Sean Dyche has insisted player welfare is “off the scale” after Jürgen Klopp accused Burnley of putting players’ safety at risk by blocking the return to five substitutions.
Klopp has been outspoken in calling for substitutions to be increased from the current three per game in the face of fixture congestion caused by the impact of Covid-19. The Liverpool manager mentioned Burnley this week, saying he was not sure how many of their players are internationals and are resting when “our players play three games”.
Dyche has previously said that adopting a five-substitute rule in the Premier League would benefit the big clubs and suggests football has to be careful over the direction it takes. “I keep hearing this term player welfare,” Dyche said as Burnley prepare to end an enforced 18-day break at Manchester United on Thursday.
“I’ve got to be honest, I think the welfare of my players here is absolutely fantastic – the way they are looked after. Health and wellbeing is top of the list and we do that well here.
“Add to that the challenge of Covid – the players have got information coming out of their ears over the situation – medical support and the Premier League offering them all the testing programme … so it does make me question the idea of player welfare. The players have to be careful themselves because the welfare is off the scale for me, personally.”
Dyche, who has had run-ins with Klopp in the past, accepts the top clubs have a “lot of demands” on them with league, cup and European commitments. But Burnley’s manager said that has always been the case for the top Premier League clubs and their best players. He said: “I was thinking of people like Frank Lampard, season after season knocking out 60-odd games with England games on top. I don’t remember too much about player welfare being spoken about then.
“Times change, and I like to think, against some popular belief, that I change with them, but there still has to be a root inside you what your beliefs are in football. You have to go: ‘Come on, let’s get on with the challenge in front of us. Remember what we are – professional footballers – and whatever comes our way we take it on and do the best we can with it.’
“There has to be a bit of balance to the bigger picture of comments about five subs, three subs, all the rest of it – and just be careful which road we’re going down. I judge myself on my profession, but I also judge myself on the people who watch our profession and watch our games. If I was a fan I’d be going: ‘Hang on a minute, footballers get well looked after.’ We’ve just got to be a little bit careful to find that healthy balance.”
Burnley have had games against Watford, Aston Villa and Everton called off since drawing 0-0 with West Ham on 12 December. Dyche says Burnley have had to deal with a “couple of Covid situations” and will make a late decision on whether Maxwel Cornet features at Old Trafford. The Ivory Coast international sustained a thigh injury in the defeat at Newcastle at the start of the month and then tested positive for coronavirus.