Manager in the media: Burnley’s Sean Dyche

Date published: Friday 30th November 2018 12:45

Johnny’s new series takes a positive look at managers in the media and what we like about them. This week it’s the turn of a man who sounds like a sheet of sandpaper that magically learned to talk. That’ll be Sean Dyche, then…


Who Are Ya?
Despite sounding as though he is constructed entirely out of Yorkshire millstone grit, was actually born in Kettering, Northamptonshire. Is his a Kettering accent? Does Kettering even have an accent? Or is Kettering a verb? I suspect Sean would already be annoyed by these questions and would put some worms in his mouth as banter instead.

Spent his playing career as a defender mostly for Chesterfield, but also Watford, Millwall and Northampton. Style of play would be most accurately called ‘robust’ and doubtless involved actual barking and using his body as a small tactical nuclear weapon.

Started in the dug out under Malky Mackay at Watford, which doesn’t sound like a job for a sensitive boy. When the Scotsman left for Cardiff City, Sean took over the hot seat and enjoyed a 34.7% win rate before being snaffled by Burnley long ago in the dim and distant days of 2012. So far, has got them promoted to the Premier League twice and relegated once. Their seventh-place finish was the highest in the top flight since 1974 and the glory days of Ralph Coates, Martin Dobson and Leighton James.

Since doing well with Burnley, he’s become the favourite of some pundits to paint as unfairly overlooked for a top job even though the reasons that has happened are hardly difficult to work out. This season it’s all going a bit tits up, but he can rest assured that he won’t ever hear anyone in the mainstream media saying it might just be Sean’s fault in whole, or in part.


Cunning Linguist?
Has a simply magnificent voice that is unmistakably his. Could have had a good career as the voice of the devil in cheap horror movies. Easy to mistake it for the sound of someone sandpapering a door with a badger. However, it is the ideal instrument for shouting very loudly into a stiff wind that is blowing off the Pennines. Of course, this specific timbre does tend to make people think that you are incapable of anything more nuanced or subtle, which may be unfair.

Does have a habit of dropping posh words into sentences such as ‘automaticity.’ How this is received depends on whether you think it reflects real learning, or that it is a pretentious affectation to make himself look well-read and intelligent. In the same way, some feel he sounds like a motivational speaker in a Holiday Inn meeting room of PPI cold callers, while others think he’s an honest, thoughtful, deep thinker about the game and great man manager. Maybe he is all of these.

However, it is always good to hear managers expand their lexicon of expressions beyond the usual hoary old nonsense. Hopefully, he’ll be telling us he enjoys the tintinnabulation of Christmas soon.

Was keen to tell us that “I’ve never been a brandist, I don’t use words like philosophy”. No but you do use words like “brandist” though, Sean, which almost no-one else ever does. And by the way, not being a brandist actually sounds very like part of your philosophy of management.

But whichever side of the fence you fall on about Sean, all of this is very good stuff and absolutely what makes him unique and enjoyable.


Media Hit or Miss?
Oh he’s a huge media hit. One of the biggest. The TV loves him for his uncompromising, like-a-bouncer-outside-a-nightclub appearance, as much as anything else. Has a very distinct image and the sort of facial hair my missus has always called ‘a fanny beard’.

In another life he could’ve been a road manager for a metal band, maybe touring South America with Iron Maiden, barking orders out to roadies, arguing with local promoters, wearing a bullet belt, an old Motorhead t-shirt and a massive set of keys dangling from his belt loop. Uses a cricket bat to administer rough justice to uncooperative foreigns. Definitely missed his vocation in this regard. Almost certainly manages Burnley in the exact same manner.

On radio he is just as distinctive and very good at testing the woofers on your speakers. From a media perspective he’s everything you want because he always stirs up a response from listeners and viewers and divides opinion.

As mentioned, he’s also the PFM-ocracy’s favourite go-to proof of their notion that British managers are discriminated against by top clubs, because of having a good season at Burnley is obviously qualification for managing Arsenal or Chelsea and I can’t believe he’s not even mentioned, Jeff. *rolls eyes and looks from side to side, as astonished as if a dog with two heads had just walked in the room and started singing show tunes*

They also routinely paint him as doing great work on a shoestring budget as though he was manager of Darlington and not what was reported as the 30th richest club on earth due to huge TV money. This is all classic PFM-ing. Of course what none seem to realise yet is that it is their whining about such men that is part of the problem because it makes them appear puffed up beyond their substance.

At the peak of this two years ago, Sean embraced the PFM love and began to refer to himself as being a dinosaur compared to sexy modern foreign types, when he was actually quite innovative (more classic PFM-ery this going back to people even now referring to Big Sam’s use of Prozone as proof of modernity and putting big Kev Nolan on that vibrating metal plate. See also: David Moyes’ ‘hi-tech bunker’ which included a laptop and a whiteboard).

Sadly for Sean, as far as anyone could tell, no-one had actually called him a dinosaur or indeed even had a bad word to say about how well he was doing with Burnley. This was all very unfortunate, unwarranted chippiness which at times veered into more sulphurous territories. However, he’s backed well away from this sort of nonsense over the last year or more and has begun to look all the more rounded, attractive and sophisticated for it.


Proper Football Man Rating: 89%
Loses some points for using long words and giving up on the dinosaur thing rather than doubling down on it. However, his PFM Rating remains high because …

Was a massive lower-league angry defender. All defenders should be massive and angry, Jeff, especially if they’re ginger.

Has the physique built for drinking shots of fermented otter, Windolene and snake venom with Reidy, with a look of anger and insanity in his eyes, like an extra from the Deerhunter.

Looks able to give someone an absolutely massive right-hander.

Could be a coach driver.

Has sucked worms, but certainly not eaten them. That’s top banter boys.

Gave Joe Hart a contract.

Is struggling this year despite having one of the largest budgets available to him in world football. He just needs time, Jeff. Six years in nothing.

Can pull off the club tie, dark blue double-breasted blazer ‘n’ dark grey slacks look beloved of all PFMs.

English and only speaks English.

Can remember inspirational quotes out of a self-help book. That’s proper clever, that is, Jeff. It’s like getting someone clever to think up stuff for you.


What The People Say
‘My impression is that for all the chippy business, there’s a lot of goodwill towards, Sean amongst the public. He has done a great job at Burnley and clearly has a talent for man-management. The sort of chap people may take the pish out of but respect all the same.’

‘Saw the Burnley team in a hotel near Huddersfield a few years ago. It was like watching the games teacher in charge of a school trip.’

‘He seems to have canned the “no one appreciate me because I’m English stuff” over the past year. Saw an interview a while back where he was talking about the rave scene, can’t get the image of him with white gloves and dilated pupils out of my mind now.’

‘He eats worms. That’s enough for me’

‘Has the look of a garage mechanic about to charge you an awful lot for changing a catalytic converter…’

‘Previous seasons: “I never blame the referee. “This season: “The referee made a clear mistake there” Has probably been on a management speak course.’

‘What really annoys me about Dyche is that he is clearly an educated, intelligent man who feels the need to hide his middle class upbringing and sophistication behind a PFM veneer…’

‘Would also be fascinating to see if he bombs or is hugely successful coaching outside the UK. Could easily see it going either way.’

‘A distinctive voice. The most old school manager of all those around his age in the Premier League. Based solely on hearing him speak you’d think he was 30 years older than he actually is.’

‘Every time he starts to grow on me, he ruins it with some chippy dig about how hard done by he is. He’s not unappreciated, anyone can see he’s done a great job at Burnley but he still seems bitter. Media pretending to take the worm eating quote at face value still very funny mind.’

‘I’m supposed to like the bloke, he’s taken my club to the Premiership. But I can’t stand him. Full of hypocrisy. Insists we play decent football. We don’t. Protests about cheating and diving, when large portions of our attacking play is structured around ‘physicality.’’

‘My impression of him apparently sounds like Peter Baynham using the voicebox in the Alan Partridge “Ladyboy” scene. I’m not sure that’s useful for the article but there you go.’

‘Somewhat a master of his own branding. Proud to wear his bullish heart on his sleeve and claim his honesty, strength and claim limitations as benefits. Smarter than folk give him credit for in building that branding. But, in essence, it’s all hot air. Pragmatic percentage football is what it is, no matter what you call it. Prince to the Pulis/Allardyce throne’

‘The chip on his shoulder grows exponentially larger each season. He should have left Burnley last season when his stock was high. Still, it’s easier to moan about a lack of recognition than pursue opportunities. Not a fan, but the worm thing was amusing I guess.’

‘He’s spun straw into gold really. Had no right to steer Burnley to 7th in the Premier League last season and, previously to that, impressive in the Championship to land promotion ahead of other bigger-spending rivals. His man management must be very strong.’

‘Huge chip on his shoulder. Has done a very good job but it’s pretty basic tactics. Deserves credit in a way for sticking with what works despite the general opposition to that type of football. But it’s clearly limited. Deffo the next Fat Sam.’

‘Remains the manager I’d most like to take to a Christine and The Queens concert.’

‘I refuse to believe that he wasn’t a bearded and shaven headed baby with a gravelly little voice. Seems like a nice bloke on the occasions the chip on his shoulder is shed.’

‘I’m starting to see a bit of dry humour there this/last season. And he’s stopped bollocking on about being called a dinosaur which is for the best. Another 10 seasons of lightning up will see him doing Barry White covers in a glitter suit on sport relief if we’re lucky.’


How Long Has He Got?
Contracted to 2022 but things are looking a bit ropey. Are there three worse teams in the league at the moment? Possibly not. If things don’t pick up markedly and soon, he knows what’s coming. Six years in the same job is like 36 in real money.

To all those who insist he should have a chance at a bigger job, maybe they’re right, but he won’t in England and that’s not unfair given who he is potentially competing against. You wanna play on the big stage, then you gotta go global.

Win some trophies in Portugal and Greece and maybe you too could manage Everton because frankly, finishing seventh with Burnley in the Premier League isn’t a better achievement than winning anything, pretty much anywhere else.

It’d be great to see him go to Germany and see what he could do. It’s proven to be a great league for developing good managers into great ones. If he doesn’t and just keeps slumming it around the arse end of the Premier League or taking over relegated sides in the Championship, he’ll become his generation’s version of Mark Hughes and no-one wants that on their CV. Not even Mark Hughes.

But the greatest sadness is that me, you and doubtless Sean too, all know this isn’t going to happen, that he’ll keep working over here and that he will fail to realise his full potential as a result. Even so, he’s good value and will doubtless keep us entertained for many years to come.


John Nicholson

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