Sean Dyche was brought to Everton by Farhad Moshiri to replace Frank Lampard in January 2023 with the club in free-fall and in very real danger of being sucked down in the Championship, a year after escaping relegation with just one game to spare. The Blues were 19th in the Premier League and had registered just one win in 14 games in all competitions when he took over, charged with keeping the team in the Premier League.
Dyche began his footballing career in the youth team at Nottingham Forest under, Brian Clough, and in interviews he often refers to some of the no-nonsense values that the legendary manager instilled in him in his formative years as a player and have formed the bedrock of his own approach to coaching and man-management.
A broken leg hampered his development and he left the City Ground before he could make his senior debut, signing for Chesterfield in 1990 where he would spend seven years, play more than 230 league games, captain the Spireites and reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup in which he scored a penalty in a 3-3 draw with Middlesbrough, only to see his Wembley dream dashed by defeat in the replay.
He left the Derbyshire club for Bristol City in 1997, helping them win promotion to what was then still known as Football League Division One and had a spell on loan at Luton before signing for Millwall where he again tasted the thrill of promotion to the second tier, missing out on the Premier League when the Lions lost in the playoffs to Birmingham City.
After three years in East London, Dyche then moved to Watford where he spent another three seasons and, after finishing his playing career at Northampton Town, he returned to Vicarage Road as an Under-18s coach in 2007 before being promoted to assistant manager of the first team under Malky Mackay. Mackay’s departure for Cardiff City saw Dyche promoted again to the full manager’s role in the summer of 2011 but it was a position he held for just one season. Despite leading the Hornets to their highest league position for four years, Dyche was a victim of the changes ushered in by the incoming Pozzo family who replaced him with Gianfranco Zola.
Dyche was out of work for just a few months because in September 2012, Burnley came calling in their search for a successor to Eddie Howe who had left Turf Moor to return to Bournemouth after an unsuccessful spell in Lancashire where he had failed to properly settle. Dyche would, of course, remain with the Clarets for 10 years, taking them back into the top flight at the first time of asking. Demotion back to the Championship followed in 2015 but they were back the following year and the manager would be handed a new contract with the club in the middle of the season.
It was in that 2017-18 campaign that Dyche steered Burnley to the heady heights of seventh place and a berth in the Europa League, finishing a place above Everton and doing the double over the Blues in the process. Typically for a club with such comparatively meagre resources, it was a squad that boasted no real stars. It was, however, a side set up in Dyche’s image and perfectly tailored to his 4-4-2 formation. Up front, New Zealand international, Chris Wood, finished the campaign with 10 goals and Ashley Barnes chipped in with nine ahead of Belgian international midfield schemer Steven Defour, a solid defensive pairing of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski and emerging goalkeeping talent Nick Pope.
It was largely the same group that kept Burnley up the following season, with 19-year-old winger Dwight McNeil breaking into the senior side, and which finished 10th in 2019-20, again above Everton, with Jay Rodriguez really the only stand-out addition to the core group.
The arrival of US investment firm ALK Capital in 2020 signalled a shift at Burnley, however, and Burnley as with the club headed for the Championship in April 2022, Dyche was dismissed, a consequence of poor results and a souring relationship with the new owners.
When Lampard was sacked, Dyche was quickly installed as a candidate for the role alongside ex-Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, not least because both were out of work. The enigmatic, dynamic and mercurial Bielsa emerged as Moshiri's favoured option and the Argentine jetted to England to hold talks in the final week of January but returned to South America without the Everton hierarchy agreeing to his suggestion of working with the Under-21s for the remainder of the season while his staff oversaw first-team responsibilities.
That left Dyche as the obvious candidate and he was hired on 27th January, just four days before the end of a transfer window that supporters had labelled as potentially the most important in the club's history. The deadline came and went with no new acquisitions and the new manager got on with the job of assessing, rallying and motivating a dejected squad for the steep challenge ahead.
His tenure got off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win over clear Premier League leaders at the time, Arsenal, ending the Gunners' long unbeaten streak that stretched back to the previous September and beat relegation rivals Leeds by the same scoreline either side of a derby defeat at Anfield.
Over the next three months, Dyche managed to guide Everton to enough points that by the time the final day of the season arrived, the Blues knew they just needed to beat Bournemouth to escape relegation. It was a close-run thing as Leicester City did their part in their final home game against West Ham but a fabulous Abdoulaye Doucoure strike earned another narrow 1-0 win that kept the club in the top flight.
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