Last week Burnley made a massive decision as they aim to avoid relegation, parting ways with manager Sean Dyche after an almost 10 year run with the club. In just a single announcement, close to 10 years of memories were gone like tears in the rain. A managerial role is often quite interesting, as in just a second a life’s work can be snapped away.
Joining the club when it was going through a rough spell in the Championship, desperate for promotion, Dyche would help the club back to the Prem and make it a regular in the top flight. Now, over seven years after Dyche made his Prem debut, all that’s left are memories.
Dyche’s time at Burnley is a bit of an anomaly in the modern landscape of football, as managers are rarely able to spend more than a few seasons with a club. It wasn’t just that he was at the helm for a long span, but he was able to elevate Burnley from a Championship side to making the Europa league. His time at Burnley made him, and the club, known to fans of the Prem and gave the club a sense of legitimacy that it was searching for.
As an outlier, in terms of how long his reign was, it was never going to be easy for fans when he would leave Burnley, as it seemed that so much of. Managers can be dismissed or extended on the smallest of samples which makes it hard to find any real stability. Results have to be prioritized, as so much money comes from certain competitions, making it difficult for managers to find longevity.
Burnley’s progress since 2012 has largely been due to Dyche’s managerial decisions and investment in player development which has seen the club reach the Europa League. At the same time, his dismissal reflects the precarious nature of being a manager in the current state of the game.
Burnley FC is a club from Lancashire that, prior to Dyche’s appointment, had only been to the Prem once since Richard Nixon’s presidency. Dyche was able to take this perennial lower league side to the Perm and make it a mainstay, even reaching the Europa league in 2018, making him a club legend.
After a brief spell in the Prem in 2009, Burnley found themselves right back in the Championship mediocrity that had defined the club for well over a decade. To change their fortunes, they opted to bring in Sean Dyche, who had recently been let go by Watford. Dyche came into Burnley after helping lead Watford to their best finish in years in the Championship.
Within one season, Dycheball had taken Burnley from the middle of the pack in the championship to the Premier League for the first time since 2009. His tactics were able to get the best out of striker Danny Ings, as he finished with 20 goals while having the best defense in the league. While Burnley would finish 19th in the Prem and get relegated, Dyche had already shown that he was a top caliber coach.
Following that relegation, Burnley quickly got promoted to the Prem, finishing in the top three for both offense and defense. In their first season back, Dyche would guide Burnley to survival, as they got acclimated to the Prem and finished with a top half defense. It quickly became evident that Dyche’s defensive schemes were at home in the Prem.
In the following two seasons, Dyche would guide the club to their first European competition since the 60s, as he became a sought after coach for both prem sides and the national team. However in the following seasons, everything began to fall apart. After having a terrific defense that could make up for a lacking offense, Dyche’s defensive schemes could no longer mask their inefficiencies.
Taking a deeper look at what caused Dyche’s time at Burnley to unravel, it’s clear that his tactics didn’t adapt to the Prem long term, as his offense couldn’t reach the levels they reached in the Championship. While his defensive numbers are impressive at a certain point, they could be exposed by better managers.
It is unfortunate that such a promising start would fall apart and lead Burnley’s best coach to leave the club in a disappointing manner. Sean Dyche will likely find another job in the Prem in the near future, but for Burnley fans, it will always be a matter of what if.
A decade is clearly a long time, but in manager years, it may well be over a hundred years as managers seem to leave or be fired at an incredible rate. With so much profit to be made, as well as keeping fans happy, front offices feel the pressure to fix teams at the smallest bump.
Dyche’s near decade at Burnley is clearly an outlier, as only two other Prem managers have held their position for more than five years, Pep and Klopp. 14 managers have been at their post for less than three years, as a trend starts to appear. Unless you’re an institution like a Dyche, Pep or Klopp, you’re living on borrowed time with the club willing to cut you at the smallest mistake.
It’s rare to see long tenured managers leave the club on their terms, as only Sir Alex Ferguson has left with some dignity, as most are either fired or forced out on bad terms. Arsène Wenger, a Prem icon, is an example of this, as his disappointing final years led to fans disavowing the man who led their club to relevancy.
Today’s football landscape is even more beholden to the needs of profit than years past, due in part to the pandemic, as clubs try to reinvent themselves in a changing environment. For example, according to data from Sky Sports, a decade ago, managers would last twice as long as they do now. This in turn gives less leeway to managers who may have long term plans and must now adapt.
Being constantly on the hotseat like most managers are, unless they have the pedigree, means that there is no room for experimentation, so they must go towards tried and true tactics. In turn this means that transfers and player movements can make or break a season, as Burnley is finding out with the loss of Chris Wood. All this means that for really the first time in Prem history, managers are at the mercy of factors out of their hands from schedules to transfers.
Of course it doesn’t mean that if a manager is clearly out of their depth they should remain in charge just out of a sense of loyalty, rather this is a plea for better planning. A club like Manchester United which goes through managers like crazy needs a plan, not the flavor of the month manager. Larger safer clubs have that luxury while relegation favorites don’t, but that doesn’t mean they can’t plan ahead of time.
Football today is a minefield for managers, as they can make it across, but the tiniest step off the path and they’re gone. Of course the game has changed, it’s no longer crosses to tall strikers and fans should be thankful, but it also means expectations have to change for managers.
Burnley fans will forever thank Dyche for his impact on the club, as he took a middling Championship side to a mid table Prem side who can at times challenge for Europe. At the same time, his dismissal is a reminder of the volatile job of managing in the Prem today. As Burnley fights for survival, they will have to plan for a future without the manager who led them to the Prem.
Featured image: Sky Sports