May 21, 2024

How Dyche, data and no dickheads can save Everton

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Ignore the David Brent image – Dyche has given Everton reasons to be cheerful despite their harsh treatment from the Premier League

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 11: Sean Dyche of Everton during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Everton FC at Selhurst Park on November 11, 2023 in London, England.(Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Dyche has everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction (Photo: Getty)

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November 25, 2023 6:00 am(Updated 6:01 am)

Get some sweat on the shirt. Leave your egos at the door. Get noses pointing in same direction. Body on fire and head in the fridge. We don’t do blind faith, we do authentic optimism.


Sean Dyche is well known for his one-liners, his way with words, his quips and jokes and a sense of humour that can be found lacking in many of his contemporaries. They have formed part of his persona as a football manager, are part of one of his main strengths as a coach. They are also probably partly to blame for the image he has had externally as football’s David Brent-esque figure.


One that isn’t helped by stories of Dyche handing a questionnaire to all of his Burnley players when he first arrived at the club: to get to know them better, get inside their heads, understand their opinions and ethics, work out if they fitted into his plan.


Still, whatever your view of Dyche, it all feeds into his exemplary motivational aptitude, strengthened by a level head in difficult times and an ability to cut through the bullshit, that has been vital in what one Everton source described as a “hectic week”.


The perfect man for the job

Nobody at Everton was expecting what many consider to be the extraordinarily harsh 10-point deduction the club were handed last Friday by an independent commission after being charged by the Premier League with breaching financial regulations. Of course nobody could have foreseen this when Dyche was appointed as Everton manager in January.


Yet now, with the club plunged into the relegation places by the largest points deduction in Premier League history, those close to Dyche and at Everton believe they could scarcely have found a better manager for the occasion.


“Sean is the perfect man for the position,” an Everton source said. “He has the wonderful adage of not getting too high when we win and not getting too low when lose or get knocked.


“We don’t need to get too down in the dumps, all of us have got jobs to do, from the stewards to the manager to the board. Everyone’s got to deliver. Leaders at clubs can help set the tone and Sean does that really well. Sean and Kevin have done an incredible job putting spirit and unity into the club.”


Kevin Thelwell, Everton’s highly-respected director of football, and Dyche held a meeting with the squad at Everton’s Finch Farm training centre when the players had returned from international duty.


They discussed what’s happened, explained that the club are appealing the ruling, and made clear that everyone at the club is shocked by what they consider the disproportionate nature of the punishment. The message is that it should be used as lighter fluid on the motivational fire to ensure it doesn’t send them down.


Possibly lost in the thick smoke of perceived injustice and the years of trouble that have twice come close to costing them a place in the Premier League, is that Everton are actually turning a corner under Dyche.


They have lost only three times in 12 games and won seven of them. Victory in what will now be a home match of heightened tension and anger against struggling Manchester United on Sunday can pull them straight out of the bottom three. A 10-point deduction would have relegated Everton in the last two seasons. It could, arguably, not have come at a more suitable juncture.


What Dyche built and achieved and the way he honed his crafted during his decade at Burnley was a major factor in Everton’s decision to appoint him as a manager.


LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 01: Beto and Jarrad Branthwaite of Everton celebrate the goal of Ashley Young during the Carabao Cup Fourth Round match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on November 01, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Everton have turned a corner on the pitch despite the crisis off it (Photo: Getty)

First and foremost, Everton needed to stay up at the time. And Dyche had the qualities to achieve that. But more than that they wanted a manager who could build for the future, who could get noses all pointing upwards and start rebuilding a club that can compete back where they believe they should be competing.


After years of heavy spending on transfer fees and salaries had failed, Thelwell had to start finding players “for today and for tomorrow”, he told Training Ground Guru this month. Players who could keep them up but grow and develop with the team.


With the Premier League scrutinising their finances, Everton had to sell last January to bring in those types of players, but clubs baulked at the size of the wages of those they wanted to offload.


It was in the same mould that Thelwell, along with colleagues at Everton, had to recruit the manager after Frank Lampard was sacked with the club heading towards relegation.


And there was so much about Dyche’s time in Burnley, about the way he built a formidable team of individual players barely anyone could name outside Burnley to earn promotion to the Premier League, that pointed to all the attributes they sought.


The Burnley years

Dyche turned up to his interview for the Burnley job with only one season as a manager at Watford on his CV, but he soon convinced the club’s executives he was the right manager.


Taking them through a PowerPoint presentation, he talked about maximum effort being minimum requirement, sweat on the shirt, pride, respect, integrity, honesty, passion.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND – APRIL 06: A general view of artwork on the side of The Royal Dyche pub outside Turf Moor, home stadium of Burnley during the Premier League match between Burnley and Everton at Turf Moor on April 6, 2022 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

‘The Royal Dyche’ pub in Burnley (Photo: Getty)

Dyche has never warmed to talented mavericks and mentioned the concept of “team” multiple times. He arrived at Everton and wanted to get rid of the dickheads, as one source put it this week, to bring in the right characters who could be described with the same words he used in his Burnley interview all those years ago.


After Dyche had kept Burnley up they set about the daunting task of creating a squad capable of competing in the Championship with barely any budget. When Dyche suggested signing the goalkeeper from Bristol City, who had just finished bottom of the Championship after conceding 84 goals, on a free transfer there were some uneasy faces in the boardroom.


Dyche insisted, pointing out the goalkeeper had made saves every 15 seconds. So they signed Tom Heaton, who would go on to be integral to the club’s success and play for England.


And when the club had to sell popular striker Charlie Austin to reduce losses, Dyche paired Danny Ings with Sam Vokes, forming a brilliant partnership that fired them to promotion. Ings would be another player to later represent England.


Barry Kilby, Burnley’s former chairman and vice president during the Dyche years, wrote of the misconceptions about Dyche in his autobiography, Starting From Scratch.


“Sean Dyche was impressive in his manner and bearing, organised, single-minded, knew exactly what he wanted and had us all with our noses pointing in the same direction,” Kilby writes.


“That was one of his memorable phrases, not one of mine. He was a big man with a big presence, far more imposing than Brian Laws or Eddie Howe. Some people command attention and he was in that group.


“His robust appearance and cropped hair masked a keen intellect and a thirst for football knowledge. People assume that if you look like a nightclub bouncer then that is what you probably are. But this was a deep-thinking man, quick to adopt the science of football management, diet, psychology and fitness.”


‘Dinosaur Dyche’ no more

Indeed, while it may surprise some, utilising a vast array of data is playing a huge part in everything being done behind-the-scenes at Everton.


Around once every couple of months so-called “Dinosaur” Dyche holds a meeting with Thelwell and Charlie Reeves, head of the club’s Data Insights team – formerly an energy trader – to discuss the numbers behind the football.


It was what helped them hold firm with their tactics and decisions after losing their first three games of the season, when the numbers informed them they were outplaying teams.


Dyche likes to find a relatively fixed starting line-up — he once named the same starting XI for eight consecutive games at Burnley — and eight players have played in at least 10 of Everton’s 12 league fixtures.


Four — Abdoulaye Doucoure, James Garner, Jordan Pickford and James Tarkowski — have played in all of them.


In many ways, despite the 10-point deduction Everton are in better shape than they have been for years.


The wage bill has been reduced, only Brighton have a lower net spend on transfers than them during the past five years and relegation clauses of up to a 40 per cent reduction in wages are now written into most new contracts, given the scares of recent seasons.


Plenty, as Dyche might say, to be authentically optimistic about.

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