Boyhood Liverpool fan Dyche out to help thwart title hopes
Sean Dyche admits he still has a “soft spot” for Liverpool having grown up a Reds fan as a child of the 1970s.
But his only focus is trying to usher the level of performance from his players to give them a chance of derailing Jurgen Klopp’s title hopefuls,
Liverpool haven’t been champions of England since their 18th title in 1990, after a remarkable period of dominance, when they were top of the pile 11 times from 1973 onwards.
Dyche, 47, grew up with Bob Paisley’s all conquering sides, and a trip to Anfield remains a special pilgrimage: “I was a Liverpool fan as a kid. You look forward to the fact that you are now managing in the Premier League, on an individual basis. It is a fantastic, historic place to be and they are going fantastically well and are a top side.
“But the job to do for me as a manager and the team is to deliver performance that can get something.
“It is not easy, they have lost one game in the league for good reason because they are such a strong side and squad.
“On the other hand, down the years we have had some important results, we had one recently in a fine side in Tottenham, a good point at Old Trafford so we have to take the belief we have shown in those games into this one.”
Liverpool could be four points adrift of leaders Manchester City come noon on Sunday, with a win imperative to stay the pace, so could that lead into Burnley’s hands?: “Top players become top players for dealing with all that comes with football.
“They have a very, very strong squad, on the other hand if anything does feel like that then it will help because our focus is on ourselves.
“When you play the big guns you need everything to go your way, we need to play well, that is the first thing that we can control. The thing we try to focus on is our performance.”
Liverpool also have a finely-poised Champions League last 16 second leg to come against Bayern next week, and Dyche added: “They have got a big game next week but they are big players.
“Big players at big clubs, in theory, are there for a reason and that is because they take on the challenges and players want those challenges.
“There will be players without doubt at Liverpool going down the business end of the season looking for trophies.”
Trophies came one after the other at Liverpool under Bill Shankly, Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish, and Dyche was in awe of the Reds as an impressionable youngster: “I think it was just the team, my first recollections were about seven years old, eight, nine, when you start zooming in on what it’s all about.
“You start getting your favourite players, King Kenny when I was a kid, why wouldn’t he be your favourite player?
“Souness, his toughness, his ability to play, obviously Hansen, Ray Clemence - what a great guy, he plays on the Sparks charity golf with us, no airs and graces, just a top fella, done so much in the game.
“That’s one thing I marvel at, their humble edge, these are big figures, sometimes godlike figures - King Kenny - and you meet them and they’re so humble and normal.
“It’s that strange feeling chatting to them, chatting to them and thinking ‘when I was a kid, you were ridiculously good’...
“I’ve named a few, but all of that side, it was a powerful thing then.”
By the time of Liverpool’s last title, Dyche was a professional with Nottingham Forest, and he mused: “I was 19, was that the last time? When you go into the professional side, it becomes different, even with the Forest players, I was with Stuart Pearce, Nigel Clough, Dessie Walker, it just becomes part of your life.
“Unless you’re born and bred with it, and it’s in you - because I was from Kettering, you didn’t have a team that your dad said, ‘that’s it’, you’d go to Leicester the odd game, Forest, Northampton, Kettering Town regularly.
“That dissipates when you go into the professional side of it, but deep down, there’s that soft spot for them, from when you were a kid.
“Anfield was too far, a long way, a lot of money for parents then, the first time I went there was for Phil Neal’s testimonial, with a team from Northamptonshire, and we had a 15-minute each way game.
“There weren’t many in the stadium, but by the time we were finishing, the Kop was getting full.
“It was 1985, Liverpool played Everton after, it was enormous for a kid.
“I remember nearly scoring an own goal when the keeper came rushing out, I was in midfield cleaning up between the two centre halves. He came out, I rolled it, it went past him, and I sprinted back and hooked it clear, in front of the Kop.