Dy­che: I want to build some­thing here like Wenger did at Ar­se­nal

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - COLIN YOUNG

SEAN DY­CHE was a 25-year-old cen­tre-back on three grand a week and cap­tain of third di­vi­sion Ch­ester­field Town when Arsene Wenger left Gram­pus Eight in Ja­pan to be­come the man­ager of Ar­se­nal Foot­ball Club in Oc­to­ber 1996.

Ch­ester­field reached the semi-fi­nals of the FA Cup that sea­son. Dy­che scored a penalty against Mid­dles­brough, in­clud­ing Ra­vanelli, Jun­inho et al, to go two-up at Old Traf­ford in a game which had ev­ery­thing and ended in a 3-3 draw. The min­nows were de­nied a goal which crossed over the line, but scored a 119thminute equaliser. Bryan Rob­son’s Boro, later rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League, won the re­play 3-0 and lost to Chelsea in the fi­nal.

Dy­che, now 46, and in his fifth sea­son at Turf Moor as Burn­ley man­ager, earned a move to am­bi­tious Bris­tol City on the back of his im­pres­sive per­for­mances for Ch­ester­field. Two weeks ago, Ch­ester­field were rel­e­gated from the Foot­ball League for the first time in their 97-year his­tory.

Dy­che said: “We got a bonus for the semi-fi­nal, which was ge­nius, the chair­man was that tight he would turn the grill off to stop ba­con cook­ing and he had us on ap­pear­ance money rather than win bonuses. Of course we weren’t ex­pected to reach the FA Cup semi-fi­nal so he had some mad fig­ure like four grand. We got there and it went to a re­play!

“The top wages then were about 30, 40 grand a year for top play­ers in that di­vi­sion, so you can imag­ine. An eight­grand bonus for all the lads . . . I re­mem­ber that. We were buzzing. I bought a car for five grand and by then I was on the cusp of mov­ing to Bris­tol City.

“It is so sad what has hap­pened there this sea­son. So sad. We played Stoke a few weeks ago and I jumped in the car and went straight over to Ch­ester­field to do a Q&A with John Dun­can to help raise some money for the sup­port­ers. They’re des­per­ate. They’d just gone down the night be­fore, so it was a good night con­sid­er­ing. It’s a good club, I can’t re­ally be­lieve it, but it just shows, that’s foot­ball.”

To­day the Burn­ley man­ager will be last man in the guard of hon­our as both sets of play­ers wel­come Wenger on to the Emirates pitch for his last game in charge of an Ar­se­nal team at the home he built for the club he loves.

There are Ar­se­nal fans who have dreamed of this day. To them, Wenger out­stayed his wel­come and his pur­pose years ago but even they can ap­pre­ci­ate the sig­nif­i­cance of the day and the man. It prom­ises to be emo­tional.

The oc­ca­sion is not lost on Dy­che. He is a foot­ball man, hon­oured to be in Wenger’s com­pany, and among the few who have been wel­comed into the French­man’s in­ner sanc­tum post-match.

Dy­che said: “I’ve known Steve Bould for years so I think he put a good word in for me, I’m al­ways in­ter­ested in ask­ing him ques­tions about Ar­se­nal and how it moves for­ward. And he’s quite in­trigued by our sto­ries as well. He was ask­ing me about us, how it worked in terms of the fi­nances, and how we man­aged to keep mov­ing for­ward. He’s been quite im­pressed by that side of things, be­cause as you know, he’s keen on the busi­ness of Ar­se­nal.

“But I’ve never re­ally an­a­lysed it with him. It just seems to come up in con­ver­sa­tion. We just chat around that and the chal­lenges of mod­ern foot­ball. But I found him to be a re­ally good fella, very open and en­joyed his com­pany on a few oc­ca­sions af­ter games.”

Burn­ley are a point away from qual­i­fy­ing for the Europa League, and just three points be­hind Wenger’s sixth-placed Ar­se­nal, who have a game on Wed­nes­day at Le­ices­ter in hand. Burn­ley have never been in this sea­son for the fun of it. “The day is all about him,” said Dy­che. “The only bit that is about ev­ery­one is the game, when the whis­tle blows, and we will be fo­cused on that.”

Dy­che will make his own per­sonal pre­sen­ta­tion to Wenger. It is ar­guably his tough­est chal­lenge of the day. “I’m a beer man,” said Dy­che, who dis­cov­ered this week that Burn­ley land­lady Jus­tine Lor­ri­man plans to change her pub’s name from the Princess Royal to the ‘Royal Dy­che Arms’ if his team qual­ify for Europe.

When they were rel­e­gated three years ago, the club, the re­gion, the fans, the man­ager, the play­ers, took the hit. They built a fan­tas­tic train­ing ground in the grounds of a coun­try house in the town, tweaked the squad, with­out over­spend­ing, stormed the Cham­pi­onship. Six­teenth last sea­son, HQ com­pleted, Dy­che ig­nored the spec­u­la­tion link­ing him with Ever­ton ear­lier in the sea­son to con­cen­trate on an evolv­ing project which, with five Ir­ish in­ter­na­tion­als on board, is now head­ing to the con­ti­nent.

Wenger built an em­pire over 22 years. Dy­che, in his fifth year at Burn­ley, af­ter a brief stint with Wat­ford, is do­ing the same. He is 36/1 for the Ar­se­nal job now. The odds will tum­ble as he and Burn­ley progress. “I would not put your money on me,” he said.

But he is the same odds as Atletico Madrid boss Diego Sime­one, who knocked Ar­se­nal out of the Europa League semi-fi­nals this week and de­nied Wenger the fairy­tale farewell even Dy­che ad­mit­ted he was wish­ing for.

Dy­che is fas­ci­nat­ing lis­ten­ing in full flow. “Sime­one is an in­ter­est­ing one,” he said. “Year one, ‘Oh I don’t like this, it’s not Span­ish foot­ball.’ Year two. ‘Tell you what, he does it well.’ Year three, ‘They have their own style, press and they harry teams.’ Year four, ‘They’re good at what they do, they press and harry and they can play a bit too’. Year five, ‘Amaz­ing, what a team.’ Fact is they are still do­ing what they did in year one. It’s weird that Sime­one has been un­trendy and be­come trendy just by do­ing what he be­lieves is right.”

So is there a Sean Dy­che time­line he’d like to share? “No. But I see the sim­i­lar­ity in my think­ing. Not in the style, but we have been through that a lot. Peo­ple say we do this that and the other, and this that and the other, and then say, well, ac­tu­ally, they’re not bad. Arsene Wenger built some­thing and that is what I have wanted to do here with this team from day one. Peo­ple are look­ing at us, the Europa and say­ing, are they go­ing to go off the cliff ? Or is there a smooth path? We don’t know. But if it is the next part of the jour­ney, we will be pre­pared for it and we will see where it takes us.”

‘The day is all about Arsene’: Sean Dy­che

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