CLARETS boss Sean Dyche has rebuffed claims that too much of an onus is being placed on leading scorer Charlie Austin.
Despite winning three of four league games in his absence, after the 24-goal striker aggravated a hamstring strain in defeat to Leicester City in December, the Clarets have won just once in the 14 games where Austin has played but hasn’t scored.
And on the opposite side of the coin, Dyche’s side have accrued 29 points from the 14 Championship fixtures where he has found the back of the net. But after watching his star man go almost 450 minutes without a goal, which has coincided with Burnley’s six-game winless streak, Dyche said: “Does football ever work out how you planned it to? That’s why favourites don’t win leagues and champions don’t win tournaments. It doesn’t always go by the form book. I don’t think there’s too much of an onus on Charlie. When I got here there was when he was breaking records but I think all that has quietened off.
“It seemed quite a powerful thing at the time, like every question was about Charlie. You forget he’s only in his fourth professional season, second at this level. He’s still learning the game, he’s young. As regards age meets experience, it’s quite a young group. You look at other groups around the Championship and most of them have got players who have played hundreds of games at this level. We haven’t got all of that but we’ve got that dynamic of people learning that which can be a powerful thing.”
Dyche added: “He’s had a lot of exposure and that can sometimes play its part. He’s a good young player who is still getting in the right areas to score goals. With a player of his goal-scoring prowess, goals will come for sure. A few games without a goal for most players wouldn’t get a mention, but with him scoring that often before maybe that is the case.
“When Charlie missed four games we won. It’s the challenge of the players to score goals and be clinical. Everyone knows you can’t rely on one player. Strangely when he came back in we haven’t had a good run. That’s the madness of it. We’re not a one-man team for sure and we’ve proved that already.”
Dyche is hoping his players unite tomorrow at the Valley when they face Charlton Athletic who boast the worst home record in the Championship. Alongside Wolves the Addicks have picked up just 18 points from 17 games on home soil this term.
“They’re all tough and when you’re on an awkward run they become even tougher,” said Dyche. “They’ve had an awkward time themselves lately so it’s a case of manning up, being brave and going about our business in the right manner and get back to the basics.
“We’ll let the players recover, we’ll speak to them, let the performance sink in, they’ll be debriefed and then go. The main thing is that football changes very quickly. We’d won four out of five a very short time ago and we were very good value down at Brighton. We need that moment of response when we face Charlton this weekend for sure.”
He added: “Dean Marney picked up a calf strain so we’ll have to see how that is and Chris McCann had a niggle so we’ll assess that as well.”
Meanwhile the Burnley boss has vowed to fight until the death, despite conceding that hopes of claiming a Championship play-off spot are quickly fading.
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A sixth game without victory and a third consecutive game without finding the net, inflicted by the Terriers midweek, saw the Clarets slip in to the bottom half of the table, eight points adrift of the top six.
Dyche’s side still have the division’s top three to play – Cardiff City, Watford and Hull City – plus Rovers, Forest and Leeds United who all sit above the Clarets, but the Burnley boss has acknowledged that any chance of a Premier League return is out of their hands.
“You always believe,” said Dyche. “I’ve made it clear to the players that I never give up on anything. Their mentality has to be the same. Of course it’s a massive challenge now. Teams don’t lie down in this division and if you’re not going to perform properly then you won’t get a lot out of it.
“It’s out of our hands now; it’s in other peoples’ hands. The thing that we can assure is that we’ll improve on that and go hard. There are still enough games to make it but it’s a big challenge now.”
Asked about recent results, Dyche added: “It’s not worrying; it’s just the reality of what can happen. It’s more of a challenge now. They’ve taken the club a long way, got the club to seventh with people recognising the hard work and good play, and now it’s been dragged away. It’s about all of us taking responsibility because we’re the only ones that can change it. That’s the challenge.”
The miserable, uninspiring display against Huddersfield Town at Turf Moor brought a few home truths crashing back to Dyche, echoing the fact that changes are a necessity. Dyche admits that he’s explored the loan market with the intent of strengthening his squad, but without any success to date.
“There’s been a few things we’ve been looking at, a few near ones, those where clubs with more financial prowess take players you thought were going to come in,” he said.
“That’s sometimes the way it is. We’re in a careful market that we have to shop in, not one where we can just throw money around. We’re still looking. Make no mistake we’ll be going hard until the last game, whether that’s with the squad that’s still here, whether that means changes to the squad that’s here, changes in formation, we’ll be doing whatever we can.
“It was a strange one for us but it was a reminder that the group isn’t the finished article, it isn’t the real deal. I’ve said that all along.”