Sport Comment: Burnley condemned by cold, hard reality of finance

SO IF Chelsea and Manchester City are proof perfect that money will buy you football success, is the reverse true? Does lack of wealth condemn the paupers to failure?

Sean Dyche will hope that Burnley’s first win of the season last Saturday can provide a springboard to safety. Before beating Hull 1-0, Dyche’s men had not won in 11 games in all competitions since the season began. His promoted side had drawn four and lost six to sit bottom of the Premier League with just five goals and four points to their name.

I hear another league club boss, a friend of Dyche, had anticipated the tough times ahead a couple of months back and asked him: “Have you got you contract sorted?” The question was aimed at whether Dyche had signed a new, improved deal following promotion. Because, his friend told him, “you may be on top of the world now but at some point, whether it is 10 games in or after the transfer window, they will be looking at you – at your tactics, at your team selections, at your results. Make sure your contract is done!”

It’s a rough ride in the Premier League. Rougher still for a team that almost went bust a couple of years back and now runs on a budget bettered by many Championship clubs. The clue is in the attendance for that win against Hull: 16,998.

Dyche’s approach is admirable. He still wants his team to play, wants to keep his players positive, refuses to be cowed by negative results. His stoicism was underlined in his press interviews before the Hull victory. “We haven’t won in however many matches ,” he conceded. “But guess what? If you win a game, you have to win another. A lot is made of the first one.” And he has to do it in an old mill town with a population of just 73,500. That the club averages gates nudging 20,000 is pretty damned good.

“Everyone thought last year that we couldn’t do it with just two strikers,” he says, “that we couldn’t do it with a squad of 18; that we couldn’t do it because we played at too high a tempo; because the club wasn’t big enough to compete; because in January there’d be trouble with injuries. And we still did it. It’s about finding a way.”

But it has to be a cheap and cheerful way. Prior to his modest spend on players for the top-flight last summer, Dyche had paid hard cash for only one player, Ashley Barnes, the striker who headed the winner on Saturday.

The cold fact is that Burnley have spent less on players in their entire 132-year history than Manchester United shelled out on one player last summer: £59.7m Angel Di Maria. It is that kind of skewed financial platform that is likely to guarantee Burnley’s relegation in May, despite the redoubtable Dyche’s best efforts.

To paraphrase his quote above, “everyone” will be saying that they could not survive in the Premier League because Burnley simply were never big enough; not wealthy enough and certainly not good enough to compete.