Tim Quelch, author of From Orient to the Emirates – The Plucky Rise of Burnley FC gives us the lowdown on Saturday's opponents at Turf Moor.
We spoke in December and you defined the season as remarkable – presumably now you’ve got a new superlative to sum it up?
In December the team were embarking on a barren run that lasted 11 games, but it didn’t affect their league position much because of the teams below them cancelling one another out.
They’ve had a terrific run since the win at home to Everton though and they’re doing really well at the moment. Their position isn’t certain, but they’re in a strong position to play in Europe next season, which is outstanding.
Sean Dyche has attracted plenty of admiring glances – but he remains at Turf Moor?
He does and he never gets too high or too low about results – he seems to bring out a real strong sense of togetherness and relentless combativeness in the team.
He’s had a lot of injuries to deal with this season and although we’ve missed some leading players, the side has continued to perform – Chris Wood has scored nine goals and he’s missed a third of the season and Steven Defour, who’s been out for a couple of months, and he’s a classy player too.
Tom Heaton has been out too, but Nick Pope has come in and done brilliantly – that’s been the case across the entire side this season and that’s down to the way Dyche has managed the side.
I can’t think of a player that he’s brought in or inherited that hasn’t improved under his stewardship.
You mentioned the togetherness of the squad previously - how has he kept that throughout his time at the club?
The players seem to have grasped his values and sometimes he doesn’t have to do an awful lot. He’s said recently in an interview that he likes to avoid intervening unless he needs to and most of the time he trusts his players, and they deliver.
That goes for those who play regularly and those who come into the side for various injuries and suspensions. We’ve had players that haven’t set the world alight at previous clubs who are now really important to this fantastic side and they’re probably some of the most improved that are playing in the division.
It shows how much they learn to believe in themselves and seize the opportunity to grow and develop.
European football would be an outstanding achievement?
To be talking about it is fantastic. I don’t think anyone would have given them that chance at the start of the season – they’ve exceeded expectations time and time again but that seemed to be in a fantasy world.
It would be massive for the local area because it provides a lift to what is a deprived area and there’s a such a buzz around the town about how the team are doing – people are so proud of how they’re doing on this stage.
People come into the town because of it – it wasn’t so long ago that attendances at Turf Moor weren’t too high but now other fans are coming and spending money and it’s a terrific boost – to now be able to end the season by achieving that would be superb.
One to watch?
I would say Ashley Barnes – someone Brighton fans will know a lot about. He’s come on leaps and bounds and is a great example of someone who’s improved under Dyche’s management.
His first touch is solid and he uses his strengths well and to great effect. Most of his goals have come from balls to run on to but he creates such a problem for opposition defences because of how physical he is.
He’s got 10 goals this season in the Premier League and that’s the most goals he’s ever scored for us in a single campaign. To do that at the highest level is some feat, most of his goals are critical as well and he has a happy knack of getting vital strikes.