Sean Dyche can’t afford to dream as he aims for first cup quarter-final as Burnley boss
Sean Dyche brings up nine years in the Turf Moor hot seat on Saturday.
But for all the success he has had, on and off the pitch, as Burnley’s best manager of the modern age, he has yet to guide the club to at least the quarter-final of either domestic cup competition.
That could change on Wednesday night, if the Clarets can see off Spurs at home.
So can Dyche dare to dream?
Ever the pragmatist, Dyche can’t look beyond the 90 minutes ahead: "The one thing for sure, and I'll bore you to death, the next game is the most important.
"These games come round, and I've never discounted them, against popular belief sometimes - I've never discounted the cups - there's been a reality to our journey, not so good, as it happens.
"It's another important game for different reasons, we want to continue with that winning edge from the cup games.
"We haven't found that yet in the league, but if it's a cup game that gives you that extra edge and belief, that's great.
"But Tottenham are no mugs, whether they change the system, change players, they are a good outfit, so there are no guarantees.
"I don't deal in dreams, I deal in strategy and finding ways of working to try and win games.”
Winning games has been an issue in the league, starting the Premier League without a victory in their opening nine games.
However, they have advanced through two rounds of the Carabao Cup to reach the last 16, and, have lost only one of their last five outings in all competitions - at champions Manchester City.
Dyche firmly believes that win is coming: "It's the toughest spell, in this respect, as a manager, because I know our performance levels, I know the way the team should operate to win games, stats, facts, eyes, good staff, players as well - their feedback, we have a very honest group.
"We're not far away. The details and margins are always important to every team, even when you're Man City, although then the margins widen because if they concede a goal, you look around and they probably have eight goalscorers in their team.
"The margins vary, but there is still a margin they have to get on the right side of.
"Ours is often really tight, and we've done really well down the years of getting on the right side of that.
"We've got to believe in the way we work and operate, but there has to be a level of performance to allow you those chances, and I believe there is.”
Burnley have struggled to take advantage of their chances, and given some soft goals up, and he added: "A couple of softish moments at one end, a couple of killer moments at the other, and we'd be way better off, but facts are facts, and we're not, so we have to keep working, keep believing, keep trusting in ourselves, with all the data we've got, all our knowledge of the Premier League, to go and add to that.
"But the one thing I've always maintained, last season our strikers were questioned, and I said 'these players will score'.
"You go through a spell when you're not scoring, and the stats start coming back to you, the probability of scoring.
"Obviously, you want to bring those stats your way, rather than waiting, it's like when you're waiting for a win, you want to make it happen, but it is getting closer by the way stats work.
"You don't want to rely on that, but it's there.
"You want to drag it your way, it's our responsibility to make it work.
"I know we're not far away, each week it's not far away.
"It's getting the important moments right.
"If we were a goal or two better off either way, I guarantee people would be saying 'Burnley are doing what they're doing, they look strong, they're delivering performances'.
"It's easy for me to say that, but it's true.”
Dyche has always invited the opinion of people within the game to observe and tell him straight what they think, and he said: "I invite people to our games that have nothing to do with us, who I believe and trust.
”They tell me black and white information, not emotional, not defending me, and they are saying 'you're right on the edge of it, you're right there'.
"I know where it's at, where the team is at, I built it, managed it, I know we're not far away, but facts are facts.
"We could have had two stuffy wins, and it's 'they're going alright', no-one remembers the fact they were stuffy.
"I'm a very fact-based manager, and I know we have to win games, but the controlling thoughts of that are, 'how are you going to get there?'
"Your performances have to at least be to a certain level, and I believe ours are.
"The detail is the next level, but there a lot of good signs.”
While the side have only scored seven in nine league games, they have scored twice in two of their last three away matches, only to draw 2-2.
So has the plan been to be more open?: "That's the balance, people have been clamouring for us to be more open, and you're slightly more open and concede a couple...
"These are the measures of football, which are very delicate unless you are the super powers.
"Liverpool, as devastating as they are, their three main points of attack, they almost hang out there at times, waiting, because the others are doing the work and they can play that game, almost more cagey.
"We have to all get back to defend, not just us by the way, and all get forward to attack.
"They're clever, they see the picture quickly, they wait and wait, and have to recover at times, but sometimes they are reading it, waiting for the ball to come out, and they collect that and attack.
"It's not just their skill set, they see the picture, see the game quicker than others.
"We and other teams can't afford to be that open.
”You open up a bit, do you look more likely to score goals? I think we have, statistically.
"How does that affect the defensive side? How can you find that balance, recover quick enough to get back in shape to give yourself a chance of defending properly.”