With the lowest budget in the Premier League and a squad which needs improving ahead of their second ever Premier League season, can Burnley defy the odds? Goal assess the lay of the land at Turf Moor.
Burnley's signings will make financial sense but their chances of surviving in the Premier League are slim at best.
Michael Kightly (Stoke, undisc.; Matthew Gilks (Blackpool, free); Matthew Taylor (West Ham, free); Marvin Sordell (Bolton, undisc.); Steven Reid (West Brom, free); Lucas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough, £2.25m) add up to a season of strife.
Jutkiewicz scored eight goals in 42 Championship games last season, Sordell has struggled since some bright performances at Watford in 2010, and although the rest have Premier League experience they have never torn up any trees.
Of course, not every club can spend big upon promotion and Burnley will rightly point to the realities of football at the top level as they look to battle their way through what is sure to be a difficult season.
A number of players have been trimmed from the wage bill, with Nick Liversedge, Chris Baird, Micah Evans, Keith Treacy, Archie Love, Luke Conlan, Junior Stanislas, Joseph Mills, Brian Stock, David Edgar and Kyle Brownhill all leaving on frees.
Treacy and Stanislad each made 27 appearances in the Championship last season, while Baird made 16 and Edgar 17.
With Burnley likely to have the smallest budget in the Premier League, their financial weight is not even comparable to fellow promoted sides QPR and Leicester City or those sides they have replaced in the Premier League.
However, manager Sean Dyche is has set about bolstering his squad with players who at least can call upon some top-flight experience. Matthew Gilks will provide Tom Heaton with competition for the goalkeeping berth while the likes of Steven Reid and Matthew Taylor, in defence and midfield respectively, have accumulated over 500 Premier League appearances between them alone. Securing the permanent future of former loanee Michael Kightly on a three-year deal will also be a boost after the winger played a key role in the club's successful promotion bid.
Reid and Taylor, who can both be adopted into a variety of roles, will provide said experience and also cover the likes of Dean Marney and David Jones in the centre of the pitch, but Dyche will be aware his squad is still bare on the ground.
Up front, Danny Ings stepped up last season following the loss of Charlie Austin to QPR with 21 goals in 40 league games, having scored just six times previously over two seasons for the Clarets, to be named Championship’s Player of the Year.
Once fit, Sam Vokes - who scored 20 goals himself last term - will again be partnered alongside Ings in Dyche's attack and the arrivals of Marvin Sordell and Lukas Jutkiewicz will hopefully keep the two star men on their toes.
Dyche is not afraid to spend big for Burnley standards, though. Their transfer record of £3 million - for Steven Fletcher in 2009 - still stands but there are reported bids of close to double that for Troy Deeney, with Watford standing firm on the £8m valuation for their striker.
Elsewhere, the Clarets have been knocked back three times for West Brom centre-back Craig Dawson, who will immediately become a guaranteed starter alongside captain Jason Shackell if Dyche can make a breakthrough in negotiations.
After losing the previous season's top scorer Austin to QPR last summer, Burnley needed to fill a 41-goal void over the past two campaigns. Ings answered the call.
After scoring just 10 goals in his previous injury-affected campaigns, a move alongside target man Vokes in a forward pairing unlocked the England Under-21 international's potential - and 21 goals in 40 games followed.
A fit and raring Ings will be key to Burnley's hopes this season, and the club will be aware of interest from Premier League rivals.
After replacing Eddie Howe in October 2012, Dyche shored up the league's worst defence and steadied the ship at Turf Moor - finishing mid-table after a dip in form at the turn of the year – before surprising the Championship with a successful promotion bid in his first full season in charge. Dyche oversaw the club's best start to a season since 1987 and finished with a record haul of 93 points.
The 43-year-old is building a strong reputation in football management despite his first job coming just three years ago. Even though he is new to the professional, Dyche is very much in the mould of an 'old-school' coach. Read any Brendan Rodgers interview and buzzwords are the order of the day - but not with Dyche.
Whereas Rodgers made a name for himself at Swansea City with possession-based football, Dyche prefers a different approach. "Some teams keep the ball for the sake of keeping the ball. I want quick, passing football through the units in order to open the opposition up, particularly on transition," he said recently.
As last season drew on and promotion looked more and more likely, Dyche refused to speak a word until their fate with sealed, and will likely do similar during the club's expected battle against relegation.
"I know what I believe and what I think the group can deliver, but outside expectations are a completely different thing," he said in March. "Every single week now there's something linking us with promotion, but I never even mention it and I won't until the job gets done."
|A GOOD 2014-15 WOULD BE...
Simply put, surviving relegation is the one and only aim at Turf Moor this season. All eyes will be on that treasured 17th place.
But after their last spell in the Premier League in 2009-10 - the first in their history - there may be some lingering expectations. Five wins from their opening 11 games, in particular a 1-0 triumph over Manchester United in their second match, raised hopes which were only continually dashed as the season wore on. The Clarets won just three of their next 27 games as they finished 18th, five points and 22 goals from safety after boss Owen Coyle left for Bolton half way through the campaign.
|BURNLEY ODDS FOR 2014-15
(From William Hill)
And Dyche agrees, saying recently: "Last season we weren’t alone in the Championship in having little or no money, there were others in the same boat, so we were able to do well with the playing strength we had.
"The Premier League will be a different experience but we are trying to make sure it is a positive one."
Burnley face a tough opening game, facing arguably the favourites for the title in Chelsea at Turf Moor and after the other 18 teams have already played, with the game scheduled for Monday evening. August rounds off with a home fixture against United but, after the first international break, Dyche will be looking to gain momentum with a run of six fixtures during September and October which all look relatively winnable.
As with any team tipped to battle against the drop, momentum in the league will be key. But Dyche will be unfazed.
"League tables are for fans to look at and the media to speculate about," he said. "I am much more interested in performances, and getting the preparation right for the next game. My focus was always dead calm, always on the next game."