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Burnley's cunning plan for Vokes
SAM Vokes is proof that every second counts.
Minutes is what most Burnley fans want from him, and more of them, as a result of the impact he has made in recent games from the bench.
Two goals and one near miss, at the death against Watford, in the 23-year-old’s seven late cameo appearances suggest that the striker would be knocking on the door of the starting 11.
But manager Sean Dyche insists the outlook for the Wales international is long term, with a plan in place to manage his progress carefully.
“Vokesy has moved around a lot on loan. When we got here his basic fitness levels were not appropriate for what we wanted,” explained the Burnley boss.
When asked by a shareholder at this week’s AGM when Vokes’ time would come, he replied simply: “When we deem it appropriate for him to get a chance.”
But, ahead of this afternoon’s game at Birmingham City, Dyche revealed that Vokes is doing all the right things to force his way into his first team plans.
“Now he is leaner and a bit fitter and we’ve worked with the whole group on that,” he continued.
“His part will come.
“Players like Vokesy are getting stronger and sharper.
“I think he can be a big player over time for this football club.
“I think he has accepted our regime and we will get him fitter and sharper. And he looks like he has got confidence.
“Building that confidence over time is part of the process.
“Some players you will recognise as nailed-on starters – your core starters.
“He is developing hopefully into that, allowing him time to build his confidence.
“I believe in players being ready once, not twice, because when they go in they can deliver straight away.”
Circumstances are similar with Junior Stanislas, who came off the bench to provide the assist for both of Vokes’ goals – at Ipswich, where it proved to be nothing more than a consolation in a 2-1 defeat, and on derby day.
On that occasion Vokes towered to meet Stanislas’ cross and send a header past Paul Robinson to secure a late point against rivals Blackburn Rovers.
But Dyche is crying out for more.
“It’s a funny one with Stan. He has talent and we want him to deliver that for longer in games,” said the Clarets boss.
“He is another one we are working with behind the scenes.
“We do a lot of work with him away from the football pitch on analysis.
“That’s with all the players.”
And that is why Dyche is prepared to be flexible with styles and formations as he tries to find the best fit for his troops.
“We’ve walked into a situation where the club had an open style of play which could be good on a good day and not so good on a bad day,” he said. “We’ve had to look at the best system possible.
“We’ve got round pegs in not square holes but not quite round enough holes.
“We’ve been testing that and playing around a little bit.”
Keith Treacy could also be emerging into the mix after making his first appearance since August last weekend, from the bench against Watford.
“Keith’s another one who’s been working very hard, as have all the players behind the scenes,” said Dyche.
“He’s been coming along nicely, he’s been putting the work in that’s required to get himself up to match fitness and he’s getting there.
“You can never truly tell until players like him get a start but he's certainly improved his fitness levels, there’s no doubting his ability, amongst a number of others, but he’s there or thereabouts now.”
Over the notoriously busy Christmas and New Year, the Clarets have healthy competition at a good time.
“A lot of people are beginning to show up,” said Dyche.
“The (friendly) games we arrange we take very seriously.
“The one at Huddersfield we were fortunate they agreed to play it on their pitch and it gives you that nice feel to it.
“There were a number of good performances in that and the way they went about it was excellent.
“That can only be good for us.
“Players are hungry to get in the team to get that shirt and deliver performances and enjoy what they’re doing in order to stay in.”
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