Tom Victor: The worms that are holding Burnley together

It’s been a bit of a slimy slide down the table for Burnley over the last year and Tom Victor believes he’s covered the reason for it…

Comments

The problem with having too much of a good thing is not knowing how fragile your success is; how it can sometimes only take the smallest of things for it all to come crashing down.

We saw Gabriel Jesus pull the rug from under Germany’s feet (x), sending the 2014 World Cup winners into a tailspin no one anticipated, but this sort of thing isn’t limited to international football.

Burnley were the surprise feelgood story of the 2017-18 Premier League season, flirting with the top six throughout and picking up eight points from their first four away games at Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton.

They ultimately fell away, finishing in a distant seventh, nine points behind sixth place Arsenal and equidistant between the bottom three and top four.

Score your Premier League punts at PaddyPower.com 

You might instinctively consider it a regression to the mean, a team which finished 16th the previous season showing a fairer reflection of their capabilities.

It might have been this, sure, but it might have been a collapse brought on by the accusation that manager Sean Dyche had eaten worms during his playing days.

How do you come back from something like that?

In short, you don’t.

The comments came from Søren Andersen, the Danish striker who played with Dyche for one season at Bristol City.

“Maybe the voice comes from eating rainworms, because every time we trained, he used to eat rainworms,” Andersen said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was like: ‘whoops, there’s a rainworm’ and then he ate it.”

Those words arrived on January 17. Three days later, Burnley went down 1-0 at home to Manchester United, before picking up three points from the four games after that.

The mystique was lifted. The magic potion keeping Burnley in the upper reaches of the table wasn’t anything as mundane as ‘outperforming their numbers’ or ridiculous luck’, but rather an infallible team spirit forged by ensuring the worms story never made it out.

All those months of digging in and running themselves into the ground… you know which other creatures dig in and run themselves into the ground? Eactly.

Once the cat was out of the bag, everything stated to crumble.

There was a brief respite in March, with a run of wins in March and April, but they didn’t lift the curse – they merely passed it on.

Of course, the only way to counter a problem caused by something you take out of the ground is to place something into the turf, and a West Ham supporter achieved just that during the game against the Clarets when he invaded the pitch and planted the corner flag in the centre-circle like an astronaut claiming the moon for his country.

Burnley were free, shaking off the Andersen curse and passing it on to… Joe Hart, who they then proceeded to sign over the summer, taking them all the way back to square one.

If you were left in any doubt, let us assure you that the numbers don’t lie.

From the start of the 2017-18 season up until Andersen’s comments, Burnley averaged 1.48 points per game, a tally which would have seen them end the campaign on 56 points.

In the 32 games that followed, the average has dropped to just 1, which would have been good enough for a 16th place finish last season. But wait, there’s more.

Take out the games from the West Ham win until the end of the campaign – those when the curse was passed to Hart – and it drops to 18 points from 23 games, an average of 0.78 points per game, or the equivalent of a 30-point season.

You don’t need to be a genius to know that’s not good.

So, how can Burnley free themselves? There are a few options.

The easiest is probably to sell Hart, a man as jinxed as that frogurt in The Simpsons, but there’s every chance they don’t want to do that so soon after paying seven figures for the goalkeeper.

Could they plant a flag on their own pitch? It might work, but we’re in unchartered waters and they might prefer something a little safer.

The only surefire answer, then is obvious. Sean Dyche needs to eat worms on camera.

As soon as that happens, Burnley will soar up the table – mark our words.

Shoot over to PaddyPower.com now for all the latest Premier League odds