SEAN Dyche is backing Ben Mee to still play a big part in Burnley’s season, even though the defender is not yet ready for his first team comeback.
The former Manchester City defender has been sidelined since the beginning of December with knee ligament damage sustained in the home derby with Blackburn Rovers.
Mee managed to complete the game, despite being on the end of a crunching challenge by Colin Kazim Richards, but the 23-year-old has not featured since.
Dyche had hoped to have welcomed him back to the squad by now, but Mee suffered a minor setback, lengthening the lay-off to four to six-weeks.
But with 15 games still to play this season, Dyche expects Mee to be back in time to make an impact, after insisting there is all to play for.
“The season’s still well alive, so that’s even more of a challenge to get back fit,” said Dyche.
“There are plenty of games to come. We’re hopeful it settles down quickly enough to get back to training again and back in contention because it’s been a frustrating one for him.
“He’s a very honest, forthright stand-up kind of guy and he’s feeling it. No player wants to be injured.
“You don’t want to sit and look at all four walls of a gym, it’s not as much fun as running around playing football.
“It’s a shame for him but he’s a very conscientious lad and he knows that it’s part of the nature of the job, as they all do.”
But Dyche said it was not possible to put a timeframe on Mee’s return.
“He’s not in full training yet so that’s normally a marker,” said the Burnley boss.
“In his case, because of the length of it it’s not going to be a case of coming into full training and playing after three days.
“It’s going to be a week’s training with the players then we’ll build up from there as regards a reserve game.
“He’s on the verge of joining in but isn’t there yet.”
And Dyche is anticipating an exciting battle for places when defender Mee is ready to make his comeback, particularly for the left back berth, where Northern Ireland international Danny Lafferty has impressed in Mee’s absence.
“The theory to any manager at any level will be if you’ve got a squad that are all fighting for places then that’s healthy, and that’s what we want,” he said.
“We want that fight for places and unfortunately we’ve had injuries and suspensions at varying times that have probably has allowed players to more or less be the first choice, whereas it’s better when they’re all vying.”