Currently sitting at the summit of the Championship Burnley will fancy their chances of bouncing back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. But where did it all go right for the Clarets?
After a ‘shoestring’ approach to transfers in the top flight the club lost a couple of key players but kept the bulk of their squad together and it looks like this has paid off. The big loss was that of striker Danny Ings on a Bosman to Liverpool. However he was replaced by Andre Gray signed from Brentford. At the time many balked at the club record fee that could rise to a reported £9 million, but it has proved to be money well spent. The 24 year old front man has equalled Ing’s tally of 21 league goals from the promotion season of 2013/14 already and has the top goal scorer accolade in his sights.
The club are yet to receive the money from the Ing’s deal after they were unable to settle on a fee with Liverpool. Rumours are it could be a record for such a settlement with talk of £7 million being thrown around. Couple this with decent cash for Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell and the transfer kitty is far from empty.
At the other end of the scale the free transfer of Joey Barton has been a shrewd piece of business. Bowled over after a meeting with Shaun Dyche the midfield enforcer has had to work hard to win over the fans. A number of tweets digging Burnley fans 12 months previously had made him an unpopular figure in the stands at Turf Moor but his battling performances along with a couple of goals have got them onside.
Off the pitch the Clarets have put the Premier League money to good use investing heavily in infrastructure including improving their training facilities. The balance sheet is still looking healthy though with the club announcing a record profit of over £30 million for the previous financial year, a figure that is yet to include any monies that will be subsequently received from the Ing’s deal.
Keeping hold of the manager has been another cog in the Burnley wheel this season. In his 4th season in the job the cool, calm and collected figure of Shaun Dyche hasn’t failed to attract attention with the job he has been doing. Aston Villa is the latest club to be linked with trying to tempt the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ away from Lancashire. But with the club in a healthy position both on and off the field there surely aren’t going to be many teams that will be able to get his signature.
I ticked Turf Moor off my 92 in late September. Reading were the visitors and they tore the home side apart with lightening pace to go 2 up inside the first 10 minutes. The impressive Nick Blackman was at the heart of things for the Royals, who could have had more. Burnley rallied in the second half pulling a goal back and did have the chance to nick an equaliser but didn’t take it. It would have been unfair on the Royals though who on the balance of the 90 minutes deserved the 3 points. I couldn’t have foreseen them in this position after that game, but it shows what consistency can do. Crucially that day Andre Gray was missing with injury and with Vokes off the pace they were lacking a cutting edge up front.
Coming into the business end of the season they are the form team of the division with their last league defeat coming on Boxing Day last year. With a draw midweek against playoff chasing Cardiff 2nd placed Middlesbrough could overtake them if they win their game in hand, however in the run in the Boro still have to make the trip to Turf Moor. It has seemed like this season when a team has gone out in front in the Championship this season they’ve been pegged back with no runaway leader. But despite a 3rd draw on the bounce the performances have still been there for Dyche who maintained his positive outlook in the post-match interview. Throw in the mix before April is out Leeds, Birmingham and local rivals Preston and it certainly makes for a mouth-watering end of the season for the neutral. For Burnley fans it will be tense but I think they’ve got the squad togetherness and stability to get the job done.
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