Dale Husband reports on a mixed campaign for the Clarets.
I think it’s safe to say, it’s been a season of ups and downs. From the free-flowing, exciting but yet leaky team of Eddie Howe to the restricted, not so exciting, yet stubborn, team of Sean Dyche.
Many of us fans would argue ‘what if’ Howe had stayed, would we be following suit of Wolves and the like? Or would we be breathing down the necks of Zola’s Udinese Reserves? We will never know. But what we do know is, the lack of wins and goals nearly dragged us into a relegation nightmare if it wasn’t for the rampant quickfire of wins at the season’s end.
Austin has to be the stand out success of the Howe rein. Signing in Eddie’s first few months in charge, his first few months of last season, he was stifled by injuries. But this time Austin was quick out of the blocks in first start with a goal against Owen Coyle’s Wanderers on the opening day and went on to rack up an impressive 28 goals, which, many would say, has saved our skins at the end of the day.
But it was a team effort, as Austin pointed on numerous occasions; it was the constant supply of good balls from the ever improving Kieran Trippier and young, talented Stanislas. That, though, was under the Howe era, and holes did readily appear in the Clarets defence. The philosophy ‘we will score one more than you’ was soon to be on the lips of many and they weren’t far wrong.
A 5-2 win against Peterborough wasn’t long followed by a 3-4 defeat to Crystal Palace. The Clarets inability to hold on to a lead was starting to show. But this began the amazing twist of the season. Within a matter of weeks, Howe was reportedly unsettled with life in the north and opted for a move back to his former employers on the south coast at Bournemouth.
Stunned, the board quickly drew up a shortlist. Names were battered about among fans and the media alike. Mick McCarthy? Billy Davies? Even our neighbours gaffer, Ian Holloway? But, as what many would describe as the ‘cheap option’, Dyche was pulled into the helm, as Pashley guided the Clarets to an impressive run of results, including a win over local rivals Blackpool, before bowing out in a 4-0 defeat at Cardiff as Dyche watched on.
Then started the Dyche era, with an almighty bang. Two successive home wins in impressive fashion over Wolves and Leeds sparked a wave of optimism to flow through Turf Moor again and a sense that, maybe, just maybe, a bright future was imminent.
That though was followed with back-to-back defeats and a run of just two wins in ten games which highlighted, again, Burnley’s inconsistency, but in a different fashion. The defence, in most aspects, was beginning to tighten up. But so were the goals going in at the other end. Just the nine goals in the ten games wasn’t what the Burnley faithful were used to under Howe.
Three wins during January propelled Burnley into an unlikely play-off challenge, but just four wins in 18 wasn’t good enough for anything of the sort and a relegation scare was the more likely outcome and that’s just what we experienced. The talk of ‘Gillingham and Preston next season’ became a real possibility.
But Burnley being Burnley, we did it the hard way and left it to the last away day to secure Championship football next season and effectively relegate our opponents Wolves at the same time.
A final day victory over Ipswich ended what was an unusual yet disappointing season. Dyche still has many doubters to prove wrong and, I’m sure, has gained a few more doubters along the way in his term so far. What can he do with his ‘own squad’? We’ll see. But optimism isn’t the word being banded around the hallowed Turf at the moment.
What did you make of the season as a whole? Comment below.