With promotion, could Burnley stay in the Premier League?

Burnley’s one, and so far only foray into the Premier League came in the 2009-10 season but sadly for Clarets fans, the club were immediately relegated and haven’t returned since. In this current campaign, promotion looks assured but are Sean Dyche’s side better equipped to survive in the top flight this time around?

It’s been an impressive season in the Championship and with just seven games to go, Dyche’s men have built up a healthy, nine point lead over third placed QPR. But why have the side been so successful and what areas will Dyche need to address ahead of 2014-15’s likely Premiership campaign?

Defence

Brian ‘The Beast’ Jensen was something of a cult figure at Turf Moor but as Burnley’s keeper in 2009-10, opposition players targeted a perceived lack of mobility. That may be a controversial assessment but in 2014-15, former England Under-21 stopper Tom Heaton shouldn’t have similar problems.

Heaton sits behind the meanest defence in the Championship and it’s likely that the manager will keep him at the club as they return to the Premier League. If Dyche seeks an experienced alternative, it’s been reported that Vito Mannone may be on his way out of Sunderland in the summer.

The Clarets have fielded a settled back four in Ben Mee, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff and the captain Jason Shackell. One of the issues is a lack of top flight experience and that may be one reason why Dyche has brought in the versatile Chris Baird on a short-term deal. If the former West Brom player impresses at Turf Moor, Baird could have a bigger role to play next season.

Midfield

24-year old Junior Stanislas does bring Premier League experience after spending three years at West Ham and his goal against Doncaster was his third of the campaign. Dean Marney had a brief spell at Spurs before being moved on to Hull and at 30, he will be desperate to prove he can compete in the top flight.

Scott Arfield has also been instrumental in Burnley’s rise up the Championship but unlike his midfield partners, the Scotland B international hasn’t been tested at the highest level. Along with the defence, this is another area where Dyche will feel he has to enter the transfer market.

Attack

In order to survive a campaign in the Premier League, Burnley must surely have to hold on to Danny Ings who has already been linked with a number of clubs. Fortunately for Dyche, Premier League managers seem reluctant to take a chance on players from the lower leagues after a number of notable failures including David Nugent and Connor Wickham, so it’s likely that the bigger sides will want to take a look at Ings in the top flight before deciding whether to make a move.

The 21-year old has scored 20 times in 34 league games for the Clarets while striking up a potent partnership with Welsh international Sam Vokes who has 20 in 39. Dyche will want to keep both players in the side but with a lack of experienced cover, a summer signing seems almost certain.

A proven Premiers League player coming to the end of his career may be the best option for Burnley, with West Ham’s Carlton Cole one suggestion.

The Verdict

Malky Mackay’s purchases for Cardiff in the summer of 2012 saw him receive criticism and the sack from club owner Vincent Tan but Sean Dyche is unlikely to want, or need, similar wholesale changes.

There is a good quality core to the side and the players most likely to feature for Burnley next season are Heaton, Shackell, Stanislas, Marney, Vokes and Ings. All that’s needed are a few additions with Premier League experience.

Burnley are as short as 1.06 with Betfair to be promoted but one wonders if the odds on the Clarets staying up next season would be equally slim. Yet there is genuine potential in the current squad and if they are joined by some shrewd acquisitions, the club looks far better equipped to survive in the top flight.