Burnley caretaker boss Mike Jackson believes Sean Dyche’s sacking made it clear to the players the precarious position they find themselves in.
The Clarets are no strangers to a relegation battle, but this season feels different, with a side who have won only four league games all term showing few signs they are about to dig themselves out of this hole.
Dyche paid the price on Good Friday as the club abruptly ended his nine-and-a-half-year reign only months after giving him a new four-year contract.
“I think that can be a trigger for a team sometimes,” Jackson said. “It gives them a jolt. They think, ‘This is where we’re at, what do we do as a group now? Do we sit and wallow or do we come together and take on that challenge?’. From what I’ve seen so far that’s what they’ve done.”
Jackson, 48, has stepped up from his role as under-23s boss to lead an interim coaching staff that also includes injured club captain Ben Mee, securing a 1-1 draw in Sunday’s match at West Ham.
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It could have been more – Maxwel Cornet missed a penalty after Wout Weghorst headed Burnley in front – but equally Jackson was grateful to Nick Pope for saving them from defeat after Tomas Soucek levelled.
Jackson said he did not know how much longer he would remain in charge – chairman Alan Pace has asked him to take charge at home to Southampton on Thursday night but nothing more has been said, with Wolves due at Turf Moor on Sunday.
Ralf Rangnick has arguably seen the interim tag undermine his authority at Manchester United but, given Burnley’s position, Jackson said his own situation was completely different.
“I can only go back to what I’ve seen from the group in the last few days,” he said. “If you’d been in that dressing room before the game and seen that group come together, you’d see why I’m answering as I am.
“I’ve seen what it meant to them and what they were like after, they were really disappointed they didn’t come away with more. I told them not to be too disappointed because there were some really good signs.”
The draw left Burnley three points from safety going into the midweek fixtures, and perhaps needing to win as many games in the final seven fixtures of the season as they have managed all campaign.
But Jackson insisted there was every reason to believe they are capable of a great escape.
“Definitely I believe it,” he said. “I’m going to say that, but there’s enough within this group. This group have been there before. You see the response the other day and how they all came together.
“There’s a lot of football to be played, a lot of points to play for. It’s not going to be defined by tomorrow night. It’s going to be defined in the last game of the season, that’s when we’ll be told if we’re good enough. I think this group is good enough.”
Sunday’s draw was overshadowed by a horrible ankle injury for Ashley Westwood, whose leg appeared to buckle underneath him.
Jackson said he still did not know the precise nature of the injury, with the midfielder due to see a specialist on Wednesday.
“He’s going down to see a surgeon today with the doctor and we’ll know a bit more today on whether he needs further in terms of an operation,” Jackson said.
“He’s such a popular member of the group and I think that’s another thing we can tap into, to try and put a smile on the lad’s face when he turns the TV on tomorrow and remember what we’re doing it for.”