BURNLEY boss Sean Dyche says Kevin Long’s debut was well deserved – and says that his Turf Moor chance is a reward for all of his hard work.
Long started Saturday’s draw with Watford and while a full senior debut had been a long time coming for Long, Dyche felt the young defender deserved his first team chance after playing a patient waiting game.
It is three-and-a-half years since the Cork-born defender first arrived at Turf Moor, under Owen Coyle.
The Scot had pre-empted the January transfer window by reaching an agreement with Long’s hometown club Cork City in November 2009, having fended off competition from Everton and Celtic for the youngster's signature.
But when Coyle quit for Bolton just two months later, Long found it tough to make the breakthrough and was subsequently loaned out to Accrington Stanley three times in two seasons, and was last term reunited with the former Reds boss, John Coleman, after he took charge of Rochdale.
Going into the last year of his current deal Long’s nomadic football lifestyle continued in August as he joined League One Portsmouth on loan until October 1.
Dyche raised eyebrows with his decision to start the 22-year-old in place of the suspended Michael Duff on Saturday.
But the Burnley boss admitted the positive feedback he had received by the managers and coaches Long had worked with had been backed up by what he had seen in training and friendlies in his seven weeks in charge.
“He's gone out and played and he's an interesting one because he's that type that everyone you speak to where he has been has been really impressed with him. He's gone about his training and his development well,” said Dyche.
“It's funny how football changes.
“I didn't plan it, but I said to him two weeks ago ‘the way you've been training is terrific, the way you've performed in the games we've had is terrific’.
“I said 'sometimes you've got to be patient and then when the chance comes take it' and he gets rewarded with a place.
“I thought he was solid and thorough all game.
“It's a big occasion for him of course, and he dealt with it nicely.”
With at least two places up for grabs while both Chris McCann and Duff served one-match bans for accumulated bookings, Dyche was pleased to see competition within the squad step up with a friendly at Huddersfield Town last week, in which Long completed 90 minutes in a 2-0 win.
But the Clarets boss said his selection was based on more than that game.
“It just reconfirms the evidence that you're looking for – how do they play, how do they handle it, how do they deal with it, what kind of performance do they give?” he said.
“We process the team down. I have the final say of course but me and my staff look at the options and decide what we think's appropriate for any given game and then wait for the players to go and deliver. That's the exciting bit.”