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the SPOX column: The most terrible sacking of a coach in Premier League history



Fatih Demireli's column

Sean Dyche took over Burnley FC when the club were a mediocre second division side and made them a permanent fixture in the Premier League. He played ugly football and rarely won games. And yet his dismissal is a scandal.

Justine Lorriman couldn’t hear the questions anymore. And because at some point it became too much, she turned the questioning into a business. Justine is the owner of the Royal Dyche. A pub in Burnley, formerly known as the Princess Royal, but later named after the manager in charge, Sean Dyche, following the success of neighboring football club Burnley FC.

A plaque hangs at the entrance showing Dyche’s head on the body of King Henry VIII. Photos hang in the pub, and the hero is also immortalized on beer mats and on the toilet.

Dyche was sacked at Burnley a few days ago. Several liters of frustrated beers were served in the pub and when one or the other guest then asked if Justine was going to change the name, she decided to take a pound from anyone who asked. She will donate the money raised to charity.

“Anything to get something good out of a bad situation,” she explains, before making it clear: “There is no question that we will remain the Royal Dyche. Nobody can compare the good work that the coach has done over the past nine years. undo.”

Sean Dyche promised no tiki-taka, but sweat and blood

There is still a total emptiness among the fans in the small town with almost 90,000 souls. Yes, Burnley FC didn’t play respectable football. Yes, Burnley FC even played terrible football at times. But that was never that important here.

Dyche took over from a mid-table side in the Championship in 2012. Before that, you even disappeared into the lowlands of English football. On arrival he promised no tiki-taka, no counter-pressing, just sweat and blood. And he kept his word and the result was two Premier League promotions, seven seasons in the top league in the world and the club’s first European appearance in 51 years. And all this regularly with the smallest budget.

And now he’s gone. Released in a cloak and dagger action shortly before Easter. Even in the club nobody knew about it. The media chief even sent out an email shortly before that the press conference with Dyche ahead of the West Ham game would be at 12.45pm rather than 1.15pm. A local newspaper was just about to reprint a two-week-old interview in which club boss Alan Pace Dyche swore allegiance.

When the team trained without Dyche for the first time the next day, “it just wasn’t right,” said defender James Tarkowski. Other players didn’t even want to comment. Gary Lineker didn’t mean to sound sentimental. England’s chief football critic tweeted: “This is a shitty decision!” Jamie Carragher spoke of a “bad joke!”

Burnley FC was indebted for the purchase

By the standards of a normal Premier League club, Dyche’s dismissal is understandable. The sporting descent began last season: Of all 92 teams in the four top divisions in England, Burnley scored the fewest points in 2021. Burnley have only won four games this season.

Burnley didn’t play modern football. The attacking game was not particularly imaginative, the defense far from solid. But if you know the circumstances, it’s all understandable and that the football team of a town whose entire population barely fills Wembley has been playing the Premier League for so long is enough of an achievement to count.

Dyche might have stayed if the old owners hadn’t decided in December 2020 to sell the club to ALK Capital. The US company took over, but the financing was different from the other takeovers in which an investor comes with a large suitcase of money and pours cash into the club.

ALK Capital took over Burnley for £170m in a leveraged buyout, using the club’s own funds for the purchase and £60m borrowed from lender MSD Capital. Burnley was therefore indebted when it was bought, which on the one hand restricted its ability to act and on the other hand increased the pressure of success many times over.

Like a nightclub bouncer

Alan Pace, who has since served as CEO, and Dyche are said to have never really liked each other. Here the former Wall Street agent, there the man who likes to sit in the pub and have a beer with the fans and comes across as a tough dog from the gutter. “He’s often criticized for looking like a bouncer in a nightclub,” said his longtime assistant coach Ian Woander Daily Mail.

Woan, who shared a shared flat with Dyche for years, paints a completely different picture of Dyche: “People think he has to be rude, but that’s far from true. He’s very well read, wants to learn and also questions himself. ” Probably not enough for the boss. Pace is said to have gradually reduced the influence of the coach. While Dyche used to be involved in every decision affecting the club, he was asked less and less.

Dyche has been instrumental in the refurbishment of the training ground, improvements to the stadium, structuring of the squad and staff. But Pace is said to have laid off almost 20 employees since his arrival. Also familiar to Dyche. Even the longstanding head of scouting had to go. Because he didn’t want to follow pace? Because the boss and coach should also have distanced themselves in the selection of the players. Pace wanted to look around the international market, Dyche preferred to bring in experienced guys who know what Burnley is. They know that sweat, blood and dedication are required here.

Pace couldn’t relate to the romance at Burnley, where you hugged each other when you drew 0-0 at home. He was smart enough at first not to get in the way of Dyche himself. The coach’s contract was only extended until 2025 at the start of the season. Pace was celebrated for it. Of course, he also celebrated himself for it.

Burnley FC: Wout Weghorst is not a reinforcement

But success did not come. Dyche wanted new players in the winter, but again no common ground was reached. He got Wolfsburg’s Wout Weghorst when things turned ugly in the winter, but he was only the replacement for Chris Wood, whom Burnley sold to Newcastle United. Weghorst has not yet been able to adequately replace the crowd favorite.

Dyche himself could be accused of not having changed his methods. He played like he always did, he trained like he always did, he spoke like he always did. The team is said to have missed new impetus. Although there was no mutiny (no one would have dared), there were also no signs that things were getting better.

Maybe that was the reason for Pace to react. Although he says that relegation “won’t be the end of the world”, he repeatedly underlined the importance of staying up in the league in many other statements. Should Burnley be relegated, revenue would drop drastically as more than 80 per cent of the club’s revenue came from Premier League TV earnings. No booster comes from the investor.

Pace was now hoping for this from a change of coach, but the fact that he apparently acted without a plan B caused an uproar among the supporters. Because the club has still not been able to present a successor. Instead, many capable people had to go with Dyche. Even the goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer, who is very much appreciated in England. Apparently they want to make the traces of Sean Dyche disappear permanently in Burnley.

But it will probably never come to that. Burnley, that was a little football fairy tale from the small town in the north. Written and narrated by Sean Dyche. Every point won in the Premier League was a big fight. Many people connect their personal life story with the club.

They commemorate the day Burnley clinched their first win at Old Trafford since 1962. The day they clinched their first win at Anfield since 1974. How Burnley suddenly played in the Europa League. In the end, Dyche fell victim to his own success. He was so successful that an American investor took an interest in his club and was no longer good enough when he stopped delivering.

If you look through romantic glasses, it’s the most dreadful sacking in modern football history. As if Christian Streich were fired at SC Freiburg because he missed the Europa League. Only the Freiburg coach and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone have been at their clubs longer than Dyche. If you want to know how the hothead is doing, you might want to drop by the Royal Dyche. Justine must be serving a beer right now.