As Burnley chairman Alan Pace sat down with candidates to replace long-serving manager Sean Dyche this week, fears continued to swirl around Turf Moor over what the future holds for the beleaguered Clarets.
Sources close to the club have told Sportsmail that Dyche’s unexpected departure on Friday follows a pattern that has seen around 20 staff leave in 14 months under the American’s ownership.
With many ‘stalwarts’ gone, and debts stacked against the club as relegation looms, Burnley are in a more precarious position now than they have been for years, it’s claimed.
Sean Dyche has been a persistent and reassuring presence for Burnley fans for a decade
And it is suggested Pace, and the club’s US owners, underestimated the connection between Dyche and the supporters after nine-and-a-half years in charge, making him deserving of a ‘Wenger-style’ send-off that never came.
‘The Americans do not know the game, they do not know Burnley,’ a source told Sportsmail, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
‘They have made a mess of it. The amount of people who have left… Good people who have dedicated years and years to the club. They have built it and delivered success. People who live in the town and know the supporters.
‘But it has all gone down the drain, now. The owners don’t care what Burnley has done over the last 15 years. They don’t get it.
‘The club is up to its eyeballs in debt. No manager, no chief executive. What’s going on?’
Burnley have survived in the Premier League despite being a small town with a local fan-base
Pace and ALK took over Burnley in December 2020 for £170M through a leveraged buyout, which used the club’s own funds to complete the purchase, as well as £60M borrowed from the lender, MSD Capital.
If Burnley are relegated, revenues will be reduced dramatically, since more than 80 per cent of the club’s income stemmed from top flight TV revenues in the latest accounts.
Sportsmail previously reported that MSD would have to be repaid should the club go down. But Pace has insisted the financial model is sustainable, an argument he repeated last week.
Even before the latest exodus, which saw Dyche, Ian Woan, Steve Stone, goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer and lead physio Alasdair Beattie head out of the door, a raft of senior figures left Burnley in the months after the ALK takeover.
The exodus of staff has included Sean Dyche, but also his team, including assistant Ian Woan
The technical director, Mike Rigg, the academy manager, Jon Pepper, the head of commercial affairs, Anthony Fairclough, the media chief, Darren Bentley, and the chief executive, Neil Hart, all went.
Others left too, from a range of departments at various ranks including media, commercial, events and ticketing. Insiders estimate about 20 have gone in total.
The precise circumstances of Dyche’s departure remain unclear. But one source who has spoken to the former manager said tension with the owners ‘had been building up’ throughout the season, although there was ‘no plan’ for succession when Pace pulled the trigger.
When it came, it appears to have been a snap decision to oust Dyche, since he and his coaches had been preparing the team to face West Ham throughout the week, following the defeat at Norwich.
Burnley chairman Alan Pace said it was an ‘incredibly difficult decision’ to sack Dyche
Either way, Pace’s sacking of Dyche will define the chairman’s tenure in the Burnley hot-seat
While others thought it was a just a ‘ridiculous’ decision at any point
Many fans could not believe the Burnley chairman had removed Dyche with eight games to go
Burnley fans took to Twitter to express their incredulity at the decision by Pace to sack Dyche
The pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to London was already organised with journalists on their way.
‘This about power and control,’ said an insider. ‘Sean was powerful. Everything went through him. He had been there a long time. The staff would go to Sean. The Americans did not like that. They want control. This is what it is about. Pace is involved in everything.
‘Pace thought Sean Dyche was in their mould but he wasn’t. And as they have worked together, they have realised that is not the case.
‘The previous board would never have done this. They would have said, “you are the manager to bring us back”. And they would have been right.
‘The owners are taking a massive gamble. The next six to 12 months will be pivotal. It worries me.’
Supporters have their own views on whether Dyche’s brand of football had run its course at Turf Moor, but many would share the view that he has been badly treated in how the departure was handled.
Dyche guided Burnley to two promotions during his 10 years in charge of the Lancashire club
Burnley’s current position in the top flight of the English football is a lofty spot for a small Lancashire town.
After plumbing the depths of the Football League in the eighties and nineties, Burnley clawed their way back up to the Championship under careful stewardship.
An unexpected promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs in 2009 ended in disappointment after Owen Coyle and his coaching team left for Bolton mid-season, and some fans feared they had seen the last of the Clarets in the top flight.
But then came Sean Dyche, who gave a generation of supporters unimagined success with two promotions and a sustained spell in the Premier League, as well as a complete overhaul of the training ground and academy.
‘If you want to change a manager, do it in the right way. Sean deserved the opportunity to see the season out,’ said the source.
‘Get to the end of the season and if we want to change it give him a Wenger-style send off, that is the better way to do it. A respectful way. Giving the guy his dues for what he has achieved at Burnley. Just to sack him with no chance to say goodbye to fans… that is not right.’
‘That is what they have missed, Sean Dyche’s connection to the fans, the town and the community. They will never get the fans back now.’
Arsene Wenger’s last game in charge of Arsenal, after almost 22 years at the helm, was in May 2018 when the Gunners beat Burnley 5-0 at the Emirates. After the game, Wenger was serenaded by fans before the Frenchman gave an emotional speech on the pitch.
Pace made no secret of the fact that he intended to modernise Burnley when he and ALK took over, starting with fan experience and recruitment. And he has taken on both of those challenges during his tenure.
Pace issued a statement following Dyche’s departure explaining results ‘have been disappointing’ and a change was needed to give the squad the best chance of staying up.
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was given a rousing send off on the pitch when he left
During the weekend and this week, Pace has been interviewing candidates for the role with former Norwich boss Daniel Farke, Chris Wilder and Sam Allardyce among those to have been linked.
In the days before Dyche’s sacking, Pace gave an interview to Lancs Live, in which he gave no indication of the bombshell he was about to drop, and again offered reassurance over the club’s financial stability.
‘The idea is to build a sustainable club forever, but in the Premier League and hopefully competing someday for trophies. But that has to start somewhere,’ he said.
‘So, would we rather be a Championship club and operating the way some would like, not buying players or doing some of the things we are doing? Or would you rather take some chances?’
Pace has employed a data-driven approach to transfers this season, which has seen the exciting Maxwel Cornet arrive from Lyon and Wout Weghorst from Wolfsburg.
Pace is accused of underestimating the relationship between the town and Sean Dyche, who has a pub named after him
The chairman led on those deals, a role Dyche played in the past. In addition, Pace has delivered some improvements to the stadium.
‘The last thing we want to do is be in a position that is difficult financially, for everyone’s perspective,’ added Pace. ‘We are putting up money to change some things, and we are trying to get it to a good place but it is all a work-in-progress. I think people over time will come to understand and love the way we are going about it.
‘It is very important to be in the Premier League, that is our goal,’ said Pace. ‘We want a level of consistency so that people don’t even question it. However, it is not the end of the world if we go down, it should focus us to get back as quickly as possible and make us put our energies and efforts in because it is that important to us.’
Burnley players have addressed the departure of Dyche since the team secured a 1-1 draw at West Ham on Sunday, with centre back James Tarkowski, who is set to leave the club in the summer, leading the way.
‘Since I’ve been here, I’ve only known the gaffer (Dyche) so the first couple of days training just didn’t seem right with him not being there. The club felt that it was the right time to move in a different direction, but I have to give a special mention to the gaffer (Dyche), all the lads will say that he’s been incredible for us and the football club,’ said Tarkowski.
‘The owners have been open and honest about it with us. They came to speak to us straight away after the manager left; they explained where things are at and where they’re hoping to take it.’
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