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Suzanne Geldard: Ings just one star among many at Clarets
WHEN Danny Ings took to the stage at The Brewery, London, there couldn’t of been a more deserving winner of the Sky Bet Championship player of the year award.
Yes, Danny Drinkwater might be a key man for long-time league leaders Leicester City. Yes, Ross McCormack has more goals than Burnley's leading marksman – more goals than anyone in the entire division in fact.
But Ings’ all-round effort this season sets him apart from this pack.
The striker does not just score goals, he sets them up. He isn’t a goal hanger; a fox in the box, he runs the channels, he makes things happen.
Ings can play as a partnership, off the front, or – if the occasion demands it – out wide (although those particular depths of versatility have not been required this season).
Ings can take on defenders; he can pick a pass; he can drop his shoulder to devastating affect. His repertoire of goals is growing, as is his reputation.
He is relatively new to the England Under 21 set-up yet there is already talk of international progress.
When you consider all this has come off the back of two injury-ravaged seasons it makes his achievements so far this season all the more remarkable, without him growing any less humble.
Which is why he would be the first to acknowledge that, despite all of the above, he is in no way guaranteed to scoop a similar player of the year accolade at club level.
In Sunday’s acceptance speech he was quick to talk of a team effort in making him the player he has become this season, with particular reference to strike partner Sam Vokes.
There is no doubt the two bring out the best in each other, hence their prolific partnership accounting for the vast majority of the Clarets’ goals this season.
Vokes could be the biggest rival for the crown at the end of season ceremony.
But there are other leading candidates throughout the side.
Tom Heaton, although very rarely stretched in any game this season, must go down as one of the Championship signings of the summer for the consistently high levels of assurance he has shown the back four.
Kieran Trippier, at right back, has been the source of most goals and now leads the way in the assists table, but he has also played his part in the division’s meanest defence.
Captain Jason Shackell, who like Trippier has played every minute of every game, has been imperious at centre half – and chipped in with important goals too, while Michael Duff is having a fine season alongside him.
Ben Mee has shown his bravery numerous times this term, and although not as frequently as his fellow full back still makes key contributions going forward, most recently laying on the cross for Scott Arfield to clinch the win over Leeds last weekend.
Arfield is another who has excelled after being brought in on a free transfer in the summer, like Heaton.
Surplus to requirements at Huddersfield, inexplicably on this consistent form, Burnley boss Sean Dyche has maintained that hunger in him to be successful, and he has energy to burn.
David Jones found himself in similar circumstances, following his release from Wigan Athletic and after an expected move to Blackburn Rovers, where he had ended last season on loan, failed to materialise.
He is thankful of that now.
Working alongside Dean Marney in the midfield engine room they have each found their perfect foil; both are unsung heroes this season.
Burnley’s strength has been in their team. And while Ings, for me, was the obvious candidate for star man of the Championship, when it comes to picking Burnley’s, it isn't so straight forward.
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