The final whistle had just blown and Burnley coach Sean Dyche was marching across the Turf Moor pitch towards the dressing rooms when a voice in the James Hargreaves Stand exclaimed, in a mixture of surprise and pleasure: “We’re out of the bottom three.”
So they are. If the season were to end now, they would be satisfied. If Dyche, nicknamed “the ginger Mourinho”, can guide them to 17th place in May it would be a greater achievement than taking Burnley into the Premier League.
As it is, they are yet to win and owe their elevation up the table in part to the fixture list. They climbed above Crystal Palace who do not play until today.
But Dyche, a former central defender, has produced an organised side who have kept three successive clean sheets.
“I am very pleased with the clean sheet,” he said.
“It is hard to do three in a row.”
It is more method than magic for the ginger Mourinho.
Last month, he was handed out a first defeat of the campaign by the silver-haired “Special One”. The moniker for Dyche is nevertheless understandable. His feat in taking Burnley into the top flight was truly special.
Yet, there is less social mobility in the Premier League, and if the seven wealthiest clubs are separated from the rest of the division, the reality is that Burnley are on a different playing field from their supposed peers.
Theirs remains a Championship budget and not even a top one at that.
They had the better of a stalemate with Sunderland but whereas the visitors were able to replace a member of Argentina’s World Cup squad, the injured Ricky Alvarez, with an Italy international, Emanuele Giaccherini, Burnley have no such luxury. The gulf in resources is gargantuan.
Burnley attempt to compensate with teamwork and frenetic running. If they fail, it will not be for a lack of effort. If they succeed, it will be against teams with more individual quality.
Because Burnley’s is a squad with a difference. In the multinational Premier League, they are exclusively British and Irish.
Burnley barely looked abroad in their quest for reinforcements. It is a defiantly old-fashioned approach, down to their fondness for a strike partnership.
Their promotion was based on the goals of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, yet they faced Sunderland without either.
In their absence, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell, recently of Championship clubs Middlesbrough, Bolton and Charlton, were rather less potent than Ings and Vokes.
Sordell squandered an early chance and Burnley drew a fifth successive blank.
“I am not naive,” Dyche said. “I know you have to score goals to win games but our performance levels are very good.”
His sole scorer this season, Scott Arfield, came close to doubling his tally and substitute Ashley Barnes hit the bar, albeit with a shot that was deflected off Lee Cattermole.
Sunderland’s Patrick van Aanholt also struck the woodwork in a stalemate.
“If we keep playing like that I am absolutely convinced wins are around the corner,” said an upbeat Dyche.
As the odds are stacked against him, he has to remain positive.
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