Burnley manager Sean Dyche was “the proudest man in Proudsville” after his side made light of an off night to beat struggling Stoke City 1-0 with a last-gasp goal and climb to fourth in the Premier League on Tuesday. A ninth victory in 17 games took Burnley into the Champions League qualifying places on 31 points and left them looking down on Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur for 24 hours at least.
Ashley Barnes smashed home the winner after 89 minutes to send the Turf Moor crowd wild and while it was not a match that will live long in the memory, Dyche did not care. “I’m very proud, I’m super proud, I’m the proudest man in Proudsville,” Dyche, who took over in 2012, told reporters. Burnley have conceded just 12 league goals this season, behind only the top two, Manchester City and Manchester United, and Dyche’s side have won four of their last six games.
While the prospect of ending the season in a Champions League spot might be pushing the boundaries of credibility, Dyche was quick to point out that Burnley would not be the first unfancied club to ruffle the feathers of the big boys. “Football is about realities but also about dreams. It’s a tough task for us winning games at this level but Leicester blew the roof off dreams in football — there’s no bold statement from me on that,” Dyche said of the surprise 2016 champions.
“We’ve got an aligned thinking here, there’s no superstars, no favourites from me. I believe in all of them. We’ve got a group of people — there’s a belief in everything we do here.” Asked if Burnley could be playing in Europe next season, Dyche said his side must keep their feet on the ground. “I think there’s enough people saying good things. I keep reality because this division will eat you alive,” he said.
“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?”