The longest-serving manager in the Premier League was fired on Friday when Burnley got rid of Sean Dyche in a late-season gamble to avoid relegation from England’s lucrative top flight.
It’s a big call by Burnley’s American ownership, the ALK Capital investment group, given Dyche’s history and standing at a club where he has achieved so much — in relative terms — on one of the smallest budgets in the league.
He has been in charge since October 2012, during which time his team was promoted twice from the second-tier Championship, achieved two top-half finishes in the Premier League and qualified for Europe for the first time in 51 years.
However, with Burnley four points from safety with eight games left, chairman Alan Pace said he had to act now with the team’s top-flight status at such risk.
“Results this season have been disappointing,” said Pace, who only arrived at Burnley in the middle of last season, “and, while this was an incredibly difficult decision, with eight crucial games of the campaign remaining, we feel a change is needed to give the squad the best possible chance of retaining its Premier League status.”
With his gravelly voice and quirky humor, Dyche was one of the most distinctive and charismatic managers in the Premier League. A no-nonsense center back as a player, Dyche built a team that played in his image — direct, hard-working and physical.
Burnley posed a unique challenge for opponents, especially when they visited Turf Moor, but one that has become easier to negotiate this season as Dyche’s team struggled to escape the relegation scrap.
A 2-0 loss at last-place Norwich last weekend was a big blow to Burnley’s chances of staying up, coming just a few days after a morale-boosting 3-2 win over Everton — another team in relegation danger.
Waiting nearly a week to fire Dyche, as well as his entire first-team coaching staff, seems odd, too. Burnley play West Ham on Sunday, when under-23s coach MIke Jackson will be in charge and assisted by, among others, one of the team’s players in captain Ben Mee.
Pace described Dyche as “a credit both on and off the pitch” and someone “respected by players, staff, supporters, and the wider football community.”
That wasn’t enough to keep him in his job and Dyche will be a hard act to follow, whether Burnley stay in the Premier League or not.