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Ex-Burnley boss expects a Championship cracker
FORMER Burnley boss Steve Cotterill says Saturday’s top of the table showdown with Queens Park Rangers is ‘too close to call’.
Sean Dyche’s Championship leaders will look to stretch their two-point gap over second placed QPR when the sides meet at Turf Moor, and extend an unbeaten home run stretching back to March last season.
But Cotterill, who was on QPR’s coaching staff in the Premier League last season, insists it is far too early in the season to class Saturday’s first meeting as a title decider.
“It isn’t a title decider. It isn’t a six-pointer either. It’s just a game that’s still relatively early in the season between two teams who have had fantastic starts, no more than that,” said Cotterill, who was Burnley manager between the summer of 2004 and November 2007.
“But they are two good clubs, two good managers and two good teams, so it should be a really good game.
“Both teams have started this season very well. It’s a tough one to call. I couldn’t tell you at this moment in time who could win it. It could be down to a piece of individual brilliance, and hopefully not a mistake on the day.
“Burnley have been together for a while, largely down to monetary restrictions, but the continuity in the team is a lot better.
“Sean Dyche and Ian Woan have gone in there and done a really good job and they fully deserve to be where they are this season. It’s great to see.
“I’m not surprised they are up there. They’ve got a small squad - you don’t need to tell me about small squads - but I think they’ve got good players there.
“There’s a young man called Michael Duff at centre half, who wasn’t a bad purchase for £30,000, alongside Jason Shackell. That’s where it starts.
“They’ve got a good goalkeeper and two good strikers.
“A good goalkeeper, two centre backs and a striker - that’s the key starting point.
“QPR had to put together a completely new team. Credit to Harry (Redknapp) and the rest of the staff there because they have gelled very quickly.”
Charlie Austin is among their recent signings, having left Burnley on the eve of the season for around £3million.
He returns to Turf Moor for the first time on Saturday, and arrives in form with five goals in his last four games, after a comparatively slow start to the season with two in his first nine appearances for his new club.
“I wouldn’t have worried too much about Charlie Austin not scoring because it’s only a matter of time before he will,” said Cotterill.
“He is an out and out goalscorer and scores different types of goals - right foot, left foot, headers - which quite a lot of centre forwards don’t do these days.
“Michael Duff and Jason Shackell will have to keep their on him this weekend, but I’m sure they know that already.”
Cotterill, who saw the likes of Robbie Blake, Ade Akinbiyi and Kyle Lafferty sold on for profit during his three-and-a-half-year tenure, added: “It was a good signing by Harry.
“He was coming into the last year of his contract so the only time to sell him was last summer, whether to a Championship club or not.
“You can’t let it go to the next window because you’ve gone from a £4million striker to a £1m striker on January 31, so it was good business by Burnley too.
“I know more than most that there is a selling point being manager of Burnley, and probably Sean Dyche knew he had to sell him last summer.
“The form of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes this season has been fantastic, so it’s not like Charlie has been missed. They have been big boosts.”
Cotterill hopes there will only be incomings between now and the end of the season at Turf Moor, as the Clarets look to try to maintain their position at the top of the Championship.
“From their point of view they’ve got to look at it short term, to try to keep them there or thereabouts.
“That may encourage the board to maybe find a little bit more (financially) should they need to push in January to add to the squad, not to sell. That’s counter-productive. I did that every year. You don’t want to be reactive in the market.
“I had to be reactive in my time there because of the financial problems we had, but I worked for a fantastic chairman in Barry Kilby and we worked it out.”
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