Sean Dyche admits “prominent managers” have told him to stop his one-man campaign against diving, or risk damaging his career.
But the Clarets boss is sticking to his principles, despite being depicted as something of a villain over the subject.
Win, lose or draw, Dyche has called out diving when he has seen it, and, despite pleas from the Premier League to stick to terms like “simulation” rather than “cheating”, has stuck to his guns.
At the start of his second Premier League season at the helm in 2016, after a 1-0 defeat to Swansea, he noted: “I try and get lads not to fall on floor but there was a number of those which was interesting to say the least.
“We try and play fair and don't get anything. We don't want to be falling on the floor but then you don't get anything.
“I've spoken to the powers that be about retrospective bans for cheating – sorry, you can't call it that anymore, it's simulation. But I don't want to see it or my kid to see it.”
His disappointment at the lack of action has remained consistent, with even the advent of a panel to look at incidents which suggest a match official had been deceived by an act of simulation failing to scratch the surface of the problem.
He said again in November 2017: “I hope retrospective bans are handed out all over the place.
“If you’re going to do it right and clean it up, then clean it up.”
Earlier this season, Dyche again made his point at Arsenal: “I’m really worried about the game of football. The people falling on the floor and diving all over the place today – it’s got to go.”
However, Gunners forward Alex Lacazette responded, replying to a video of the Clarets chief on Instagram with three ‘laughing’ emojis.
At the time, he was backed by former Millwall teammate Neil Harris, then Lions boss, who said: “What I will say is that I support Sean Dyche’s comments when it comes to players diving and rolling around.
“We don’t want to see players acting and people being given opportunities to get away with things, trying to get their fellow professionals in trouble.
“People are still diving now or play-acting and getting away with it or getting a yellow card and getting another opportunity. Let’s stamp it out of the game.
“We are trying to move the game forward. We want players to be role models. Feigning injury has no place in the game.”
Fast forward to last Saturday, and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi was booked after a VAR check for going over James Tarkowski under no contact.
Matt Lowton had a hand on his back, but was it enough for the 18-year-old’s legs to buckle?
The officials at Stockley Park thought not, and Dyche was angered by the incident: “I can’t abide it, as everyone knows, I don’t know why it’s in the game.
“I said at the beginning of the season, we were told by the Premier !League the worst you can get is a yellow card, so everyone has a chance to cheat once again and not get sent off.
“It’s not about the player, it’s the greater good of the game.
“It’s shambolic how people dive about the place, I keep hearing the word respect, and I get shot down for saying this, I sit there amazed - respect the game. That is what people should be doing.”
But Hudson-Odoi was, as you would expect, defended by Frank Lampard, and a number of pundits, including Jamie Redknapp, Frank Sinclair and Jermaine Jenas.
Former referee Dermot Gallagher felt the decision was correct, however, but Dyche feels his is a lone voice in a game which has accepted diving as part of the game: “Isn’t it a weird thing, I can’t get my head around this, I try and talk about factual moments in time and somehow end up the bad guy, and that’s peculiar.
“I don’t have to be the good guy, people going ‘he’s got a point’, but you get people saying ‘what’s he talking about?’.
“Bear in mind I’ve been in football all my life, I’ve watched it all my life, at every age group, from seven, which my lad Max played in, through every age group, to the Under 18s on Wednesday night, and people are going down with nothing wrong with them, and all that.
“And someone I end up coming out of it the bad guy. I can’t fathom it at all.
“I keep meeting people, unless I only happen to meet the only people who don’t like diving, fans who’ve caned us, but then saying, ‘by the way, you were right though about diving’.
“There was a hand in his back, the tiniest contact, which I must compliment Frank on, because he did say, albeit a very light touch, but even Frank was talking about ‘my player’ but it isn’t about that, it’s about the greater good.
“It’s not about the individual, though I know that makes a better story, it’s about the greater good.
“I get it, but sometimes I find it amazing how I come out the bad guy.
“I don’t know how it happens, people factually diving, feigning injury - which is even worse than diving - and I mention it, and people say I’m making excuses.
“Eh? I’ve been making excuses for five years? How’s that then, we’re still in the Premier League, what excuses am I making?”
Lampard turned the attention on Ashley Barnes, saying: “Their bench wanted everything that was happening, every time Ashley Barnes has a contest in the air, he falls to the ground, they want a free-kick.”
But Dyche countered: “I’ve got no problem with anyone else’s view (on Barnes), I can’t give a view and have a problem with anyone else’s, because I’m strong with my views, so if anyone else wants to have a view against me, fine, but they can’t all be against me.
“They all see it with their own eyes, yet it’s ‘no, I don’t think so, he touched his earlobe with his breath’.
“That makes it alright then.
“Even Gary (Lineker) makes a flippancy and has to retract it because he realised there is a serious side to it, and I have no problem with that either.
“But the flippancy is like ‘ha ha ha, but I’d better quickly retract that’ because people will be, hang on a minute, you can’t have that, are you now promoting cheating in football?
“But it’s the same argument for me, if your kid cheats at a maths test, do you tell them ‘well done’.
“Of course I don’t. And this is a professional sport, people cheating. You wouldn’t accept that in any other form of life other than, apparently, football.
“And yet I’m the bad guy.”
The conversation seems to have turned to any player receiving a touch, being “entitled” to go down, and that rankles Dyche: “Any contact, you’re entitled to what, get touched on the shoulder and fall on the floor?
“That’s an entitlement now, and they use that term, entitled.
“90% of the media don’t think there’s any problem.
“The irony is, people say ‘they all move at speed now’, and their balance nowadays is incredible, they are monsters now, sinewy and strong, and yet my generation, all mud lumpers apparently, could all stand up!
“The worst thing about it is kids football, where they’re all doing it now, the FA put in a kajillion quid in to respect grassroots football - just stop them from diving.
“Give the ref a chance, stop diving, feigning injury, rolling around, when they’re little, and they’ll grow up now doing it.
“I’ve seen it for years, everyone going down from minimal contact, and where do they learn it from, the TV, stadiums. You’re not born thinking, ‘I’ll wait for contact and, bang, I’ll go down’.”
Dyche will out forward his points again to the Premier League at an upcoming meeting, and he won’t bow to advice to give up his crusade: “We’ve got a meeting coming up with the Premier League and it is one of the taking points, so that could be interesting, I’m not backward in coming forward.
“I’ve been told by other prominent managers to stop going on about it because it will affect my career.
“I said, ‘sorry, not my bag’. You have to be true to yourself and able to look at yourself in the mirror.
“A couple of managers said it could affect me. I’m the bad guy, don’t forget.
“But at the end of the day, it was a passing comment over a chat, and I said it wasn’t my thing, I’ve got a kid who plays, and it would be ridiculous for me to let it go and then tell him I don’t want to see him doing it.
“That’s double standards.
“I’m not going to send him as a scholar off on a path I find unacceptable.”