Sean Dyche has described last season’s rescue mission as his biggest achievement as Burnley boss as the Clarets prepare to go full circle against Everton.
Dyche’s side faces the Toffees on Boxing Day for the second year running – this time away from home.
Twelve months ago the Clarets suffered a 5-1 Turf Moor beating at the hands of the Merseysiders and looked in real relegation danger at the half-way stage of the season.
But bouncing back with a win against West Ham in their following game proved the catalyst for a revival that propelled Burnley out of the bottom three to safety by the end of April and ultimately to a 15th-place finish in the Premier League.
The Clarets went from 12 points to 40 during the second half of the season – a revival that has continued during the current campaign.
The Clarets won just three times in the first half of last season
And from a CV at Turf Moor that includes a Championship title success and the Clarets’ highest top-flight finish for 44 years, Dyche sees that run of games as the high point of eight years as a manager – including seven at Burnley.
“Everyone would probably see the fact we finished seventh (in 2018) and got into the Europa League as being my best time as manager,” Dyche revealed.
“Not so much Burnley fans, who I think enjoyed the promotion, but I think generally people will see that as a big success, which is was.
“But turning it around last season, which obviously wasn’t just me because the players have been magnificent along with my staff, is definitely my biggest achievement as a manager.
“It involves a whole group of people to make that happen. It’s gone now but that is something I will reflect on – and already do – as being my biggest achievement.”
The Clarets were left reeling by the loss to Everton 12 months ago but then went on an eight-match unbeaten run which transformed their fortunes.
“The hardest thing is when people clamber for you to change everything and sometimes it’s hard, but the right thing, to change nothing or very little,” Dyche added.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson will travel to Merseyside
“We stuck to our guns last season and we found a way of the team operating, reminded them of the simplicity of how we operate and delivered a very strong turn-around, both in performances, which I thought were very good in the second half of last season, and in goals scored, clean sheets, and points - and that’s a very healthy mixture.”
The Clarets reach the half-way stage of the 2019/20 season at Goodison Park as they look for a double over the Toffees, who will have Premier League-winning manager Carlo Ancelotti in charge for the first time.
Jeff Hendrick – who scored the winner at Turf Moor in October – misses out on the return through a one-match ban.
But Dyche hopes winger Aaron Lennon will shake off a bug to be available to face his former club, while Johann Berg Gudmundsson could also challenge for a right-sided role as he returns to the squad.
The Iceland international hasn’t figured in the Premier League since the victory over Everton but is contention after a successful comeback in the Under-23s’ win at Birmingham City last Saturday.
“He’s looked sharp in training. I’m delighted he got his 90 minutes in. I’ve spoken to him and he said he felt great,” said Dyche, who doesn’t expect Ben Gibson to be fit to travel following a groin problem.
“One of our staff went down and said he looked good and fit and well.
“It’s another body coming back to full fitness. He’s someone who’s done very well, historically, and then he’s got to fight to his back into the group.”