Tag Archives: Promotion

Premier League Files: Odion Ighalo

Premier League Career: Watford (2015-2017)

Still only 27, Odion Ighalo still has plenty of promise to fulfil and he has already shown this on the Premier League stage with Watford.

The Nigerian began his career in his native country before making his European breakthrough in 2007 with Lyn Oslo in Norway. After spells with Udinese and Granada, Ighalo made the move to Watford in 2014, initially on-loan before becoming a permanent signing after just eight appearances with the Hornets.

Ighalo played a significant part in the club’s promotion to the Premier League, scoring 20 times including four in a 7-2 thumping of Blackpool. He continued where he left off in the Premier League with a goal on his top-flight debut as a substitute in Watford’s 2-2 draw with Everton.

A devout Christian, Ighalo’s partnership with Troy Deeney in the club’s attack was scaring defenders up and down the country. Deeney’s physical prowess and Ighalo’s pace and own power meant they were a difficult combination to defend against. He won the December Player of the Month award in 2015, scoring in four successive matches including twice in a 3-0 triumph over Liverpool FC.

Ighalo ended with 15 goals for the season but his form tailed off in the closing weeks of the 2015-2016 campaign and although he signed a new contract in the summer, his confidence was hurt by personal issues and a change in Watford’s formation.

He netted just once in 2016-2017 against West Ham United before being sold in the January transfer window for £20 million to Changchun Yatai F.C. in the Chinese Super League.

For now, Odion Ighalo’s Premier League career is on-hold but I’ve got a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of him in this country just yet.

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The Managers: Sean Dyche

Premier League Clubs Managed: Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-PRESENT)

October 2017 will mark Sean Dyche’s fifth year at the helm at Burnley Football Club. In that time, the former defender has transformed the club from one-season top-flight wonders into a team that is difficult to beat at Turf Moor. Burnley are looking forward to their first back-to-back Premier League campaign and a lot of that is down to the hard work and ethics in Dyche’s management skills.

For him, it is all about the team and not specific individuals and this was a factor throughout his playing career too. He made his professional debut in 1990 and played for six clubs before retiring at Northampton Town in 2007.

Dyche won promotion as a player during his time with both Bristol City and Millwall. In fact, he was part of the Lions’ squad that narrowly missed out on a Premier League place in 2002; losing in the playoff semi-finals to eventual winners Birmingham City.

However, the best spell of his career came at the club where he made his league debut – Chesterfield. He was the skipper of the side that surprised everyone to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1997. Dyche scored a spot-kick in that semi-final against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford that put the Spireites’ 2-0 infront and dreaming of a Wembley date with Chelsea. The match eventually ended 3-3 and Middlesbrough would win the replay at Hillsborough.

Learning the trade at Watford

After hanging up his boots at Sixfields, Dyche went straight into coaching at Watford, beginning to learn the trade by working with the Under-18s. He became assistant manager in 2009 to Malky Mackay and when the Scot left two seasons later to fill the post at Cardiff City, Dyche stepped up into the managerial vacancy.

Considering he was a rookie, the 2011-2012 season was an impressive debut season in management for Sean. Watford finished a solid 11th in the Championship, having been considered among the pre-season relegation favourites. It was their best finish at this level in four seasons. Unfortunately for Dyche, a change in ownership at the end of the campaign led to his dismissal at Vicarage Road. He would be succeeded by former Chelsea playing legend Gianfranco Zola.

After a summer on the sidelines, he was hired by Burnley in autumn 2012, replacing Eddie Howe who had just agreed to return to AFC Bournemouth for a second spell as manager. Four years after Burnley previously graced the Premier League, he guided them back to the top-flight of English football in 2014. Team spirit and getting the absolute maximum out of every single player were the keys to Burnley’s success. Having been tipped to struggle near the bottom-end of the table, the Clarets’ defied the expectations of many to finish runners-up in the Championship to Leicester City.

Bouncing back at the first attempt

So for 2014-2015, Burnley were back in the Premier League. They showed plenty of dogged resistance and determination. It did take until November before they recorded their first win of the season but the Lancastrians’ improved as the season progressed. There was a surprise victory over champions Manchester City in March and a creditable draw at Chelsea.

However, they lacked the overall quality and experience required to mount a successful survival bid. Burnley were relegated two weeks’ before the season concluded but did go down with a fighting 1-0 victory at Hull. That was a result that would ultimately condemn the Tigers’ on a similar journey with Burnley – down to the Championship.

Dyche stuck with the club despite the disappointment of relegation. They added guile in Joey Barton and finishing prowess in Andre Gray to their ranks. Everything clicked perfectly and promotion was earned at the first time of asking. Victory over Queens Park Rangers ensured their return with an unbeaten run in the division from Boxing Day onwards. Also this time, Burnley went up as champions.

The club transfer record was broken twice in the summer of 2016 to snap up Steven Defour and Jeff Hendrick. Burnley have always been very prudent with their spending allowance and this was evident again on their Premier League return. They will not spend silly money but are prepared to make the investment if it will improve team morale and quality.

Home form at Turf Moor was fantastic in 2016-2017. The likes of Leicester City, Southampton, Everton and Liverpool FC were all beaten in Lancashire and many other sides had to work incredibly hard to take points home with them. There was just one away win all campaign but the 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace in April 2017 ensured that Burnley would be playing Premier League football again in 2017-2018.

Burnley have already managed to bring more experience into their ranks in summer 2017. Jon Walters from Stoke City and Swansea midfielder Jack Cork already look like fine buys ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Sean Dyche is currently one of the longest-serving managers at his current club. His work has been highly commended and it will be interesting to see his development and Burnley’s progress in the months to come.