February 26, 2015

After one season in the Championship, Burnley make their return to the Premier League on Saturday by welcoming Swansea City to Turf Moor.

Manager Sean Dyche's club struggled at times during their Championship season as a 3-0 Boxing Day defeat to Hull City left the Clarets in fifth place, but they went unbeaten over their final 23 matches to top the Championship table and earn promotion with 93 points.

The club struggled mightily to compete in the top flight in 2014-15, but Dyche will be hoping for a bit better outcome this time around. The "Ginger Mourinho" as Dyche has been affectionately labeled, has been fairly busy this summer. He plucked young players from other clubs for small fees, bringing in teenagers Robbie Leitch and Jamie Thomas from Motherwell and Bolton, respectively. However, Thomas was loaned back out.

Dyche also cherry-picked two of Charlton's best players in goalkeeper Nick Pope and Iceland international Johann Berg Gudmundsson. He nabbed Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan on a season-long loan.

Flanagan, 23, was excellent for the Reds during the 2013-14 season as the club nearly won their first Premier League title, but were done in by a few late collapses. Flanagan looked to have locked down the left back position, but has played sparingly due to a knee injury that had kept him out long term.

With Nathanial Clyne and Alberto Moreno seemingly cemented in the Liverpool starting squad, a loan move should work out well for both Flanagan and Burnley.

"I am delighted to be here," the Liverpool native said. "I got the call off my agent and I am delighted it's all done and I can get started. This is a massive club with passionate fans I can't wait to get started.

"I have been at Liverpool since I was 10, so I've been there a long time, but I think it's time for me to get regular football and this was a great option for me. I've had a frustrating two years and got back for the second half of last season, which was good.

"My aim now is to get as many games as possible and get back to the fitness levels I had in 2013-14."

It was a tale of two halves for Swansea City last term, as they used a solid second-half to finish in 12th place, comfortably avoiding relegation. However, it will be a challenge for manager Francesco Guidolin's boys to finish higher than mid-table.

If last season's surprise win by Leicester showed anything, it's that on-field cohesion and synergy can top even the big boys who shell out hundreds of millions of pounds every summer for big names. But in order for that to even be possible, the players must stick around, and Swansea have sold several of their key players and brought in some risky replacements.

Last season's top scorer, Andre Ayew, joined West Ham United for a club-record fee of 20.5 million pounds, while defender and captain Ashley Williams was scooped up by Everton for a reported fee of 9 million pounds, leaving the club with just three centre-backs.

Williams, who calls time on his eight-year stay at the Liberty Stadium, made more than 350 appearances in a Swansea kit, and was hailed by former manager Alan Curtis as one of the best to ever play for the Welsh club.

"Ash is one of the best defenders we have ever had, if not the best," Curtis said. "People always talk about legend status – sometimes it seems as though you can become a legend in six months these days. But I think that has to come over a period of time.

"You have to do it over a sustained period to become what I would regard as a true legend, and I think Ash has fulfilled all the criteria as far as legend status goes. "There is no doubt about it - he is one of the best players who has ever played for this club."

But reinforcements were brought in as Mike Van der Hoorn arrived from Ajax, Spanish duo Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente will offer something different up front. In addition, Leroy Fer has arrived to bolster the midfield options and Nathan Dyer is back from his season on loan at Leicester.

Despite losing some key contributors, Guidolin is optimistic his side will have a successful season.

"I am confident," he said. "We are doing well in training sessions and working hard. Normally in preseason I prefer to play well and lose all the games, because that's better for the character going into the first league game. We have won, but I am happy."

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