Sean Dyche on eight years at the helm at Burnley - and what lies ahead
“When I started we could hardly afford a lightbulb, now we’ve got light rigs on our training pitches, so it’s a fair shift in what’s happened.”
As Sean Dyche celebrates eight remarkable years in charge at Burnley, he smiles at how far the club has come on and off the pitch.
Famously, when interviewed for the post in October 2012, he asked “Where has all the Premier League money gone?” after their previous campaign at the top level in 2009/10.
His legacy, when the day finally comes that he leaves the club, will be measured as much in what was achieved in terms of infrastructure - with a new £10.6m state of the art training facility that now houses a Category One Academy - as in two promotions - including a Championship title - a return to European football after half a century, and what is now a sixth season in seven in the Premier League.
Dyche faces an uphill battle to make it seven seasons in eight, after a testing few months in terms of player recruitment, with his relationship with chairman Mike Garlick more strained as it has ever been.
But the Premier League’s longest-serving manager feels the backing of the fan base is a big reason for his longevity.
There were murmurs of discontent not long after taking the job, as the side were dragged to the fringes of a relegation battle, before finishing seven clear of the drop zone, as high as 11th.
The club sensibly stuck with him after relegation from the Premier League in 2015, and there have been sticky spells since - sitting 18th on Boxing Day in 2018 after a 5-1 home defeat to Everton - but Dyche has always backed himself, his staff and players, and the supporters have rarely wavered.
He said: “I think probably the balance of the acceptance of the fans of Burnley and what the club is has helped me be here so long.
“The reason why I say that is one season we finish seventh, and the next season is a tough one, they could have been after me and the team, but I don’t think they were. There’s a resilience to their thinking.
“We’ve tried to be honest about the truth of the club, but not in a negative way because this is an amazing story the way the club’s grown.
“Without that balance of the people’s view, it’s very difficult.
“We know the demands can come on top very, very quickly.
“People want change, they want different styles, they want this, they want that and it goes very quickly into a situation which changes the manager’s slot.
“I haven’t had that. I’ve had question marks, of course, but that’s healthy, you’re going to get that in any way of life.
“So I think there’s been a fairness to their thinking with the people who can change your situation, the fans.
Dyche isn’t one for reflecting while on the job, and you wouldn’t be able to guess he has had a career in the game, with all his medals and memorabilia stored away rather than on display at home.
“I’ve always had that sense that it’s just there and you do it”, he admitted.
“If you have success, you want more and you look at how you can get that.
“Having said that, it’ll be down the years when I look back, when I’m older. I don’t mean in 20 or 30 years, but in five, six or seven, eight, nine I don’t know.
“We are getting on a bit, we’ve been here eight years
“Funny enough, I was just sat on the balcony last week, beautiful night, really mild and calm, I was on the phone and I did look out across the pitches and we had some light rigs on the pitches so the grass grows all winter.
“When I started we could hardly afford a lightbulb, now we’ve got light rigs on our training pitches, so it’s a fair shift in what’s happened.
“So things like that, the quality of the pitches, the quality of the training ground, securing the club financially, all these good things, but you don’t just stop and go ‘that’s all right then’, you just keep going and going and going.
“Somewhere down the line in a number of years, I’ll have a glass of wine and reminisce on the good times.”
He has often been asked about how long he can continue at Burnley, and things haven’t been smooth sailing, particularly off the pitch, of late.
But it remains a results business: “How long results last, how long people still listen to your voice, your rhetoric, your ways of working, how long people watch you and enthuse about what you’re doing or enjoy what you’re doing and have belief in what you’re doing.
“These are all outside forces, and the only inside force is to keep working hard, asking the players and showing showing diligence, keep showing belief in the players and the work we do with them individually and collectively.
“So they are the things I can control. I can’t even control results, I can only guide the team to give them the best opportunity of getting them.
“If results go against you for a long enough period, it changes anyway.
“Or someone rings the chairman and you move because you think it is the right thing to do. They are the likely things that happen in football.
“I’ve been through it. That is a great learning curve. To give a quick insight into management, loads of managers and some that I didn’t know rang to say (after Watford) ‘you’re a real manager now you’ve been sacked, son’. It’s a badge of honour. A qualification.”
And Dyche doesn’t see himself tied to the job like a Sir Alex Ferguson or Roy Hodgson.
He already knows what he would do with a sabbatical, or when the time comes to hang up his black manager’s mac: “As (Sir Steve) Redgrave said, I won’t be in the boat when I’m 65, I tell you. I’ll not be in the boat.
“Very normal stuff, travelling and seeing friends, just stuff that you don’t get the chance to do.
“I live in two places so my time is spent M1, M6, A50, family, football. It’s the bits in between. Take away Covid obviously: travel, friends, things that should get more of your time, I’m aware of that, but they can’t get more of your time.
“That is the way it goes. The balance. Golf, of course.”