When a manager leaves a football club, he quickly finds out who his friends are. When the end came for Sean Dyche at Burnley after nine and a half years, the messages of support came from far and wide. One of these, by a former player who now practices his profession in Glasgow, is still etched in my memory.
‘Scotty Arfield sent me a nice message when I came from Burnley,’ he says Sports post.
“Everyone is busy and moving on with their own lives, but you appreciate those little details.
Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield is in sensational form in the Scottish Premiership
Former Burnley boss Sean Dyche claims Arfield’s success is due to his ‘thirst and desire’
“It’s a bit more distant with old players these days, but I have enough contact to know how their career is going. I’ll keep an eye on them.’
His first close-up of Arfield came in the summer of 2013. The midfielder was a free agent after three years with Huddersfield and was looking for a new club.
He became one of Dyche’s first – and best value for money – permanent acquisitions. A five-year working relationship and two promotions to the English Premier League were to follow.
Scotty had been through a bit of an up and down time in Huddersfield.
‘I said to him, ‘Look, I’m not going to bother you, but I need to see more of you.’
The 33-year-old spent five seasons at Turf Moor before moving to Scotland in 2018
Dyche claims Arfield was one of the few players to wish him well after leaving Burnley
“We knew Brian Rice, who was a scout in Scotland at the time, and he spoke highly of him. Brian said to me, “Look, in your area he would do well.”
“To be honest, Scott came in and he was like a breath of fresh air. He came in with love, hard working, as fit as you want. We just thought, ‘yeah, he’ll do for us…’
There has never been anything flashy or flamboyant about Arfield’s contribution to the cause beyond his impact on the pitch. Since 2018, the ex-Canada international has made 201 appearances for Rangers, scoring 38 goals and providing 19 assists from midfield.
Where foreign players enjoy a long honeymoon period, the former Falkirk player never really needed one. Leaving everything on the pitch, he immersed himself in the Burnley community and became the fan favorite – a pattern that continued when he joined Rangers.
“Scotty is probably not one of those players who is sexy in the eyes of fans,” Dyche admits. “But we certainly appreciated what he brought to the team.
The midfielder won the hearts of Burnley fans with his tireless midfield performances
“He fit the environment, he fit the work ethic, he had a real thirst and a desire where you feel like he’d left everything behind.
“He had more to offer and he certainly offered it to us, that’s for sure.
“The amount of football he played in the years he played at Burnley was truly incredible.
“He was very rarely injured and always available. He should – he should be – be very happy with his career.’
It’s a career with plenty of fuel left in the tank. At 33, Giovanni van Bronckhorst recalled his importance to the Rangers cause before the international break, after a run of three games without a win, Arfield and veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor returned to the squad for the Champions League defeat to Naples.
Arfield player key role in Rangers side reaching Europa League final last year
Despite a 3-0 defeat, the performance was enough to stay in the team for a much-needed win over Dundee United. Van Bronckhorst’s decision to go back to the tried and true was supported by facts and figures.
With four goals and one assist during his 462 minutes on the field this season, Arfield has averaged one goal or one assist per 92 minutes of football. New signing Tom Lawrence is the only player to come close to returning every 122 minutes with a goal or an assist. For Rabbi Matondo and Malik Tillman, the figure drops to 226 and 236 minutes respectively.
“I don’t know what Giovanni’s opinion would be on this,” Dyche added. “I can’t really say anything about what’s going on at Rangers. But every manager is always looking for the recipe that works.
The veteran outperforms teammates, such as Rabbi Matondo (above), despite his age
“Especially for myself, I never worried whether a player was young or old. All I was worried about was if they could get a job done? Were they hungry? Did they have a desire to influence what is going on?
“And in my experience Scotty has always been a player who keeps himself straight. When he was on the team, he always took care of himself and was ready to go. I very much doubt he has ever changed in that regard.”
When Rangers called in the summer of 2018, Dyche knew the game was over.
Arfield left Turf Moor under contract with no hard feelings. With a league winner’s medal, a Scottish Cup win and a performance in a Europa League final, the arrangement has worked out well for both sides. The midfielder has a finely tuned understanding of what it takes to win games at Rangers.
“I have not experienced what it is like at the Old Firm,” admits Dyche.
Dyche insists there is no resentment over the midfielder’s move to Rangers in 2018
“But of course I know so many people who have played in that environment.
“Over the years I have met guys who have played for both clubs and you ask them about it.
“Unless you’ve been there you can never really understand what it’s like, but what I do know is that there is a great demand for success at both Rangers and Celtic.
“And every manager is now under pressure to get results. I know managers from the lower divisions in the English game who are under constant pressure to play the right way and get results.
“That’s just the demands of the job, but it’s reinforced in Glasgow because of the demands of the city and the intense rivalry. That’s what I’m told all the time.
Rangers were at the end of a 4-0 drubbing when they faced Celtic last month
‘Listen, you only do management when you’re ready for what it takes. Everyone has to deal with the demands and it’s not just football, it’s modern life.”
After nine and a half years, the demands of life at Burnley finally became too much last April.
After two promotions, a European campaign and memorable victories over the six major clubs, Dyche now fills his time with family commitments and chats with Sportsmail before recording the podcast.
If – when – he returns to management, he will fill the team with players who are willing to go the extra mile for the cause. Players not like Scott Arfield.
The Scot has an impressive record of 38 goals in 201 midfield matches for Rangers
“I get the question a lot: ‘Do you like players with a good attitude?’ And I’ll say, “who doesn’t like players with a good attitude?”
“Scotty sure did. But what shone through for me over time was his work ethic and his belief in what he was doing for the team.
“Certain fan bases gravitate towards certain types of players. And I definitely think Scott commanded a lot of respect during his time at Burnley, when I know he built it up during his time at Rangers.
‘People appreciate what he does. He’s energetic, he puts in the work, he’s got quality, and eventually fans just think, ‘You know what? He will do it for me…’