Why Chris Hughton should emulate Sean Dyche
In just over a fortnight, top-flight newbies Brighton and Hove Albion will kick off their second Premier League season. The Seagulls are still a comparatively small club. They must improve to stay up but also spend within their means.
Like Burnley in 2016/17, Brighton ended 2017/18 in the table's bottom half, finishing 15th. Wins over Arsenal and Manchester United proved they could compete, however.
Chris Hughton's side has been active, spending around £15 million to sign Jason Steele, Leon Balogun, Florin Andone and Bernardo. The boss would like nothing better than to follow Sean Dyche's path and qualify another recently promoted side for the Europa League.
That being said, how can Brighton learn from Burnley?
Burnley's success wasn't achieved overnight. It is the cumulation of continued hard work that began in the lower leagues. Burnley’s return to the Premier League in 2015/16 was about gaining a foothold. They did that by finishing 16th but didn't rest. Dyche pushed the team up the table to seventh, last term. That effort returned the Clarets to European competition for the first time in 51 years. You can bet, Dyche intends to build on that.
Chris Hughton is already hard on his heels. He turned Brighton around in the Championship, then consolidated them as a legitimate Premier League side last season. Now he must push on.
Astute scouting and shrewd buying powered Burnley's climb. Dyche recruited new but affordable players who fit well into his system.
Aaron Lennon was playing a bit part at Goodison Park when he switched to Turf Moore in January. Even though he failed to find the back of the next in his 14 appearances for Burnley, he provided two assists and showed flashes of the brilliant player who patrolled the wing for Tottenham before heading to Everton.
Jack Cork’s return to the club on a four-year deal proved fruitful. The former Swansea midfielder even earned an England call-up. He made his appearances for the Three Lions as a late substitute against Germany. It ended a goalless draw.
Neither Leon Balogun nor Florin Andone have previous Premier League experience. Balogun, the 30-year-old Nigerian defender, spent three seasons with Bundesliga mainstays Mainz 05 and two prior with Darmstadt 98. Andone, 25, is a striker who lined up the last two seasons with Deportivo de la Coruna in Spain. Before Depor, he apprenticed for two campaigns with Segunda Division club Cordoba.
Dyche has long held a reputation as a motivator. You don't punch above your weight like the Clarets have without a strong, trusted hand at the tiller. Hughton enjoys the same reputation. He brought Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first asking and with style in 2009/10. Owner Mike Ashley didn't give him a fair shake in the top flight. It has taken a long time for Hughton to gain the confidence of another chairman. Tony Bloom has been repaid handsomely for taking the chance, however. Hughton has nothing to learn from Dyche in this department.
One of Burnley’s unexpected road to success last season was how superb some relatively unknown player performed when called upon. Burnley players in the likes of Tom Heaton, Ben Mee, Nick Pope, Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Jeff Hendrick, shone for the club brilliantly even against top oppositions. Of all the fringe players that performed brilliantly for Burnley last season, Wood was the stand-out, the Englishman, despite all odds, netted 10 goals in 20 appearances (four as a substitute) and provided one assist. Pope manned the sticks so well he was Gareth Southgate's third choice for England's World Cup squad.
Brighton's other signees, Bernardo and Jason Steele, need to pay attention to Wood and Pope. Steele is a year older than Pope at 27, so should have the maturity to push Aussie Matt Ryan and step into his shoes if necessary. Fullback Bernardo is younger at 23. That doesn't mean he can't prepare himself to do a job if his manager calls.
Following Burnley's example won't be easy. Nor has Hughton taken exactly the same route. Nevertheless, there's no reason his side can't show an improvement in the coming season.