NOBODY in football knows Sean Dyche quite as well as his assistant manager Ian Woan.

From single lads living together in digs in Nottingham to a shared flat in East Lancashire as they plotted Burnley’s remarkable rise, it’s a relationship that has stood the test of time.

Although their careers on the pitch went in different directions after their time at Forest they remained close.

Woan was Dyche’s landlord when he bought his first house and his best man when he got married. Now they work together, travel together, live together and holiday together. It’s a good job they get on.

“I first met him in 1990, I’d just signed from Runcorn, he’d had a two-year apprenticeship, had done a year’s pro and gone on loan to Chesterfield,” Woan explains.

“It was about January time and he was in the digs I was put into, I was 21 and he’s about three years younger than me.

“We struck up a friendship and stayed in the digs until the summer. Then he left Forest, I bought a house and he came to live with me for about three or four years.”

Dyche and Woan initially lived with Steve Stone and Craig Boardman in digs before moving in together, and Woan describes them as “good days, we were all single lads, it’s a great town, the football club was doing really well at the time.”

While Woan almost fell into coaching when he was offered the chance to return from a spell in the United States to take over Swindon’s Under-18s, he never had any doubts that this was always the route the man he calls ‘gaffer’ was going to go down.

“He hasn’t changed. He’s always been very forthright with his opinions, he’s very passionate about his football and always has been,” he said.

“Looking back then, me and Steve Stone would say he was always going to go down this route, there was no doubt in any of our minds that he was going to be a manager.

“Whatever industry he was in he was going to the best he could be, that’s his character, it’s the way he is.

“If people were asked about me back in the day they’d have said no chance. It never even crossed my mind.”

But Woan did make the transition.

He adds: “I was about 37 and Andy King, a good friend of mine, was manager at Swindon and he said the under-18s job had come up and did I fancy going back?

“That was my first taste of it. I didn’t have my badges, I went straight in and did it as I was going.

“Through my playing career I never really thought I was going to be a coach, but with the gaffer (Dyche) you could see it 100 per cent.”

When Dyche was handed his first managerial role at Watford, Woan had been first-team coach for several years at Portsmouth. But it was to his old mate that Dyche turned when he was after a right hand man.

“It’s difficult at times. Most people know we’re good friends, I was his best man, so we’ve got a real solid friendship,” Woan said.

“It doesn’t bother me but I’m sure sometimes people think ‘he’s the gaffer’s mate’.

“Sean doesn’t give people jobs if he doesn’t think they can do it. I always felt I had something to prove, which I shouldn’t, but there’s a real high respect level and a trust. He knows if he’s not here then the message is getting filtered down.

“He can’t deal with everything, although he thinks he can. He’s got bigger things to worry about, my job is to make sure everything is being done right and his message is getting passed right through the ranks.”

Despite the friendship Woan admits to concerns when he was offered the job at Vicarage Road.

“There was doubts,” he said. “It was Sean’s first job in the hotseat. Do you stay with what you know? I knew how driven he was, and still is. I knew how good he was going to be but you need a bit of luck along the way, just because you’re good doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, he gave me two or three days to think about it. You discuss it with family, but it was someone who had never let me down so I thought ‘let’s do it’.”

The duo lasted just a year at Watford before Dyche was axed by the club’s new Italian owners, a decision Woan calls ‘really harsh’.

But they’d done enough to earn another chance, and it came towards the end of October 2012 when Dyche was interviewed to replace Eddie Howe at Turf Moor.

“It was a double interview process. He came up for the first one. With the gaffer you can drop him in any environment and he’ll impress, he’s a brilliant talker,” Woan said. “Once I knew he’d got to an interview process I thought he’d get down to the last three for sure, he can impress and he’s brilliant at delivering presentations.

“The second interview I went up and was involved in that with all the board. I’d not been in that situation before but as soon as I heard him talk and the way the board were probing him I thought he had a chance.

“To be fair to the board and Mike Garlick he stuck his neck on the line. He was only a one year manager and I know it wasn’t greeted at the time by the locals with great euphoria.”

That has certainly changed in the five years since. It’s been a memorable half decade at Turf Moor. Two promotions, the Championship title and now Premier League survival.

But what is Dyche like as a manager?

“Very hands on,” says Woan. “There’s no not coming out on the training pitch, he’s visual all the time, he’s always on the grass. He leaves me and Tony (Loughlan) to it, he trusts us to take the training. On a Thursday or Friday he steps in, I think it works.

“I’ve worked with managers before who bark from Monday to Friday, it loses it’s bite a little bit. The players here know that although he’s there, when they hear his voice on a Thursday it’s the business end.

“He wants opinions, he likes an open floor and we’ll discuss things, he doesn’t always go with it, but he’ll say what’s the process and go with a vote. But sometimes he’ll put his foot down and say ‘we’re doing it this way’.”

Dyche, Woan and first-team coach Loughlan are all former Forest graduates from a time when Brian Clough was king of the City Ground. But it’s one particular Clough trait that Woan believes the three have instilled at Burnley.

“What we did bring back from Forest was ‘please, thank you, excuse me’, just good manners. We won’t stand for anything less than that,” the 49-year-old said.

“That was a Brian Clough thing. If you didn’t hold the door open for someone you’re getting it, if you didn’t say please or thank you, you’re getting it. We try and portray that with the lads, we treat everyone with respect.”

On Monday Dyche will celebrate five years in charge at Burnley with a home game against Newcastle, and as usual his best man and his right hand man will be next to him, as he so often is.

“It’s a friendship that has lasted the test of time,” Woan said.

“We have an apartment up here because we both live away, I’m still Nottingham-based and the manager is in Northampton, so we’re up here three or four nights a week together, so it is difficult sometimes when you’re working together, travelling together and then you get back to the apartment and the gaffer is sitting next to you watching TV.

“But we’re solid, I know the boundaries. When we’re together we talk like old times but the second you come to work he’s the gaffer, he can cut me down to size.

“My daughter’s 11 and his daughter is 12 and they get on really well, my eldest is 17 and Sean’s is a couple of years younger. The kids get on great, the wives get on great and if the kids and the wives are happy we can go and have a beer.”

A beer to toast a memorable five years in charge at Turf Moor.