FINANCES dictate if Burnley are to return to the Premier League, they are going to have to do it the hard way.
But Clarets boss Sean Dyche insists it is possible - you just have to earn the right.
Dyche won’t be able to spend big in January like some of his Championship rivals to boost chances of a play-off push, and the onset of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play ruling, which means clubs cannot spend more than their generated revenues, will not increase his transfer warchest in the future.
However, with the club in 10th position in the table, four points adrift of Watford, who occupy the final play-off slot, Burnley are in with a shout with 19 games remaining - including tomorrow’s trip to seventh-place Millwall, who Dyche helped to promotion to the second tier in 2001, and the play-offs the following year.
And he assessed the overall picture: “Watford did it eight or nine years ago, arguably against the grain.
“Burnley did it arguably against the grain, going through the back door - a great way and exciting way of doing it. Blackpool’s another one.
“I’m not suggesting it can’t be done.
“It’s just that there are clubs out there who probably have a slight headstart because they can pick and choose players and revolve around the transfer market quite freely.
“Ours is not that situation. But I don’t think that’s radically against what Burnley’s been about for many years, in my eyes and with my knowledge of it. We’ll look to earn the right to be successful and that’s what we intend to do.”
Burnley are above clubs with greater financial clout, the likes of Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves, but he added: “We still focus on what we can do, and what we are doing.
“That’s always the main thing - what we do on the pitch, what we do with the club, our links with the community.
“The challenge, if you don’t win all the time, is to maintain that club belief. At the moment we are winning so it’s nice.
“There’s a belief in the group.
“There are some very good teams in this division but you’re not playing Barcelona or Real Madrid every week or Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal or whatever.
“You’re playing teams in the same division as you and they are there for a reason - all of those clubs.
“Therefore the challenge is quite obvious, to be in that pack and try to win every game.
“That’s no different from one club to the other.
“I don’t think about the size of clubs, I just think about our 11 versus their 11 on any given day, and that’s what I get into the players.
“It’s not about what you can’t achieve, because we all know you can achieve anything.
“There is a reality amongst that and you look at some of the clubs now in the Championship and there are some big, big clubs. Equally there are some big clubs who aren’t at the right end of the table - no-one’s got a divine right.
“But over time you would imagine if those big clubs continually throw money at it, at some point over the years they’re going to bounce back up.
“Our challenge is to compete in that market, without major resources.
“That’s the reality of it.
“It’s not a positive or a negative, it’s just what it is.
“That’s our challenge now, and we’re going about it the right way.
“The challenge will get more difficult as time goes on because the finances have to come into line, partly because of the club and partly because of the new financial regulations.”
Dyche was fully aware of the situation when he took the reins, and is relishing the challenge of helping Burnley climb the table under the radar.
They have stealthily moved into the top 10 on the back of three wins in four league games, in which time they have conceded only one goal, and despite not receiving any plaudits outside the area, particularly for their win over third-place Crystal Palace on Saturday, Dyche said: “I’m happy with the feel of the club, the ethos of the club, the belief and the history of the club. That takes care of itself for me.
“I’m not bothered whether we’re in the shining lights or you’re not.
“What I am happy with is when we keep winning, I like that bit.”
Three wins in four league games have made him extremely happy, but he feels there is a perception outside Turf Moor that his side have become more defensive since he has taken the reins.
Yes, Burnley have conceded fewer goals on average, and scored fewer - but chances are still being created at an impressive rate: “Sometimes it’s a perception rather than fact, so I looked at the facts.
“Defensively, in the first 14 games of the season, the team was conceding an average of 16 shots.
“The average shots on target was 8.7, the average goals conceded 2.2 a game.
“In the last 14 games it’s gone from an average of 16 shots conceded to 13.2, the average on target has gone down from 8.7 to 7.2, and the big one is the average goals the opposition have scored is down to 0.8.
“Offensively, this is where the perception against the fact comes in.
“The perception is that because we haven’t conceded as many we haven’t scored as many.
“In the first 14 games the average number of shots created was 15, the average shots on target were 8.5 and the average number of goals scored was 1.8.
“In the last 14 games the average number of shots created is 14.1, so you’re 0.9 down; the average on target is 7.8 so you’re 0.7 down; but the average goals scored is one per game instead of 1.8.
“The point of all this being it’s just that clinical moment that someone actually puts it in the net, that’s what’s changed - not the actual making of the chances.
“Before the game on Saturday I told the lads I didn’t want them to get misrepresented on the perception rather than the facts, so I went through the facts with them.
“Factually they are stopping them going in at that end, and they are still creating as many chances going the other way.
“The moment of truth comes when one of you decides to put it in the corner instead of wide or at the keeper. I’m not a zealot to facts and stats, although I do like them, but I do understand it’s a part of the jigsaw.
“We use it all, piece it all together.”