Suzanne Geldard column: Burnley have bridged the '10-year gap' to Bolton Wanderers (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Suzanne Geldard column: Burnley have bridged the '10-year gap' to Bolton Wanderers
IT says much for the season Burnley are enjoying that it has practically slipped under the radar that they face a reunion with former manager Eddie Howe on Saturday boasting an eight-game unbeaten league run.
On the one hand given how long they’ve spent at the top end of the table this season – all season – it has perhaps been taken for granted that the side is capable of going on these streaks.
It is arguably expected, despite what the Bolton programme scribes might suggest.
On the other, it could be down to the fact that some of the draws in that period have felt like defeats.
Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton were there for the taking – certainly at Turf Moor.
While points against those two sides were not to be sniffed at, it says all you need to know about the high demands the players continually set themselves that there were glum faces in the dressing room after the final whistle of both encounters.
There was even a hint of what might have been after twice coming back from behind to take the lead against QPR, but had to settle for a 3-3 draw.
It is that attitude, allied with ability and overall fitness, that has kept the Clarets in the promotion places for a prolonged period, and why they continue to defy widespread expectations of a collapse.
This season has been built on firm foundations, and not just on the training ground.
Preparation starts with what they put into their bodies to improve output.
Food has been just as key to fitness as physical work, for with a squad as small as Burnley’s, injury prevention is imperative.
They refuel well after games but also monitor their diet carefully during the week to keep muscles and bones healthy, stocking up on Vitamin D-rich foods (green leafy vegetables, raw nuts and seeds), healthy fats found in oily fish and the healing properties of zinc found in red meat, lentils, turkey and brown rice.
They might not have all become Masterchefs overnight, but they have certainly been made aware what is best for them and their football.
So much so that, while there was a clamour from supporters for loan signings, then January signings, then an eye on the loan market again – and while Sean Dyche would have spent more than the few hundred thousand it took to make Ashley Barnes his first cash capture, given the opportunity – it has so far not been necessary.
Barnes is having to bide his time behind Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, while there is back-up for every other position, if required.
Consistency in selection has gone hand in hand with consistency in performance.
In contrast, Bolton seemingly have too much of a good thing and have yet to figure out which line-up works best.
While club debts are mounting, they have an embarrassment of riches within their squad, including two recent ex-Clarets (a penny for their thoughts!).
Personnel, and their positions within the formation, have changed frequently – practically game to game – and that inconsistency has been mirrored in results and performances.
Bolton were said to be “10 years ahead” of Burnley by Owen Coyle when he left Turf Moor for the Reebok in January 2010.
In four years that gap has not just been bridged, it has been extinguished.
Because under Dyche, Burnley know their jobs, and they are doing them well.
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