Being the Premier League’s most likeable manager is a lot like being the best dressed seal-clubber. But in the case of Burnley’s Sean Dyche, there is something genuinely agreeable about the man – although I am partly saying that because he could easily tear out my pancreas, fill it with hot Ribena and munch it down like a jelly bean.
The levels of affection for Dyche the man are largely understandable – he has the kind of gruff charm you’d associate with a kindly fireman who’d happily rescue your nan from a low-level cheese toasty fire.
But as a manager he also attracts a great deal of positive comment, which on face value is possibly less understandable. Just three wins from 20 games in a season where Burnley have never been higher than 17th does not correspond with a manager whose position has barely been questioned.
Assuming the Burnley board aren’t frightened about having their organs gobbled down like tiny sweets, the reasons for the security of Dyche’s position can be illustrated through a closer inspection of the numbers.
A net summer transfer expenditure of just £8m was amongst the most miserly outlays in the division, while record signing George Boyd, for all his hard work (not to mention the kind of face a blind girl from a 1980’s music video should probably be creepily sculpting from clay) is still essentially a cast off from Hull.
— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) January 2, 2015
Perhaps a little overwhelmed by the transition between divisions, Burnley’s start of 10 games without a win has now been replaced by the more confident and assured football that saw them promoted in such impressive fashion. The rescued point from 2-0 down against Manchester City was perhaps the real beginning of their Premier League campaign, even if City did fall apart like a submarine made from Mini Cheddars.
In fact in the last 10 games none of the bottom eight sides have lost fewer games than Burnley. What’s more, the return of Sam Vokes alongside Danny Ings restores a front line partnership that scored loads of goals last season. I don’t have the exact number, let’s just say it was almost certainly more than 700.
— Laura Hodgson (@lhodgson1988) January 2, 2015
And this Saturday, likeable Dyche faces increasingly unlikeable Harry Redknapp in what the overly-giddy, A-Level media studies work experience students on Sky Sports News will probably describe as a ‘six-pointer’.
QPR won the earlier fixture this season, but this time Redknapp might well be distracted by the wholly imaginative possibility of signing up-and-coming young stars like Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch (and maybe then selling and re-signing Niko Kranjkcar).
It’s an interesting contrast, not least because Dyche looks like a waxed a polar bear and Harry Redknapp looks like someone’s turned a big pigeon inside out.
— No Nay Never (@NoNayNeverNet) December 3, 2014
But also because the bright and thoughtful Dyche is very much heralded as the dynamic future of British coaching while Redknapp is, well, trying to sign Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch.
The result on Saturday won’t particularly decide much for either team. But as an experiment, seeing whether an unfashionable team, on a slender budget, with an innovative young coach can succeed over a team that pays Rio Ferdinand actual money, is truly fascinating stuff.