SEAN Dyche has praised Sam Vokes for leading the line to become Burnley’s second 20-goal striker this season, but knows he won’t stop there.
The striker joined 25-goal top scorer Danny Ings in reaching the milestone with his penalty against Charlton Athletic at the weekend, which helped to send the Clarets into tonight’s home game with Doncaster Rovers on a 15-game unbeaten run.
Having formed a formidable partnership with Ings, Vokes looked equally at ease in linking up with Ashley Barnes, despite the pair sharing similar attributes.
And it is that kind of flexibility that Dyche believes makes the Wales international a star of the Championship “The idea of being open-minded is not just about goal tallies and performance levels and performance levels, it’s how you can interact with other players, how you change a game accordingly.
“I just think the best players are flexible, they’re adaptable,” said the Burnley boss.
“The idea of having a player who just literally plays in one way and one slot, the game’s changing from that.
“With Sam people were saying early season he’s like an old-fashioned centre forward but I think it’s quite clear that he’s not. His movement’s getting better, his awareness and when to move and why he’s moving is getting better, his game understanding, his sharpness, his fitness. All of those things have been progressing.
“They’re not always the things that people see; people just see whether he scores or not. But obviously we see them and we analyse them and look through them and show clips of them.
“And we think there’s more to come. Why limit yourself?”
Having signed in the summer of 2012, it wasn’t until the sale of Charlie Austin on the eve of this season that Vokes was given his chance, and Dyche feels he has grown with it.
“Body language can mean everything and when you’re confident and full of belief your body language does change - psychologists will tell you that - and he does send that message that he’s ready,” he said.
“We had a chat about it last summer and I said ‘it’s a subliminal but important thing, that pitch presence’ and he has certainly got a pitch presence this season.
“Everyone knows it, the way he conducts himself and goes about his business and the confidence that he shows in his play and never doubting his ability.
“His fitness is good, he’s very lean and his mentality’s very good, and I think he’s still got more to come.
“He’s 24, he’s still got more physical development to come.”
He added: “There are good signs from Sam, and Barnesy’s the same, he’s come in and worked ever so hard - he’s willing, he’s awkward and hard to mark.
“Ingsy has that fluidity, so that’s a nice three – all different players, all different demands on them and for the team.
“It bodes well but we have to keep working. We’re still a work in progress, I say it all the time. I’m not dampening it down but you’re always looking for different things – can we add, can we change, can we be flexible and malleable enough to keep adding to what we’re doing.”
Dyche remains in the market to add to that attacking trio before Thursday’s emergency loan deadline, and has been linked with Manchester United’s 18-year-old James Wilson, after signing Chris Baird on a short-term deal to boost the backline following injury to Kieran Trippier.
“We’re always open. We’ve got Bairdy in but we’re still open now and still looking. There are a couple of things that are maybes.
“If they’re right for the group and we think it’s appropriate and, of course, we can align them financially then we will do so,” said Dyche, who says both Ings and Trippier are making progress in their recoveries from injury but are not expected back tonight.
“Tripps and Ingsy are both settling nicely.
“We’ve got to be careful with them and sensible with them because we want to maximise their opportunities for the rest of the season.
“We’ll make a decision on them.
“Tripps is closer than Ingsy at the moment but we’ve still got to be careful and make sure we guide him in the right direction.”