Sean Dyche on a season that has proved tougher than last - his "most challenging as a manager, without a doubt"

Last season was described by Burnley boss Sean Dyche as "my most challenging as a manager, without a doubt."
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The Clarets finished 17th, 11 points clear of trouble, but that didn't tell half the story, as Dyche added: "There was so much going on, from the last lockdown through to the sale of the club.

"There were a lot of challenges there. If I wrote a book you'd probably find it in the fiction section."

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The Clarets were playing catch-up having collected just two points from their opening seven games after a delayed start to the campaign, with Dale Stephens the only, somewhat modest, outfield addition to the squad.

Sean DycheSean Dyche
Sean Dyche

However, if anything, this term has been every bit as challenging - if not more so.

A first win only arrived in the 10th game of the season, but it has not yet been added to, leaving Burnley seven points adrift of safety ahead of Saturday's game at Brighton.

A seventh-successive Premier League season looks a big ask at present, and Dyche mused: "Every season is a challenge, no matter where you are or what you do.

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"I think the difference this season is you have so many different things going on...the knock on effect of a true change of owership, because that was going on last season, then you get to the point where it's done, then you have a remodelling kind of thought, behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, on the pitch, player contracts, everything.

"Then you add in the different complexities of a different kind of Covid situation, not a lockdown, but losing players, myself, they then come back in and you lose others...then you add injuries, and then game schedule, creating more chances statistically and not scoring, there are just more components to it.

"They are all difficult, but I just think there is more going on this season, more challenges to what the end product is, and we're still navigating our way through that, quite obviously."

So has it been more difficult?: "I think it's tougher in the sense there are more things going on, the main, obvious thing - to be clear, I'm not focusing on stuff changing in the stands, I'm focusing on the team - but the outside things that affect the team, Covid being a big one, injuries, because we're on year three where we've had quite a few injuries, players getting older, as well as the complexities of game schedule and stuff like that - last year the game schedule was peculiar, and this year we are going into a phase of that again after having games called off."

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Ask you would expect, in a result business, that aspect has been particularly tough to take: "Probably the hardest thing of all, from a management point of view, is watching a team who are actually playing well, not all the time, but quite a lot, and not getting results.

"That's been the hardest thing of all.

"I think I'm honest enough to know when we're not playing well, and not doing the right things, I would like to think I've been pretty fair value down the years and said 'no, not good enough'.

"But I don't think we have been a million miles off, I really don't.

"A lot of the stats support and back that up, but I don't rely on stats to win a game. But you still need your own feedback when you're looking at it objectively, I get outside opinion, my staff's opinion, sometimes my players', looking at stats, the facts, adding it all together and then you go, 'what do we change, other than the simple point of putting it in the net when we get the chances, and doing better at the other end when we're defending.

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"But we're eighth in terms of goals against, single digit defeats, and the goal difference is better than all bar Everton in the bottom seven, and we're bottom of the league.

"I don't think you'll find that equation, over many seasons.

"I'd be surprised anyway.

"The most frustrating bit, staff and players, is that moment is the thing you can't coach, to put it in the top corner, that's down to them.

"They have often at least performed to a level I know can win games, and not won them."

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His good friend Chris Wilder suffered similar last season, when his Sheffield United side went from a ninth place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, to rock bottom.

The Blades claimed just 5 points in their first 19 fixtures - the worst-ever Premier League start not including point deductions.

They also broke the Premier League record of most consecutive games without a win to start the season, with 17.

They would end with seven wins, but, with Wilder now gone, bottom of the pile and relegated.

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Asked whether he had spoken to Wilder about the situtation, Dyche said: "Chris' year, when I asked him last year, some of the players had maximised and couldn't quite go that second year.

"I think it's a bit different with us, we have a more experienced group in the Premier League, so it's slightly different.

"I just felt he'd got a group who he felt he'd got every last drop out of, and they got every last drop out of themselves as players, but they just couldn't keep on going at that level.

"I think ours is literal details, taking those chances, making the big moments occur, and delivering them.

"We're not that far away, but we're not on the right side of it, quite obviously."