BURNLEY, England (Reuters) - Burnley manager Sean Dyche has said the potential challenge of playing European football next season could only be a positive for the Lancashire club.
The Clarets have not played in European competition for 51 years and only returned to the Premier League in 2016 but a 2-1 win over Leicester City on Saturday gave them a stranglehold on seventh place which could bring Europa League qualification.
“It can’t be a negative, how can that be a negative? Five-and-a-half years ago (we were) 16th in the Championship, impossible to be a negative, impossible,” said Dyche whose side got a fifth straight win with goals by Chris Wood and Kevin Long.
Many clubs find the Europa League a burden in terms of the number of matches they have to play, the distances they must travel and the scheduling of matches before they return to the bread-and-butter of the domestic league but Dyche is a fan.
“For us, Burnley Football Club, even being spoken about (for European football) it is a long, long way from where we were at the end of last season,” added Dyche.
“You get 40 points (in the Premier League) with two (games) to go and it is a big sigh of relief. This season, (we) achieved 40 and then had the mentality to carry on after that, fantastic, we will see where it goes,” he added.
Saturday’s win saw Burnley move to 52 points, a nine-point lead over eighth-placed Leicester with five games to play.
Seventh place will be enough to qualify for the Europa League unless Southampton win the FA Cup. The Saints face Chelsea in the semi-finals next weekend.
Burnley last played in European football in 1966-67, when they reached the quarter-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, losing to German side Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2 on aggregate.
The Clarets reached the European Cup quarter-finals in 1961.
Dyche suggested it would be hard for a small-town club such as Burnley to improve on seventh place in the future.
“On an ongoing basis everything is a challenge for us. I don’t think we will be in a position, I will be surprised if this club can grow into a position where it is not. Because there is a reality to clubs like Burnley,” he said.
“It is unlikely it can get so powerful financially where you become one of the top six, which probably all of us think are going to be in the top six or around, certainly not in relegation trouble,” added Dyche,
“Are we moving forward? Yes. Can the club move forward and build? Yes, it already is doing. Can you just take it for granted? Absolutely not. Nothing is to be taken for granted here.”
Editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris