A: new reality as well as a new season opens for Burnley on Friday. A new manager with a new style and a radically different squad from the one that was a Premier League fixture for six seasons under Sean Dyche makes his Championship bow at Huddersfield, and Vincent Kompany is acutely aware the financial landscape has changed for his club along with their surroundings.
“We are not a parachute team,” says the Manchester City legend and former Anderlecht head coach before the Championship opener. “You don’t have to be to be successful.” But Kompany is making no guarantees over an immediate return to the top flight for a club who have lost a host of key players, and had to repay a significant portion of a £65m loan taken out as part of ALK Capital’s takeover, after relegation in May.
Burnley’s high-profile yet down-to-earth manager explains his parachute theory as follows. “It means we’ve got to make sure we have to jump from a little bit of a lesser height,” he says of Burnley’s financial outlay ahead of the new campaign. “The problem is if you jump without a parachute and people are saying: ‘Do it now [win promotion]do it now.’
“There’s a great buzz around the place if that happens, but every big team that has come down and kept plummeting has made that gamble. I can’t undo what happened. All I can do is come in and see what the solution is going forward – and the solution is to make sure that the fall is not from too high.
“We have to make sure those players on the pitch grow in value or grow to get the team back in the Premier League.”
Kompany mentions “value” regularly, in terms of maximizing and losing it. Sixteen players have left since the end of last season but only three brought in a fee, the England goalkeeper Nick Pope, Nathan Collins and Dwight McNeil – the latter joined Everton yesterday for a fee that could reach £20m – although that should increase with Maxwell Cornet also expected to leave. Too many players reached the end of their contracts at the same time. Thursday’s signing of the Brazilian defender Vitinho from Cercle Brugge made it nine incomings, all for modest fees, as loans or free in the case of CJ Egan-Riley.
“I think you have seen it happening through the transfer window – clubs going down, big wages and expensive players coming in with no resale value, then you know something is happening,” Kompany says. “Those are not the types of deals we’ve done. We’ve done deals where we’ve tried to be smart. You can’t fault us for trying. We try to do deals where we are not exposed to the downsides if it [promotion this season] doesn’t happen. If it works then we are buzzing but if not we get the chance to go again.”
The 36-year-old insists he was on board with Burnley’s long-term plan and financial reality when returning to the north-west from Belgium in June. “I’ve signed a long-term contract of four to five years,” he says. “That was one of the big selling points for me to come here. The club was very transparent with all the issues.
“I said it feels familiar, I’ve been there [with Anderlecht]. I look at examples like Brentford and Brighton. they’ve earned the right to go to the Premier League. I’ll be the first to push anyone. Anyone who knows me, or just sees me playing in a staff game, knows how competitive I am in everything I do, but I am not delusional. I try to stay methodical as well.”
Kompany has used his City contacts to sign three players from his former club – Egan-Riley, the goalkeeper Arijanet Muric for an undisclosed fee and the highly-rated Taylor Harwood-Bellis on loan – and first-hand experience of Belgium football to land Vitinho , Samuel Bastien and Josh Cullen.
“If you look at the background of most players you will probably see City or United or Liverpool or Arsenal,” he says. “There are not many players in world football who have not been under contract at these clubs. Once you go down to the Championship it becomes even more important to work with the big clubs in the north-west and see if we can benefit from that.
“At this moment it helps us, but the ambition is to be completely independent and self-sufficient. It’s step-by-step. I came here for Burnley. This is my job. I gave everything for City while I was there, but I want people here at Burnley to feel assured that I’m going to approach this job in the same way. There is no bigger plan other than to do the right thing for Burnley.”