Sean Dyche believes Burnley’s selection problems this season have been the most difficult of his eight-and-a-half years at the club as they deal with an unrelenting schedule.
Dyche, the Premier League’s longest-serving manager, has often been short on resources at Turf Moor. But the reality of football in a pandemic has added new challenges.
“It’s certainly been the toughest long period,” Dyche said. “We’ve had pockets that have been tough with injuries – the start of the Europa (League) season (in 2018) was very difficult with injuries and having smaller numbers, not getting the heavy investment on numbers we needed.
“It’s similar but different this time. We’ve lost players rather than gained players on the recruitment side of things.
“After lockdown we had injuries. By the time the next season starts you imagine they’d be fit and ready. But it turns out they weren’t and once we got them back we started getting other injuries.
“I’ve been here a long time and I know how we work, the analysis we do on the work we do and the training. I’m reasonably happy with that so it’s hard to look beyond the schedule.
“We’ve played a lot of games, often at strange times and a different format. It’s not a gripe or a moan, it’s just a reality.”
Dyche has had some good news ahead of Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace, but will still have several players out.
Nick Pope and Jack Cork returned to training on Thursday. But Charlie Taylor, Robbie Brady and Chris Wood are all doubtful. Josh Brownhill appears to have a better chance of featuring after a soft tissue problem.
Not that Dyche will get any sympathy from opposite number Roy Hodgson, who looks likely to be without at least half a dozen players, including star forward Wilfried Zaha who is out with a hamstring injury.
Asked if the absence of the Ivorian made this a good time to face Palace, Dyche said: “The stats suggest that’s the case but I’m not saying it’s that easy. Our intent and purpose is to go to perform to win.
“But we don’t take it for granted that if Zaha is not available it’s easy. That’s not the case.
“They’ve got very good players and a very good manager and we’ve certainly got to be delivering the right performance to get what we want down there.”
Dyche being realistic
Burnley built up a healthy cushion, currently eight points, over the relegation zone on the back of a three-game winning run last month. But the midweek FA Cup loss to Bournemouth meant they are now without victory in the last four.
“It’s the reality of the Premier League,” Dyche said. “We’ve played some top sides. You can turn it around and say we got six points from four games that people didn’t think we’d get a point out of.
“At Brighton we played a winning draw as one of my managers used to call it. These are the realities of the Premier League and we’re well enough versed in it to know it’s not about the feeling, it’s about the reality.
“That can happen against Chelsea and Manchester City and sides like that. You’ve got to take on the next challenge. A good run or a bad run doesn’t guarantee you the next one.”