Burnley Season Preview

burnley 2The Football Lab interviewed Burnley fan Jamie Smith, editor of nonaynever.net. Here, he discusses how Burnley benefited from having a small squad last season, Burnley’s survival chances, and with poor performances from Glen Johnson, he tips right-back Kieran Trippier to break into the England squad.

Working with one of the lower budgets in the division, Sean Dyche got you promoted in his first full campaign in charge. Would you agree he was robbed of the manager of the season award?

Probably, but I would hope Dyche wouldn’t be bothered about such a triviality. It would have been a nice bauble for him, but the true prize was a completely unexpected promotion to the Premier League, which he masterminded.

You’ve kept a consistent starting XI, so players have gelled very quickly. In that sense, has having a small squad worked in your favour?

Definitely and we were probably a little lucky to avoid serious injuries, but the sports science team at Turf Moor deserves lots of credit for that too. We found our best team pretty early in the season after Michael Kightly came in on loan and we stuck to it. That meant everyone knew their jobs inside out and we were drilled so well we competed in every single match. That meant we were always in a game and meant we were always likely to get a result. We were the fittest team in the division by a distance so in a number of matches, we simply outran the opposition. I’m not sure we’ll be able to do that this season, though.

To what extent will new signing Matt Gilks challenge keeper Tom Heaton for a starting place?

Gilks will probably fancy his chances of getting in the team at some stage, though Heaton had a very good season last year. Gilks has been quietly impressive at Blackpool, but there’s no doubt he’ll start on the bench. He’ll be excellent cover and will probably play cup games. It’s important to have a solid number two in case your first choice goalie goes through a bad patch of form. Heaton was superb last year but it’s not likely our defence will be able to protect him as well this season, so he’ll be under a lot more pressure.

Right-back Kieran Trippier has made the Championship team of the year on back-to-back occassions. You must be pleased he’s signed a new contract?

Arguably the signing of the summer for us so far. I didn’t expect him to stay, but he seems very happy and settled at Turf Moor. I rate him extremely highly and wouldn’t be surprised if he forces himself into England contention in the next couple of years. He has a trick or two in his locker and a wicked cross and he’s solid defensively too. I might have my claret and blue tinted spectacles on here but I honestly don’t think Glen Johnson is a better footballer.

Matthew Taylor is a player with plenty of Premier League experience with Portsmouth. How do you think he’ll fit into the side?

I reckon he might be first reserve for two or three different positions, at least initially. I don’t think he’d be in our strongest team, but he’ll probably end up starting 15-20 games. His set pieces should be an asset and his versatility will be important as our squad will be small.

According to Who Scored, you had the best disciplinary record in the Championship, with 49 yellow cards and 2 reds. Is this an indication of how well drilled the side is?

I’m surprised by that given Dean Marney seemed to get booked every week. It probably is a sign of how well drilled and disciplined we were last season. The midfield protected the defence and the defence protected the goalkeeper incredibly well. Both of those red cards were abysmal decisions, too.

Midfielder Craig Bryson had a very strong season for Derby. Were you disappointed not to have signed him?

Yes, because I felt he would have been a good fit and we could have used his goal threat from midfield. However, if he didn’t want to come and just used us to get a better deal from Derby, then it’s no great loss and we’ll move on to another target.

The Ings & Vokes striking duo was a factor in your promotion. However, very few lower Premier League sides play with two strikers, so could that partnership suffer?

We’re not likely to see that partnership again until next year as Vokes is recovering from a bad knee injury. We’ve only played one friendly so far but I suspect we’ll play 4-4-1-1 with Ings off Lukas Jutkiewicz initially, but I am worried we might be overrun in midfield given the number of Premier League teams that play one up top these days.

Sean Dyche signs Marvin Sordell, who has scored just 11 goals in 53 games. Is it fair to say he’s a striker who has much to prove?

Definitely. Sordell had a big reputation a couple of years and Bolton was a bad move for him, but you don’t turn into a poor player overnight. Dyche worked with him at Watford and obviously feels he can get him back to his best and for the low fee we’ve paid, it’s basically a punt. I’m sure Sordell is as surprised as anyone that he’s starting the season as a Premier League player, but the reality is he’s likely to be an option from the bench at best. His pace could hurt teams in the last 15 minutes and if he gets more than a couple of goals it will have been a good deal for us.

Most bookmakers have you at around 4/7 for relegation. Where will you finish?

Probably somewhere in the bottom five or six, but it’s far too early to say with three weeks to our first game and plenty of transfer activity to come (I hope!).

TFL Verdict

A defensively disciplined, hardworking side, with one of the best young managers in England. Burnley will be the surprise package of the season. 14th