Technical director Mike Rigg having to adapt to a tougher challenge at Burnley, admits boss Sean Dyche
Sean Dyche admits technical director Mike Rigg is having to adapt to a tougher challenge at Turf Moor as he looks to identify the right players for the club.
Rigg started work at Burnley in December 2018, to “head up the process of talent identification and recruitment throughout the whole club, from Academy to first team.”
He worked as Technical Director for the FA of Wales between 1995-2001, before being appointed Head of Academy at Sheffield Wednesday, and then Blackburn Rovers Chief Scout in 2006.
In 2008, he joined Manchester City as their Head of Player Acquisition, where a four-year stay saw him help land the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Rigg was then appointed Technical Director at QPR in 2012, and Head of Talent Identification at the FA in 2013, before a spell as Chief Footballing Officer at Fulham.
He has been brought in to help Burnley playing catch-up in the transfer market, given the resources to help identify more players in more leagues in more countries, investing in analytics, combining a modern approach with old fashioned scouting.
Rigg wants 10 options for each position across four key groups within the club’s playing staff - a total of 440 players.
But, fans’ hopes for a breakthrough in the market were seemingly dashed by Dyche on the first day of the window, New Year’s Day, when he said any incomings were “unlikely.”
Burnley, with no sugar daddy to supplement the Premier League prize money, have long had to live within their means, hence the need to spread the net for targets to try and find value.
And while Dyche admits Rigg has produced some ideal players, the finances simply don’t add up at the club to pursue them any further.
In September, chairman Mike Garlick revealed the club had a net spend of £87.5m since Dyche first got Burnley promoted to the Premier League in 2014, and moving forward, the sustainable model would have to continue, saying: “When we go into a window, we don’t have a pot of money and say ‘we must spend this’.
“We have a pot of money and might spend it if the right opportunities arise.
“We’re looking for value on players, and if we can find that, we spend it, if we don’t, we leave it.”
Rigg’s task is to find the players who will improve Burnley, who want to come to the club, whose clubs are willing to sell, and whose fee and wages Burnley can afford.
And Dyche outlines that is proving harder than he maybe imagined: “What he’s learned is that you can have a list as long as your body - every scout, every recruiting department has a list as long as your arms, but you have to have the finance to back the lists.
“If there’s no finance to back the lists, there’s no point having the lists.
“The list then has to get crunched down and crunched down, until it’s a piece of paper with five or six names on it, then you’re going into the market for five or six names.
“How do you sign them? The other club says no, then you have to pay this, that and the other, then it goes back to finance.
“It’s a different model for him, and I think he’s learned that, that’s for sure, and a much different challenge than he’s had, certainly at places like Fulham, where it was slightly more open house financially.
“So he’s adapting to that and realising how tough it is to align and define the players that are needed, and then take it to the point of actually them signing.”
Premier League clubs are able to stockpile players, and even those not playing regularly can command astronomical fees, as Dyche noted: “I think the numbers at some clubs are unbelievable now, even the young players, they tend to hold onto them.
“They are so financially powerful now that even when you go for one of those young players, the fees they ask for are through the roof.
“They don’t need the money - if you’re a billionaire with 50 properties, you don’t need to sell any of them, so someone has to pay you a fortune to get them.
“It’s the same difference, a billionaire with a football club with loads of players - they might have a young player not in the team at the minute, but what’s £5/6/7m to them? It’s not worth it.
“So they say, ‘I want £20m.’ You say, ‘how can you ask for £20m?’ - because they can!
“The market has been blown out of the window for the last five years really, there is no reality to it, it’s just a fact, it’s not an opinion.”
And the bargain buys lower down the leagues, especially in the Championship, are getting harder to come by, despite clubs in that division skating a fine line around FFP: “It’s a strange thing in the Championship, there are 14 or so clubs really on the knife edge of financial fair play, but it’s the same argument, they just hold onto their players, they ask for astronomical fees, they don’t want to sell, until they get into a situation where almost the League say ‘we’re going to hit you’, and they have to sell.
“Even they tend to hold on.”
A case in point was when Burnley went in for Birmingham striker Che Adams last January, with the Blues unable to replace him due to a transfer embargo, and subsequently holding onto the player until the summer, when they received around £14m from Southampton.
Dyche added: “We saw that with Birmingham last year, waiting for a player until the end of the season, taking the points deduction and staying up, and getting more for the player.
“Even they have changed their thinking. The financial side of it is difficult, we’re a club who, often, don’t want to put the finances in that are always required, but we find a way, and we continue to do that.”
Dyche has managed to piece together over time what he feels is now his most competitive squad, and while Burnley are now struggling to add to that in this window, he doesn’t intend to lose any more senior players after Danny Drinkwater returned to parent club Chelsea after an unsuccessful loan spell: “We want a competitive squad - we managed to get one together after five years of trying, and there’s still more we can do, but it is a competitive in-house squad, so therefore we don’t want to start losing players and taking that away after working so hard to get there.
“But there still is a reality of the club, if the number hits a number, the chairman will probably want to sell the player, that’s just the way it has been through all my time here.
“The difference now is, as we’ve got stronger financially, we’re not under pressure to bring it in, so we can play that game that others play a little more.
“If someone comes in for our players, then it’s fair to say we don’t have to sell unless it gets to a level where it’s deemed appropriate.”
Last January, the club decided to cash in on Sam Vokes, who, after almost seven years’ service, went to Stoke for £10m, 40 times what Burnley paid - the same with Tom Heaton, who joined Aston Villa for £8m after six seasons, having signed on a free: "Now and again there is the perfect deal that makes to everyone.
"Sam had been a brilliant servant to us, he had done fantastically well, it was a very good fee at the time for that player all things being considered.
"We got Crouchy who did brilliant for us coming in this way, so that one worked for everyone, right for the players and right for the clubs at the time.
"Not many of those deals happen.
"It is unlikely that anything goes out of the building but it is not impossible.
"The club has a model and if a number hits a certain number then often the club say yes, but it is unlikely that anyone will go out of the building in terms of recognised first team players."