Sean Dyche is once again under pressure to find solutions in the transfer market
Credit: NMC POOL
Burnley headed off the threat of Premier League relegation with something to spare in the end last season, finishing one place but 11 points clear of the drop zone, as they secured their top-flight status for a sixth successive campaign.
But manager Sean Dyche and owners ALK Capital, who completed a buy-out of the club last December, face a big summer on and off the field. Telegraph Sport takes a detailed look at a bulging in-tray at Turf Moor.
The onus on Dyche to strengthen a small and ageing squad is pressing, particularly after the disappointment of last summer when, despite losing Jeff Hendrick, Aaron Lennon and Joe Hart, only veteteran midfielder Dale Stephens and reserve goalkeeper Will Norris were brought in. Burnley’s £1 million spend was by far the lowest in the league and one-fiftieth of relegated Sheffield United’s outlay. They have just 19 senior outfield players on their books and the squad is the second oldest on average in the Premier League after Crystal Palace.
Burnley are expected to complete the signing of Wayne Hennessey on a free transfer in the next 48 hours after the 34-year-old Wales goalkeeper left Palace at the end of last month and the club have already bought the Ireland Under-21 centre-back Nathan Collins from Stoke City for £12m. But Dyche – who said this month that he had been assured there is money to spend – would like another four to five signings, depending on potential departures, before the close of the window on Aug. 31.
Dwight McNeil and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are Burnley’s only recognised wide players following the exit last month of Robbie Brady and Dyche ideally wants two wingers. Ashley Young rejected Burnley in order to move to Villa from Inter Milan. Marc Albrighton has entered the final year of his contract with Leicester and is a target but the 31-year-old could stay with the 2016 Premier League champions. Lyon’s Maxwel Cornet has crossed Burnley’s radar but the club would face a serious challenge to recruit him. Manchester United are demanding up to £25m for Daniel James which puts the Wales winger out of Burnley’s reach.
Midfielder Josh Benson has been the subject of a projected £1m bid from Barnsley but if he was to go he may need replacing since Jack Cork, Ashley Westwood, Josh Brownhill and Stephens are the only other established central midfielders.
Burnley are also looking for a new long-term right back with Matt Lowton and Phil Bardsley 32 and 36 respectively.
With Ben Gibson having left for Norwich for £8m and Jimmy Dunne signing for Queens Park Rangers, Dyche is also thought to still be in the market for another central defender. James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Kevin Long are his other options there but Tarkowski is likely to leave as a free agent at the end of the season. Burnley admire Nat Phillips but he is unlikely to leave Liverpool unless it was for a guarantee of regular first-team football, particularly as he could get minutes at Anfield depending on how Virgil van Djik and Joe Gomez fare after serious long-term injuries. The Nottingham Forest defender, Joe Worrall, has been on Burnley’s radar for some time. Goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell seems likely to leave on loan, with Hennessey due to arrive.
Liverpool's Nat Phillips is a target for Burnley
Credit: NMC POOL
Dyche hit out at Burnley’s hierarchy last season for allowing contracts to run down but the manager finds himself in a similar predicament once more. Tarkowski and Mee are two of nine players who have entered the final 12 months of their existing deals. Tarkowski – who was the subject of bids from Leicester and West Ham last year – is expected to see out this season before leaving on a free transfer next summer and it remains to be seen if others follow suit. Two of those players, Cork and forward Ashley Barnes, are thought to have options to extend for another year to June 2023. Mee, the Burnley captain, is expected to be offered a new deal but strikers Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra, left back Erik Pieters and Stephens and Bardsley are also due to become free agents at the end of the season. Goalkeeper Nick Pope – who was forced to miss the Euros with England due to injury – is expected to stay but Burnley could be vulnerable to a big offer for the jewel in their crown, McNeil, who has attracted interest from Villa.
There is another big contract up at the end of the season, too – that of the manager. Dyche has been central to Burnley’s success since taking charge in October 2012 and is currently the longest serving manager in the Premier League. Alan Pace, the Burnley chairman, has talked about how Dyche is “hugely important” to ALK’s plans and it is anticipated that the 50-year-old will put pen to paper on a new deal.
But Dyche – whose relationship with former chairman Mike Garlick had soured to the point that communication between the pair was limited – has sought assurances from ALK over transfer budgets and the playing squad during his discussions with the owners, conscious that it is becoming harder every year to work wonders on such a relatively small budget. Fans are concerned about how much more Dyche can squeeze out of the existing squad without investment. Burnley lost seven of their final nine Premier League games last season and face a forbidding start to the new campaign, with Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and champions Manchester City to play in their opening eight matches.
Sean Dyche is in the last year of his Burnley contract
Credit: Ian Hodgson
ALK have been busy making changes behind the scenes since acquiring control on Dec. 31 last year as part of their plans to modernise the club. Neil Hart departed as chief executive in March and has since taken up the same position with Bolton Wanderers. Former Burnley chief executive David Baldwin has returned to the club in an advisory capacity to assist chief operating officer Matt Williams. John Pepper has left as Burnley’s head of academy and the former Middlesbrough coach Paul Jenkins has been working as a technical consultant for ALK.
A respected figure within the game who spent more than 25 years on the coaching staff at Middlesbrough, Jenkins has been well received at Burnley. Uncertainty continues to surround the position of technical director, Mike Rigg, who has not been seen at the club for months. Rigg, formerly technical director at Manchester City and QPR and chief football officer at Fulham, was brought to Burnley in November 2018 but his future at the club remains unclear. ALK want to dramatically improve the way the club identify and develop young talent as they look at ways to better service the first team, boost income streams and adapt to an increasingly competitive transfer market and, most noticeably, struck a partnership with the player recruitment platform, AiSCOUT.
Burnley are expected to announce a new shirt sponsor imminently to coincide with the launch of the club’s official new home strip after the previous £7.5m a year partnership with Love Bet ended prematurely. The club announced last week that AstroPay, the online global payment solution, would become their shirt sleeve sponsor for next season. Burnley’s long-standing commercial director, Anthony Fairclough, is another figure who is moving on as part of ALK’s shake-up as Pace seeks new ways to swell the club’s commercial income streams. Burnley recently announced plans to install digital branding and LED big screen technology at Turf Moor in a bid to increase exposure for the club’s commercial partners. There have also been changes to the club’s media team.