Burnley's Sean Dyche, Bournemouth's Eddie Howe exceeding expectations
The Premier League is an unforgiving place, but Bournemouth and Burnley are showing the way forward for smaller clubs.
On Saturday the two clubs will meet at Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium, with survival virtually guaranteed -- although not quite mathematically for the Clarets -- with two matches still to play.
Though both teams have little to play for at this stage of the campaign, they have the chance to finish in the top half of the league table, which would be a stunning achievement. But the fact that Bournemouth and Burnley are thriving in the Premier League is impressive enough.
These clubs have the smallest average attendances in the division -- the Cherries' tiny ground has the lowest capacity in the Premier League by a considerable margin -- so their matchday income is a fraction of what is collected by giants like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Owner Maxim Demin has invested heavily in Bournemouth but, unlike many of his peers in the Premier League, he is a hands-off presence. The Russian operates out of the spotlight and has allowed their excellent manager, Eddie Howe, to preside over a period of stable, steady growth that has been without a doubt the most successful time in the club's history.
The Bournemouth fairytale might not be all it seems on the surface -- the club paid a €7.6 million fine after breaking Financial Fair Play rules last year -- but Demin's gamble on Howe leading his side to promotion from the Championship paid off handsomely.
Burnley have been more cautious in their spending, despite breaking the club's transfer record three times this season to sign Steven Defour, Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady. Indeed, so careful are the local, lifelong fans who make up the club's board, a report in January said they recorded the fifth highest net profit by a European team, outperforming the likes of Bayern Munich.
The men in the dugout have to take a large part of the acclaim for the progress made by Bournemouth and Burnley in recent years. Arsene Wenger of Arsenal is the only Premier League manager to have been in his post longer than Howe and Sean Dyche, who succeeded the Cherries boss at Turf Moor in October 2012.
Though Antonio Conte will likely scoop the manager of the year award for leading Chelsea to a likely Premier League title in his first year in English football, bosses like Dyche and Howe should also be included in the discussion after overperforming at their unfashionable clubs.
"I think they should definitely be considered," said Burnley striker Sam Vokes, who was brought to the club by Howe, initially on loan in 2011. "They've both done fantastic jobs. They've definitely enhanced the reputation of British managers."
Dyche will take charge of Burnley for the 200th time in a league game this weekend and, though his team's football might not always be the most entertaining to watch, to take the Clarets to the Premier League twice and then ensure their survival is a phenomenal achievement.
Howe has had more financial backing than Dyche, in the past couple of years in particular, and he has taken Bournemouth even further. The club was on the brink of bankruptcy and close to being relegated from the Football League when he first took charge in January 2009. Over his two spells, Howe has taken the Cherries from near oblivion to establishing them in the Premier League, with a mediocre 20-month period at Turf Moor the only blot on his superb managerial CV.
Dyche has often spoken about how he feels English managers do not get the praise and attention that is often lavished on their foreign counterparts by the media, and the underrated success enjoyed by Dyche and Howe this season would appear to back up the claim.
If there was any justice, they would be front-runners for just about any upcoming vacancy in the Premier League, with the managerial merry-go-round expected to kick into gear again at the end of the season. Instead their unassuming work will continue at the clubs where they are adored.
With Dyche now 45 and Howe still somehow just 39, despite closing in on 10 years in management, the pair are among the youngest bosses in the Premier League -- Hull City's Marco Silva and Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino split the duo -- so they have plenty of time. But Bournemouth and Burnley supporters will hope their success continues to go under the radar.