The 13 key takeaways from the four-part Mission to Burnley documentary
and live on Freeview channel 276
All four episodes of the series, commissioned by Sky Documentaries, are now available to watch – offering Clarets fans some must-see viewing ahead of the club’s Premier League return against Manchester City on Friday night.
The documentary begins with the sacking of Sean Dyche, before chronicling the agony of being relegated from the Premier League, the subsequent appointment of Vincent Kompany and the remarkable turnaround in the Championship.
Having binge-watched the series, the Burnley Express takes a look at some of the biggest revelations to come out of it:
The pain of relegation
Episode one begins in April 2022 with the shock departure of Sean Dyche. The Clarets were battling against relegation at the time, sitting in 18th and four points clear of safety.
Outlining the need for change, Morgan Edwards, ALK Capital’s chief financial officer, spoke about the pressing need for the Clarets to stay in the Premier League.
“I think we felt coming into this we’re just going to come in and make money. If we get relegated, that imparts some pressure on us,” Edwards said.
“We have to stay up. Winning and losing is everything now, it really is.”
Under-23s coach Mike Jackson was brought in as interim manager and initially oversaw a quick improvement, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to stave off relegation – with the final blow being struck on the last day of the season against Newcastle United.
Kristen, the wife of chairman Alan Pace, explained how relegation had a serious impact on their personal life behind the scenes.
“It truly has been the most stressful period in our entire marriage,” she said.
“He’s always had stressful positions in the work that he’s done but this is above and beyond, to the point where I’ve asked several times ‘is this worth it?’.”
Finding the perfect fit
With Dyche gone, the club needed to find a replacement that could help steer the ship back in the right direction.
In the documentary we’re treated to snippets of conversations Pace has with supporters and fellow board members about the club’s managerial search.
Despite speaking to a host of names, with one said to be very similar in style to Dyche, Pace always felt there was something special about Kompany.
“He’s so different from the others we’ve been talking to – dynamic, creative, thoughtful. It’s not visionary, but evolutionary, willing to change. I was blown away,” he explained.
“I went out to speak to him in Belgium. I was supposed to come back and I missed four trains.
"He took on board the vision we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to accomplish it, but it became a combined vision very quickly.
“We haven’t met someone like this. It feels right.”
The need for change
While there was a big change in the dugout, it was also identified that there needed to be a significant turnover of players following relegation.
Some big, established names were moved on, while Kompany looked to the continent – and his home country of Belgium in particular – to bring in exciting, up-and-coming talent.
One key takeaway from the documentary was how involved Kompany is in boardroom discussions.
Undoubtedly the star of the show, the 37-year-old provided an emphatic response when laying out why a high turnover was a risk well worth taking.
“We need to fill the team with tradable assets, it’s the name of the game,” he said.
“You can do as much as you want around the club to generate revenue, but nothing will generate anywhere close except the TV money from the Premier League. But even in the Championship the only way to generate revenue is to sell players and substantially.
“The fine margin between having a very healthy squad financially and a squad who is able to perform, that’s a passion that I have.
“Turnover (of players) is really dangerous in this business because it makes or breaks you. It’s an opportunity that I saw, which is why I went to Burnley, because for me to impose my style of football and my ideas is much easier with a high turnover of players rather than a low turnover.”
What a doughnut!
The first episode ends on a lighter note, with Jack Cork discussing the change in values since Kompany’s arrival.
Stuck in their ways in some regards following the decade of Dyche’s tenure, certain customs had to be done away with.
“The first week he was here I asked him if he wanted to keep the same traditions and the same stuff as the last group we had,” he explained. “He was keen to keep a lot of the same values we had.
“My birthday was in the first week and I brought in four trays of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and put them in the kitchen. I didn’t see them all day and I was wondering ‘where have the doughnuts gone’?
“The nutritionist said you can’t have these doughnuts. The manager called a meeting and said you shouldn’t be eating doughnuts at the training ground, so we gave them all to the staff. I was a bit embarrassed at the time!”
The chairman’s early concerns
While it was clear to see what Kompany was trying to implement on the pitch, the results – initially at least – were a little mixed.
Performances were generally good but there were a lot of draws in there, eight out of the opening 15 league games, which led to a smidgen of panic for the chairman.
“I do not want to freak out the organisation, I do not want everyone going ‘oh my goodness, we’re going to be in the Championship for the rest of our lives,” he said.
“But I just worry, we shouldn’t be in the place that we are.”
Kompany remained calm, however, realising his style of play would take a while to come to fruition.
“There’s a reality of a team gelling together, which takes time,” he explained.
“For me it’s not about a 4-3-3 or the system, it’s about principles.”
Recovering from 2-0 down to beat Sunderland 4-2 away seemed to be the moment where it all clicked for the Clarets.
A 3-0 victory in the derby against Blackburn Rovers, meanwhile, left Kompany’s men top of the league before the World Cup break.
“We have rivalries in America but nothing like this. Nothing,” Pace said.
Given the early success Kompany was enjoying, and because of his notoriety too, it was only a matter of time until he was linked with vacancies elsewhere.
In fact, Pace confirms Belgium were interested in his services after a disappointing performance at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
“It was true, the Belgian FA wanted him but he wasn’t going anywhere,” Pace said.
“It’s like having a relationship with the prettiest person in town, everyone is going to try and lead them away. Long may we last together as long as we can.”
Speaking later in the series about Kompany’s future following further murmurings, with both Chelsea and Tottenham linked, Pace said: “It’s been a true pleasure and an honour to work with Vince this year.
“To be able to discuss things, learn things from my perspective, to move things forward in a way that has just been very collaborative.
“Vince is capable of a lot and we’re hopeful we can satisfy those ambitions and be able to work together for that. We’ll collaborate together for as long as that’s possible.”
Kompany would of course go on to commit his future to the club by signing a new five-year contract.
Another of the key takeaways from this four-part series was the behind-the-scenes access to Kompany’s team talks and tactical analysis.
No stone is left unturned and once you hear Kompany speak so in-depth about his tactical plans before games, it’s no surprise the success was forthcoming.
“I can play four different formations in one game now. I can change six different pressing systems,” he pointed out.
“No-one can really notice it to the naked eye but we can change four or five times a game and the players understand it.
“What we do is actually ram information down their throats and every opening we can find. At the start it’s lots and lots and lots, but in the end it’s something we’re comfortable doing and we don’t even have to think about it anymore.”
The American rave
In episode three, the idea of outside investment to grow the club’s name as a global brand was first introduced.
On board came ex-NFL star JJ Watt and his wife Kealia, a former US Women's National Team international.
The couple are seen being introduced to Kompany at the training ground after taking a minority stake in the football club.
“JJ is extremely unique in terms of our investor base. He’s one of the most recognisable athletes from the NFL, maybe in the world,” Morgan Edwards said.
“He has, I’m told, 20 million followers, which is many multiples of followers Burnley FC has.
“He’s actually quite smart. Football players get this cliche of just being big guys. JJ is a big guy but he also has a big heart and the good news is he’s in it for the long haul.”
We’re then treated to a fascinating conversation behind JJ Watt and Kompany, with Watt asking the club’s manager the best way to “curate” the message to a global audience.
Kompany responded: “I can’t go past the fact it’s a family club. In the North West, hard work is core.
“You can see the leftovers of the old mills here, this is a proper working class area.
“Our football is seen as quite academic, but none of it happens here without an underlying core of hard working people.”
Outlining why he was so keen to bring Watt on board, Pace said: “I wouldn’t just call it growing your brand, I’d call it enhancing your opportunities with an audience and helping them see the potential of what you’re doing and being part of that journey.
“Think about having a party, do you want the party to be just friends and family? Do you want it to be a block party and it’s all your neighbours? Or do you want it to be a rave?
“What you’re seeing, we want to connect with people on a completely different level. We want to throw a rave.”
A bump in the road
While dining with what appears to be friends and family at a restaurant in Salt Lake City, Pace informs his board of directors about some bad news.
“We just got a note that we’re under a transfer embargo for filing our paperwork late regarding our accounts,” the chairman explained.
After being quizzed on how this was allowed to happen, ALK Capital’s chief financial officer Morgan Edwards explained it was due to a change in auditors following the company’s takeover.
“We switched our auditors out, the work flow is pretty backed up now for auditors,” he said.
“Getting a group to be able to work on this and staffed just didn’t start until January.”
The embargo, which was later lifted at the start of May, was then explained to the players by Kompany in a team meeting.
Getting over the line
Burnley’s promotion was confirmed with an away win at Middlesbrough with seven games to spare.
The Sky cameras were on hand to film Kompany’s victory speech in the changing room after the celebrations.
“I can’t say how much I’m proud of you guys,” he said.
“You embark on these journeys and you always have the ambition of doing something and the truth is you never know. The truth is these moments come very few times.
“All I’m asking is you appreciate this moment, drink it in in your way. Appreciate the moment and when you coming into the training ground, do your job still.
“That’s the only thing I’m asking, because I don’t feel a trophy between our hands at the moment and we need something to lift at the end of the season.
“We’ve been promoted and that’s something no-one can ever take away from you, now we need something to lift.”
After a run of three games without a victory, the title was eventually sealed in the best way possible – with three points at Ewood Park.
Pace was later filmed engaging with a young supporter, discussing the club’s 101-point title win.
He said: “We didn’t think this would happen this quickly, we thought it might take a couple of years. But we’re very glad it did!”
The Premier League tax
Once the celebrations had died down, the conversation soon turned to the Premier League and how the club was going to compete.
“The truth is it’s going to be extremely difficult, no matter how we cut this. There’s no nice way of saying it,” the club’s chief data scientist Lee Mooney explained.
“It’s a very big, competitive league with clubs that have a huge amount of funding. Any squad that costs below £100m, it’s just this hugely volatile existence.
“If you look at all three clubs in the bottom three this year, they’ve all spent £140m plus. It might take us three or four years to compound that growth and value.
“We have to be smart, we have to be smarter than we’ve been already and we were pretty smart going into this season.”
Kompany added: “To simplify it, the moves we did in January, they were a spend to avoid spending the Premier League tax when we get promoted.
“It actually helped a lot not to have to spend an extra £50m or £60m on new recruitments.”
Planning for the future
Lyle Foster made a big money move to Burnley in January for a rumoured £12m fee, yet struggled to make regular appearances during the final months of the campaign.
When asked by a board member why the South African striker hadn’t been utilised as much as maybe he would have expected, Kompany provided an emphatic response.
“For me it was completely planned,” he said.
“Everyone keeps getting nervous about the price tag but we run an analysis. He’s going to be the cheapest striker in the Premier League by some distance.
“Everybody is getting hung up on the fact we spent a lot of money in the Championship, but next season it’s not even a minimum entry price.
“It’s the big boys’ table, so let’s be clever, do it before and develop him like we’ve developed so many players.”
Making tough decisions
Burnley bid goodbye to club legend Ashley Barnes at the end of the season, with the striker linking up with Norwich City to end his nine-year stay at Turf Moor.
Kompany confirms in the documentary Barnes was no longer part of his plans despite playing a key role in Burnley’s title win.
“He’s probably the biggest one in terms of connecting all the groups in the team,” he said.
“I thought the other players were looking at him more like a clown, but when we did the analysis I thought ‘no, they look at him like a real leader. They look up to him’.
“The best example is, if he has a good day everybody can have a good day, if everybody has a bad day we all have to have a bad day.
“I explained this to Ash, there’s a whole life after football which you have to prepare yourself for now because that type of behaviour will kill you once you’ve got no-one there to say you’re a great player anymore.
“Every day there was something and I really treated him like one of my children in that sense, but what I got back to him was unbelievable – to the point two months before the end of the season I was able to tell him he wasn’t part of my plans for next season. I only lost him for three days.”