Sean Dyche: Burnley need to keep moving forward to break into top six
BURNLEY, England -- Burnley manager Sean Dyche has told ESPN FC it will become increasingly difficult for the club to surpass their achievements this season as they attempt to claim European football.
Victory against Chelsea at Turf Moor on Thursday would take them to within five points of last season's champions and lift the Clarets above Arsenal into sixth spot -- within reach of securing qualification for the Europa League, which would be a remarkable feat for a club from a town of just 70,000 inhabitants.
Despite claiming two English titles, in 1921 and 1960, Burnley have spent the majority of the past 40 years in the lower divisions and they continue to operate with the smallest budget in the Premier League.
Their ability to sustain a push for European football has surprised many and Dyche admits that emulating this season's success will only become harder, despite ongoing efforts to improve every aspect of the club.
"I think there are lots of different ways to move it forward," Dyche told ESPN FC. "But I'm not naive -- you're judged on what goes on on the pitch.
"But equally, it is very, very difficult to break into that top six or even the top seven. I'd be surprised if Everton don't continue to invest. They've had a bit of an anomaly season, so they'll be stronger going forward.
"Some other teams have had a strange season and they may also be stronger going forwards, so we don't take anything for granted.
"But there is a way that you can move clubs forward. It is not just with results, although I know that [getting] those is my job, but there is lots more scope to move forward.
"There has to be flexibility because I'd be lying to you if I said, five-and-a-half years ago, we'd be having this conversation about being in Europe and being in the Premier League for a fourth out of five seasons, after having two promotions.
"I never said it, but did I think we could improve the club five and a half seasons ago? Yes.
"Did I envisage that we could move the club forward? Yes. Although to what level, was undecided. It's a similar situation now."
Burnley chairman Mike Garlick has admitted that the club's model is to unearth talent, produce players for the first-team and then sell them on for a substantial profit.
The likes of Danny Ings (Liverpool) and Michael Keane (Everton) have secured big money moves and international recognition after impressing at Burnley, while current players Tom Heaton, Nick Pope and James Tarkowski have all figured in Gareth Southgate's England squad this season.
Dyche has also overseen the £10.6 million improvement of the club's training ground, with efforts underway to upgrade areas of the 135-year-old Turf Moor stadium at the same time as reinvesting Premier League prize money in the playing squad.
In Spain, Villarreal -- from a town even smaller than Burnley -- have highlighted the ability of less financially powerful clubs to succeed against major clubs, but Dyche insists that Burnley will continue to do things their way.
"There have been lots of stories down the years, but you have to do your version of it and understand what your realities are," he said.
"There has been a clear view of that from the chairman, through the board to myself. There has to be a clear-mindedness about where you are going and what you are trying to achieve and I think everyone will have their version of it.
"We are in a really solid situation to stay open-minded and clear-minded because we have built the chance for that. But we are certainly not trying to copy anyone. We want to do our version of it.
"We have a way better start point than when I arrived, with the training ground and the money that has been spent there, also on the playing squad.
"So now, we have this structure, we have this understanding about the squad and have an increased finance base, so where can we take it now?
"We look at everything within the club to keep edging it forward, with the idea that the first team gets stronger.
"We definitely need to move forward on the recruitment side of the things and the depth of the recruitment, looking further afield to get the same depth that we can get here in this country. I think there are lots of different ways to move the club forward."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_