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Sean Dyche: 'The Ginger Mourinho'

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When Burnley returned to the Premier League in 2014, the event was treated as a miracle.

Sean Dyche led a rag-tag band of journeymen, headed by the young plucky Danny Ings and Tom Heaton back to the top division. Fast forward three years, and things have never looked better for the Clarets.

They are already safe from relegation, barring the most unprecedented of collapses. Whilst recent form hasn’t been spectacular, Turf Moor is still a fortress few away teams would relish visiting. And although agricultural, the classic 4-4-2 has served Dyche well throughout the years, the powerful Sam Vokes as target-man with Ashley Barnes offering something a bit different and Nakhi Wells now providing a pacier option.

Why are Burnley so tough to beat under the man their fans serenade as the Ginger Mourinho? In part, it is a mentality issue.

Turf Moor on a wet Wednesday night, the wind howling and ten men harrying and harassing you while you are on the ball is something very few players relish - certainly a minority of the classy wide-men and no. 10s in the Premier League. When you throw in the vociferous home support roaring their team on whether they are winning 1-0 or losing 5-0, it is a tough ask.

Moreover, Dyche usually gets his tactics spot on. The likes of Johan Berg Gudmusson, Robbie Brady, Scott Arfield, Jack Cork and Jeff Hendrick aren’t the sort of players to look for the limelight, but they are solid, effective and always offer 110% for the cause.

They will do the running so the likes of Steven Defour, a more cultured and classy ballplayer doesn’t have to. When you factor in the recent additions like Georges N’Koudou on loan from Tottenham and former Spurs winger Aaron Lennon adding width, pace and crossing ability, you perhaps think Vokes should grab more goals. Indeed, the Welshman only has 3 goals this season with two coming in that stunning opening day victory at Stamford Bridge.

Chris Wood has also struggled at times with the step-up to the Premier League having joined from Leeds last summer, but the New Zealander has also been plagued by injuries.

Burnley’s best asset has always been a rock-solid defence.

As someone who tries to catch Brentford games whenever possible, I was gutted a few years ago when they pinched James Tarkowski from us for a minimal fee. He is a confident, assured defender with great aerial prowess and reads the game incredibly well. Unlucky perhaps to have Michael Keane ahead of him in the pecking order last season, his transfer to Everton has been as unsuccessful as Tarkowski’s emergence has been stellar.

Partnered alongside the ever-solid Ben Mee, who has thrived since reverting from left-back to centre-back due to an injury crisis, the two complete a very solid spine.

Tom Heaton shouldn’t be overlooked with his great performances warranting some deserved England call-ups, but Nick Pope has proven a more than capable deputy this season.

Finally, Stephen Ward, Matthew Lowton and Phil Bardsley aren’t the modern buccaneering 90 miles per hour wingback, but a throwback to the older full-back, who focuses on defending and stopping the other team going forward - a tactic which on the whole has proved effective.

Although, where does Burnley go from here? A Europa League spot would be the greatest triumph in the club’s history, considering the financial disparity between the so-called ‘Big Six’ and the little town from up North.

Keeping hold of Sean Dyche is as important, the Ginger Mourinho has become a talismanic figure and his gravelly tones bely a very impressive and often underrated tactician and motivator.

Undoubtedly bids will come in for Tarkowski, Heaton et al come the summer, but Burnley fans will be quietly confident that they will be able to replace them in hand and that their team will continue to excel against the odds.

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. Flickr Commons, Ronnie Macdonald

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