Can this season be judged a success?

Burnley FC Burnley FC
Jamie Smith April 9, 2013
 2 years ago

A top-half finish could bring us some positivity for the summer, writes Jamie Smith.

Less than a fortnight ago, I wrote on these pages that the Club’s negativity was starting to have a stifling effect on the Club. The fans were bored, the team was slipping down the league and nobody was excited about going to the Turf any more.

But even now, after a 3-1 home win against bottom side Bristol City that lifted us into the top half, there’s a sign of improvement, some progress ahead of the summer.

One win in 12 has become four games unbeaten – a vast difference – while we’re up in the right half of the division, within striking of the top ten. The play-offs remain well out of reach, but we’re as close to them as the bottom three now.

Last year, a promising campaign petered out with a four-match winless run at the end of the season and we finished in 13th place with 62 points on the board.

Sean Dyche now has a great chance to show he’s had a positive impact on the Club in the few months since his arrival and a top-half finish would be something to remind his detractors of all summer.

With five games to go, including a couple of derbies at Blackpool and Leeds United next up, we’re in 11th with 54 points. It’s conceivable we’ll finish in the top half with fewer points than last year, simply due to how tight the Championship is this year.

I’ve been first in line to criticise Dyche at times, but he deserves credit for turning around a seriously concerning dip in form during February and March.

Draws against Watford and Nottingham Forest – two sides aiming for promotion – were highly creditable results, while we were very unfortunate not to win at Ewood Park.

A victory over Bristol City might be nothing to crow about, but anything less would have left us in serious trouble and we got the result we needed. Trailing 1-0 at half-time to Albert Adomah’s strike, the relegation fears were becoming all too real.

So Dyche has to be praised for leading his side to a first victory from behind since taking over at Turf Moor in October, though he has Lee Grant to thank for his superb penalty save at 2-1. Grant has strengthened his hand in his contract negotiations with some brilliant displays in recent weeks.

3-1 arguably flattered the Clarets at full-time, with Martin Paterson’s sharp finish in injury time putting the gloss on the win after Chris McCann smartly gave us the lead soon after skipper Jason Shackell – continuing his tremendous form – headed us level.

But the statistics – 25 shots for us to their three – show we were dominant throughout, as we rightly should have been against comfortably the worst team in the league.

The challenge for Dyche will now be to extend our four-match unbeaten run through the testing trips to Bloomfield Road and Elland Road in the next week, before we host league leaders Cardiff City at Turf Moor.

Wolves away and Ipswich at home brings our season to a close and it’s important we have a strong finish. League placings can make all the difference when persuading players to sign up for next season, not to mention persuading the likes of McCann, Grant and Dean Marney to sign new contracts.

Blackpool and Leeds are both still anxiously looking over their shoulders and with our 54 points looking to have sealed Championship status for next season, we can start to play with some freedom.

Sam Vokes has been restored to the starting line-up and this has helped us to score four goals in the last two games, even though he hasn’t found the net himself. He’s a real handful for defenders and he creates space for the likes of Charlie Austin and Junior Stanislas to exploit.

We lost at Middlesbrough and Huddersfield when Vokes partnered Austin at the start of the season, but since then we’ve won four, drawn one and lost one of the six matches he’s started, including a run of three straight victories when Austin was injured in January.

Perhaps next season, when he will probably lead the line in Austin’s expected absence, he will really kick on and be a Steven Thompson-type player who can improve those around him.

If the Clarets can push on and finish in the top ten – Middlesbrough in ninth spot are only a point ahead of us – Dyche can be relatively happy with himself.

The football hasn’t been fun to watch a lot of the time, but we’ve done okay considering the inevitable problems caused by losing a manager midway through a season. Eddie Howe, meanwhile, has worked miracles and has his Bournemouth side in the running for promotion. He could be back at Turf Moor next season.

Dyche will have the chance to rebuild during the summer and put his own stamp on the team. Austin’s sale should provide him with a sizeable transfer budget and we can properly start to judge him at around Christmas.

But for now, a place in the top half has to be the aim for the rest of the season.

Can this season be judged a success? Comment below.

  • Kevin Robinson
    Kevin Robinson

    The Championship this season is so bizarre – I had to double check your quip about being as close to the top-6 as bottom-3. Unbelievable.

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to Kevin Robinson

      It’s absolutely crazy. It’s always strange but this season has been next level oddness. I literally can’t believe we’re a point behind ninth.

  • Mike Mada

    There have been signs of improvement since Eddie left and I suppose we have had a few unfortunate decisions too (I don’t want to go on about that – a place where Dyche slipped to). The defence seems to have a better idea now, though inconsistent – the experience of this year will stand us in good stead for next year and there are some good young players coming through.

    The challenge will be that inconsistency as well as converting the 25 chances into many more goals next season, especially without Austin. The goals for figures look a bit bare without him, with Pato next highest scorer with just 5! This needs to be addressed or we will struggle next time.

    Progress, I think so, but the jury is out whether that can be converted into something more valuable. Winning most of the remaining games will end the season on a high and set us up nicely for the start of next season.

    • John Smithin reply to Mike Mada

      There remains enough games for the team to lift themselves from mid-table to a healthier position but with a number of players still unsure about their contracts i wonder whether the motivation exists for them.
      I was relieved we took the points from the Bristol game but couldnt get carried away with the way we did it, and thats my problem, i expect us to beat the teams in the lower half [and comfortably].
      It depends how we see ourselves, building a team capable of finishing higher or scrapping with the rest of them to avoid the drop.
      I suggest that Sean has probably delivered the remit from the board to keep us in there, but needs to reduce the playing budget which remains crucial to our further and long term existence. If we now have enough points and are “safe” perhaps he can now decide who stays and who will move-on.
      We need a degree of investment, the efforts being taken to improve recruitment/development will take time to evolve before real production becomes evident.
      Its been a long time since i heard journalists waxing lyrical about a Burnley team?

  • scott

    10 weeks without a home game on a saturday has made a massive difference. There should be rules against this, i think its ruined our season!!

    • Kevin Robinson
      Kevin Robinsonin reply to scott

      I don’t see how it makes any difference in the slightest to anybody but the fans.

  • ian mills

    so we are definate that austins going then, which is a big shame. everytime we get a top striker we cash him in. this shows a lack of ambition and just how money grabbing the board are. they should keep him and show the fans that they want sucess for the club, instead of lining their pockets. you can bet your bottom dollar that dyche wont get all the money from his sale. the excuses will be back out and we will be back to square one with the strikeforce. things will be even worse if pato doesnt sign a new contract, then we will end up with some cheap randomer coming in from league 2….
    Burnley, you need to show us fans some commitment, and you need to do it this summer…

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to ian mills

      I’m assuming so. He only has a year left on his contract. If you were Charlie, would you even think about signing a new one with us?

    • Kevin Robinson
      Kevin Robinsonin reply to ian mills

      I’d rather we cash in than lose him for nothing.

  • Steve Kelly

    Has to be a qualified success in the context of Eddie leaving. If we had not tightened the defence we would be down there for sure due to the Eddie disruption. As we have seen the expectation at Turf is v high, leading to a niggly atmosphere, and that affects the team, which Eddie won’t suffer from at AFCB. He may well do OK in the Champ next season but that doesn’t mean he would have done OK with us. Dyche removing the “fear” mentality is his biggest success if he achieves it – we need those kind of players at the Turf. Bit off on a tangent but great Dr Steve Peters interview in Independant this week about why that is cutting edge sports psychology at the mo.

  • Alex

    As a season ticket holder who has to travel 2 hours on the motorway to see a home game, its been frustrating many a time to trail back home after losing/drawing in the final minute, and almost as difficult to even drag myself to each game after the previous weeks disappointment. However, I feel this season has to be judged a success even with recent frustrations. Howe left, leaving many of the players unsure on how they should play, they’d just spent a year trying to play Howe’s slow build up along-the-floor style, and now would have to adapt again- difficult. Attendances have been low and fans have been fickle, and I for one hate to see a team booed even when they’ve played badly, how on earth is that going to make them play better? Sing them on for god’s sake!! Those two factors alone have limited our season, and if we finish strongly or even in the top half- I feel we have the basis of a decent team at Burnley. It’s of vital importance now that we stick with Dyche, do not fire him or lose patience with him, consistency is how clubs progress, and in maybe 2 season’s time I feel Dyche will have integrated his style enough so the players are comfortable, and we are playing well. This season has been the starting blocks if you like, we have stumbled a little, but in the long run i have every belief that with a few new players we can be a very successful team.

  • Sean Cole

    With regards to Austin leaving, I actually think it’s a good thing. It’s easy to point to the number of goals he’s scored and questioning how we will replace them, but other sides who don’t have an Austin (or Rhodes/Murray) have managed to score a similar amount or more than us. His all round game is not great and whilst it was better earlier in the season it has been really poor since he returned from injury. Even though he’s still scoring a credible amount of goals, the early season golden touch has disappeared and he has been pretty wasteful in recent months.

    Only time will tell, but history tells us that there are such fine lines in this division. If Ings and Vokes can develop a partnership and we invest what money we have wisely we’re not that far off the top 6.

    • Colinin reply to Sean Cole

      I listened to Sean Dyche on Late kick off on Monday and after being a great fan of his when he first arrived, I am now unsure where he will take us. I still can’t work out what has happened to Charlie’s form, so for me we must get him scoring again and get as much as we can for him to build a Dyche team for the future. I am holding back on my season ticket for now to see what the squad looks like in August.

  • simon demaline

    its a very tough leauge tight leauge ,,,,dyche has to be given time at least to show us wat he can do ,,,,, under eddie howe we would have been in danger ,,,,loesing 4.3 every game ,,,, give him some money

  • simon demaline

    a manager who can build a STRONG Defence could take us up an sean Seems like he CAN DO THAT ,,,since comeing in give this man some money

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