opinion. Empathy and understanding is a different thing.
"Chris doesn't want my sympathy, I can assure you, but I think it's fair to say that he'd like some understanding from fellow managers and I certainly understand some of the challenges.
"Chris is somebody who I respect a lot and I class him as a friend in football, I share the odd message with him now and then.
"There have only been pleasantries. What we speak about will stay between us. I think he's a really good guy, I like the way he operates, both on and off the pitch.
"I obviously won't be wishing him well for our game, but around that time there'll be pleasantries. He wants to win and we want to win so for that 90 minutes all that goes out of the window."
The Blades, who finished ninth last term, level on points (54) with the Clarets, picked up their first point on the road earlier this month in a 1-1 draw at Brighton.
That result doubled their tally for the campaign, adding to their stalemate at home to Fulham in October.
United had 19 points at this stage last term, which included a 3-0 win over Burnley in South Yorkshire, but Dyche won't be under-estimating tonight's opponents.
"I think it [their position] has to be [a false representation] going off last season," said Dyche. "Trying to find the right formula to work on the pitch is always a manager's biggest challenge.
"I know it's a simple statement; you've got to put it in at one end and stop it from going in at the other! But they haven't quite got on the right side of those margins.
"They're working, they're fighting and they've still got some good players so we're never naive enough not to respect other teams. We'll certainly be respecting Sheffield United.
"It's hard for Chris because they were given so many plaudits last season, and deservedly so. Ninth in the Premier League is some finish.
"It's harder in the sense that you're trying to build a squad, you're trying to change things without going too far away from what you had, which is always a tricky one."
Dyche knows all-too-well how unforgiving the Premier League can be. The Clarets suffered a similar fall from grace a few seasons ago.
After finishing seventh - and securing European football for the first time in half-a-century - in 2017/18, Burnley had just 12 points at the halfway stage the following season.
Dyche added: "You're never quite sure what the next season will bring until it happens. All of a sudden they can't quite find the results that they're looking for, but they're still putting a shift in to try and change things.
"It is difficult when your side has gone on that strange curve of not picking up any wins. He'll know - he's very experienced through many levels of football - that they have to keep working. He's a good operator.
"It's not just Sheffield United, but that's a case that has been quite obvious this season. The superpowers, on their day, have enough power, presence and quality on the pitch to win games more comfortably.
"For ourselves, and many other teams, including Sheffield United, it's hard to get on the right side of the margins. Sometimes you're never really that far away. There are a number of teams that have to get their margins right and that sounds easy, but it isn't."