BURNLEY, England — As Vincent Compagny looks to summer, he finds himself entering uncharted territory.
He’s spent his entire career without a breather. During his playing days, the seasons flowed at a dizzying pace, with league games, cup games, European games and international games overlapping. The summer was squeezed into a thin niche between major tournaments and an energy-draining, globe-trotting preseason tour.
As a manager, I was even busier during the summer at Konpani. It wasn’t surprising. He chose Burnley, recently relegated from the Premier League to the English Second Division, for his first head coaching post outside his native Belgium. The championship is a competition that proudly, unapologetically, and hilariously identifies itself as an endurance event. “It’s exhausting just to name names,” says Kompani.
And it has been proven. From the outside, it appeared that Company and Burnley had taken everything fairly easy. The club secured promotion with just a month remaining, confirming an immediate return to the Premier League. You have finished the campaign with 100 points or more. For Company, however, it was a misunderstanding. “This league is cruel,” he said.
As evidence, he cites the match list. With 46 league games packed into 39 weeks, the season ended by 5 May. “And then I had a month off for the World Cup,” he said. In his view, the most valuable reward of a promotion is not the wealth it brings, but the prospect of not having to go through it all again.
“Getting out of the Premier League is the biggest motivation to come back,” Kompani said.
Of course, they were all as he expected. The problem was figuring out what to do if it stopped moving. There were three months between Burnley’s last game in the Championship and the first Premier League game of next season, which was far longer than Kompani had ever experienced. Time has passed so quickly.
The solution he came up with, which he admits had never been tried before, was to effectively give the players two preseasons. They ended up taking two vacations before and after their training camp in Portugal, trying to find a balance between recharging their energy and not dulling their edge.
However, he did not fully practice what he preached. His season did not end when the championship schedule ended. In his first free weekend in 10 months, he made four appearances. The breakdown was three games in the Premier League, where he already knew his opponents for next season, and the other was in Salford, England’s fourth division.
A perfectionist’s attention to detail combined with an obsessive work ethic is the hallmark of Company. That’s what he remembers most vividly, especially those who played with him at Manchester City. Focus, responsibility, and diligence are perhaps best expressed by the fact that he kept track of all the different records (and that’s pretty much guaranteed). He was not an unjust ruler.) The actual ledger recorded the fines he imposed as a captain.
And that’s why his transition to manager – first at Anderlecht, the club where he started and ended his playing career, then at Burnley – was so natural, so obvious, so destined for success. That’s why it seemed so. Of course, it’s impossible to predict with certainty which players will make good coaches. But Company seemed like a pretty safe option.
Certainly Burnley wasn’t his only option last summer, nor was it his only offer since then. The company has a policy of not engaging in speculation at any level. When interviewed at Burnley’s training facility this month, the only time he was even slightly dismayed was when his decision not to talk about it went against his innate tendency to be candid.
So last summer he admitted to turning down a number of ‘really big clubs’ in favor of joining Burnley for the championship, which he even described as ‘fighting a pack of starving dogs’. He volunteered to participate in this battle. What happened after that wouldn’t interest him at all.
Fortunately, some people are not so cautious. These voices said Tottenham reached out after Antonio Conte’s dismissal. Chelsea, seemingly on a permanent search for a new manager, also approached him. Leeds considered him as a replacement when they fired Jesse Marsh. He said no to all of them.
There would arguably have been more offers for Kompani this summer, not just because of the fact that he led Burnley to promotion, but because of the way he did it. In the space of ten months, he completely reshaped the style of the club, transforming a team that had been defined for years by its brusque, battle-hardened stripped-back style to youth, talent and playfulness. filled with
“I built Burnley on the values that define it,” Kompani said. “Culture is different than style. What was Burnley before? Hard working, brave, tough. We can be the smartest, bravest team.” Our game has grit. It hasn’t changed. If they didn’t understand what it means to be a Burnley player, they wouldn’t have had the talent we have. ”
He may not think it’s a change as it seems, but it’s still an impressive body of work. Rather than use it for lucrative offers elsewhere – jobs at Spurs still remain and those at Chelsea will undoubtedly reappear in the next few weeks – Kompani signed a new deal with Burnley just before the end of the season. chose to sign a five-year contract. .
It was an unconventional, vaguely heretical decision. Elite football is like a shark, forever moving forward. Managers, like players, are conditioned to believe that they have to grasp the bigger and better things the moment they appear.
Indeed, this was a moment for Kompani. He was only 37, still infancy by his managerial standards, and worked as an apprentice. Now is the time to step up the ladder towards what many consider to be his final and inevitable destiny: the goal of replacing Manchester City manager whenever Pep Guardiola chooses to step down. It was time to climb another step.
Company’s choice to wait instead stems in part from Burnley’s relationship with the hierarchy: “I trust people” and his excitement about what he has to accomplish. it seems to do. Winning the Premier League with Burnley, for example, may be out of his reach given the economic realities of the game, but he is convinced that his side, this club, are not yet at the top. are doing. “We are still far from the ceiling,” he said.
But his decision to stay is largely due to his belief that speed should not be confused with progress. There are few “good environments” in football for coaches, and Kompani is able to hone his skills and improve himself without worrying about unnecessary interference or the sudden and violent mood swings that can occur after weeks of depression. I know there are very few places where you can define a method for . .
At Burnley he feels he has found it. “With the right people, that’s a big advantage,” he says. Then going in the general direction most people think of as upwards and treating management as a series of challenges to meet and levels to pass through may not be the apparent accelerator. Standing still might get him where he wants to go.
“From a coaching standpoint, the only goal I have in mind is to be the best,” he said. “The road is not how fast you get there. I want to be the best in every step, but the results take time in every walk of life.” In his mind, it’s a “universal recipe,” but perhaps best thought of as an equation.
Kompani clearly has aptitude and talent as a manager. His work at Burnley proves it. But talent is only the first step. “It takes time and effort to nurture talent,” he said. He has never felt short of the latter. That’s what characterizes his entire career. For once, he feels he has the former as well. He has time and is ready to take it.