By 90Min
March 14, 2018

It’s probably something all football supporters do if they have followed their team long enough; compare this team with that, or that team with this, and in the case of Burnley there's plenty of scope to do that. 

Would the team of ‘73/74 have beaten the team of ‘59/60, for example? Or more currently, how would the Dyche team of 2017/18 have compared with the Coyle team of 2009/10? One thing is for sure - they're two completely contrasting teams with managers quite the opposite in their respective philosophies and approaches to the game. 

Whilst Coyle was cavalier, talking about wingers and football that was pleasing on the eye when he arrived, rarely practising free kick routines or set plays in training according to Clarke Carlisle, playing everything off the cuff and just leave plans to the players on the day; Dyche is meticulous, the ultimate planner, organiser and stickler for detail. 

Whilst with Coyle the emphasis was always on attacking play - gung ho at times, in fact - the Dyche philosophy is a simple one. If the opposition don’t score, they don’t win. This of course is not to say that he is without an attacking philosophy, but defensive organisation is paramount in his thinking. Organised and drilled almost to the extent of almost being choreographed, every player knows exactly where he should be at any given moment. 

Coyle’s players, it is said, had lost all faith in his predecessor Steve Cotterill; the former Bournemouth man losing the dressing room, with Brian Jensen critical in his book ‘Beast'. Coyle loosened the shackles, brought inspiration and motivation to the dressing room - a real breath of fresh air - and the change was immediate. These were good players, with Duff, Elliott, Blake, Alexander, Caldwell, Eagles, Paterson and Carlisle amongst them raring to be able to play with freedom. 

By all accounts, a number of the squad were a hard-drinking group when the mood took, with one player who shall remain nameless calling them the 'least professional bunch of players ever'. However, they clicked under Coyle and played a brand of football that was a joy at times; spontaneous, free of restrictions, expressive, creative, one touch passing, slick and - to use a Coyle word - with a sprinkling of panache, which came from the sparkling feet of Robbie Blake, Wade Elliott and Chris Eagles when he was on form. 

This was a team who, in the first part of their brief stay in the Premier League, were a force to be reckoned with at Turf Moor and played opponents off the park. It was away from home that, without a clear defensive strategy, the problems built up with defeat after defeat. The rest of the story that season is well known; the Coyle defection to Bolton, the appointment of Brian Laws, the eventual disillusionment of the players who simply capitulated - 'spitting out their dummies', said Jensen, and without Coyle there was no spirit. For all their flair, this was a fragile team that could easily lose a game (or as it happened, 24). 

Dyche teams today, on the other hand, do not lose games easily. Fragility is never a word you could use to describe them. The current side may well lack flair and panache (Sam Vokes! Ashley Barnes!) but makes up for that with rock solid organisation and a never say die spirit that makes them into a team that does not get steamrollered - that only gives goals away with a real meanness. If it has a problem, of neither does it score many. 

Dyche is never happier than when he is improving players and making a team hard to beat. Teams which are not particularly easy on the eye, but sides that get the job done; a group of players who hustle, harry, work hard and dig in. They run, cover, impose themselves and grind the opposition down. Nobody likes playing against a Dyche Burnley side. The Coyle side, for all its passing skills and talent, was an easy side to take three points from. 

Coyle’s team was very much dependent on the individual, while Dyche’s side is dependent on the team ethic. Coyle’s team went straight back down, but had Brian Laws as manager for the second half of the season. The current Dyche side is in its second season in the top flight and is more or less assured of a third season already, having reached 40 points in March. 

By Dave Thomas, author of a number of Burnley books available via Pitch Publishing

BOOKS THAT TELL THE STORY: The promotion side of 2013/14 you need WHO SAYS FOOTBALL DOESN’T DO FAIRYTALES? This was a side that did have flair players in Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier, but their promotion was an unexpected happy event that not even Dyche expected when a ‘new’ side clicked with often thrilling football.

For the promotion side of 2015/16 you need CHAMPIONS: HOW BURNLEY WON PROMOTION, from Pitch Publishing. This is the story of how a solid, workmanlike, organised, hard to beat side became champions. A classic Dyche side, you might say.

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