There were plenty of “I told you sos” flying around football circles on Sunday when Burnley’s relegation was finally confirmed following a 4-0 home defeat to Liverpool.
The Clarets’ embattled boss Brian Laws had overseen a 14th defeat in 17 games in charge and much of the post match chatter involved the surprising choice of him as manager back in January and the inevitable relegation such an appointment would bring. Indeed, the betting odds for Burley’s Premier League survival actually lengthened after his appointment, hardly a vote of confidence.
He had never managed in the top flight and had only recently been sacked as Sheffield Wednesday boss with the club near the foot of the Championship.
But the reality was when Burnley were looking for a boss Laws was unattached and therefore cheap. It may have consigned the club to the drop without even kicking a ball, but I believe the board deserve credit for looking after the long-term interests of the club. A big-name boss with a big salary and substantial transfer budget was no guarantee of survival.
Back in the summer the club only made one big signing – the £3 million purchase of Steven Fletcher. They knew they would have to rely on the brilliance of their boss Owen Coyle and the small talented bunch of players he had assembled that shocked so many by earning them promotion in the first place. The board were not going to gamble the club’s future.
They only need to look once place above them to see why. Hull were in an identical situation to Burnley two years ago when they earned a shock promotion via the play-offs to the Premier League.
Heavy investment was made in players as the club made a great start to life in the top division. But drunk on success the purse strings were loosened a little too much, perhaps epitomised by the £5 million, £45,000 a week signing of Jimmy Bullard in January 2009. He has only played 15 times since.
Some called it ambition, the reality is that it was financial suicide. The wage bills escalated out of control and they now, with relegation all but confirmed, face the prospect of administration with debts of more than £30 million.
There are no such troubles for Burnley. It may not be the most exciting or dynamic approach but in is era of financial austerity it the most sensible. For a small club like Burnley playing in the Premier League was living the dream, and despite relegation, their careful financial planning will ensure it won’t turn into a nightmare.
Now Burnley fans can settle down to watch England attempt to justify their World Cup betting odds safe in the knowledge they could one day return to the top flight. I wonder if the same can be said about Portsmouth and Hull.
Written By Betfair blogger Phil Tomlinson