Written by Patrick Echatah
When Vincent Kompany accepted the managerial position at Burnley last summer, his return to the north-west of England appeared to be a marriage of convenience. The former Belgian defender had lived in Manchester for an impressive 11 years before returning home with his family. It was there that he had met his Mancunian wife and raised their children.
But with Burnley’s 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough on Friday thanks to strikes from Ashley Barnes and Connor Roberts, he can add Premier League promotion to his impressive regional titles. Sean Dyche had been in charge of the Clarets for ten years before he was fired and the team was relegated in May of last year. The hiring of rookie coach in Kompany was a gamble because several of the club’s older players left and there were significant financial problems.
This was something Dyche had not been able to do with the group in prior years. For Kompany to lead Burnley into a new age of thrilling, quick-paced, and effective football, far from what was previously delivered, recruitment was crucial. More than other managers in the modern game, Kompany took an effective approach to scouting. The Belgian tactician was recently looking for targets in Denmark. Kompany noted some players he was familiar with in Belgium. Five new players were brought in from the Belgian Jupiler League, including Josh Cullen from Kompany’s former team, Anderlecht.
After spending two years with Kompany in Brussels, Josh Cullen has been crucial to the team’s success in central midfield. This has allowed him to set the tone both on and off the field. He keeps the team running around him. “His strength is that he’s the ultimate player that puts the team before himself,” Kompany said. Anass Zaroury and Manuel Benson, two attackers who came from Charleroi and Antwerp, respectively, for a combined £7.5 million, have almost probably seen their value double as a result of playing for such an attack-oriented team. When seeking to secure some of the temporary signings for the long term, the loan market has been used effectively, perhaps even too effectively.
Burnley’s top scorer Nathan Tella, whose parent club Southampton are battling relegation may be desperate to have him back next season if they’re eventually relegated. Jordan Beyer and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, two defenders who have proven to be too excellent for the division, are expected to draw interest from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Manchester City, and Burnley may not be able to match the prices asked. There is a pre-agreed fee for Bayer Leverkusen but it is understood to be high.
It is not surprising that Kompany placed a high priority on finding a good goalkeeper and center-backs to lay the groundwork for Burnley’s future. It came as even less of a surprise when two of those key players, Aro Muric and Harwood-Bellis, who have grown up using the strategies he wants to implement, joined from Manchester City.
Another newcomer with strong ties to City, Craig Bellamy, who played with Kompany at the Etihad Stadium, was among the most significant ones. He was named assistant manager, and his familiarity with the Championship—where he began his career and later played while with Cardiff—has been crucial. During the course of the season, his opinions have gained more and more sway. Three key players for Kompany—Josh Brownhill, Jack Cork, and Jay Rodriguez—have been revitalized by a new playing style. Due to the World Cup, the summer was cut short, so Burnley’s first game was against Huddersfield on July 29. However, everyone at the John Smith’s Stadium could see what Kompany’s team were going to be about.
The fan base has changed substantially under Kompany, moving away from the pragmatic football that suited them so well in the Premier League for years under Dyche and toward true entertainment. Burnley has scored 43 goals in their 20 home Championship games. They have scored 76 goals overall in 39 games, with 43 of those goals coming registered on home ground.
The supporters can feel the team’s eagerness to play for Kompany, a quality that was lacking in Dyche’s tenure. The Premier League was adored by the fans, but it can also be enjoyable to see your team triumph each week. Dyche’s outstanding accomplishments at Turf Moor led to the naming of a pub in the town in his honor.
With the fierce competition in the Championship, where there is frequently little difference in squad quality, they have only lost two league games all season. Despite the arduous nature of the campaign, Burnley has been considerably superior to the rest and has remained constant, frequently playing twice a week, a challenging challenge for a side that plays with such energy.
The severity of Burnley’s task for the upcoming season was evident in the 6-0 FA Cup loss at Manchester City, but Kompany is aware of that. If this season is any indication, another clever recruitment summer will be needed, but Burnley may anticipate their Premier League comeback under Kompany and Bellamy’s leadership.
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