Heaton has been consistently brilliant

Naturally, it’s been a difficult season for Burnley fans.

Promotion to the Premier League has given us a few highs: that first victory at the tenth attempt against Hull in November; four points off defending champions Manchester City; a draw at Chelsea and so on, but largely, adapting to the trials and tribulations of top-flight football has been a frustrating experience.

Even over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had our relegation to the Championship confirmed and been told – as if it was ever in doubt – that Danny Ings would be departing this summer. The chinks of positivity have almost been nullified by the negatives, but those demanding fixtures in the Premier League have not been entirely in vain.

Tom Heaton, seen by many as the club’s best player over the course of the season, has been rewarded with a first call-up to the England squad for the Three Lions’ games against the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia next month.

Heaton has been consistently brilliant for us during his time at Turf Moor and, given his quality and family ties with the club, it feels like the only regret is that we didn’t sign him sooner.

A division-best 17 clean sheets in the Championship last season proved pivotal to our promotion, and the keeper has gone on to record nine more in his debut season in the top tier.

The adjustment to keeping out the likes of Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez has been seamless for the former Manchester United stopper, who ranks as the sixth busiest keeper in the league according to WhoScored.com.

With the Clarets bound to conceding more chances, shots on target and goals themselves, Heaton’s saves per match record of 3.3 stands up alongside the likes of Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris and West Ham United’s Adrian. The very best keepers in the division inevitably make fewer saves as they face fewer shots, so for Heaton to be joining such company brings to light his endeavours.

WhoScored.com also revealed the Burnley stopper has the best rating out of any of his contemporaries to play over five matches since the beginning of March, almost three months ago. The rating, at 7.36, means that over the season he has averaged out at 6.77 – a figure surpassing the likes of Joe Hart, David De Gea and Fraser Forster.

Heaton has saved the second highest number  of shots from outside the box in the Premier League too with 54, edging out compatriot Rob Green (53) and narrowly behind Lukasz Fabianski (58).

While the stats make for impressive reading, they only reveal half the story. It is clear to anyone who has watched Burnley this season that Heaton has made a series of excellent saves to keep us in matches and, to a further extent, winning points. The obvious example comes from last year’s home match against Southampton, where a penalty save from Dusan Tadic saw the Clarets record a clean sheet and a priceless 1-0 win.

Heaton has aptly demonstrated the facets of any good goalkeeper’s game, from distribution and decision-making to organisation and handling. It breeds confidence, and gives the club’s attacking outfield players a licence to play and that safety to go forth, knowing they have a solid performer behind them between the sticks.

Murmurs of a call-up emerged as recently as late March for England’s double header against Lithuania and Italy. Heaton missed out on that occasion, but with Ben Foster and Fraser Forster sidelined and Jack Butland selected for the U21s, Burnley’s No. 1 joins QPR’s Green and Joe Hart that make up England’s goalkeeping contingent for next month.

Actual game time may elude Heaton, but should he grace the pitch he would become the first Burnley player to wear the Three Lions in over four decades. Roy Hodgson’s hand may have been forced somewhat to select Heaton due to mitigating factors, but it is still a sign of the manager’s faith.

It’s a deserved call-up for Burnley’s most impressive performer of the season, and here’s hoping he gets time to impress in an England shirt.

How do you feel about Heaton’s call-up? Comment below.

Thoughts for next season

As the curtain came down on Premier League football at Turf Moor once again, and those fans who chose to stay behind waited for the players and coaching staff to complete their lap of honour, my thoughts turned to next season.

Squad

Assuming that our only casualties are Danny Ings and Shacks (the former being dramatically confirmed post-Stoke and the latter rumoured to be rekindling his partnership with Eddie Howe), then we have a pretty decent Championship squad.

Lee Hoos this week confirmed what everyone outside of the Burnley boardroom already knew – we didn’t “need” to sell anyone. Let’s face it, if we did “need” to sell given our frugal approach to the Premier League campaign then we have more to worry about than how we solve our central midfield problem!

Squad (Part 2)

We, of course, still need to invest and SD has already flirted around this subject during his pre-match presssers.

Dean Marney has extended his deal for another 12 months and Duffer is expected to follow suit next week. Sure, there are some other players out of contract but they are primarily “fringe” players and I don’t expect any of them to be retained on new deals.

The shopping list needn’t be that long, but we need a CM and a striker as top priority.

Strikeforce

Sam and Ashley appear to be our first choice partnership up front and you know what, that is a good choice. We know of Sam’s quality and I firmly believe he can recreate his dazzling 2013/2014 form even without the #vings phenomenon. Mark my words, NNN will be selling #VARNES t-shirts come the Christmas retail rush.

Let’s not be shy here though … Juke has been an unmitigated disaster and I don’t expect him to feature regularly in the team. Sure, we probably won’t be able to sell him either. That leaves us with Sordell for cover, who I still believe SD will persist with.

My number one choice for striker recruitment is Rudy Gestede from our neighbours. We take their only decent striker and they can’t buy to replace (transfer embargo). Win-win scenario.

Midfield

This has been, in my opinion, our biggest problem during the Premier League campaign. The supply-line to the forward men was non-existent. And Tripps can’t be expected to do it all himself.

We have to create more chances. To do this, we have to get our wing-men back on fire. Number one mission is to get Arfield out of CM and get him back on the wing. Give that Marney is not expected to be back until Christmas then this means we also need to add a CM to the shopping list. Depending on what austerity measures the club implement post-Villa, we do have Fredrik Ulvestad who looked decent when he briefly featured in the Stoke game.

I also predict George Boyd to run riot against most Championship midfields!

Defence

The nightmare that all Clarets are dreading is the loss of Tripps. He is irreplaceable. But let’s not worry about that for now.

Losing Shacks would be a real blow, but we can cope. We have Duffer and Keane, but if I was in charge of the dressing room, I would finally move Ben Mee into the centre and play Ward at left back.

The Championship is ace!

Here’s why:

  • More games
  • We win
  • We score goals
  • We don’t have to avoid MOTD
  • We don’t have to listen to “Little Old Burnley” tripe in the media
  • You can park near the ground
  • You can get a pie at half-time
  • The Football League show has finally been canned

The list is endless (although it did end just there – ed).

We have gone through promotion twice now in our Championship lives. The first was as play-off winners. The second was automatic promotion as runners-up.

Let’s go get that title!

Are you looking forward to next season? Comment below.

Dyche not blameless – but he remains my choice

Now that our relegation is confirmed a degree of “in it together” should be foremost at this time, and unlike other sides we leave the division with our heads held high, boding well for “bouncebackability” next season, to quote Iain Dowie.

There is also no reason not to calmly analyse our season and identify weaknesses for next time. It is too easy to fall into the trap of absolving the manager and players of any responsibility due to having the smallest budget, but while this is a big factor, it is not the biggest.

Are finances everything?

We are all set to battle for 18th and 19th place with two sides that have spent about £70m on transfer fees (ignoring all the other associated costs like wages) between them (according to transferleague.co.uk). Our £10m was eclipsed by QPR matching their 2012/13 investment of £36m, and Hull added £41m to last season’s £26m, proving that talent, not money, is the primary variable affecting league position. One can buy the other but it is far from guaranteed.

The term “talent” incorporates the touchline too (and the recruitment team). We appear to have fallen short in every department, but only marginally. OK, few of our players would get in any other side. The board were a touch too frugal with expenditure (maybe we had £20m left from the TV money but spent £10m). The recruitment team (including the manager) didn’t identify the correct options that we were capable of signing and would improve us. The manager has had other failings too, as I touch on below, particularly signings, player type and tactics.

I am thus unconvinced that had we left the division having spent every penny of the TV money, it would have got us to the (probable) 38 points required.

Signings

They haven’t improved the side, by and large. Our fees were spent on George Boyd, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Marvin Sordell, Michael Keane and Michael Kightly. Stephen Ward, Matt Gilks and Matt Taylor were frees. Only Taylor and Boyd were not consigned to the bench by the end of the season, Taylor (along with Dean Marney) being unlucky with injuries in a way that has cost us hugely.

Dyche has to take a lion’s share of responsibility for these signings even if he has to be blameless with people like Graham Dorrans if it is true he was in the building on deadline evening. He has to share a lot of responsibility with the board though – Trot Deeney was available for £11m I think – and that kind of quality next to Ings may well have made the difference. The model that sensible sides use in their first season is to spend about £20m (like Hull) – we probably wanted to spend it on three or four more players and ended up with none.

Dyche’s old school approach to player personality

The Premier League was the proving ground for Dyche’s famous philosophy that the glue that holds everything together is respect, good manners, good time-keeping, pride, passion, hard work, belief and integrity. Every player he signs probably has to have those qualities. That could be argued to be quite a restricted pool he could then dip into, and a second problem is that there is scant evidence that those qualities equate to Premier League success.

Too often an overpaid, self-serving, flamboyant player, often from overseas, proves the reason clubs perform well at this level. The qualities Dyche refers to can often be mixed in with less desirable ones – over thinking, sensitivity, lack of selfishness and panic.

Maybe when the pressure is on in those momentary key occasions on the pitch, there has been too big an awareness of what is at stake? Danny Ings’ cool finishing at Hull seemed no coincidence that it came after the pressure was largely off. I am one who praises Danny’s commitment even in the knowledge he is leaving, but between his ears the pressure of being the main man has seemed too much.

Tactical inflexibility

The final issue is one of tactics. Most pundits ridiculed our approach of 4-4-2 coupled with abandoning possession in order to put defences under pressure. We hoped they would be wrong. The trouble is, they were right. Our approach will lead to us scoring – though we lacked a penalty box poacher. However, at the other end this gives opponents too much possession and at this level they have the quality to hurt us with it.

We rely on blocking shots (and in my view have the division’s best blocker in Shacks). We have blocked 174 shots so far, second place is West Ham on 156. Giving opponents the ball too many times this close to goal though is a bit like Russian Roulette.

We conceded almost as many as Leicester while breaking our club’s lack of goals record twice in one season. At times our approach had clearly been outsmarted by a tactical change – yet there was usually no response from our bench.

Is Dyche still the best man for the job?

I thus feel that Dyche is the 18th best manager in the Premier League, ahead of John Carver and Chris Ramsey but behind other more experienced names (often playing at this level then managing at it). I do though feel he remains the best man for the job, and he gets my full support.

Why is he the right man? Well….

He got us up last time, fairly easily despite a shocking injury crisis in the run in, and this is a level he can be effective at.

I like him, and I like his values, despite what I say above about the effectiveness of them at this level. I don’t want to give my money to buy a new Lambo for a primadonna who doesn’t give a hoot. He didn’t have loyalty in the list (probably thought it would be ridiculous in football) but I think we should show it to him if he does to us. It makes us different.

He makes us popular. I have never heard us praised so much by other fans. I know Tony Pulis and equivalents would do well for us but I would hate it for a number of reasons.

He is good at polishing raw gems. Maybe not so good at finding them, but Burnley will always need to punch above their weight as we have for 100+ years and need a good polisher (apart from in the trophy cabinet room).

His tactics work in the Championship. Defences cannot cope with a skilled hold up striker winning a quick ball before they are set, his teammates buzzing around him, or a high press from the midfield, and it allows us to stay solid at the back too as we don’t need too many men forward.

Changing manager is a risk, and anyone who runs a business will know that avoiding risk is one key task, mitigating it is then another. Thus you should only change if you know you can get better in, and I don’t see it.

In the Premier League the managers are the crème de la crème, some of the world’s top guys trying to outsmart each other, skilled at changing a game when it isn’t working. Dyche has been outclassed by them in the fine margins of the game but this isn’t the case in the Championship.

Dyche entered the Premier League without a single day of experience as either a player or a manager at the top level. He is up against guys who have spent a career there. Next time, he will be far more experienced.

It somehow feels like we got the hard bit right but messed up the easy bit, which may not happen again. Cover for central midfield in January didn’t seem difficult. Scoring goals when creating great chances didn’t seem difficult. Being competitive in over 35 games is. But we did it.

So all in all, Sean Dyche remains the main man in my mind.

Not just because he is ginger (like me). Not just because he was born in 1971 (like me). Not because he seems to be a stats nerd (like me). Because all things considered, he gave it a good crack, and he remains the best man for the job.

Do you agree with Steve that Burnley should keep Dyche? Comment below.

Questioning Ings is ridiculous

It is strange to regard Danny Ings as a divisive character.

Warm and affable when off the pitch and driven and talented when on it, Ings possesses the necessary requisites to become a fondly remembered figure at Turf Moor when he inevitably departs in the summer.

Yet some Burnley supporters have had their tempers frayed by a perceived lack of commitment from the striker at various points over the course of the season, alluding to barren spells in front of goal and poor decision-making as signs of disinterest.

To question the ability and attitude of a man who has contributed to over 50% of Burnley’s goals in the Premier League seems ridiculous.

And that’s because it is.

Ten league goals in the 22-year-old’s maiden Premier League campaign is a respectable return, and there remains a chance that such a tally could be added to against Stoke City and Aston Villa. Four assists is also a commendable amount, and these figures mean that Ings has contributed to half of Burnley’s total goal amount this season.

If these are the stats of a striker who has lacked the mental fortitude to truly flourish this season, then some Claret supporters are perhaps more difficult to appease than originally anticipated.

Ings’ head has been reportedly turned by the prospect of joining Manchester United or Liverpool in the summer, although with an English quota to gratify the striker may be a target for more clubs than these.

There has even been mooted interest from David Moyes’ Real Sociedad, with Ings’ brief venture to Spain believed to have affected his game against Sunderland in January according to Sean Dyche.

It was bound to, in some respects. It has been a phenomenal rise from Bournemouth starlet to Premier League marksman, and rumoured vultures of this calibre circling Turf Moor would affect the thoughts of any young striker.

So the proposition of a more lucrative contract elsewhere has fast become the ideal stick with which to beat the striker each time a chance is spurned, a ready-made excuse for fans to almost feel smug that their premonitions have been confirmed.

He’s hit a post? He doesn’t care. A mistimed header? Get him out. A poor pass? I’ll pack his bags.

The way in which Ings conducts himself frankly suggests that he has been committed to Burnley all season, regardless of his destination come July or August.

The willingness to run in behind and create space has been as evident as ever, the first touch equally as ingenious. It is clear when Ings takes to the field that he is a cut above his attacking contemporaries at the club, regardless of how we may wish otherwise.

In a division as competitive as the Premier League and thus the quest for points more difficult, it can admittedly be forgotten in the moment just how far the striker has come in a relatively short space of time.

Perspective is required in these instances, and a reasonable amount of slack to be readied. Critics may look enviously to Charlie Austin at QPR, Burnley’s previous goalscorer extraordinaire, and ask why Ings hasn’t matched his exploits if he is just as good.

But a striker who spends the majority of his time in the box, poaching and waiting for opportunities, is bound to be presented with more tangible opportunities than one who drags defenders wide and who is forced to make lateral runs on the edge of the area with a path to goal blocked.

Ings was only playing regular football in the Championship for the first time last season, and likewise with the big boys this term. To expect every chance to be buried is optimistic; the integration process was slow but once it picked up pace, the goals soon followed.

That first one in particular was perhaps the most satisfying. After enduring a difficult spell in front of goal, Ings finally notched against Everton at home and celebrated by cupping his hands behind his ears and mouthing ‘What?’ in the direction of the home support.

Some spoke of arrogance, but many roared along with him. After receiving a torrid time on social media, Ings responded in a manner that is befitting of his whole character.

His celebration against at the KC Stadium on Saturday was similar; wheeling away in frenetic jubilation, albeit in vain.

So when he is plying his trade in the Premier League next year as we reacquaint ourselves with the Championship, let’s take heart from the fact we had a chance to dream of survival largely because of the efforts of Ings and his goals this term.

As much as the rest of the squad, Ings deserves the adulation of Burnley fans in these final two games.

Money will only get you so far

Now that I have finished jumping up and down after the final whistle in Saturday’s game against Man City I have had time to sit down in front of a keyboard.

Before getting into the article, this is my first attempt at writing something like this so please bear with me. I am a Burnley fan based in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. My Grandpa was evacuated to Burnley during the Second World War so that’s how I came to be a fan of the Clarets from such a distance.

Having watched the Man City game on TV on Saturday evening I was left pondering a few things, and even more so after watching Match of the Day.

The team

I had said to a colleague at work on Friday that I honestly thought we had a decent shot at the three points against City. After our last performance against them at the Etihad and with the team’s work rate, with a rocking Turf Moor, I was sure we could achieve a great result.

The effort put in by the team was monumental and there was only one occasion where I felt they looked under serious threat but otherwise thought we handled the game very well. Despite our league position, which I think isn’t a great reflection of how the team have played, I am a supporter that is immensely proud to be a fan of this club and its current squad.

Key performances

I thought there were two key performances in Saturday’s game. George Boyd has proven to be an absolutely superb signing already this season but I think he stood out. His work rate is something that has been commented on already, and this game was no different. I also noticed that he has more in his locker. He showed great composure on the ball and he also displayed some great skill. His first touch was excellent and his passing ability was superb.

Then there was the goal. His positioning was excellent but then the strike could not have been any better. A perfect example of the half volley.

The other noticeable performance was that of Michael Duff. On his 350th appearance for the club after a spell out of the side he seemed to create stability at the back, which helped us. I like Michael Keane but I think Sean Dyche made the right call bringing the experience of Duff back into the side.

Officials and that penalty shout

I thought there was a lot to be disgruntled with. How Martin Demichelis stayed on the pitch is a mystery to me. There were three occasions he should have been booked. An elbow to Danny Ings, the free kick we scored from (which he received a card for) and the challenge on Kieran Trippier in the corner. There certainly seemed to be a bit of a reluctance to give too many other decisions our way and favour City on others.

Now, on to that penalty. Had we not been given it in a similar situation I may have been a little disgruntled…….BUT…… If you watch closely Pablo Zabaleta drags his back leg and then fails to plant his left foot and decides to go down even before any contact is made. Yes, had he attempted to stay up he would have been fouled and therefore a penalty would have been the correct call. On this occasion I think Zabaleta tried to anticipate the foul and I can only assume that is what Andre Marriner saw. One decision in the game that I thought he dealt with very well.

Pundits

This is a very touchy subject for me. There are not many pundits these days that I like. They all seem to have bought into phrases like “He has every right to do down there” and “This is the way the modern game is” and “You just can’t tackle like that anymore”. All three of those statements, among others, are utter nonsense. They must all read the same phrasebook before going on air. Football is a sport with its rules. I understand the way that game is played has and will evolve but the rules stay the same. If a crunching tackle is put in and the ball is won, that is a firm but fair tackle. If the player tackled feigns injury and the team surround the ref it seems a fair tackle is punished. I won’t continue or else you’ll be reading this article for about a week but you get the idea!

I also notice, as on Saturday on Match of the Day, that it seems teams that are not in the top three or four cannot play a good game against one of those teams, it is always the top team that has had a bad game. As soon as the highlights were finished on Saturday the first thing that was discussed was how bad City were. No, City were not at their best, but I thought we were magnificent. Not enough credit is given to lower teams for beating what is the cream of the Premier League.

That is where the title for this article comes from. Money will only get you so far. You can pay for all the talent in the world, but put a group of players together that want to work their socks off for each other and play some good football, and they will give these top teams a game on any day of the week.

Where from here?

I still believe we have the belief and talent in the squad to stay in this league. Dyche is an outstanding manager and I sincerely hope he stays at the club moving forward, he is a perfect match for the club. Continued hard graft and good football, I think, will see us safe.

As for me, I’ll be visiting the Turf for the Arsenal game next month and am very much hoping for a similar result against the Gunners.

Fredrik Ulvestad: Who is he?

Burnley confirmed the signing of free agent Fredrik Ulvestad earlier this week.

We don’t know a lot about the young Norwegian apart from what we could glean from Wikipedia, so we asked Simon from @BFCNorge to fill us in.

“Ulvestad is a player that likes to keep the ball and has a good overall game, he is a smart player that works hard for the team. At Aalesund he was one of their best midfielders, standing out as an up-and-coming general in the middle, fighting for the team and their common aim.

“He is a good ball-passer and tends to surprise with his skills – at least did so in Tippeligaen – he is also a good penalty-taker, good with the ball, as well as being consistent and a good athlete. His main position is in the heart of the midfield, but can also play in a more offensive role.

“As with every player, he has his weaknesses and Fredrik’s are that he might be a bit too eager occasionally, something that might have consequences. He’s still young and learning: this is an area that can and will be improved. He is a talented player with potential and though he’s not yet managed to live up to that potential, he could do in the future. If you look at what Dyche did with Dean Marney, you can see what is possible for Ulvestad.

“When he was out of contract, several Norwegian top guns wanted his signature; Molde, Rosenborg and Vålerenga, which says a lot about his quality.

“He will fit right in the Burnley team, being young and ambitious as he is. The manager’s mantra has been always been “minimal requirement is maximum effort” – Ulvestad won’t have too many problems with that as he is used to working hard.

“It’s said that the Norwegian Tippeliga is at the same level as the Championship. I personally find that an appropriate description. Ulvestad – also called “Ulven”, translated to the Wolf – was one of the better midfielders for his age in the Norwegian league and will only get better.

“He is without doubt good enough for the Championship and will – under the right guidance – become a decent Premier League midfielder.”

Anyone looks good on YouTube, but here’s a compilation anyway.

 What do you make of Ulvestad joining Burnley? Comment below.

What’s our best defence?

Browsing through the web during a bored hour at the weekend, it seemed like the blame game has started for who is responsible for our goals conceded.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion (though Michael Keane has been bearing the brunt of recent criticism) and simply looking at goals conceded per match is flawed because errors are often made by teammates, rather than the player in question.

So I decided to watch every goal back again this season and make a few notes as to who seemed to be the culprit. I have set a very high bar so a slack bit of defending leading to a goal has been tagged as an error, when in fact official stats say we are one of the best sides in the division at preventing goals from direct defensive errors, believe it or not.

I have also awarded errors for a goal to two players at times, so the error count exceeds the goals conceded count (for example Keane and Kieran Trippier for losing Charlie Austin at QPR). It seemed fair.

The table below relates to errors leading to a goal in the league up to and including Manchester United.

 

table 1

Some interesting findings, some of which have surprised me:

  • Tom Heaton, though he is superglued to his line, has not made one major mistake (such as a spill) leading to a goal (I ignore Raheem Sterling’s winner, as the error was initially Keane’s for losing him).
  • Trippier and Stephen Ward look by far our most solid full backs, though to be fair to Mee, five of his errors came in early games and he has been more solid since.
  • Duff has been very solid, and some of his error allocation could be viewed as harsh, because for three of the goals (against WBA, Leicester and Arsenal) I have judged one of his colleagues equally responsible.
  • Keane I had previously rated but we concede over one goal every two games due to his own culpability so unfortunately this analysis suggests he is (so far) the weak link. Remember when he was done by the quick Spurs free kick; the recent headers from corners; playing Joe Cole onside; falling over twice and letting Papiss Cisse nip in for Newcastle? Sadly most of these goals have cost us one or two points too.

I have also studied Keane to see why he seems to suffer so much more than his teammates. Five goals have been scored by opposition headers, five shots. Four of the ten from corners to which I attribute a bit of ball-watching and a lack of physical presence. The main reason for the rest seems to be thinking a little slower than opponents and not spotting the danger (for examples Sterling, Austin and Cisse’s runs). Maybe due to being new to this level.

The most counter-intuitive of this bit of analysis is that of physical presence as Keane seems to tower over players and often when seen in the tunnel is far taller than his teammates.

However, the Premier League official website says he is about 172cm (5 ft 8”) which seems crazy (maybe they have him mixed up with his brother), and also says he is 68kg, which seems more realistic as there isn’t much on him, and this makes him the second lightest player in our first team squad behind Ross Wallace according to the same figures. Other sites say he is 6 ft 2” which if true may make him capable in open play as it is a low to average Premier League centre back height, but susceptible against bigger centre backs. For example, Chris Smalling is two inches taller than that, but more importantly over 10kg heavier, presumably due to muscle.

No doubt I have my own “cognitive bias” in this because of my own views as to what constitutes an error, and also because I have read the debate about whether to play Michael Duff, Keane, Ward or Mee I will have looked at them the most, but I have tried to be fair.

Perhaps there is an argument that statistical saturation – studying average time between high intensity sprints – leads to the wood not being seen for the trees. Put simply – minor errors at this level lead to goals conceded, no matter what the level of haemoglobin oxygen saturation is.

Some may say that it is too negative to point at errors from individuals, but surely the main way one can assess a defence is to judge the error rate, just as it is goals and assists with forwards? The players are surely aware of this too so it is hardly new news to them.

Also, our young players may benefit from this “proving ground” in future seasons, but for this season, will that be too late? The debate therefore needs having now.

My own conclusion is this – we should play Trippier, Duff, Shackell and Ward and as soon as possible please, Mr Dyche.

Then stick the young guys back in again in August whatever the division. For now, experience seems to equate to a tighter defence.

What’s our strongest defence? Comment below.

Dyche deserves the protection of the powers that be

I just watched our manager open up about the transfer window on YouTube.

Sean Dyche, is a class act.

I had to get that out of the way.

Personally, I think he’s as honest as they come and he’s genuinely proud of what he’s doing here. I also feel he is genuine when speaking about his feeling of connection to our club and the importance of our history (and longevity).

Which is exactly why it’s hard to watch him have to justify this all by himself. As that is all I feel when I watch this media release.

The club has to do more than a website statement on this.

I for one, believe everything coming out of Sean’s mouth in his press release but it would be nice for the powers that be to show some guts and transparency and make a media statement about it.

There is certainly a reality surrounding our club’s ability to ‘play the game’ at Premier League level, there is no doubt in this and I consider myself a reasonable person.

Having said that, we can certainly ‘play the game’ at a higher level than zero. Whether two players slipped through our fingers or not.

Desiring new talent in the ranks is not a slight on the players we have or the amazing things we have achieved, far from it, it’s about backing those boys up!

We have little depth in our squad that could objectively be deemed Premier League quality, a sentiment which has been reinforced by the gaffer’s consistent team selection each week. Therefore we need some options (at the very least) in the case of injury and general fatigue. We do not have this.

This is a failure as an organisation. Period.

Understandably, the fans are feeling frustration and we need the club to respond, accepting the failure and providing some sort of rallying call.

Not just throw the manager to the wolves (which I will concede, is a big part of his job, but we can’t accept that it is 100% his responsibility to resolve.)

It also must be noted, that when fans wish for ‘transparency’ we simply mean that the people responsible have to take a bit of the hit for their part in the process. This doesn’t necessarily mean the immediate termination of jobs, but in most sports clubs around the world, there are consequences for professionals not doing their jobs to the level expected. The club must understand the undertones, where within the average fan’s expectations, if they don’t perform well in their appointed role, they expect their employment to come under some kind of scrutiny.

So when we see no apparent ownership taken for lacklustre performances within the club, fans, who invest time and money in the club, expect better answers than, ‘C’mon Burnley, you’re lucky to be here’.

If we have agents, scouts, a Head of Recruitment, key financial officers, managers and board members, that have been paid good money to have major influence in these on-going issues (let’s face facts: it’s an issue) perhaps changes do need to happen?

But you know what, all that aside, when all the smoke clears, if someone in a suit, other than Sean Dyche, stuck a podium in front of them, with the Burnley FC badge embossed on the front, stood tall and said: “We tried our guts out, but the market was too tough and we failed. We failed in our pursuit of several targets, which is regrettable. BUT, we stand behind our staff, we stand behind our team and we’ll hit the league with everything we have!”.

There would have been a roar of support amongst the fans. Instead of an uproar.

Should the club have done more to address the performance in the transfer window? Comment below…

This has been coming

When No Nay Never interviewed me about our book back, this was sadly what was prophesied:

“In the abstract, one thing much of my own research on leadership over the years has told me is that leaders who are good in one situation are not necessarily so good in another. Think Brian Clough and Leeds United; David Moyes and Manchester United. A headteacher who can turn around an inner city comprehensive may be less successful in a high status grammar school – and vice versa.

“Sean Dyche will eventually run out of people who have worked with him before, are willing to make an honest contribution, show hard graft and earn recognition. Can he and his team identify talent as effectively elsewhere? Can they recruit players (and agents) of a different stamp in personality terms in the Premier League and uplift and inspire them to come and play in the less-then-fashionable North West? Will Burnley get enough quick wins by January to build a platform for a new level of recruitment? Can the manager learn to adapt his style and team to the Premier league context while still being true to himself? What are the risks of being outfoxed by streetwise competitors?

I don’t know the answers. No one really does. But it’s important to ask the question proactively – as a manager, a team and a club.”

You would have to conclude that the manager, board or executive team have not been able to ask or answer this question proactively. Among the possible explanations, again in the abstract, are:

1. The loss of a CEO who was a player once and had a deep grasp of recruitment issues.

2. (I hope this is not true) One or more influential Board members whose prime driver of action is not merely prudence but making a profit in order to sell on.

3. The inability or willingness to replace the knowledge of change, organizations and leadership that former Chief Executive Officer Dave Edmundson had; one that would enable the club to shift its strategy as it moved to and through different levels and leagues of operation. Perhaps an averseness not just to risk but to this kind of expertise at all.

4. A managerial culture that is Northern and stubborn is highly functional when back are against the wall, but it is unproductive when learning how to sustain success and even to abandon models of success that worked at a lower level for new ones that are needed at a higher level.

My Mum, who lived in Accrington, passed away last year at the age of 93. Her lifelong stubbornness and persistence got her through into old age, but when she refused or was unable to change any of her habits, her later years of old age were sadly unpleasant for her because she could not adapt and so had only loss of the things she used to have.

The conclusion has to be now that without deliberate attention to change management and reliance only on maximum effort and hard work, after, hopefully, a surge of one or two good early results that come from more stubbornness, all the long term energy stats will catch up with the players as they have begun to in the past few games, and the unavailability of other options due to limited human capital resources will mean the players will tire, legs will become weary, injuries will occur and confidence will drop.

As a long time fan, I hope not.

As an expert in change, leadership and professional capital, I fear the worst.

What’s gone wrong?

Just to remind people what the end of last year and the start of this looked like…

Manchester City 2-2 Burnley (WAIT WHAT!!!)

Newcastle 3-3 Burnley (three subs in the first half, and coming from behind, flaming nora)

Burnley 1-1 Spurs (not too bad)

Burnley 2-1 QPR (good, that’s three points)

Spurs 4-2 Burnley (it’s only the cup, wait we were two up)

Burnley 2-3 Palace (AGAIN REALLY!!!!)

Sunderland 2-0 Burnley (What’s gone wrong?)

Okay this was written less than two hours after the end of the Sunderland game but I had to get this out of my system. WTF WAS THAT!!!

We were shambolic tactically and performance wise. The tactics were wrong in that we were out played in the midfield by their 4-3-3 turning into a 4-5-1 when they were defending. (Sounds familiar to our calls earlier in the season). There was no midfield, David Jones and Dean Marney were ineffective and Scott Arfield was almost as bad. I’ll get on to George Boyd later.

Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell weren’t too bad, but I’ll leave them. Ben Mee I personally thought wasn’t too bad overall but he was poor for one of their goals, which were definitely stoppable. Michael Keane, we spent money on him when personally I would’ve signed him on loan until the summer and agreed to definitely sign him in the summer just for budget reasons. But he didn’t have his best game; some of his passes were overhit, some underhit, his defending was good but not the best it’s ever been.

Ashley Barnes was playing extremely deep and didn’t seem to play too badly. A couple of loose touches but that’s it. The man of the moment is Danny Ings and he was absolutely by himself for the time that he was on the pitch, when he got the ball he had to go out wide normally on the left where he didn’t get much support from Boyd. The play by Boyd was good while he was on the pitch and set up two potential chances that weren’t converted.

That brings me nicely on to probably my biggest complaint of the day. The subs again. Sean Dyche made them early but they were the wrong people. When you see Ross Wallace and Lukas Jutkiewicz, you think Barnes and Arfield coming off. Nope INGS AND BOYD. I think that the wrong players came off as did 99% of Burnley fans.

The next few games are the stuff of nightmares:

West Brom (H)
United (A)
Chelsea (A)
Swansea (H)
Liverpool (A)
City (H)

HOLY SUGAR HONEY ICED TEA.

These next six games have to be probably the scariest of the season. I did say the games before Christmas were bad but these are worse. Next week is now a must win and anything extra from those six games are a positive. It isn’t like it gets any easier, we are halfway through March by the time we play City and there is still Arsenal, Spurs, Everton and the majority of our relegation rivals still to play. I’m normally quite positive but we’ve now won once in seven games, taking only five points. How we’ve underperformed in the last three games has been terrible and has gone and wiped out both the confidence and significance of the two points we got at the turn of the year.

How to fix it?

Change the starting 11. We’ve had the same side since QPR away and its getting predictable. Personally I wouldn’t change it too much but the starting XI I’d go with would be.

Heaton
Trippier, Keane, Shackell, Ward
Kightly, Jones, Marney, Boyd
Ings, Vokes

I’d bring Vings back. The Premier League hasn’t seen Vings together substantially yet and although Barnes hasn’t done anything wrong I’d put Vokes in and see if the Vings magic can be refound. Kightly offers more out wide; he was on fantastic form at the end of last season and has played well in every game he’s played substantially in this season. Stoke and Newcastle are twi examples. Ward just because I feel like he offers a little bit more than Mee, not a lot but a little bit.

It’s deadline day and we are at least two players short. One I’d like to see is probably going to not be liked due to Leeds’ position in the Championship at the minute but, Luke Murphy. A centre midfielder, he led Crewe to the JPT final and won it a few years back and he can score goals. Just a quick YouTube search shows that he has scored some good goals for both Crewe and Leeds. He has a goals/games ratio of a goal every five games this season. He has been out through injury for a long time but he plays a similar style of football to Henri Lansbury who was bid for in the summer. He is only 25 which is a good age for a midfielder. I’m not saying he’ll start v WBA but he’d offer competition for Jones and Marney. I’d probably say about £1.5 Million and he is supposedly making around £20k a week. That’s roughly our level of wages and Leeds want to drop their wage bill so could be worth a buy.