Michael Kightly has likened Sean Dyche to the legendary Brian Clough and says the Burnley boss would be a success at a bigger club, if given an opportunity.
The 34-year-old Kightly, who retired from professional football last summer, linked up with Dyche for the first time when he joined Watford on loan from Wolves, before following him to Burnley just over two years later.
Kightly moved to Turf Moor, initially on loan, from Stoke in 2013 but the deal quickly became permanent and he enjoyed a successful four years with the Clarets, helping the team earn two promotions to the Premier League under Dyche’s stewardship.
Burnley have really kicked on since Kightly left in 2017, becoming an established Premier League side. Plus, Dyche earned plenty of plaudits two seasons ago when he guided the Clarets into the Europa League, which is perhaps his biggest managerial achievement to date.
Plenty have hailed Dyche for exceeding expectations at Burnley on a fairly limited budget compared to other Premier League outfits, and Kightly feels the 48-year-old’s personality enables him to get such consistency out of the squad.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, the former winger said: “During my time at Burnley, Dyche would speak about his time at Nottingham Forest and he had a little role under [Brian] Clough when I think he was a youth team player.
“He just spoke about how Clough was as a manager; how he did things and how he liked to keep things simple. You could see that in Dyche’s management.
“He [Dyche] has obviously taken snippets of every manager he’s probably played under, so I do think there are similarities. You can become overawed with tactics and positioning and trying to get the best out of players and I think Dyche is very good at keeping it simple.
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“The main thing I like about him is that he’s never too up and never too down; if you lose a game 3-0 on Saturday, he’s not going mental and having you in on a Sunday.
“But, at the same time, if you win 3-0 and you play really well, he’s not saying you’re all brilliant. He keeps a level ground of how he is and that consistency leaked into the squad.
“I’ve played under managers where they’re so emotional and one minute they’re up and the next minute they are down and the players are up and down as well and that comes from the manager.
“The fact he’s so level all the time and consistent in the way he goes about his job, I think he gets the consistency out of his players.”
Despite his good work, one criticism which has frequently been levelled at Dyche is his team’s style of play.
If you want to watch free-flowing, possession-based football, Burnley probably aren’t going to be top of your wish list. The fact they’ve completed the second lowest number of passes in the Premier League this season backs that up, while only Newcastle have had fewer touches of the ball than the Clarets also.
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Kightly, though, feels the former Chesterfield defender would be capable of adapting and playing a more attractive brand of football if he was given further backing in the transfer market.
“I don’t think he should change overnight with the squad he’s got in terms of style of play, because it’s worked for him as he’s got two promotions and kept the club in the Premier League,” he continued.
“But, my question is, when does that change for Burnley? When do they think let’s try to go to the next level or try to play more expansive football?
“First and foremost, the most important thing for Burnley is to stay in the Premier League and they will do that year in, year out in my opinion.
“If he does get a bigger move, or club, or more money to spend, I do think he would change his style to suit that squad he takes over.”
Dyche has in recent years been linked with the managerial vacancies at Everton, Newcastle as well as West Ham – and even been touted for the England job by some pundits.
However, he’s never been given a chance at a so called ‘bigger’ club – but why is that the case?
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“Firstly, because he’s English and I don’t think English managers get the recognition they should get,” finished Kightly. “Secondly, the style of play.
“Bigger teams will look at his style of play at Burnley and think, ‘we don’t really want that at our club.’ If he went to Arsenal, he’s not going to play like that.
“I just don’t think he fits the bill in terms of how he’s supposed to look and how he talks. He’s got the croaky voice and he’s very stern and jokey at times and I think the top clubs look at that and think, ‘that’s not what we want at our club’ – that’s a shame really because I think he’d do really well at a top club.
“The way he is and the aura about him, he would get respect. You look at Arsenal and all their defensive problems, he would go in there and sort it straight out and build from there.
“But I can’t ever see him getting a job like that, to be honest.”
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