By Simon Evans
BURNLEY, England (Reuters) – In the cosmopolitan Premier League, with around two thirds of regular starting players drawn from across the globe, Burnley are unusual for their reliance on English players and manager Sean Dyche says that is unlikely to change next season.
The Clarets have secured Premier League football for a fourth straight season with a regular starting line-up that features nine Englishmen, an Irishman and a New Zealander.
While he will look to strengthen the Burnley squad this close-season, Dyche thinks the notion that investing in European players is an automatic route to success is flawed thinking.
“You don’t have to look very far this season for clubs that have spent heavily in Europe and they’ve gone down,” Dyche told Reuters in an interview at Burnley’s training centre.
Fulham invested over 100 million pounds in multinational players while Huddersfield Town’s more modest outlay was also focussed mainly on European players.
“There’s a bit of a myth that you pre-suppose every European player is better than every English player. And it’s dying a little bit now because there’s obviously a resurgence in the (England) national side, the under-19s, the under-20s and so on,” he added.
Dyche believes the demands of the Premier League mean technical skill is not sufficient to succeed in England’s high-tempo, physical game.
“Our club don’t want to take a gamble, so they don’t want to sign a 15 million pound French player who’s never played in the Premier League, who’s 21, and then that ends up being a four million pound French player going back the other way,” he said.
“If you look through the Premier League there are a lot of those stories.”
Burnley’s squad does feature some European talent but their most expensive signing, Belgium international Steven Defour, struggled initially to adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League before shining last season.
“That was a top, top player for a club like Burnley who still took six months to get used to it… and he’s no mug,” said Dyche.
“It is not easy to adapt and the thing is we haven’t got that much time – you can’t spend £30 million on two European players who then take eight months to get involved in what we do.
“But the big clubs can, they can carry those players for an amount of time…,” he said.
Dyche’s side have gained a reputation for playing what some view, in the era of Pep Guardiola and the preference for short passing, as ‘old school’ English football — a 4-4-2 formation, solid defending and a tendency to play quickly to their forwards.
While that image ignores some of the good football Burnley have played at times under Dyche, the 47-year-old former lower league defender, makes no apologies for his approach.
“I don’t want just pure roll out of the back four. I want productive mixed play… how many ways can you affect a game?
“Manchester United at their pomp, they could fight it out, they could play their way out of it, they could counter attack, they could win with a set piece. They were fit, they were strong, all the things you want to represent a very good football side,” he said.
“We try many different ways of working but you do get put in a box sometimes, that is just one of them things and it is certainly not something I lose sleep over.”
The results for a club that spent four decades out of the top flight speak for themselves, with Dyche twice taking Burnley out of the Championship before three seasons of stability in the Premier League.
“Six and a half years, the change in this football club is enormous, enormous. You can’t just put that on to – ‘oh they just get the ball forward’ because you need to see the whole thing to know what we actually do,” he said.
Dyche’s work is certainly appreciated by the club’s fans who showed little discontent, even when the team was in the bottom three at the half-way stage this season.
“I think there is an earthiness to this area and that is a positive thing,” said Dyche.
“I think they trust me. I tell them every season is going to be a tough season but not in a negative way. They have been fantastic this season because they could easily have cracked against the team and gone ‘right change everything’.
“They knew this team deserved the credit of them standing by them and they have been rewarded because since Christmas we have been first class.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)