HALF an hour after Burnley lost to Southampton in the FA Cup in January, Sean Dyche strode into the St Mary’s media centre, sat in a plush leather chair and put his feet up on the chunky wooden desk.
“Look at this eh?” he said. “This is a Premier League chair. We’ve got to get ourselves some of these.”
A few weeks earlier, a journalist’s phone rang in the middle of a press conference at Turf Moor.
“That’s a fine, leaving your phone on,” said Dyche, before answering. “Hello, Sean Dyche here, manager of Burnley Football Club. Do you want your mate? Are you going for a few beers or what?”
Even when the pressure was turned up to 11, he was still reeling them out.
“What’s the score, what’s the score?” said Dyche as he burst into Blackpool’s pressroom last Friday, a reference to the Derby game that could have sent his side up if Derby had lost. “Only kidding,” he added. “I’m not bothered.”
It’s easy to dismiss this stuff as fluff to keep the press chuckling. But I prefer to see it as an insight into Burnley’s spirit. Wouldn’t you love playing for a guy with that kind of carefree nature, that kind of jovial banter?
Wouldn’t it make going to work fun? Perhaps most important of all, it would make you feel that your job wasn’t actually that important. Listening to Dyche wisecrack his way through interviews, you’d assume he was talking about 5-a-side with his mates, not a Championship promotion push with £90m at stake.
In a sport where victory and defeat are decided by tiny percentages, simple psychology can make a huge difference. And it cannot be denied that Burnley’s players have looked utterly unburdened by pressure.
Now, of course, comes the real test. It is easy to crack jokes when you’re winning every week, it may not be in the midst of a Premier League relegation battle.
And that is almost certainly what the Clarets now face. In a piece for the BBC this week, former Burnley player Paul Weller urged Dyche to be “ruthless” in culling his squad for next season.
“You’ve got to be looking at eight, nine or ten new players,” he added. But to my eyes, that would be a terrible mistake.
This Burnley side’s primary strength is its spirit and familiarity, that pressure-free mentality forged by Dyche. More than the goals of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, more than the defence which has conceded the fewest goals in the Championship, it is the cohesion and understanding between the 11 players on the pitch and the seven on the bench that has won Burnley a place in the Premier League.
These Burnley players know Dyche and trust him. Even a hefty chunk of defeats in the Premier League wouldn’t destroy their belief in the boss. A phalanx of big-timers may not be so convinced.
To rip the squad apart in pursuit of greater depth and quality would be like asking Usain Bolt to work on his stamina. Sure he could run for longer but if it risked his speed, is it really worth it?
That’s not to say Burnley don’t need players. Beyond the first 13 or 14, they have very little else. But the last thing they need is a revolution.
Crystal Palace tried that last year and it was heading for disaster before Tony Pulis saved the day. It is not about giving players a chance. It is about realising that Burnley – this Burnley, with its unshakeable carefree mentality – is far more than the sum of its parts.