Tipped to be a manager from the age of 13
SEAN Dyche was 13 and sat behind a school desk when he was first tipped for a career in the dugout.
“It was a lad called Chris, who I still see,”said the Burnley manager. “He said‘I think you’ll be an alright player but I think you’ll be a manager’.”
And in both senses, that cocksure teenager was dead right. Of course, that’s not to undermine the 42-year-old Dyche’s ability.
A skilful midfielder as a youngster, he ignored the flattery of Chelsea and Aston Villa to sign for Nottingham Forest, then managed by Brian Clough.
There, Dyche was tipped to take the top flight by storm,but a badly broken leg at 17 – he was wiped out by his own goalkeeper during an FA youth Cup match – stunted his progress and he eventually joined Chesterfield in 1990 without playing a first team match.
By then, at 6ft tall and about as wide, he was playing centre half and would spend the next seven years becoming a Spireites legend.
Obdurate but intelligent on the ball,he skippered the League One side to an FA Cup semi-final against top-flight Middlesbrough in 1997, famously stepping up to score the penalty that made it 2-0.
Though Boro clawed their way back to 3-3 and won the replay 3-0, it remains the moment for which he is most remembered.
“I didn’t want to take it,so there’s no hero thing,” he said. “But our penalty takers weren’t on the pitch. Jamie Hewitt started to go forward for the ball. I went up to him and said,‘Do you want it, Jamie?’
“He gave me the immortal line, ‘Not really, but I’ll take it’. I went, ‘That’s f***ing useful then’,so in the end I got the ball and just smashed it down the middle.”
Though success proved elusive at Chesterfield, Dyche would subsequently win promotions with Bristol City (1998), Millwall (2001) and Northampton (2006), not to mention a successful three-year stint at Watford which saw him named captain.
It was a spell that must have made a big impression because in 2007 the Hornets invited him to become their youth team coach.
Two years later, Malky Mackay promoted him to assistant and when the Scot left to Join Cardiff in 2011,Watford asked Dyche to take the reins.
“It was an easy decision,” said then Watford director and former England boss Graham Taylor. “Sean understands the heartbeat of the club.And there is no messing about – he tells you as it is.You may not agree with him but I don’t want to employ a manager who I agree with all the time. He stands by his opinion, tries to justify it and I am happy with that.”
As an untried rookie scepticism was rife, especially with several players having departed and a squad constructed of raw kids. Many tipped them for relegation.
But, after a rocky start, Dyche steered the club to 11th in the Championship, their highest finish in five years.
And though Dyche learned at the hand of disciplinarian Cloughie, Michael Kightly, who spent a spell on loan at Watford from Premier League Wolves, says the method is more carrot than stick.
“That loan spell helped me massively,” he said. “I played under a great manager in Sean Dyche. I was surprised at just how good he was. He handles his players brilliantly and just tells everyone to go out and play their own game. And he got me so fit – by the end, I felt as good as I have in my entire career.”
To the fury of fans and outsiders alike, Dyche was discarded at the end of that season with new Italian owners the Pozzo family keen to appoint Gianfranco Zola.
It was, though, not long before he was back with Championship Burnley an eager suitor in October 2012. After a difficult end to last season – and the departure of top scorer Charlie Austin – the Clarets were expected to struggle. But, just as at Watford, Dyche is beating the odds with the Clarets picking up seven points from their first three games.To good friend and former team-mate Ian Woan, it is no surprise.
“I have known Sean for over 20 years and management was always the direction he was going in,” he said. “Even when he was playing he would talk a hell of a game, he was always tactical and it was always more than a game to Sean. He was always dissecting the game and talked passionately about it.
“So nobobody who has known him for a large amount of time will be surprised at where he is right now.”
FA CUP GLORY: Sean Dyche scores his penalty for Chesterfield against Middlebrough