Second half turnaround 'what we get paid for' says satisfied Burnley boss Dyche
Clarets boss Sean Dyche takes more satisfaction from Burnley's Premier League performance this season, than earning Europa League football last term.
Dyche steered Burnley to seventh place - their best finish in the top flight in 44 years - and a return to continental football for the first time since 1966/67.
But while the Clarets were the best of the rest last season, only bettered by the established Big Six, Dyche feels his performance in taking the side from 18th on Boxing Day - after a 5-1 defeat at home to Friday night's opponents Everton - is a better showcase of his managerial abilities.
Burnley never dipped below seventh in the Premier League last season from matchday 10 onwards, but at the halfway mark this term had picked up only 12 points from 19 games.
Dyche said: "Anyone can take the wheel of a ship in calm water, it's not so easy when the waves are crashing on the bow.
"Football doesn't take care of itself - last season we had a great season, but went 11 games without a win.
"A lot of people forget that, I don't.
"i knew what that was about, and we came through that and won some games and came seventh.
"I'm not doing that down, but there's a part of that season where you looked and said 'how can we correct that?'
"But it's different when confidence is high and you're getting results.
"Even in those 11 games, there was no adjustment of confidence, everyone thought it would come right, we were performing well and the margins were really tight.
"This season there was no other than we weren't performing right, or not consistently enough, throughout whole games.
"We would have good halves, 60 minutes, but not through a whole game.
"So you have to correct that and it's a different thing."
He added: "Last season, in the 11 games they were still performing well, it was just the details, get those right and you'll win some games.
"This season, it needed correcting, it wasn't a case of just waiting for it to correct itself, I had to step in with my staff and the players, and say 'we've got to change this, this, this and this, to get to where we want to get to.
"That's real management, the bit where we in theory do what we get paid for, not just when it's all nice and rosy and happy days."
The turnaround has been remarkable. If the table was solely based on the second half of the season, Burnley would be fourth, only outscored by Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Burnley's first half showing came as a surprise to Dyche, even taking into account Europa League exertions, injuries and a disappointing transfer window: "I am way more satisfied as a manager. When things are going right you still have to manage it and keep the energy and the focus and the direction of the players but when it is not going right how do you change it? How do you turn it around with the staff and the players to make sure that turnaround happens? I have been really pleased.
"It has been a tough season for me and for the team and the staff but I have been really pleased with my part in thinking things through and trying to make the right, effective decisions.
"People from the outside will think we have had a poor season but I think we have had a fantastic season. It is very unlikely that we will go into the season thinking we will just walk it and be fine. Every season is a challenge and I expected more of a challenge (than last year) but not as much as it was.
"I thought that early season we would be better value than 12 points out of 19 games, so I wasn't expecting that and that was a surprise to me, but I didn't remotely think we would be running away with it and sitting on 25 points from 19 games.
"I thought it would be a tough season with the Europa League and trying to work in the market which is always difficult for us with the finances here and finding that balance to be effective.
"But to make sure the second half of the season as gone how it is, with my part through the staff and the players, I have been really pleased with that."
The Everton defeat was a clear turning point, with Tom Heaton brought in for Joe Hart for the following game against West Ham, while Dwight McNeil was reintroduced to devastating effect: "I thought we bottomed out that day (against Everton). It is a hard thing to put your finger on but it is a collective thing of 'that's enough.' There was an undertone of 'we have hit the lowest point of the season and what can we do to change that around?'
"I think the change around is the key thing and the players deserve a huge amount of credit. Early season there was a bit of confusion and many reasons why including the injuries which has been an ongoing thing which is unfortunate and is the first season here where I have had that. And to piece it altogether and deliver the performances.
"We had a great run of eight unbeaten but it wasn't done, we still needed loads more points after that so to stay focused on the back of four losses and to regain that feeling and take another 10 points out of the next four games, that takes a lot of physical power, ability and tactical understanding and a mentality.
"I think this team has a strong jaw and they have shown that to turn things around so an enormous amount of credit to my players but also to my staff who have been very diligent to stay focused and calm during a very testing period and to come out of the end of it."