By Phil Medlicott, PA
Burnley boss Sean Dyche is heading into 2022 feeling “very confident” about his team’s prospects in their bid to avoid relegation.
Following Thursday’s 3-1 loss at Manchester United, the Clarets sit 18th in the Premier League with 11 points and only one win from 16 games.
They are two points adrift of 17th-placed Watford and five behind 16th-placed Leeds, with one and two games in hand over those sides respectively.
But Dyche, whose side travel to Leeds on Sunday, told a press conference when asked how confident he felt that Burnley could turn things around in the new year: “Very confident.
“The performance levels have been generally high. The details are so vital in any game, and the margins. We have to obviously change that, but the mentality is still firm.
“Historically we’ve been strong in the second part of the season. I think there’s a good belief in what we’re doing and that the players know how close we are to making things right. So it bodes well – but the biggest fact you’ll ever need is to look at that table and your position, and that bit we have to correct.”
Thursday’s match was Burnley’s first since December 12, having had fixtures against Watford, Aston Villa and Everton postponed due to opposition unavailability amid positive coronavirus cases.
Dyche said of the postponement process: “It’s not about me being happy or not, it’s the powers-that-be that make the decisions. The Premier League are the ones controlling it so it will be on their shoulders whatever way they are making decisions on why the games are off. Their drum is the beat we’re all dancing to.”
Dyche believes there could be fewer postponements if players were allowed to do solo work at training grounds while still in isolation.
He said: “This is what we put on the Zoom call with the Premier League…the way it is affecting the footballers we know at our club, and I’ve heard from a number of different people in the game, has been very, very minimal.
“So we’re offering the view of if it is minimal, could we bring those players in once they feel well – with the amount of monitoring we’ve got now available, could it be that those players come in?
“Because if we keep getting games called off, at least the players having a lockdown period could come in, in their own cars, their own clothes, they stay away from everyone but from a distance you can still monitor their workload, we could still feed down from their GPS, their heart monitors, how their body is responding.
“Therefore in theory, when that player now is required, on the back of the seven-day period and testing clear, then at least they’d be in readiness to go back in. As it stands at the moment, not being allowed in at all, then it’s difficult. They have to find a way, usually on maybe a Wattbike or something, of ticking over. It’s not the same as being on the grass and running.
“Possibly the knock-on effect could in theory be less games being called off…possibly that would help more players be available when they return.
“But we’ll have to wait and see. These are only views a few of us shared on a Zoom call. The Premier League, the medical side, they’ve got all the information – it’s down to them, and of course guided by central government.”
Nick Pope, Jay Rodriguez, Josh Brownhill and Kevin Long missed Thursday’s contest following positive Covid-19 tests – Long has returned to training and Burnley are waiting to see if Pope and Rodriguez can, while Brownhill is still unable to. Maxwel Cornet could return to action in Sunday’s game after a thigh issue and a positive test.