MATCHWINNER Michael Kightly believes Sean Dyche should be named as English football’s manager of the year – as Burnley moved to the very brink of promotion with victory at Blackpool.
Derby County’s 2-0 win at Doncaster Rovers ensured that the Clarets could not quite seal their place in the Premier League last night.
But their 1-0 triumph at Bloomfield Road means they will go up if they beat Wigan Athletic at Turf Moor on Monday, or if Derby slip up at home to Barnsley on the same afternoon.
They lead Derby by eight points with only three games left to play and Kightly heaped praise on manager Dyche, who has defied all the odds by guiding the little-fancied Clarets to the verge of the top flight.
Not since Reading’s Steve Coppell won the award in 2006 has the manager of the year prize gone to a boss from outside the Premier League, but Kightly believes there is a genuine case for Dyche taking home the honour if Burnley do confirm promotion.
“Definitely, what he’s done is not far from remarkable. It’s unbelievable,” said the winger, who joined Burnley on loan from Stoke in August having previously worked with Dyche at Watford.
“We just want to see it out now as a squad and a club. When I came in the boys said that we were fourth favourites to go down, so it’s just testament to the squad and the manager, not just him but his staff as well.
“He’s been different class but I knew that from my time at Watford. He deserves every plaudit he gets.”
Burnley would have been able to celebrate promotion last night had Derby failed to beat Doncaster in a 7.30pm kick-off, but goals from George Thorne and Chris Martin gave them a 2-0 win at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Kightly says the focus will now turn to finishing the job against Wigan.
“We’ve got a big game on Monday and we’ll be preparing for that now,” he said.
“It’s a step closer but there are still more points to play for. It will be an unbelievable achievement, but we’re not there yet.
“We haven’t got carried away all season, we’ve kept our heads down and worked hard and we need to do the same.
“It’s always nice to score and when it’s the winning goal it’s even better.
“I just played the ball into Deano (Marney) and it was a great touch back to me. It just opened up for me, I can’t really remember it to be honest!
“There was pressure on both sides and I think that showed, it was more of a scrap than a nice game but we dug in and it was good to get a clean sheet. It was a great win.”
Victory took Burnley to 86 points from 43 matches – only one point short of Malky Mackay’s Cardiff City’s final total when they won the league last season.
And it left boss Dyche understandably pleased with the position the Clarets find themselves in.
“It’s another part of the business we’ve taken care of, it was a big result, I think that’s 11 unbeaten now away from home and we had to work hard for it,” said Dyche.
“It was only in the last 15 minutes when they started putting the ball in from everywhere.
“Other than that we delivered a very controlled display. It was a sublime finish from Michael Kightly and I thought the two centre halves were outstanding again.
“We’ve got another game on Monday now, our focus is the same as ever, I’ve told the players it’s important that we recover now and get our minds on that.”