Search form

Last updated: 7 sec ago

You are here


Burnley, the Premier League surprise package

Burnley celebrate their winning goal against Stoke City on Tuesday night. (AP)
MANCHESTER: Two seasons after Leicester's improbable title triumph, another soccer fairytale might be unfolding in the English Premier League.
They are unlikely to emulate Leicester in winning the league, but the players and coach of unfashionable northwest club Burnley are starting to dream of playing in the Champions League next season.
Burnley scored an 89th-minute goal to beat Stoke 1-0 on Tuesday and climb temporarily into the top four of England's top flight for the first time since March 1975.
A supposed candidate for relegation after selling two of its best players in the offseason, Burnley have won nine of their 17 games, conceded just 12 goals, and are four points behind Chelsea and Manchester United. They have already beaten Chelsea away, and drawn at Tottenham and Liverpool.
“Leicester blew the roof off the dreams of football,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “Now, no bold statements from me about that, by the way, I must make that clear. But there’s an open-mindedness to the group.
“If you are going to dream, you have to be prepared to make the dreams come true. That’s what we are trying to do.”
A founding member of the Football League in 1888 and the English champion in 1921 and 1960, Burnley hasn’t finished a season higher than sixth place since 1974. A downturn saw the club drop out of the top division for 33 years and, in 1987, almost fall out of the professional leagues.
Burnley are in their second season back in the top flight, having avoided relegation only because of its strong home form. Now it is hard to beat home or away, with Dyche molding a hard-working, well-organized and defensively compact team.
All this after selling defender Michael Keane and striker Andre Gray for a combined $65 million over the summer, helping the club return a profit of about $20 million when most of the rest of the Premier League was spending freely.
“I keep reality because this division will eat you alive,” said Dyche, who was a no-nonsense center back as a player and is one of the characters of the Premier League with his distinctive gravel-toned voice. “We’re having a real go at what we can achieve this season. I’m not being negative. I’m a realist. There’s a lot of challenges coming our way. The fans and the town have got to enjoy these times. Why wouldn’t you?”