It is a 50-second journey through almost 130 years, through the Harrys and the Brians, the Jimmys and the Johns, via bowler hats, flat caps and moustaches. 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 run of largely unglamorous Brits that dates back to the 19th century and then their first foreign manager. Like his predecessors, Sean Dyche and the caretaker Mike Jackson, Kompany was a centre-back. And there the similarities end.
Kompany’s personality is such that his appointment feels a coup. Cosmopolitan, multilingual, a stalwart of stylish, attacking sides, he feels everything Burnley have not been, the antidote to Dycheball.
“Vincent is a proven leader,” said chairman Alan Pace. And so he is: as one of the Premier League’s finest captains and, with apologies to Tony Book, Manchester City’s greatest.
As a manager, his record is inconclusive. Three seasons with Anderlecht ended in eighth, fourth and third. If that points to an upward trajectory, his debut campaign, curtailed as it was by Covid – when he was still playing and when the duties on the touchline were shared – brought Anderlecht’s lowest finish since World War II. He inherited a club mired in malaise but, as they have been Belgian champions a record 34 times, that CV scarcely stands out.
Burnley may have appointed Kompany the man as much as Kompany the manager. He has taken a job close to his Mancunian wife’s family and in the region where their three children were born. Kompany’s charisma means he will sound compelling when he explains the reasons for his move to Turf Moor. One, perhaps, is the immense self-belief that was normally an asset on the pitch, though some of his red cards and injuries came because he was too committed, too convinced of his own ability.
But it is tempting to wonder if it has blinded him to the underlying issues at Burnley. The biggest is financial, and whatever reassurances he has had, the outside world awaits an explanation.
A £65 million debt was due to be repaid after relegation. It has the potential to swallow up the parachute payments which could otherwise have provided the platform for promotion. And if the loan – a consequence of ALK Capital’s leveraged buyout – has been renegotiated in the last few weeks, Pace is yet to provide details.
In the meantime, Burnley look short of players as well as money. Their retained list helped illustrate the scale of the rebuilding job required.
The out-of-contract James Tarkowski will go of his own volition but it feels bizarre his long-time sidekick Ben Mee was not offered a deal rather sooner. Burnley have been built around their centre-back partnership. No longer. The ageing back-ups Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Dale Stephens and Phil Bardsley are off, too.
Burnley are in talks with the out-of-contract Jack Cork and Matej Vydra, but that leaves the possibility they will depart on free transfers too.
Meanwhile, the January signing Wout Weghorst has said he is looking to leave and a loan would not even enable the Clarets to recoup their £12 million outlay. Maxwel Cornet has a £17.5 million release clause, denying Burnley the possibility of a large profit. Nick Pope’s talents should be seen in the Premier League. Dwight McNeil may attract interest.
It leaves a very small core guaranteed to be at Turf Moor; of them, Ashley Westwood, their best central midfielder in recent years, faces a long time out with a dislocated ankle. Ashley Barnes, meanwhile, had a contract extension triggered after scoring a solitary goal in his 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 maybe 10 players in their 30s staying, he has to find younger players.
As they got the fewest points per game in all four divisions in 2021, there is a need to instil a winning mentality and habit, even factoring in a brief upturn this year.
Their general level of play was poor: staleness felt a factor but there was also an air than an era was ending. Perhaps the 4-4-2 formula that brought Dyche two promotions will have to be ripped up and a more progressive blueprint implemented but Burnley seemed the stylistic opposites of the City sides Kompany led.
That the Clarets often looked the technically poorer, less talented team when getting knocked out of the cups by Football League sides in recent years bodes badly. The strikers who were strangers to scoring may suddenly have to get 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 sound financial footing. A lesser man than Kompany might have deemed Burnley too great a risk to his reputation; perhaps a lesser figure would not have had such appeal to them, however.