Vincent Kompany faces daunting task in charge of rebuilding Burnley on a tight budget
It’s a 50-second journey through nearly 130 years, through the Harrys and Brians, the Jimmys and the Johns, bowler hats, flat caps and mustaches. It culminates in Vincent Kompany, the continuation of the past and the break with it.
Burnley’s video introducing their new manager is artfully done and underlines the sense of change at Turf Moor. A series of largely unglamorous Brits dating back to the 19th century, then their first foreign manager. Like his predecessors, Sean Dyche and goalkeeper Mike Jackson, Kompany was a central defender. And there the similarities end.
Kompany’s personality is such that his appointment smells like a bang. Cosmopolitan, polyglot, faithful to the stylish and attacking sides, he feels everything that Burnley was not, the antidote to Dycheball.
“Vincent is a recognized leader,” said President Alan Pace. And so he is: as one of the Premier League’s best captains and, with my apologies to Tony Book, Manchester City’s greatest ever.
As a manager, his record is inconclusive. Three seasons with Anderlecht ended in eighth, fourth and third. If this indicates an upward trajectory, his first campaign, cut short as it was by Covid – when he was still playing and when sideline duties were shared – brought Anderlecht’s lowest result since World War II. world. He inherited a club mired in unease but, as they have been Belgian champions a record 34 times, that CV barely stands out.
Burnley may have named Kompany the man as much as Kompany the manager. He took a job near the family of his Mancunian wife and in the area where their three children were born. Kompany’s charisma means he will sound convincing when explaining his reasons for moving to Turf Moor. One, perhaps, is the immense self-confidence that was normally an asset on the pitch, although some of his red cards and injuries came because he was too committed, too convinced of his own abilities.
But it’s tempting to wonder if that blinded him to the underlying issues at Burnley. The most important is financial, and whatever assurances he has had, the outside world awaits an explanation.
A debt of £65million had to be repaid after relegation. It has the potential to gobble up the parachute payments that might otherwise have provided the promotion platform. And if the loan – a consequence of the leveraged buyout of ALK Capital – has been renegotiated in recent weeks, Pace has not yet given details.
In the meantime, Burnley lack players and money. Their shortlist helped illustrate the magnitude of the reconstruction work required.
Out-of-contract James Tarkowski will go voluntarily, but it seems odd that his longtime sidekick Ben Mee hasn’t been offered a deal sooner. Burnley have been built around their partnership with the centre-back. Not anymore. Aging substitutes Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Dale Stephens and Phil Bardsley are also absent.
Burnley are in talks with Jack Cork and Matej Vydra at the end of the contract, but it leaves the possibility that they will also leave on free transfers.
Meanwhile, January signing Wout Weghorst has said he is considering leaving and a loan would not even allow the Clarets to recoup their £12million. Maxwel Cornet has a £17.5m release clause depriving Burnley of the chance of a big profit. Nick Pope’s talents should be seen in the Premier League. Dwight McNeil could spark interest.
He leaves a very small core guaranteed to be at Turf Moor; Among them, Ashley Westwood, their best central midfielder in recent years, is facing a long period of inactivity with a dislocated ankle. Ashley Barnes, meanwhile, has had a contract extension triggered after scoring a solitary goal in her last 29 games.
So, with a limited budget, Burnley might need 10 new signings. Kompany’s contacts at City could facilitate loan deals, as they did at Anderlecht, but with at least seven and possibly 10 players in their thirties remaining, he needs to find younger players.
As they got the fewest points per game in all four divisions in 2021, there is a need to instill a winning mentality and habit, even factoring in a brief comeback this year.
Their general level of play was poor: seniority was a factor but there was also an air that an era was ending. Perhaps the 4-4-2 formula that brought Dyche two promotions will need to be torn apart and a more progressive plan implemented, but Burnley seemed the stylistic opposites of the Kompany-led City sides.
The fact that the Clarets have often appeared to be the technically poorer and less talented team when they have been knocked out of cups by Football League sides in recent years is a bad omen. Forwards who weren’t used to scoring may suddenly have to score 15 or 20 goals in a season.
It would be a daunting task even for a manager who was not a relative rookie and a club on a solid financial footing. A lesser man than Kompany might have considered Burnley too big a reputational risk; perhaps a lesser figure wouldn’t have had such appeal to them, though.