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Can Burnley survive in the Premier League?

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Paul Fletcher | 09:33 UK time, Thursday, 13 August 2009

Among the messages of congratulation that overwhelmed Owen Coyle after his team won promotion to the Premier League was one from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

It included a list of wines that Ferguson, ever so mischievously, suggested might be suitable for a post-match drink when his team visit Turf Moor this coming season.

"I replied that I would have a look but I did not know if I could afford it," said Coyle, a firm teetotaller who reckons he will stick to his favourite Irn Bru. "I don't know if the salary will stretch to that but I will try my best."

Burnley fans celebrate winning promotionIt is an answer that might apply to Burnley in a much broader sense as they prepare for their first season of Premier League football.

They were the surprise package of last season as they shocked several top-flight teams in the cups. They then held their form through the closing months of the Championship, eventually defeating Sheffield United in the play-off final, despite operating with a small squad. The Lancashire club played 61 games last season.

But if they punched above their weight last season, then Burnley, whose entire population would just about squeeze inside Old Trafford, really are the featherweight of the forthcoming Premier League.

"We are not under any illusions," said Coyle. "We know it will be tough. Our budget will be the lowest by a country mile but I believe we can put together a team that can compete."

That quote contains the very essence of Coyle's management - an over-riding optimism and ability to pick out the positives of any situation, tempered with a pragmatism forged from his Glasgow childhood as one of nine children. Make no mistake, Coyle is nobody's fool.

Last season Burnley defeated Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal, West Brom and Tottenham. Coyle takes encouragement from those results but knows it will be a very difficult assignment now his squad have to face top-flight opposition every week.

He could be forgiven for contemplating a more attritional style of play than the one that won his side so many plaudits last season but Coyle is having none of it. He is a man of principles and the 43-year-old will be sticking to them.

"I will not compromise my philosophies," he told me. "We will look to get the ball down and play, be positive and commit players forward. We will respect everybody we play but we will not fear anybody."

Coyle has told his players that they have earned the opportunity this season to go toe to toe with some of the best players in the world but that they absolutely need to be at their best both mentally and physically to compete. He explained this to me with such enthusiasm and relish in his voice that I could sense how he energises his players.

The ability to seek out the positives might equally apply to his team's opening sequence of matches. The Clarets are at Stoke on the opening day of the season and then face Man Utd, Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool in their next four Premier League fixtures.

Coyle was in his office watching television when the fixtures came out and the manager quipped in an interview shortly afterwards that they could only have been more difficult had Real Madrid and Barcelona been involved.

"Yet I saw it as a positive and I said to the whole town that this was an unbelievable set of fixtures for Burnley - 20 or so months ago nobody would have envisaged that," he said.

Plenty of promoted clubs have slowly had their early-season optimism sucked out of them by the grinding, attritional nature of the Premier League. It will take more than a positive mindset to keep Burnley in the Premier League - so what has Coyle done since promotion was secured to prepare his side for life in the top flight?

A summer that Coyle describes as "bedlam" started with what surely must have been a tricky decision. He began the close season by considering but ultimately opting against the opportunity to manage Celtic, the club he has supported his entire life. He then went to Florida with his family for two weeks but his phone was rarely switched off.

The manager decided very quickly that he would continue with his policy of trying to buy young players that he can help develop and flourish - and who hopefully will appreciate in value.

"It is not about today or tomorrow - for me it is about putting in place a plan to have longevity at the football club, to make sure we get better and better," he said.

"It would be wrong to go to the chairman to demand money that could ruin the club financially in the long term."Burnley manager Owen Coyle

This is not to say that Burnley's promotion has not brought with it an increase in spending power. Coyle signed 22-year-old striker Steven Fletcher from Hibernian for £3m - not a big signing by Premier League standards but not one he would have been able to afford had the Clarets still been a Championship club.

Tyrone Mears (Derby), David Edgar (Newcastle), Richard Eckersley (Man Utd), Brian Easton (Hamilton) and winger Fernando Guerrero (on loan from Ecuadorian club Independiente del Valle) have also joined. Mears, at 26, is easily the oldest of the bunch.

His strategy of trying to unearth exciting young talent is also related to the fact that Burnley simply do not have the financial muscle to sign established, proven Premier League players. Perhaps they could afford to bring in one or two but there is another reason why Coyle would not try to do so.

"Our group is very tight and the salaries are all around the same bracket - if we brought in a player who is perceived as being a big hitter it would go against everything we are trying to do at the club. I am not prepared to risk damaging that," he said.

Coyle has told his squad what he expects from them this season. At the very minimum he wants an honest performance. His players must be able to look at themselves in the mirror after each and every game and be able to say that they did their best.

"If we do that then I believe it will be good enough to stay in the Premier League," the manager told me.

Back in March, Coyle was sat next to Stoke boss Tony Pulis at Anfield as they watched Liverpool's 4-4 draw with Arsenal.

On Saturday they will be in opposite dugouts as a dream comes true for Burnley and all the club's supporters .

It will be interesting to see whether Burnley will end the forthcoming season as Wolves did after their first season of Premier League football; recognising that they did not perhaps invest enough to give themselves a realistic chance of survival.

But then again I would not be at all surprised if Coyle confounded all expectations by pulling off what would be a remarkable achievement for a modest club rich in footballing tradition but light in the sort of hard cash that flows around the Premier League.

You can follow me throughout the season at

There is a special BBC television programme about Burnley ahead of the new season. Burnley Are Back is on BBC One (North West only) on 14 August at 1930 BST and BBC Two (except Northern Ireland (Analogue), Wales (Analogue)) on 15 August at 15 Aug at 0350 BST.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think it will be a major achievement for the manager and players if they can. Hull and Stoke have set recent precedent, but I think that Burnley will need to invest a little more in their squad if they are to emulate those teams.

  • Comment number 2.

    Please do not down look Burnley . They are a great club but lost some time in the mist of forgetfulness .the Manager and his managers have a very tuned mindset . The players young but very promising . Of course due to financial constraints they are not in a position to rival the established clubs of the Premier League . Never mind with their retained squad , new players and the younsters who have emeged from their own factory ,Burnley will dazzle and baffle a lot .

  • Comment number 3.

    Another cracking Premiership derby match - Blackburn Rover v Burnley !!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Everytime I read anything about Owen Coyle I am more and more impressed by the man.

    Turning down the Celtic job - the club he has supported since boyhood - just goes to show the sort of man he is, too few of his sort are left.

    I bet the taking the Celtic job would have allowed him to double or maybe even triple his current wage too, what a guy!!!

    Burnley will certainly be my 2nd team this season, I hope they do well.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think they can do it, they more than matched Premiership opposition when they came up against them last season. I just think they might get second season syndrome the following year like Reading did and like Stoke will this season.

  • Comment number 6.

    I also think it's highly commendable how he is looking after the clubs long term future.

    I can see the likes of Hull who are in my opinion overextending themselves with transfers and wages going the Bradford/Swindon route when their premiership stay almost inevitably comes to an end, the way Burnley are opperating makes much more long term sense.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good luck Dingles, go up, get the money and keep it.. Bounce back if at all possible.. rather have another Local derby but.. all the best against Blackburn this season, the only matches that count to a Burnley fan!

  • Comment number 8.

    Frankly i am still scared out of my mind. I can't wait until the season starts but as a Burnley fan i am totally invested in the club and do NOT want to get relegated.
    Logically i know that we should go down but i am blinded by raw passion for the club and believe that we could take some points out of our first 5 games.
    Who really knows what will happen. I'm just hoping we play better than in pre-season!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Clubs like Burnley are a real breath of fresh air to the Premiership, there are no airs and graces about Owen Coyle and I'll be backing him and his team all the way - they can definitely stay up, there are a few poor squads in that division this season. Burnley's long-term outlook and solidity is a model for clubs like mine, Newcastle, whose future is uncertain from one day to the next. With Coyle, Burnley are in safe hands. Good luck guys!!

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Coyle is a shrewd man but I still think Burnley will struggle.
    Having said that I am not sure about four or five clubs and I really want them to succeed (ie survive.) Best of luck to them.

  • Comment number 11.

    Owen is a good guy... met him a few times at Celtic matches but mercy can he talk.. watch his interviews this season.. Like a budgie with 2 Heads!!

    Good luck to them.. watch out for big Kevin McDonald in the the middle of the park.. a player for the future.

  • Comment number 12.

    "I can see the likes of Hull who are in my opinion overextending themselves with transfers and wages going the Bradford/Swindon route when their premiership stay almost inevitably comes to an end, the way Burnley are opperating makes much more long term sense."

    Hull City have a new chairman of around 18 months and three very wealthy backers. They are not overextending themselves, nor are they 'breaking the bank' to sign top quality. The players they have, they can afford. The players they are trying to attract, they can afford. Paul Duffen is a shrewd businessman and he certainly knows what he is doing!

  • Comment number 13.

    I sincerely hope Burnley do stay up and I think they'll surprise a few people. They play football the right way and have a very positive and astute manager in Coyle.

    As for 'not spending enough', I don't believe it's about how much you spend, it's about getting the right players in that will work well together as a team (something I suspect Man City will discover this season).

    I'm delighted Burnley haven't gone out and splashed money on so called 'experienced' Premier League players. There are an awful lot of very average players who have managed one or two seasons at the top level and who because of that can demand extortionate wages and high transfer fees when in reality they aren't good enough and haven't been good enough in the past. There seems to be a mindset amongst the bottom half of the Premier League that you have to bring in players who've played at that level regardless of how well they did, rather than bring in players from lower leagues or elsewhere who are unproven. I really hope it works out for them..

  • Comment number 14.

    17th will be a fantastic result for them but I'm sure they can do it

  • Comment number 15.

    I used to love Burnley when they had Casper Kindon James Dobson etc - one of the best teams in the country to watch. Blake has always been a classy player and Fletcher is a great signing. Coyle is a top man.
    I really hope they do well this season: as ever, my 3 to go down are Selfpitypool, Manure and Ch£ls£a.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think I speak for everyone when I say I would love Burnley to stay up. Owen Coyle has seen how previous clubs have failed and got stuck with huge wage bills as they go down.

    I also convinced that Steven Fletcher will be a great player in the premier league, after watching him for Scotland he seems a quality act. Fingers crossed that a magic season is ahead.

  • Comment number 17.

    The chance they have this year is the number of possible relegation rivals. But when teams like Derby (big club, big fanbase) stuggle, it is not easy.

  • Comment number 18.

    I am starting to think that quite a few people reckon Burnley have a decent shout of surviving in the Premier League. I think that staying injury free will be vitally important. Coyle's squad is not particuarly big but he did pretty well on the injury front last season.

    They also have a very difficult start to the campaign - if they can pick up a few points through their opening five games that could prove to be very important.

  • Comment number 19.

    Having seen the way Burnley play first hand (Reading fan), I would not be suprised to see Burnley stay up this season and suprise a few.

    It will be hard but I fully believe they can get results against any of the bottom half and pick the odd "suprise" win up along the way.

    I think there are worse teams in the premier league but they do need luck with injuries. If they can keep their nucleus fit for the majority of the season I back them to be there again next year.

  • Comment number 20.

    Not sure why people are saying Burnley play some good football, watched a few games last season and have seen and been to a few games over previous seasons and Burnleys football bores me to death. They do however score some cracking goals.

  • Comment number 21.

    There are some great teams to come here and some great derby games coming up, including the Merseyside clubs as well as those from Manchester.
    Coyle says that he doesn't want to change from the great football we have been treated to at Turf Moor. I hope that's true, but if someone could offer me 17th at the end of the season I would take it. I hope we can stay up. I'm sure its doable. (stay) Up the Clarets!

  • Comment number 22.

    Burnley have a chance of staying up there are five other teams that aren't as good as most in the premiership ..Portsmouth,Stoke,Wolves,Birmingham and Hull...not long ago most people would have had Fulham ,Bolton, Wigan in that list so if they can gradually improve so can Burnley and good luck to them.

    (4-5-0 most city fans aren't sure how much we'll gel this year or how long to find a balanced team ,even MH has said we are looking this year for top 6 (which reading between the lines he wants to see what or who works this year and what doesn't) and top 4 is the aim for following season.

  • Comment number 23.

    It might benefit Burnley playing Liverpool, Chelsea etc in their first few games - maybe just catch those teams cold....good luck anyway !

  • Comment number 24.

    I really hope Burnley do well, my dad has supported them since the early 50's.

    I also honestly think they have a decent chance of staying up, they are obviously going to be around the drop zone, but there are a few teams in the Premier League this year who I think are in the same boat, wouldn't like to choose the 3 to go down.

    I think it will be 3 from, Stoke, Hull, Birmingham, Wolves, Portsmouth and Burnley. Also think Wigan could be a team to struggle, new manager and the loss of key players.

    Certainly makes for an exciting season

  • Comment number 25.

    I think they are going down.

    I watched Scotland last night through my fingers, Steven Caldwell of Burnley looked atrocious, and where was Graham Alexander? about 20m behind the play. Most notably at the second goal where he should have been picking up Pederson.

    And remember, 3 million Steven Fletcher didn't even make that team. Owen will be doing something really inspirational to get the best out of these players. George Burley couldn't and he took Ipswich to 5th.

  • Comment number 26.

    Maybe they'll stay up, maybe they won't. If not this season, then next....or the one after. Whenever it happens, Burnley's sojourn in the Premier League is an exercise in treading water, just as it is for 90% of the clubs there. "Please let's not get relegated" is their mantra. They have no hopes for winning the big prize and are simply making up the numbers. This is why The Premier League has become tedious, in my opinion. There's the exclusive big boys' club which will once again fight over the trophy and then there's everyone else who will fight over the scraps. Boring.

    I must admit, I'm a little curious this season to see whether Man City can kick in the door of the big boys' club house and gain entry or whether they will simply give themselves a broken toe and hobble off into the night. Knowing City, my money is on the latter.

    I hope Burnley stay up. I'm all for anyone who plays good football. Bolton, Stoke and Blackburn; please just go away.

  • Comment number 27.

    Really hope Burnley do well, however, i think they are doomed.

    Seen Fletcher alot up here in Scotland and i cannot see him being good enough for the Premiership. I hope i am wrong and that he develops into a great player for club and country but i doubt it.

    They will have my support though!

  • Comment number 28.

    As a Blackburn fan I hope Burnley go down and stay down. However the derby games will bring something extra to our season, hopefully we will get the same results as the last encounter.

  • Comment number 29.

    Yesterday on twitter, England cricket star James Anderson posted this: "Went out for dinner last night and saw Wade Elliott. What a legend!!" I had to look up who Wade Elliott was, I'm afraid to say, but I just thought I'd share that with you.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oliver - get with the programme. (Ollie is essentially a cricket journalist).

    Elliott was talking to several journalists after last May's play-off final explaining how he lives near Old Trafford and often exercised by jogging around the stadium. This season he will actually be going in it!

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't get it... Mowbary when in charge of West Brom stated that he will not relent from his attractive passing football- and then was berrated for how he got them relegated from the Premier League (by BBC pundits). Now, we gasp in awe and amazement at how Burnley are sticking to their guns and... wait for... will continue to pass the ball around and play attractive football.
    I don't like these double standards, all seemingly because Burnley have had a fairytale run, and West Brown are a "yo-yo" team of the Premiership/Championship.
    But don't get me wrong- I would love to see his young guns stay up and am excited about seeing young men such as Chris Eagles push on.

  • Comment number 32.

    I hope we finish anything higher than 17th would be great. Having watch the club since the later 70's and early 80's I've seen some big changes in the clubs fortune and if they play with the same spirit, passion and ethuisiasm which they did last season I thing they may rattle a few teams with some unexpected wins. Have to also say looking forward to seeing Kevin McDonald play more this season as I think he'll surprise a few pundits. Shame my younger brother never got chance to see Burnley in the Prem as he was killed on this day 4 years go on his way to his fire station in Manchester. RIP Paul and Up The Clarets

  • Comment number 33.

    I reckon the sheer effort of the players, who will hope to prove they deserved to go up, may translate into a Hull style charge which might just keep them up.

  • Comment number 34.

    burnley will not only stay up but they'll be knocking on the door to the top half of the table.

  • Comment number 35.

    stoke showed the way forward strong team and not shy or apologetic about the way they played if they keep turf moor as a fortress and are not shy about the way they play, they will be ok, its up to the other clubs to adapt to the new boys. all clubs apart from the top four and man city are moving towards a retrenchment of spending just look at portsmouth or wigan with a race to slash wage bills and reduce debt i believe there is a move towards sustainability in most clubs allowing the newer clubs to strt to complete on a more equal basis

  • Comment number 36.

    Here's hoping that Burnley do survive in the Premier League; as long as they understand that the opening game away at Stoke will be a tough one. As a Stoke fan I would rather be facing Man Utd, Liverpool or Chelsea on the first day than a team that is an unknown quantity, still on the up from getting promotion. Stoke did reasonbly well except for a drubbing at Old Trafford against these teams last season by sticking to our game and not succumbing to press pressure to try to be something we weren't. Burnley should do the same - play their game and stay in the Premiership to build for the next season. It is good to be moral and say what classy football WBA played, but went down. I hope Burnley will stay up and I am still working on who will go down with Hull this season; one thing's for sure it won't be Stoke!

  • Comment number 37.

    Owen Coyle was presented to the 125th Anniversary Dinner, November '07, it was a Friday night, he had come down the day before to sign for us. His wife and kid's were still in Scotland.

    He made a speech that night, that made me sit up, yes you get new Manager's coming in and blah, blah, blah, but it was how OC spoke that night, the tone of his voice, the passion with in it and the belief. A few of us were outside, having the old cigarette, when OC came out, and spent 20 or so mins chatting to us all, before he had to go.

    We all knew that night, that someone special had walked into the Club, little did we know how special, the rest is history.

    Come May next year, we will know our fate, but one thing is for sure, we have the right man in charge, and he is a true gentleman with honour. Whether we survive or not, how many other Club's in the EPL, have the trust, belief, faith and support, in their Manager, like we do in Owen Coyle, our 'God'

    And 'In God We Trust'.

  • Comment number 38.

    Burnley have spent more than Portsmouth,and I reckon they're more of a genuine team of triers than Birmingham or Hull.If they carry on playing for each other,and putting in the sort of effort they did last year,they can earn their place in the Premiership for another season.But they have to work harder than they did in their pre-season matches.

  • Comment number 39.

    Good to see Paul Fletcher covering a British story that's not 100% England / English.

    I think Burnley's hefty pool of British players bears some mention. Can a predominantly UK player pool survive in a 2009 EPL? I can't wait to see.

    As with Hull from last season, Burnley need a good start. With points on the board, they may well attract some bigger names to enhance their play.

    I wish another talented Scottish manager all the best in a very competitive and exciting league.

  • Comment number 40.

    It is so pleasing to see so many comments being positive about Burnley. And most people want us to succeed. Thank you! Yes it will be a hard season but it is interesting how many national newspaper punters predict we will survive. Game on....

  • Comment number 41.

    Must say it is a huge task given the small squad and budget but i love an underdog as does the premier league so all the best to them. Owen Coyle is the most genuine man I have ever heard off. Not many managers like him in the league.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think we will have allot of good will towards us this season. This will only continue if we play the kind of football we did last season.

    When I was in the airport flying back to Malta after the Wembley Final I was stopped by so many well wishers. Even on the tube to the airport. People remember Burnley from years back and everyone seems to have some kind of link now! :)

    Im not worried we dont have lots of Premier league 'names' in our team because it no guarantee to success.. look at Newcastle! I think we will do great this season and continue to shock some of the bigger teams! Owen Coyle is GOD!!!!!

    18 years I waited for Burnley to get here!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Some good signings made by Burnley, they have a very real chance

  • Comment number 44.

    Yes, it will be a long learning curve in the Prem this season for the Clarets, but they proved to be very capable against all the Prem teams they played last year. Teams such as Blackburn and Bolton and the likes will have to vastly improve their play this season,as for what bit I saw of them last year they will be Championship contenders this time.

    Frankly some of the football played in the Championship is easily on par with most of the Premiership hangers on. Middlesborough and Newcastle have been hangers on for years and they may even find hanging on to the Championship contenders hard going this season.

    Burnley will survive and they will, I am sure, hopefully cure some of the press and media boy's cataracts in the process.

  • Comment number 45.

    Owen Coyle to be the next Scotland manager? Especially if he manages to keep Burnley in the EPL?

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 46.

    5 Games from the end of last season, about 8 teams could have gone down. If Burnley can get a few results and the trend continues, they could end up 15 or 16.

    Hope they do well.

    Hull to go down, not because they are a bad side, just because their Manager is a bit if a fnut.

  • Comment number 47.

    Top man, hope they stay up and will defo be my 2nd team. I think the fixture list will help them, it means they avoid all them teams for their last games when points will be vital, it will be really important that owen can lift their heads if they lose all of them, that will be the difference cause once your down its hard to bounce back.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm not sure, but I do hope so. Hopefully they don't become the whipping boys and relegated by the next transfer window..

  • Comment number 49.

    I saw Burnely play the Portland Timbers in a pre-season friendly here in the US. The Timbers are not an MLS team as they are basically in the next league below. The final regular-time score was 2-2 but, quite frankly, the Timbers played them off the park....Burnley were really quite bad.
    I wish them well, it's great to see a different team in the Premiership but I fear that they may well break Derby's recent record of being the most woeful team ever at that level. As a life-long Derby fan I hope that record does fall but let's hope it's not Burnley in 09/10.

  • Comment number 50.

    i believe burnly will stay up, but only because i can see certain teams like hull, pourtsmouth and birmingham having a bad season. pourtsmouth have let some of their best players go and not even bothered to try to replace them, i can just see them going downhill from here! i bet my money on pourtsmouth hull and birmingham to go down, and burnley to finish 17-18th, but thats only my opinion

  • Comment number 51.

    all the best to everyone at burnley, enjoy your season, its back to the championship next season.

  • Comment number 52.

    "Yesterday on twitter, England cricket star James Anderson posted this: "Went out for dinner last night and saw Wade Elliott. What a legend!!" I had to look up who Wade Elliott was, I'm afraid to say, but I just thought I'd share that with you."

    The thing is Ollie.. "Legends" don't have to be multi million pound mercenaries who use whatever club they're at as a careerist stepping stone. Wade Elliot is a legend to Burnley fans because he scored the winning goal in the play off final that got Burnley into the Premier.
    Another Burnley legend is Ian Britton. He didn't score or play the most games for Burnley. Look him up and you'll see why he's so fondly thought of.

  • Comment number 53.

    i think some of the clubs will be expecting to beat them and feel they wont have to try Burnley will put up a good fight and with Coyle in charge is a good decision i hope Edgar does well as he has just signed from My club Newcastle i think they will still go down but i will proberly be wrong there alot of teams that will be poor this year there will be a relegation scrap with Bolton Pompey Hull Birmingham Wolves and possebly Blackburn if you play your cards right and play like you played in the cup last season you have a great chance of staying in that league hopefully the Toon can bounce straight back up and we can play you next season =)

  • Comment number 54.

    Also i would like to add after your 2-0 defeat to Stoke dont be suprised as stoke are a good side at home away from home there poor they still managed to score in the last min to get a draw at newcastle though

  • Comment number 55.



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