Burnley are in crisis with manager Sean Dyche and chairman Mike Garlick's relationship having severely deteriorated and the club’s drastic need for new signings thrown into turmoil by the prospect of a takeover.
Two rival bidders are competing to take ownership of the Lancashire club but the timing of a potential buyout is wreaking havoc with attempts to strengthen a threadbare squad before the close of the transfer window in less than three weeks’ time.
Senior sources have told Telegraph Sport that:
- The relationship between Dyche and Garlick, once one of the closest manager-chairman dynamics in the top flight, has soured to the point where they now talk far less frequently
- Two American consortiums are battling to win control of Burnley but uncertainty over the future of the club has complicated recruitment plans
- Burnley remain hopeful of making at least a couple of signings before the close of the window on Oct 5 but first team players are worried about the lack of reinforcements
- Six senior players - Jack Cork, Ashley Westwood, Robbie Brady, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long and Phil Bardsley - are out of contract next summer and the club face a battle to keep some of them.
Burnley have yet to make a significant signing ahead of their opening Premier League match at Leicester on Sunday, despite losing Jeff Hendrick, Aaron Lennon and Joe Hart at the end of last season. The club have been linked with the Mainz and Sweden attacking midfielder, Robin Quaison, but there are growing fears about the forthcoming campaign with just 18 senior outfield players on the club’s books.
To compound matters, three of those players - captain Ben Mee, midfielder Cork and forward Ashley Barnes - are expected to miss the Leicester game through injury and Burnley face a battle to keep centre-half James Tarkowski, who is wanted by West Ham and Leicester.
For years, Burnley have been one of the country’s best run clubs and, for the past four seasons, they have punched considerably above their weight thanks to Dyche’s impressive management and eye for untapped talent.
They finished 10th last term, equalling their Premier League record haul of 54 points from 2017/18, when they came seventh and qualified for Europe for the first time for 51 years.
But problems have been mounting behind the scenes at Turf Moor for some time.
After years spent unearthing hidden talents, from Tarkowski to goalkeeper Nick Pope, Dyche had hoped for increased investment in the playing squad this summer by targeting more established players.
Yet Garlick has appeared reluctant to alter the model that has worked so well for the club under his watch, a position that seems to have been hardened during talks over a prospective sale. Sources claim that this, in turn, has deepened tensions with the manager.
It has left Burnley in a state of limbo and a position where they are unable to compete for some of the players pursued by rivals such as Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Newcastle United.
For example, winger Ryan Fraser joined Newcastle on a free transfer from Bournemouth last week but his mooted £100,000 a week wage demands meant he was never even an option for Burnley, whose top earners are on around half of that sum.
Similarly, the highest fee Burnley have ever paid for a player is £15m - the cost of signing Chris Wood and Ben Gibson from Leeds United and Middlesbrough respectively. Villa, by contrast, have just signed forward Ollie Watkins for £28m after a stand-out season with Brentford in the Championship - a deal Burnley could never have countenanced.
Dyche publicly struggled to conceal his frustration at the situation when the Premier League resumed in June, and hit out at the club's failure to extend the contracts of players whose original deals were due to expire at the end of that month.
"We have let contracts run a long way down unfortunately," he said. "It is with the chairman now and I will wait and see what the chairman does with it because I am not in that loop."
Senior players are also known to have raised their growing concerns with the manager.
Dyche's exasperation is understood to have only increased in subsequent months as he faces the prospect of again being asked to work wonders on a meagre budget with a thin, ageing squad. “The main difficulty is finance, it has always been difficult here,” Dyche said this week. “It’s a challenge, we know that, the group needs reinforcements as we’ve lost players at the end of lockdown, good players who have served the club well. We are looking but it is not an easy situation when you are looking at the finances.”
Dyche had warned the club for two years about the perils of running down players’ contracts and is worried about a repeat with the likes of Cork, 31, and Westwood, 30, loyal servants and key assets who warrant improved contracts and who would be expensive to replace.
With two years left on his own contract, which is worth £3.5million annually including bonuses, Dyche seems unlikely to be going anywhere unless a club comes in for his services but it remains to be seen what changes a potential takeover would bring about.