Dyche ponders Europa ‘double-edged sword’
Norwich City Burnley
Wood 45+5, Godfrey 80 og
It would take a victory over Brighton next Sunday and the results of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United and Arsenal to go their way, but Burnley might yet secure another Europa League qualification.
If they sign up for the weary glory that is Thursday-night football, it will be reward for a season that looked to be going so awry that, as manager Sean Dyche admitted after the win at Norwich City, there was talk of regime change.
In 2018-19, Burnley’s last European jaunt ended before September had started, but it took its toll on a shallow squad for the remainder of the season.
“It’s a double-edged sword, the Europe thing,” Dyche said. “Burnley being in Europe is an amazing thing and it was never even a consideration when I came here eight years ago, but there are challenges. We just want points on the board to see where it takes us. But look at Wolves: they’ve done terrific.”
Saturday’s victory over relegated Norwich was their 15th of the season and Nick Pope became the first Burnley goalkeeper to keep 15 clean sheets since another England international, Colin McDonald, in 1954-55.
They were given a helping hand by Norwich, who were down to nine men before half-time after Emiliano Buendia and Josip Drmic lost their heads, before Chris Wood shinned a bicycle kick past Tim Krul. “I’ve scored a few bicyclekicks, but none as poor as that,” Wood quipped afterwards.
Norwich even scored for their visitors when Ben Godfrey turned home an Erik Pieters cross.
Norwich’s captain, Alexander Tettey, looked on the bright side. “If it hadn’t been for the own goal, we’d have played over 45 minutes with nine men and not conceded. I didn’t see the first red, but when you’re a man down you need to keep calm and not get another one.”
Europe or not, Wood insisted Burnley can be stronger next term. “This squad’s done extremely well and we need to keep every single player here. We’ve had a lot of injuries in the last few weeks and we’ve lost players on contract negotiations which isn’t good, but we need to tie down the boys running low on their deals, because they’re vital and irreplaceable.”
Norwich, too, are looking to next season, albeit with rather less relish. “There needs to be a proper, proper reset and there’s a number of things that need to be in place,” Tettey said. “First, you have to keep your best players, but if anyone goes you need to replace them with the same quality or even better. Second, you need fresh faces, but their character needs to be spot on.
“If you don’t have people ready for three Championship games a week, you will struggle.”