Burnley quietly crawling to Premier League safety
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Jameboy
It has certainly been a mixed year for Burnley Football Club. From the highs of finishing in a continental spot last season, to being knocked out of the Europa League early and struggling in the Premier League. The Turf Moor faithful were swiftly jolted straight back down to earth after their short stint in European competition.
The questions were being raised about whether the Lancashire side would remain a top-flight side. However, over the hectic winter period, Sean Dyche and his men have shown their mettle and kept their nerve. They're now reaping the rewards.
Burnley have spent prolonged periods sat in the relegation zone, but three wins in their last six have seen The Clarets push themselves up to sixteenth. While they're only two points above the dreaded drop zone, it'll be pleasing for their supporters to see that they're now on the right side of the line - and the club itself is seemingly only looking upwards.
What's most impressive to me is the nature of the results. Sure, Burnley have taken some batterings when going up against the elite Premier League teams, but beating Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a nine-point haul not only takes points off their direct rivals, but it propels them up the table and gives them the confidence, belief and ability that they can be practically every team in and around them.
For me, it all stems from the manager. Dyche is a wise-old head who knows how to best utilise his players. He isn't blessed with a huge budget nor does he have an outstanding talent pool at his disposal. However, the work he does, in relative terms, can only be described as outstanding.
In the modern day game, to reach 100 league wins with Burnley is a stunning achievement. Alright, the 47-year-old has taken charge of a large chunk of games in the Championship, but that's a hugely competitive league and on some level, those victories are just as impressive if not more so.
For this, credit has to go to the Burnley board. Far too many times are owners and the powers-that-be quick to pull the trigger and hit the panic button when they see their team struggling. Instead, chairman Mike Garlick has kept the faith, even if some fans wanted Dyche gone, and now the overall outlook at Turf Moor is a far more positive one.
It's now down to the star players to stand up and be counted. I'm looking at Joe Hart to continue to save Burnley points, Ben Mee to fight for his life week-in-week-out, Johann Berg Gudmundsson to start taking control of games like we know he can, and the likes of Ashley Barnes, Sam Vokes and Chris Wood to start sharing the load and finding the back of the net. They've the players, the manager and the right environment to succeed.
Sure, the work is far from done and there are some extremely vital games just on the horizon. In four of their next five, Burnley play Fulham, Watford, Southampton, and Brighton. This could well be the season-defining period, and if they can pick up two, maybe three wins, their Premier League future would be looking much better, and over the summer, they can relax, reset and try to go again as the Lancashire side look to establish themselves as a regular top-half team.