Former England defender Dixon backs Clarets to beat the drop

Arsenal's Lee Dixon celebrates from his diving header goal with team-mates Paul Merson (right) and Hartson against Newcastle today (Saturday). Pix Owen Humphreys/PA

Arsenal's Lee Dixon celebrates from his diving header goal with team-mates Paul Merson (right) and Hartson against Newcastle today (Saturday). Pix Owen Humphreys/PA

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Former Burnley and England defender Lee Dixon has backed Sean Dyche’s side to secure Premier League survival.

The four-time English champion, part of NBC’s historic broadcast at Turf Moor as Welsh international Aaron Ramsey earned Arsenal victory, believes the Clarets remain in a good position to beat the drop after an unfavourable cluster of fixtures.

Dixon, recruited by chief scout Gordon Clayton for the Clarets in 1980, said: “I think they can do it because it’s so tight and they’ve got all those games against the big teams out of the way. It’s been a heck of a run recently with the teams they’ve had to play.

“The players are all aware of what needs to be done and the team spirit seems to be great here. That will hopefully weigh in their favour towards the end. I certainly want them to stay up being an ex Burnley player.

“There’s a lot of teams around them now. They are not going to go down by losing to teams like Arsenal. The games to come against Leicester, Hull and Villa will be the ones that define whether they go down I think. I want them to stay up and they’ve given themselves a chance to do that.”

After serving his apprenticeship during Brian Miller’s tenure, Dixon signed as a full time professional and eventually made his Clarets bow under new boss Frank Casper in a 2-1 win against QPR where he deputised for the injured Brian Laws.

Dixon featured twice more that season, against Leicester City and Crystal Palace, but John Bond’s appointment as manager in the summer of ‘83 ultimately spelled the end for Dixon’s affiliation with the club. Having played in a 4-1 loss to Hull City, and withdrawn in a 1-0 League Cup reversal to Crewe, Bond deemed the full back surplus to requirements and Dixon joined Chester on a free transfer.

The three-time FA Cup winner and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup victor, who would go on to make more than 600 appearances for Arsenal, shrewdly brushed past the unwelcoming memory of Bond’s rejection, but lauded the achievement of current boss Dyche.

“He’s done a great job,” said Dixon. “He’s a passionate man. You can see that in the way he manages. He’s passionate about his job and he’s got the players playing for him. They’ve bought in to his way of playing and that’s one of the reasons why they’ve got a chance of just sneaking survival and staying in the league.

“It would be a massive bonus for the town if they can do that. The first season back, I know they’ve been here before, is always difficult and if you can stay in the league for two or three years then you can build on it.

“That accumulation of experience and building the squad helps because you can’t spend all the money in one hit. You’ve got to do it slowly so if you go back down it’s a huge blow. It’s important to accumulate as much experience as you can.”

Incredibly the weekend defeat to the Gunners, where Dixon’s former team-mate Steve Bould is assistant to Arsene Wenger, was Dixon’s first visit back to Turf Moor since he was summoned to ‘that’ end-of-season chat with Bond. Just over 31 years has elapsed since then.

“It’s the first time I’ve been back which is quite weird,” he said. “I’ve been through Burnley but I’ve never been to a game. I was working for NBC in America and we’ve put a big show on about the differences in the Premier League from the top and the bottom. It epitomised it today with the size of Arsenal as a club coming to a place like Burnley.

“You’d say Burnley are an old-fashioned team and the traditions of English football are epitomised by the club and that’s why we’re here. We’re trying to get that message over to the audiences in America. We’ve done some great interviews, we’ve done some behind the scenes stuff and it’s been a really good day. It would’ve been nice to get a result for Burnley but I’ve also got my Arsenal hat on. I’m pleased that we won in that respect.”

Dixon added: “I did a little tour and we made a little film yesterday. I went around the dressing rooms and obviously they’ve changed. The home one has changed but the away team dressing room is still the same which is a bit weird.

“I used to get changed in there when we were doing trials here. Some of the stands are very similar but some of it has changed. There’s still the slope on the pitch which I remember and the town still looks the same.”