BURNLEY boss Sean Dyche says he is relishing the prospect of increased expectation, as his side bid to add more weight to their play-off case this weekend.
The Clarets take on Birmingham City at Turf Moor tomorrow, bidding to extend their three-game winning start to 2013 in the Championship.
Recent results have elevated Burnley from mid-table to seventh, four points behind Dyche’s old club Watford.
The 41-year-old is aware that winning run, which includes three clean sheets, might raise demands for more of the same. But rather than fear that reaction, he is embracing it.
“It’s a good part of football, when expectation grows,” he said.
“It is balanced with reality. I don’t think there is an easy Championship game – we’ve all seen the topsy turvy nature of it, so we take every game seriously.
“You do take every game as it comes. You prepare properly, you’re aware of the opposition, we don’t take anyone lightly and we’re ready to play. That’s our ethos - to be ready for every game. If expectation comes with that then usually that’s a good sign of a team doing well in the first place.
“We want that expectation, we want the demand of it and we want to make sure the players are aware of it in a strange kind of way, but there’s no fear with it. Expectation is usually part of a team doing well, so that builds confidence.”
Burnley go into tomorrow’s game fourth in the form table, thanks to a return of 13 points from their last six games.
Dyche knows they stand a good chance of making ground on the top six if that run can be replicated. But to do that he warned they need to stay on top of their game.
“The main thing is to encourage the good habits the team have been showing, the work that we’ve done with them is showing good signs and the players are taking responsibility and ownership of that work because eventually it’s them that go out onto the pitch and deliver it. Long may that continue, but we’re constantly looking to improve it against our own challenges at the minute and that’s getting on some grass on a daily basis,” he said.
“The lads are working hard at the minute, but not just working hard, they’re working smart.
“They’re thinking about their football, they’re playing at the right times and defending at the right times and it’s glued together with pride and passion for the shirt.
“And the work ethic is quite obvious for all to see.”
Dyche hopes to have top scorer Charlie Austin available again after being ruled out for almost a month with a hamstring injury.
The striker has been at the centre of transfer speculation, with Celtic believed to be lining him up if they lose Gary Hooper in the transfer window.
But Dyche insists there has been no contact from the SPL side.
“It’s for their end to deal with that situation as they see fit,” said Dyche, reiterating that the club have no intention of selling their leading marksman.
“The board made it clear at the AGM they aren’t thinking of selling Charlie, that hasn’t changed to my knowledge from the board point of view.
“I was with them on Monday, so pretty recently, and that hasn’t changed.
“He won’t be sold unless it’s ridiculous (the offer), and the board will have a figure that they deem is ridiculous.
“We value him. We value all the players. We value Charlie as a goalscorer - he’s going well and so are we. He’s had a minor injury, but we’re hoping he’s back sooner rather than later.
“The board have made it clear they’ll keep the squad together as best they can and see where that takes us this season.”
Dyche added that the club is in talks with a number of players whose contracts expire in the next 18 months, including Austin.
“We’re actively speaking to agents with regard to a number of contracts,” he said.