Burnley boss Sean Dyche acknowledges just how much it means to the townspeople to have a club competing in Europe next season.
The Turf Moor chief, who hails from Kettering, a Northamptonshire town that carries an even smaller population than Burnley, recognised the magnitude of the club’s achievement when reflecting on an incredible campaign at the Emirates.
The Clarets have exceeded expectations by a country mile this term, finishing as the ‘best of the rest’ in the Premier League when most had predicted that they would be relegation fodder.
Burnley may have suffered their heaviest defeat under Dyche as Arsene Wenger said ‘au revoir’ to the place that has been his home for 22 years, but it was a case of ‘job done’ for the visitors having already guaranteed a seventh place finish. Victory at Stamford Bridge, points at Wembley, Anfield and Old Trafford and a stalemate at home to eventual champions Manchester City all contributed to this success and now everyone associated with the club can await the Europa League draw from Nyon on June 19th.
With Turf Moor set to stage European football for the first time in more than half-a-century, Dyche said: “This was beyond what everyone thought of us at the beginning of the season, we were second favourites to go down.
“To have that news confirmed – it was a big market, a big moment to get done. I think the players have been absolutely outstanding this season.
“For a club like Burnley to be in Europe in any shape or form is a massive achievement. European football at Turf Moor, what’s that all about?
“You get to the point where we are now, you’re in a European competition, there’s nothing but positives for me.
“Burnley Football Club playing European football, I don’t think anyone thought that, certainly not five-and-a-half years ago when I got to the club.
“I’ve come to understand what it means to a town like Burnley. I’m from Kettering, it’s a similar size to Burnley, Kettering nearly went out of business a few years ago.
“A team in the PL for Burnley, a town of 75,000 people, that’s amazing, and now a team in Europe.”
Dyche understands the challenges that his squad face next season, having to juggle four separate competitions, but it’s one that he’s open-minded about.
The Clarets go in to the final game of the season against AFC Bournemouth on Sunday with 54 points, a significant hike on the previous return, proving that the group can stand up to any test put in front of them.
“We all know the gap, there is a gap, look at the top six, there is a definite gap,” said Dyche. “To be considered by the league table the ‘best of the rest’ is a fine achievement.
“It’s a difficult league, look at the teams fighting for their lives, nobody would have thought that at the beginning of the season, that proves how difficult it is to be in the Premier League firstly.
“We wanted to improve on last season. Could we go better?
“Well 40 points has turned into 54 points, that’s a big shift.
“We’re open minded about what comes next. We know the challenges, everyone tells you constantly what the challenges are.”
The Clarets have achieved all of their success this term as a collective and Dyche is fully aware that he would be nothing without his players.
Should he pip Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola to the Manager of the Season award, which will be announced in a week’s time, then he’ll dedicate it to everyone that has made their mark. He said: “The manager of the year can only come from the players. Without them you can’t be manager of the year.
“They deserve whatever comes, if anything comes. There have been some big performers, the players deserve a huge amount of credit.”