‘WE’LL keep fighting until it’s mathematically impossible,’ is a sentiment that has spilled out from the Burnley camp for at least the last month or so, regarding the play-offs.
But there comes a point when a dose of realism must be administered, and Eddie Howe has reluctantly swallowed it.
He is making sure there is still plenty of significance left in the season, though, by looking ahead to the next one, tinkering with formations and personnel to see what works and what doesn’t.
The top six is still not, technically, out of reach, but the Clarets effectively lost their grip on it through a run of just one win in
10 games, which extended to 11 with Tuesday night’s home defeat to Birmingham.
It was before the midweek fixture that Howe gave the biggest hint yet he is resigned to another disappointing fate too ... losing Jay Rodriguez.
But out of this bad news might come some good. For there won’t be just one team after the 22-year-old’s signature.
There could be more than three or four, and a bidding war would go some way to adequately boosting the club’s transfer coffers.
It is probably the only way that Howe will have money to spend in the summer, after Burnley reported pre-tax losses of just over £4million in the last financial year.
The Clarets boss won’t want to lose Rodriguez.
Far from it. But he is realistic to know he might have to. The Premier League vultures are already circling behind the scenes, and with a year left to run on Rodriguez’s contract they are in a
strong position to wait for the best possible offer; the best means of adding to Howe’s squad in the summer.
It is far from ideal, having to sell your assets in order to buy. But Burnley can’t spend what they don’t earn in income.
No-one can. Not without repercussions.
Loans from board members or elsewhere won’t count, as clubs are encouraged to become self sufficient under the UEFA Financial Fair Play Rules next season.
And that, unfortunately, will mean parting with the homegrown star.
The challenge then will be to find the next one.