It wasn’t quite like that. As the seconds ticked down to a Burnley victory that moved them to within a point of fourth-bottom Everton, the Burnley fans to the side of Nick Pope’s goal began a song that was soon taken up across Turf Moor: ‘There’s only one Sean Dyche’.
This was followed by applause and then ‘Ginger Mourinho’.
But, while there was a sense of foreboding around this famous old stadium as Burnley fans came to see the first match at their own ground in nearly a decade without recently sacked manager Dyche’s familiar frame in the technical area, as they streamed out they were suddenly thinking the future might not be as bad as they feared.
After celebrating the deserved 2-0 victory over Southampton among themselves and with Clarets under-23 coach Mike Jackson and his interim coaching team, the home players acknowledged the supporters who had stayed on to cheer a performance of zest, determination, some invention and cussedness.
It is a win that will give Burnley fans real hope of survival and leave Everton supporters anxiously looking over their shoulders, not to mention bringing a few worried looks from the likes of Leeds and Aston Villa. The relegation fight – and seemingly Burnley – has got new life.
This was not a backs-to-the-wall show of defiance. From virtually the first whistle, Burnley tore into Southampton. They should have been in front before Connor Roberts’ magnificent opener, and scored again before Nathan Collins’ header.
If the chances receded after the break, Burnley’s hunger did not. A tackle by Charlie Taylor on Che Adams just as the Southampton forward was about to shoot from six yards in a central position, when there was long enough left for nerves to set in, was worthy of a goal in itself.
The post-match mood at Turf Moor was certainly a lot more optimistic than it was before, as Burnley fans struggled to get their heads around the thinking behind Dyche’s departure.
Kurt Whitton says he was “a big Alan Pace [Burnley owner and chairman] fan” until the events of the last few weeks but now he is “not so keen anymore”.
“I was 12 when Sean Dyche became manager, I am 22 now,” he said. “That’s virtually half my life.
“It was not the right time to do it. It doesn’t seem like there was a plan.”
The lack of a plan was something that was mentioned a lot by supporters before the game.
Jackson was not afforded the courtesy of his name on the team-sheet. He had no column in the programme as Dyche used to have.
Chairman Pace does – and he used it to expand on the statement confirming Dyche’s exit a week ago.
In paying tribute to Dyche, Pace added this: “There can be no denying it has been a difficult season on the pitch and results and performance have been disappointing.
“Therefore, while the decision to part ways was not one that was taken lightly at all, with four league wins this season, we felt that a change was necessary to offer us the best chance to try and secure our Premier League survival.”
Normally one of the more open club owners, these have been Pace’s only words on Dyche’s exit.
The lack of a successor – Jackson says he has no meetings planned with Pace before Sunday’s home game against Wolves and is just waiting to be told if he will be in charge or not – has helped fuel a number of rumours about the reasons for, and timing of, Dyche’s exit.
It is perhaps no surprise one of those centres around the players and what they felt about the club’s short-term direction. The sense of purpose evident against Southampton will only fuel that kind of speculation.
Rumour around the financial structure of ALK’s leveraged takeover of Burnley has continued since it was completed in December 2020.
Evidently, relegation will condemn Burnley’s owners to a rather large financial hit, despite the existence of parachute payments to soften the landing. It is fair to assume Pace and his business associates did not get involved in the Premier League in order to lose money.
The wisdom of Pace’s decision to dismiss Dyche can only be measured at the end of the season and beyond.
Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder keeps getting linked with the vacancy and Bodo/Glimt coach Kjetil Knutsen has attracted attention with his side’s run to the Europa League quarter-finals, which included two victories against Jose Mourinho’s Roma..
However, the short turnaround, combined with two positive results and performances, should lead to Jackson remaining in situ for Sunday, even though he claims the role is not something he is relishing.
“No,” he said, when asked if he was enjoying the experience. “It’s not easy. You stand on the touchline and can’t enjoy it.
“It’s strange, I don’t think it’s good for your body to be honest.”
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