Burnley's survival chances hinge on Dyche
It's no surprise that Burnley are roundly being written off as certainties for the drop. The club has the smallest transfer budget and the lowest wage bill in the Premier League by a distance.
But football isn't played on a calculator or a spreadsheet, just like it isn't played on paper. By any objective measure, Burnley will get relegated this season. But objective measures are irrelevant.
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In Sean Dyche, the Clarets have a manager who has already got one minor miracle on his CV. Dyche was in only his second full season as a manager last year and led Burnley to a hugely unlikely promotion from the Championship, racking up 93 points and breaking a string of club records in the process. It's impossible to overplay the impressiveness of Dyche's performance at Turf Moor last season.
Dyche achieved all this with pretty much the same set of players left to him by predecessor Eddie Howe. While he supplemented that group with some smart additions on free transfers -- David Jones, Scott Arfield and Tom Heaton were all excellent last season -- he only spent actual money on one player: Brighton striker Ashley Barnes, and that was a mere 450,000 pounds. Barnes then went on to score the goal that effectively sealed promotion against Wigan.
Burnley's spending has been minimal again this summer, but that doesn't mean relegation is going to be inevitable. However, it will largely depend on the gruff ginger general in the fancy new dugout at Turf Moor.
Dyche has so far avoided being linked with many vacancies at other clubs, but that is likely to change in the next few months, especially if Burnley get off to a good start. A handful of Premier League managers are beginning the season already under pressure, so jobs are likely to come up pretty quickly once the football gets started on Saturday.
Burnley supporters will be wary of how their last Premier League adventure was derailed by the midseason departure of manager Owen Coyle, who left to join Bolton in January 2010. Coyle's decision was arguably vindicated as Wanderers stayed up and Burnley went down. Burnley were 14th when Coyle left and finished 18th, five points adrift of safety. Coyle's career has since hit a few bumps in the road and with the benefit of hindsight after two sackings by Championship clubs since, he may well regret walking out on Burnley.
Dyche's position isn't likely to come under threat even if Burnley are bottom at Christmas as Burnley's board of directors are typically more tolerant of bad results than their counterparts at other teams. It's far more likely that Dyche could be tempted away by a bigger club with more to spend, just as Coyle was.
Clarets supporters may therefore have a paradox to consider: They will want Burnley to do well this season, but perhaps not so well that Dyche gets a better offer and decides to leave the club.
Dyche signed a new contract this summer, but the club oddly didn't reveal whether or not it was an extension. If it wasn't, then Dyche's deal will run out next summer, and his intentions will be a big talking point throughout the season.
It seems certain that Dyche has a big future in the game, as long as he is able to remain level-headed and keep his feet on the ground with the extra attention that being in the Premier League brings. Burnley fans will just hope he stays at Turf Moor and continues to fulfil his managerial potential.