Clarets Trust Chairman previews 23/24 season

Earlier this week, I was able to catch up with the Chairman of The Clarets Trust – George Poole. George is a representative of Burnley fans as a member of the club’s official fan advisory board, and we were able to talk about his club. He was dubbed the youngest chairman in the history of the Clarets Trust group last summer at just 21 years old, and he provides a strong case for being the most passionate fan of their club I’ve ever met.  

George told me an anecdote that while attending the University of Bath, he would still make time to go to matches – starting his trek to Turf Moor at 5am in the morning! He would get a bus to Bristol, and then it was the Megabus up to Manchester before hopping on another bus to Burnley. It certainly left my head spinning at the sheer length of the journey, but nonetheless, you can only admire the dedication he has to the club.  

After sacking arguably your greatest ever manager in Sean Dyche and getting relegated, could you have foreseen such a quick return to the top flight of football?

“Many Burnley fans had a sense of defiant optimism when we appointed Vincent Kompany, because he arrived at the Club following a successful first managerial role at Anderlecht and with a burgeoning reputation as one of Europe’s top young coaches. With that being said, I don’t think few, if any, fans believed we would come back up to the Premier League as Champions having amassed over 100 points! The Burnley FC that is returning to the world’s greatest league is a different beast to the Burnley FC that got relegated from the Premier League in 2022.”

“First and foremost, the obvious changes between the side that got relegated and the side that has now bulldozed its way to the Premier League is personnel. There has been a complete rebuild of Burnley’s playing squad since May last year, because of the expected departures last summer, among those Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Maxwel Cornet – all players who deserve to be playing in the top flight. Additionally, Burnley were tasked with the prospect of refreshing an ageing squad, hence the end-of-contract departures of the likes of Phil Bardsley last summer.”

“In the face of such turnover, Vincent Kompany was forced to bring in 15 or so new faces in the door last summer, just to create a competitive squad ahead of our first season back in the Championship. As we now know, many of his acquisitions proved to be shrewd buys, with Kompany’s staff specifically targeting relatively cheap targets from abroad who would have the potential to grow into fine players once they had settled into English football. The likes of Anass Zaroury, Manuel Benson and Hjalmar Ekdal (a January signing) have all blossomed after arriving for small transfer fees, whilst the Club have also been prudent in the loan market, with Ian Maatsen, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jordan Beyer and Nathan Tella all having starring roles this season. Needless to say, the recruitment has been exceptional and this has gone a long way to securing a promotion-capable side.”

“But the other fundamental change between last season’s squad and this is the style of football, with Vincent Kompany implementing a high-pressing, possession-based style of play that has allowed Burnley to become the ‘Manchester City of the Championship’. Winning games regularly with possession of over 70%, this Burnley side squeezes the life out of opposition teams and provides champagne football on beer money. Opposition teams have had to deal with a side whose centre backs and goalkeeper are as capable on the ball as our best centre midfielders, which has allowed Burnley to dominate the ball and reduce our opponents to chances few and far in between. When combined, the recruitment success and fresh style of football have created a revolution at Burnley Football Club since last summer, and this club reborn has steamrolled its way back to the top flight. The question now lies, how well can Vincent Kompany’s Burnley perform in the Premier League?”

Building off the back of that last statement, Burnley’s rise can be attributed to Vincent Kompany. As you’ve stated, fans can only be ecstatic with the job he’s done thus far – but how do you think he’ll perform against other Premier League managers?

“Vincent Kompany is the best young manager in European football, of that I have no doubt. As a player, he is up there with the greatest centre backs of all time and one of the Premier League’s finest captains. He has taken all that experience and moulded himself into the archetype of a modern football manager, whose teams play high-possession football and benefit from world-class recruitment off the pitch. With an obsessive work rate that sees him often only get 3-5 hours of sleep a night, Kompany has clearly soaked up many of the lessons learned from Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, resulting in Burnley’s revolutionary approach to the Championship that saw us steamroll the league. Looking to the Premier League next season, I have no doubt that Kompany will stick to his principles and retain the style of football that we played last season, which will produce some enthralling tactical battles between Kompany and the other managers in the Premier League. A manager with enormous belief that this style of football produces results, I am more than confident that Kompany will lead a successful Burnley team on our return to England’s top division.”

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We’ve already seen plenty of transfers throughout the last week – are there any additions you’d like to see sign for Burnley this summer. You’ve secured the signature of Dara O’Shea; how do you think he’ll fit your system?

“If you spoke to most Burnley fans, at the top of their wishlists for the summer transfer window are many of the players we had on loan last season. This is understandable given their enormous success as part of a Championship-winning side, and the fans were rewarded at the end of the season with the permanent transfers of Jordan Beyer from Borussia Monchengladbach and Michael Obafemi from Swansea City. It would be great if the pair could be joined by Ian Maatsen, Nathan Tella and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, though time will tell if these transfers prove possible.”

“Harwood-Bellis and Maatsen are two of the brightest prospects amongst the traditional top-six in the Premier League, and will both only be sold for a fee upwards of £15-20 million. Paying this kind of money for one of them may be affordable, but we are unlikely to see both players brought back to the Club. At this moment in time, it appears as though Harwood-Bellis may remain at Manchester City whilst we mount an aggressive pursuit of Maatsen from Chelsea. The signing of Dara O’Shea was one we could not refuse, coming in for a fantastic fee of only £7 million and with a wealth of experience behind him at just 24 years of age. He is a player that Vincent Kompany highly admires and may well prove to be Harwood-Bellis’ replacement come the end of the transfer window.”

“As for Tella, I would be delighted to see him return to the Club, but negotiations between ourselves and Southampton remain in the early stages.”

What are your expectations ahead of the upcoming season? We’ve seen the likes of Newcastle United, Brighton and Aston Villa all overachieve by securing European football – are you dreaming of something special next season after a magnificent Championship campaign?

“As ever, as a newly promoted team in the Premier League, the first aim will be to stay in the league beyond this season. But let it be clear, that is the minimum goal for this Burnley side, who return to the Premier League a far different prospect than they left a year ago. I think we can take a look of optimism from the success of Brentford and Fulham last season, whilst Brighton’s achievements are not out of reach for a team led by Vincent Kompany and his staff. The Belgian manager has proven his ability to sign incredible talents from around the world in just 12 months at Burnley, and with the extra finances offered with Championship promotion, I look forward with excitement at the players we might recruit this summer. I think a top-10 finish is more than achievable for Burnley this coming season and I think we will take many teams by surprise. With intelligent recruiting, an unmatched work ethic, and the best young coach in European football, there is no reason that we should be looking over our shoulder at a relegation battle next season. Vincent Kompany will not rest until he sees Burnley in the top ten come the end of this season. Exciting times!”

From this interview, I think it’s clear that the Clarets fans have much to look forward to in this upcoming season after the summer break! I’d like to take the time to thank George for taking the time to talk to me, as he is ever the busy man with all his responsibilities.

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