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Dyche delivers on and off the pitch

Left: Burnley's English manager Sean Dyche yelling out instructions from the touchline during his team's 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup third round by Manchester City. Below: Singapore Selection captain Hariss Harun robbing Burnley's Ross Wallace of the ba
Burnley's English manager Sean Dyche yelling out instructions from the touchline during his team's 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup third round by Manchester City.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Left: Burnley's English manager Sean Dyche yelling out instructions from the touchline during his team's 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup third round by Manchester City. Below: Singapore Selection captain Hariss Harun robbing Burnley's Ross Wallace of the ba
Singapore Selection captain Hariss Harun robbing Burnley's Ross Wallace of the ball during their FIS Asia Challenge Cup game at Jalan Besar Stadium in July 2010 - two months after they were relegated to the Championship. Burnley won 1-0. Since then, the Clarets have twice regained promotion (2014 and 2016) and last month reached the heady heights of fourth in the Premier League.BERITA HARIAN FILE PHOTO

Unheralded Englishman's tactics and industry key to Burnley's rise, doesn't rule out Europe spot

Unlike most of his peers who studied top football teams and their best practices while pursuing their Uefa Pro Licence, Burnley manager Sean Dyche spent time with Oxford's boat race crew instead in 2009.

"I arrived at 6am and they were already there on the bikes and the rowing machines," the 46-year-old Englishman told The Straits Times (ST) in an exclusive phone interview before Saturday's 1-4 FA Cup third-round loss at Manchester City.

"There were two guys who were stand-ins and they trained just as hard despite knowing they were not going to get into the boat unless someone got injured.

"When I came to Burnley in 2012, the only thing I absolutely promised to fans was they would have a team that would give everything and I think they see that."

With a summer outlay of just £30.6 million (S$55.1 million) for eight new signings - £400,000 less than what Manchester United paid for Swedish defender Victor Lindelof - Dyche has steered the Clarets to seventh in the English Premier League this season on 34 points after 22 games, just six fewer than last term's total when they finished 16th.

Despite a five-game winless run in the league, Dyche can look back at memorable moments like declaring himself "the proudest man in Proudsville" after Burnley beat Stoke to rise to fourth last month.

 Singapore Selection captain Hariss Harun robbing Burnley's Ross Wallace of the ba
Ashley Barnes putting Burnley in the lead on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium before Manchester City came roaring back with four goals. PHOTO: REUTERS

After all, Burnley were a Championship side seven years ago. Back in July 2010 when Brian Laws' Burnley took on a Singapore Selection side in the FIS Asian Challenge Cup at Jalan Besar Stadium, the club had just been relegated from the Premier League.

These days, the Clarets' relatively small spending and big results reflect Dyche's "minimum requirement is maximum effort" mantra.

He sets up with a deep and narrow 4-4-1-1 that defends from the front with big and aggressive strikers like club-record signing Chris Wood, Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes. Central defenders Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have made a league-high 121 blocks and 403 headed clearances en route to 10 clean sheets, just two fewer than leaders City's tally.

Lower-division signings like Wood and Charlie Taylor from Leeds, Nick Pope and Johann Gudmundsson from Charlton, and Robbie Brady from Norwich have also impressed, in line with the general theme of achieving a greater whole than the sum of its parts.

It's hard work of course, but Dyche has been able to coax extra effort from his players because of the camaraderie he enjoys with them.

The Burnley footballers' endeavour on the pitch has been matched by their manager's industry off it.

NOT THE BEST, BUT IT'LL DO

It's now a great building. Compared to the really big clubs in the Premier League, we've got a mini version of all of their things. We've got a hydro pool. It's a small one, but it's big enough.

SEAN DYCHE, Burnley boss, on their revamped training ground.

Behind the scenes, he pushed for last season's £10.5 million revamp of Burnley's training ground at Gawthorphe Hall which was prone to flooding from October to March.

"It's now a great building. Compared to the really big clubs in the Premier League, we've got a mini version of all of their things. We've got a hydro pool. It's a small one, but it's big enough," said Dyche.

"We are big on sports science... If you affect the person, you will affect his performance."

He gave ST a glimpse into what a normal work day is like.

"There are different challenges with the players, tactical information, looking at DVDs of games, dealing with the media," said Dyche.

"The brain is always turning about one thing or another; texting and calling your staff about different combinations of teams or situations, player welfare, all sorts of things. You just have to be aware it becomes part of your life and there's no way of turning it off."

REALISTIC GOALS

When you have this clarity of how you work, it allows you to rest easy and believe in what you do while understanding there's no guarantees.

DYCHE, on how he deals with the pressure of being an English Premier League manager.

When he was younger, Dyche was just as intense and insightful as he converted from a "tricky midfielder" to a no-nonsense centre-back after a broken leg at 17 coincided with a late growth spurt.

He left Nottingham Forest in 1990 without a first-team appearance, but had plenty of first-hand exchanges with legendary manager Brian Clough.

Dyche then spent eight seasons with Chesterfield whom he captained from the old fourth division to the second. He was also a promotion expert at other clubs such as Bristol City, Millwall, Watford and Northampton.

He started his managerial career with Watford from 2011-2012 before taking over at Burnley in 2012, leading them to the EPL in 2014 and 2016, after relegation in 2015.

He said: "By 30, I was beginning to form clear ideas of what I felt was right as a professional, the tactical and playing side of the game."

The father of a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter has also learnt how to deal with the hype and avoid hypertension.

"I don't get overly stressed, I understand both the complexities of this club and the Premier League. When you have this clarity of how you work, it allows you to rest easy and believe in what you do while understanding there's no guarantees," said Dyche, who enjoys going to the cinema with his children when he has some rare time off, but still gets stopped by fans for a chat or a wefie. "You can't get through this job unless you have some sleep. I sleep very well."

With Burnley seven points away from fifth-placed Tottenham, Dyche says European qualification for the first time in 51 years is not beyond the 1961 European Cup quarter-finalists.

He said: "A realistic target is beat last year, when we got 40 points.

"That's the first target. Once we've achieved that, then we can be open-minded about what comes next."

Possibly the most sought-after English manager, Dyche does not rule out moving on to greater things.

He said: "My aspirations are firstly to continue building what we are doing here. I'm only 46 and I consider myself still young in my learning period of management.

"I'm open-minded about the future beyond Burnley but, at the moment, my future is Burnley. I'm enjoying the challenge to continue achieving here."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Dyche delivers on and off the pitch'. Print Edition | Subscribe