The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

T WASN’T the Premier League that shocked Sean Dy­che. It was the re­turn to the Cham­pi­onship.

“The di­vi­sion has moved on so much,” says the Burn­ley boss, an air of ex­as­per­a­tion in that fa­mously grav­elly voice.

“Some of the wages that peo­ple pay, the trans­fer fees fly­ing around. The fees we’ve been quoted for some play­ers are quite in­cred­i­ble. I didn’t see that com­ing two years ago. I re­ally didn’t.”

Dy­che, a man who won the Burn­ley job af­ter a slick pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tion, rarely speaks with­out full grasp of the facts and, nat­u­rally, his ob­ser­va­tions are born out by hard data.

Over the last two sea­sons, av­er­age spend per club has risen from £1.3m a year to £2.3m. And of the six high­est trans­fer fees in Football League history, five have changed hands in the 18 months since the Clarets won a shock pro­mo­tion to the top flight.

Ross McCor­mack’s £11m switch from Leeds to Ful­ham in Au­gust 2014 was the most no­table, a Cham­pi­onship record that left pun­dits in­cred­u­lous.

Tom Ince com­pleted a £6m move from Hull to Derby, Stewart Down­ing joined Mid­dles­brough for £5.5m, the same sum Not­ting­ham For­est paid Peterborough for Britt As­som­ba­longa. And Bruno Ecuele Manga joined Cardiff from Lori­ent for £5m.

No end is in sight, with Boro re­port­edly pre­par­ing to of­fer a player plus £14m for Jor­dan Rhodes and soughtafter Brent­ford striker An­dre Grey fes­tooned with an £8m price tag.

“The big­gest change has un­doubt­edly been Cham­pi­onship to Cham­pi­onship,” adds Dy­che, whose side’s trans­fer record re­mains the £3m paid for Steven Fletcher in 2009.

“In the Premier League, you ex­pect the mar­ket to jump rad­i­cally. You’re not talk­ing about jump­ing from £1m to £2m. You’re jump­ing from £2m to £10m for play­ers that, ar­guably, you’re kind of turn­ing your nose up at.

“But be­cause you’re in the Premier League, that’s the stan­dard.You ac­cept that play­ers of a cer­tain qual­ity will sim­ply be out of your league.


“Now, though, some of the own­ers in this di­vi­sion are pre­pared to spend huge amounts. And when some­body moves for big money, it makes it tougher for ev­ery­one be­cause a new stan­dard is set. For clubs like ours, that’s very, very dif­fi­cult.”

Clubs like ours? Surely not. If the head­line fig­ures are to be be­lieved, Burn­ley pock­eted £120m from pro­mo­tion to the Premier League, not to men­tion more than £10m from the sum­mer sales of Danny Ings, Kieran Trip­pier and Jason Shack­ell. Can’t they sim­ply join the jam­boree?

“Look,” says Dy­che, who has added the likes of ex-Boro striker Jelle Vossen, As­ton Villa full-back Matt Low­ton and Ch­ester­field de­fender Ten­dayi Darikwa to his squad. “I want to be back in the Premier League as much as any­one. But not at any cost. Af­ter all, I was the man­ager who un­for­tu­nately got told ‘You have to sell Char­lie Austin for the club to sur­vive’.

“The fans re­mem­ber that too and I think there’s an el­e­ment of re­al­ity to this club. We haven’t got own­ers who can write off losses left, right and cen­tre.We haven’t got huge re­sources.

“Yes, we’ve got a level of fi­nance avail­able but we won’t spend it stupidly. Some clubs haven’t taken Fi­nan­cial Fair play as se­ri­ously as they might have, but we are. And re­mem­ber, when we went up two years ago, our bud­get was in the bot­tom five of the Cham­pi­onship. Money is great but it’s no guar­an­tee.”

Yet if spirit and belief was enough to es­cape the Cham­pi­onship, it proved less than ad­e­quate at the high­est level.

Though per­pet­u­ally com­pet­i­tive and ca­pa­ble of the odd up­set – most no­tably a 1-0 win over Man City’s mil­lion­aires at Turf Moor – Dy­che’s squad, largely un­changed from the pro­mo­tion sea­son, rarely clam­bered from the bot­tom three and were even­tu­ally rel­e­gated in 19th place.

Af­ter the rip-roar­ing ride to pro­mo­tion, was it pos­si­ble to en­joy a sea­son that yielded just seven vic­to­ries and 26 goals? “Not overly, no,” says the 44year-old. “It’s a chal­lenge men­tally be­cause you start ques­tion­ing ev­ery­thing you do, ev­ery­thing that brought you suc­cess in the past.

“It is tough emo­tion­ally be­cause you’re used to win­ning games and sud­denly that stops. It be­comes very dif­fi­cult to re-mo­ti­vate peo­ple, but I thought we did OK.We took seven out of the last nine points, so there was plenty of life in the team. At the time, it’s hard. But in hind­sight, there’s no neg­a­tiv­ity. We were en­er­getic, we had belief. What we lacked was real qual­ity at killer mo­ments, es­pe­cially in games we were dom­i­nat­ing. I thought we max­imised the po­ten­tial of the play­ers but, at some point, the re­al­ity does bite.”

Would the Clarets still be in the Premier League had Sam Vokes not rup­tured a cru­ci­ate at the back end of the 2013-14 cam­paign? He and Danny Ings net­ted 47 goals be­tween them to seal pro­mo­tion yet Vokes missed al­most the whole of last sea­son as he re­turned to fit­ness. “It would have helped,” he ad­mits. “They had such a good re­la­tion­ship and were scor­ing goals for fun in the Cham­pi­onship. But what can you do? If peo­ple are pick­ing up mus­cle in­juries, you can change your train­ing pro­gramme. If some­body rup­tures a cru­ci­ate in a game, that’s rank bad luck.”

Burn­ley’s gallant strug­gle to beat the drop im­pressed many, not least fel­low strug­glers Sun­der­land who were pre­par­ing to of­fer Dy­che the man­ager’s po­si­tion be­fore Dick Ad­vo­caat per­formed his last-ditch u-turn. Would he have gone?


“There was no of­fer,” he side­steps. “It’s flat­ter­ing when clubs are linked with you. Some­times there’s re­al­ity in it, some­times not. On this oc­ca­sion, I don’t know. I read a lot in the pa­pers but it was noth­ing to do with me. I was on hol­i­day in Tur­key.” So if Dy­che is to re­turn to the top, it must be with Burn­ley. And he knows it will be much harder to sur­prise peo­ple now.

“We’re looked at dif­fer­ently,” he says. “We’re by no means giants, but we’re a team that was good enough to get into the Premier League. That de­mands a level of re­spect.

“There’ll be a per­cep­tion from the out­side too – that al­most mys­ti­cal thing that just be­cause you’ve been rel­e­gated you’ll au­to­mat­i­cally be up there again. But we don’t think like that.We know the chal­lenge. And with all the money fly­ing about down

here, we’ll have to be up for it.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PLENTY TO SHOUT ABOUT: Sean Dy­che took Burn­ley to the Premier League – and is aim­ing for a re­peat

WANTED: Brent­ford’s An­dre Gray is rated at £8m

MISS­ING LINK: Sam Vokes is back af­ter in­jury ru­ined last sea­son

SOLD: Ross McCor­mack went from Leeds to Ful­ham for £11m in 2014

IN DE­MAND: Black­burn want at least £14m for Jor­dan Rhodes

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