MALKY Mackay says his old friend Sean Dyche’s Burnley have been ‘terrific’ this season – and believes promotion into the Premier League would be just the start.
Burnley have defied expectations and could be promoted this afternoon.
And Dyche will make it his immediate task to stay up, according to his former colleague Mackay.
The two worked together at Watford, with Dyche – his assistant – turning down the opportunity to join Mackay in the same role at Cardiff City to ultimately become a manager in his own right.
“The Championship is relentless. It’s tough, it’s uncompromising. But it’s been a wonderful season for them,” said Mackay, who is taking time-out from football following his December sacking by controversial Cardiff owner Vincent Tan.
“It’s pretty well documented I suppose his size of squad and his budget compared to the others round about them, so for them to be as consistent as they are is fantastic.
“It’s what you need in the Championship if you are going to make promotion and it would be absolutely terrific. It’s a really top job he has done there in terms of the size of the squad, I suppose having one hand tied behind your back.
“It’s great credit to Sean and his staff.
“He came in and had a successful season at Watford. He was only sacked there because of the new owners wanting their own man.
“He will have learned from that and applied it with good values at Burnley.
“It certainly takes a little bit of time to get things shaped the way you want them, but he has done it very quickly.
“He’s got a group that have a great team spirit and togetherness between the players and staff and that is something that’s definitely needed if you’re going to have success.
“I watched them against Preston in the League Cup early on in the season. We had a game the night after so I got up to watch them, and we trained up there so I saw it all first hand.
“Even at that time they looked as if they were playing for each other.”
And Mackay knows Dyche’s work will not stop at the celebrations.
“They are nearly there,” he said.
“That being the case then it’s about planning for next year and next season.
“They will keep their heads, I’m pretty sure, firmly focused on the next games. But I’m sure Sean’s recruitment people will be starting to be shaping up plans.
“It’s an exciting time.
“For the club to be back up and get into the Premier League again, it’s a fabulous achievement.
“It starts with the manager and his group of staff.
“His first task will be stay up.”
Mackay’s Bluebirds last season were the blueprint for Burnley this term. Dyche often noted Cardiff’s path to the Premier League had been plotted by “finding different ways of winning”.
The Clarets, mathematically, need a maximum of two more. One might be enough if they can take maximum points from Middlesbrough this afternoon and Derby drop points against Huddersfield Town.
In one sense the relationship between Mackay and Dyche could be viewed as master and apprentice. But Mackay insists he holds his former assistant in much higher regard than that.
“It’s more seeing a friend doing well,” he said.
“We worked together well. I’ve got a lot of trust in him, and in each other I suppose, and we talk regularly.
“He was my assistant at Watford but I always knew there was a manager in there.
“He took his chance and he took it well.
“I’m delighted for him and his staff because he is a friend, but also because of the job that he has done there.”
Mackay knows what it is like to taste success at Turf Moor.
“We managed to win the league there,” said the 42-year-old, reflecting on last season’s 1-1 draw.
“Burnley scored late on and, to be fair, I was absolutely delighted for both of us because that point helped them slightly at the time, and then they went on to get a couple more wins, so it was good to have honours even on the day because it was good enough for both of us.
“It was a lovely day too.
“Of 15-16 years of going to Turf Moor it was probably the sunniest day I’ve known.
“And it’s a day that will live long in the memory.”
Mackay hopes today can be equally memorable for the Clarets.
“One of the things you get is terrific support up there,” he noted.
“To be able to do it and have everyone there, like the staff who work at the club – they are the people who need to be remembered as well because they are there come hail or shine and keep the football club running through success of failure.
“It would be great for it to happen there.
“But either way I’m sure it will happen soon enough.”