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PRESS PREVIEW: BURNLEY

15 December 2017

REX/Shutterstock
Johann Gudmundsson with his Burnley team-mates.

Tim Quelch, the author of ‘From Orient to the Emirates – The Plucky Rise of Burnley FC' gives us the lowdown on Saturday's opponents at the Amex stadium.

Fair to say it’s been a remarkable season so far?

They’ve surpassed expectations and there have been some hard times in the past for the club, which make the here and now even better. After last season we thought we may struggle again, but it’s a lot more comfortable than we expected it to be.

Just how good of a job has Sean Dyche done?

A fantastic one, when he came in he declared he’d tighten up the defence and that’s what he has done. We were conceding over two goals a game, and when Charlie Austin was scoring at the other end we kept letting them in. He also imposed a very high standard of fitness as well, and so the players suddenly had a much harder regime. 

Expectations before the season he got us up were quite low and the club didn’t have as much money as before and it was a period of austerity. The team were put down for relegation before the season, because Sam Vokes and Danny Ings had only managed five goals the year before and they got 40 to get us promoted. 

The core of the squad still together and performing admirably?

The impression I have is that the players are very happy at the club, there’s a tremendous sense of togetherness and it’s a kind that I’ve not witnessed at this club for a long time. It’s that togetherness and lack of ego, with a desire, that’s made them perform well.

People like Steven Defour have commented on the high fitness standards when he first came to the club, and he’s not an unfit player.

Nick Pope – excelled after making his debut this season?

He came off the bench against Crystal Palace earlier in the season and then made his debut away to Liverpool at Anfield after Tom Heaton had dislocated his shoulders. He probably wouldn’t have expected to be given a chance in the league and he was thrust into the game against Palace and made some fantastic saves and his confidence grew from that point.

There isn’t a player that I can remember that Sean Dyche hasn’t improved, and Pope is a perfect example of that. He’s played at some big stadiums and one of the things that strikes me about him is that for somebody who’s quite young at this level, he has so much composure. He’s as much of a steadying influence as Tom Heaton before him and he’s not deterred if he makes an error either.

Someone else who’s also joined from the same club (Charlton Athletic) as Pope is Johann Gudmundsson?

He’s a fantastic player as well, he’s two footed and even though he favours his left I can’t see much evidence that he’s weaker with one than the other.

The way he goes past players as well too is fantastic – we were looking for a winger with a lot of pace, but when you see him in action he seems quicker than you think. He gets up and down pretty quickly too. 

We usually ask for a one to watch – but is it more about the team collective with Burnley?

Absolutely, that’s the thing with this side. They’ve got some good individuals but their designated roles won’t work without everyone else filling theirs.

If you had to pick one I’d say Chris Wood up front, Sam Vokes has been a terrific servant for this football club, but Wood is a phenomenal target man. He’s so difficult to knock off the ball and his first touch is very good too, and he’s been responsible for eight points this season – and that’s a sign of a good striker because when he scores goals they matter. 

Providing he stays fit he’s a big player for the team. In central midfield, Jack Cork and Defour compliment each other very well as well.

The pair of them have been very good and Cork was brought in for very good value. He pushes forwarded well but is also pivotal in a holding role as well, they interchange well and are both very good passers of the ball and get themselves into very dangerous positions.


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