When Burnley were relegated two years ago, their squad was broadly weaker than most of the other Premier League teams. They had spent only £10m in transfers the summer before their Big League odyssey, and that patently wasn’t enough. The Clarets had almost been promoted too early; their approach to development was evolution over a period of years, attempting to build a Premier League squad through slow growth.
After relegation, Burnley kept a hold of their nucleus, their manager and added strategically to their squad – though interestingly chose to spend close to around that £10m mark on one player, Andre Gray, whilst in the Championship. That saw them come straight back up, and this time they’re much better prepared.
It’s a great feat to manage to bounce straight back up from what is perhaps the hardest league in the world, the Championship. There are so many games, form is so important, and the gap between the teams in terms of quality is usually fairly minimal.
It’s unfair to say that Burnley changed tack, after all, the squad is fairly similar to the one that got relegated the season before last. But they did spend money on Gray, and that was money well spent as far as they’re concerned.
Sean Dyche equipped his side very well for life in the Premier League last time, but ultimately they came up short. This time, the goal will be the same: to progress as a club and be better than they were last year and the last time they were in the Premier League.
If they do that, they’ll have a successful season, and they’ll stay in the division.
Just like their last foray into the Premier League, Burnley haven’t done much in the transfer market. At present, the two main signings are Charlton pair Johan Berg Gudmundsson and Nick Pope – and Pope, the goalkeeper, can hardly claim to make the squad stronger; Tom Heaton will surely be number one this season.
Burnley are looking ill-equipped to take on the Premier League with a squad already weaker than it was last season after the departure of Joey Barton. It’s all the more interesting after spending money this time last year, but there is still almost a month to go before the start of the Premier League season, and surely there’s Lancashire money to be spent!
Last season’s Championship player of the season Andre Gray is a player many eyes are fixed on. Whether or not they can make the stop up is a long-held worry with players arriving in the Premier League from the Championship, such is the gulf in class between the two leagues.
But we saw last season that Gray is a match-winner, and the success of Bournemouth last season was a feat of a team who had a great togetherness, a clear plan, and one or two players who can make a difference – and that’s exactly what Burnley have in Gray.
Rouwen Hennings was utilised more as a super sub last season than as a starter. That might have something to do with the sensational form of Andre Gray as Sean Dyche’s main man last term, but the fact he also scored only one league goal is probably a large factor, too.
There’s no doubting that Hennings has talent, but if he found last season in the Championship hard, then life in the Premier League will surely be excruciating.