The Opposition View - Burnley
1. Firstly, congratulations on your well-deserved promotion. How does it feel that you have returned to the best league in the world? Did you expect it at the start of the season at all?
Thank you for the congratulations. It still has not really sunk in yet despite the fact that for probably two or three months it was looking increasingly certain that promotion automatically was going to happen. However until the final whistle of the Wigan game there was always a seed of doubt as this is Burnley and nothing we accomplish is ever this straightforward. At the beginning of the season, I expected a mid-table finish at best if I am honest! especially after the sale of Charlie Austin two days before the season began. How wrong I was.
2. What do you think are the main reasons that you defied the odds to get promoted, despite other teams in the division appearing to have bigger and better squads?
There for me are three main reasons why we gained promotion; a full pre-season under Sean Dyche, a work rate and togetherness in the squad and also the tactics and style of play that the manager has employed. The pre-season made the players much fitter than they were under the tenure of Eddie Howe, and also it created the start of this real togetherness that we have seen this season. Once Dyche had a squad that he had had time to mould then he could practically evolve his tactics for this season, which has been a high pressing game, which creates attacking football but also great work rate in order to defend from the front.
3. The job that Sean Dyche has done is earning justified recognition, why do you think it clicked for him at the start of the season, as his first half season in charge was quite mixed with results?
The main reason it clicked this season is as mentioned in the previous question, a full pre-season where he could get rid of the deadwood, players like, Martin Paterson, Marvin Bartley and Chris McCann, who clearly were either not good enough or did not fit into the style that Dyche wanted. When he took over from Eddie Howe last season, the goals we were conceding was of such a high number that relegation was a genuine possibility. Despite the fact that our form remained patchy under Dyche, we scored far fewer goals and the play at time was seen as negative, the main objective was to stop conceding goals so often, which he accomplished. To play a high pressing game like we do this season requires a full pre-season in order for the players to understand exactly how the manager wants to play.
4. Naturally when a team goes up, there does need to be some investment to improve the squad. How much investment do you want and expect in the summer?
Of course, there needs to be investment in the squad, we would be foolish to say otherwise, though we also have to be realistic. Dyche has been commenting recently on how we must be competitive next season and how we much sign quality but also we will need strength in depth too. It is also crucial that the team survives and therefore if we do go down next season, we will want to make a much greater fist of it than last time. The board one thinks also understands this and will have learnt many lessons from the previous time we were in the premier league and hopefully won't be as naive as they were last time.
5. Who are your stand out players in the side at the moment? Except Ings, Tripper, Kightly and Vokes, has anyone else looked like they could make the step up to the Premier League easily?
Three of the four you have mentioned there all season have been exceptional, Ings and Vokes with their goals and Trippier with his excellent defensive displays and also his assists this season. Kightly has been very good recently though he perhaps hasn't been one of the standout performers all season. Other than the three aforementioned, the spine of the team has been brilliant. Tom Heaton in goal, captain Jason Shackell and the veteran Michael duff at centre back and the two centre midfielders, the fluent and stylish David jones and the epitome of our pressing game, Dean Marney. I think the four you mentioned along with Shackell, Jones, Marney, Heaton and also left back Ben Mee can also make the step up.
6. If you could take any Reading player at the moment to take up to the Premier League with you, who would it be and why?
Two players that I would imagine would fit into the Sean Dyche philosophy and (though you could probably tell me with a better know how than me) are defender Alex Pearce and striker Adam le Fondre. Of course, le Fondre is far from in his greatest scoring form but he is a player who I have always admired and seemed to do a job for reading in the premier league last time.
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see on Saturday from Dyche? Do you think he may make some changes?
I expect exactly the same team as we have started with in the previous few games, with Heaton in goal, tripper, Shackell, Duff and Mee at the back, with Arfield on the right, Jones and Marney in the centre and Kightly on the left of midfield with Ashley Barnes and Danny Ings up front. The style should be similar to the style we usually adapt with high pressing and (hopefully since I'm travelling down) attacking football.
8. What is your prediction for the game?
It is fair to say that the Madjeski Stadium isn't a happy hunting ground for Burnley, so with you really wanting a result and us with nothing to play for, I can't really see a Burnley victory. This wouldn't really bother me as a result for reading would stop Blackburn from getting into the play offs so I'm just going to enjoy the day. I'll go for a 1-1 draw. Up the clarets.