Sean Dyche relishing chance to continue to punch above Burnley’s weight against the ‘Big Six’ after collapse of European Super League

Sean Dyche has enjoyed six seasons as a manager in the Premier League, and beaten each of the ‘Big Six’ along the way.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 10:30 pm
Sean Dyche after the 1-0 win at Anfield in January

And Dyche would have been disappointed not to be able to continue to take on who he refers to as the ‘super powers’, had Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs left the English pyramid to join a European Super League.

The prospect of the breakaway competition was short lived, after fan protests and general disapproval, and Dyche is pleased to get the opportunity to add to a number of impressive results against the ‘elite’.

He has won twice against Liverpool, ending the Reds’ 68-game unbeaten record at Anfield in January - where the Clarets have only lost once in four visits.

Burnley beat reigning champions Manchester City in 2015 at Turf Moor, and Dyche’s side have twice claimed a point against the Cityzens - although they have lost their last four visits to the Etihad Stadium 5-0.

The Clarets are unbeaten in three against Arsenal, and won 1-0 at the Emirates in December.

And Burnley have twice drawn at Stamford Bridge under Dyche, as well as recording a remarkable opening day win there in 2017. They also held the Blues at Turf Moor in February 2017.

Last Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Manchester United was a first loss in five visits to Old Trafford, including three draws and a win, and Dyche also enjoyed a goal-less draw against Louis van Gaal in 2016 at Turf Moor.

And Dyche celebrated a home win over Spurs in 2019, as well as a famous draw at Wembley, courtesy of a late equaliser from Chris Wood on his Clarets league debut - one of four draws in all competitions with Tottenham.

Dyche looks forward to more coupon-busting results: "We're not darlings of the Premier League at Burnley, but the feedback you get when we beat Liverpool at Anfield after all those games unbeaten, you know what that means to people, because there is still that thing about football - it's still a marvellous thing to see teams punch above their weight, to see teams work hard for everything they get.

”There's a real quality in that, and I think fans in this country in particular, really get it.

"You've got to remember, using us as an example because I'm in it, for all the question marks I get, the team gets, through the media, loads of fans come up to me, saying, 'love what your lads do, love what they give to football'.

"So there still is an undercurrent of that, they're not all 14,15,16 and this is all they'll ever know, there are a lot of fans out there who've known different eras and levels of football, and they respect that, more than people probably think.”

Amid the social media musings earlier in the week, Southampton’s official Twitter congratulated Wolves on their retrospective Premier League “title wins” and vice versa - in 2015 and 2018, erasing the ‘big six’ would have left the Saints and Wolves, respectively, as champions.

Burnley achieved the same feat in 2018, finishing seventh below the ‘big six’ and, taking out the results of the big hitters, they would have finished top.

Dyche admits that season, earning a return to European football after half a century, shows the value of a meritocracy in football, that a closed shop would do the game a disservice: "Finishing seventh is an achievement, the work we put in to get there, Chris (Wilder) did it last year with his team at Sheffield United, they are big seasons, and people realise sometimes...it gets a bit of a mention of course, but Burnley finishing seventh?

”People in the game know how hard that is, a lot of fans with a good knowledge of football in its entirety, they know how hard that is for teams like us to compete in the Premier League on a regular basis, but also to end up finishing seventh and qualifying for Europe.

"People respect that, and it is a big achievement.

"It is recognised, and it should be, because it is very tough getting up amongst those big teams.”

Dyche learned his trade as a young footballer under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, so what would he have made of the proposed Super League?: "I didn't give too much of an opinion but I pretty strongly think he would have!

"He wouldn't have left that to the imagination!

"It's a whirlwind situation, how powerful it was to start with and how quickly it was changed.

"That alone is incredible, when you think of the enormity of what was possibly going to happen, and how quickly it wasn't going to happen.

"That's pretty enormous.”

Clough won back to back European Cups with Forest, and, considering Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City are yet to win the famous trophy, what exactly constitutes an ‘elite’ club?: "I think, forgetting about the Super League, but just looking at the realities, there are certain clubs in the Premier League, I call them the super powers - it's not just about their prowess on the football pitch, these are very, very big clubs around certainly these shores, going into Europe, even World football.

"You add in the selling power of the Premier League, and the finance, and they are big clubs who attract people - worldwide brands.

"Don't get me wrong, some are growing, there'd be an argument for others, Everton, Leicester, Villa, but usually you talk about the six.

"Then you go back to the Super League idea, and that's where I would like to have been a fly on the wall when they were having their calls to try and get this up and running, because it would have been interesting.

"Some of the messages were suggesting they require more money, and I think that's one of the driving forces in football.

"What I think has given it balance, from a fan point of view, is not just being strong enough to prevent this occurring, but also the earthiness of it.

"Football can be a bit glossy and glamorous at times, but there are still fans who care and want their game, their club intact, their league intact.

"They care for their club and they care for football. That's been an old-fashioned, but healthy reminder, I think.

"Fans do get together when it is needed and protect what they feel needs protecting.

"Looking at the reaction, how quick it was, fans protect and back their own clubs, and sometimes back them for things that are not so good, but when it affects the whole thing, fans often come together, often through tragedy, which is amazing and healthy - I wouldn't remotely use the word 'tragedy' about this situation, but it was a close thing where the fabric of football is going to change if this goes ahead.

"I think they went 'no, we’re not accepting that'.

"Fans questioning their own clubs, which is the key, because they are incredibly loyal to their own clubs, but it was refreshing to see, there comes a time where they have to start looking after the game, not just their own club.”