Burnley profit from Ewing Theory
Nick Miller takes a look at the Sky Bet Football League in his monthly column, and considers Burnley's post-Austin success.
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American sportswriter Bill Simmons is very fond of what he calls the 'Ewing Theory'. Named after basketballer Patrick Ewing, this states that a team who sells their star player will go on to achieve success, unburdened by their biggest name and all the problems, as well as the benefits, that he might bring.
Burnley certainly seem to be prime candidates for the Ewing Theory, if the first eleven games of the season are anything to go by. For not only did the Clarets sell Charlie Austin to QPR in the summer, after a protracted transfer saga that involved a failed medical at Hull and flirtations with several other clubs, they didn't directly replace him, either.
While that may have looked like at best a bold move, at worst a negligent one, it seems that manager Sean Dyche knew what he was doing. With Austin gone, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have formed the most potent strike partnership in the Championship, already scoring 15 league goals between them (that's more than Austin's QPR have managed in total) to put Burnley top of the Championship.
Indeed, the fine form has earned Ings a call-up to Gareth Southgate's England Under-21s squad for the upcoming games against San Marino and Lithuania, an unusual move given Ings had previously not been involved in the international system at any level.
The free-scoring forwards have received much of the credit for Burnley's excellent early-season run (and rightly so, given they have already almost doubled the eight goals they managed between them last season), but it's the man pulling the strings who should be praised the most. Without wishing to take a line from Sam 'If I Was Called Allardici' Allardyce, Dyche has perhaps suffered from not being a particularly fashionable name. A bruising lower-league centre-half in his playing days, the man with the rasping voice did an excellent job under trying circumstances at Watford, and was extraordinarily unlucky to be sacked when the Pozzo family arrived at Vicarage Road with little Gianfranco Zola in their pockets.
Of course Zola has done well with greater resources at Watford, but would they have been in the Premier League by now had Dyche been handed half of Udinese's reserves to pick from? Perhaps, but Dyche doesn't seem to be bitter about the whole thing.
"Don't forget what happened gave me the chance to come to Burnley," Dyche told The Daily Express this week, indicating he's a man who focuses on the bright side of life. Indeed, perhaps that explains why he seems to be a manager who excels in making the best of what he has.
Quite apart from replacing Austin with two previously under-performing forwards that were already at the club, Dyche has chiseled out a winning side from limited resources. Martin Paterson and Grant McCann also departed in the summer, replaced by a series of free transfers and loans, including Michael Kightly on a temporary deal from Stoke and Scott Arfield and Tom Heaton on Bosman deals.
"I can't speak highly enough of him," said Heaton of Dyche, after Burnley's win over Reading at the weekend.
"He does whatever is required in the dressing room. There have been times when we were 2-0 up at half-time, thought we were top-drawer and he will come in and fire a rocket. He keeps everyone on their toes and that is part and parcel of good management.
"He has got all the approaches; there's the calm and collected tactical approach and, when we need the motivation, he gives that too."
The difference in resources between Burnley and QPR, the team they are currently level on points with at the top of the Championship, is quite astonishing. However, under Dyche's management, Burnley look like they will bridge that gap and then some.
Jez Moxey is not, to employ a piece of weapons-grade understatement, a popular man at Wolves. Along with owner Steve Morgan, the chief executive has presided over a series of calamitous managerial appointments that have seen Wolves tumble from the Premier League to League One in an amount of time so short it would be impressive if it wasn't so appalling.
Despite this, it's difficult to argue that Moxey isn't something of a magician in the transfer market, when it comes to extracting juicy fees from other clubs for his players, in any case. Nigh-on £20million was brought in for Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher last season, but arguably his greatest transfer triumph was getting any sort of fee for Karl Henry, never mind the £1million QPR reportedly paid for him.
However, at some point Moxey's stubbornness might go a little too far. His latest attempt to squeeze blood/money from a stone revolves around Bakary Sako, the French winger who wants out following Wolves' relegation. Fulham were said to be interested in the summer but balked at the money demanded, before Nottingham Forest emerged as his main suitors in the closing stages of the transfer window, and indeed reignited their interest last week.
Forest entered into negotiations to sign Sako on an initial loan, with a view to completing a permanent move in the January transfer window. However, talks were ceased when they joined Fulham in deciding the price was too high, with Wolves and Moxey demanding a loan fee on top of the reported £4million asking price.
Moxey said: "We took the decision to cease all discussions with Nottingham Forest, not because they didn't meet our valuation but because the terms surrounding the offer were unrealistic."
Moxey claimed that it was the manner of Forest's approach that offended, rather than the terms they offered, which given the way that club is being run at present, is not out of the question. However, one might suggest that, in asking £4million for a player in League One, Moxey is the one being unrealistic.
A poor run of form is probably pretty low down on the list of calamities suffered by Portsmouth in recent years, but Saturday's 3-0 win over Rochdale was just their third of the season, as their collection of youngsters and assorted other ragtag recruits struggle with the demands of League Two.
However, this season their average attendance stands at 15,947. No other team in the division has an average higher than 7,000, and it's more than the aggregate attendance of six other League Two clubs. That figure puts them 11th on the list of average attendances in the whole Football League, with only Wolves and Sheffield United attracting more outside the Championship.
This might not be surprising given Pompey's size and relatively recent successes, but it does suggest that the club owned by the fans will not fail for lack of support.