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SUZANNE GELDARD COLUMN: Early signs are good for Burnley
THIS year’s pre-season has had familiar tones to the warm-up campaign Eddie Howe orchestrated 12 months ago.
Both began with a first friendly at Altrincham, four goals and a win.
Both incorporated training camps in Bath, and friendlies against clubs in the south west.
There are still two friendlies to go before Burnley’s 2012/13 campaign gets underway with a Carling Cup clash at Port Vale a week on Tuesday. But this year is already shaping up to be better than the last.
Howe put plenty of time, effort and thought into putting his squad through its paces last summer, only to lose two key players two weeks before his first full season in charge began.
Everyone suspected that Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears would not start a second season back in the Championship with the Clarets . Mears’ body language suggested he had been hankering for a move for the entire term beforehand.
It was just a matter of when they went, not if, and where.
In the meantime, there was nothing Howe could do but plan with them, not forgetting Danny Fox and Wade Elliott, who were sold soon after the season started.
Before that, there were few surprises when Eagles and Mears were reunited with former Burnley boss Owen Coyle at Bolton Wanderers, after sitting out the final pre-season tour game at Torquay.
They will be back to face the music on August 18.
And Burnley will be ready.
This year, two weeks before the big kick-off – albeit unorthodox with the cup preceding the league – the Burnley boss was able to secure one of the final pieces of his jigsaw.
The capture of Sam Vokes has been at least eight months in the planning, possibly a year, with Howe keeping tabs on his former Bournemouth team-mate’s situation at Wolves.
His patience has been rewarded not only with the arrival of Vokes on a three-year deal, but also in adding Jason Shackell to the squad after Derby put up a bit of a fight to keep hold of the experienced centre half.
Admittedly the £7million sale of Jay Rodriguez has helped this particular squad building cause. But that’s football. As one door closes many others can open.
There may still be obstacles to overcome before the summer transfer deadline on August 31.
There are perhaps still question marks over Chris McCann’s future with the club.
Although Norwich appear to have cooled their interest in the box-to-box midfielder it would be naïve to think there aren’t any other suitors out there, particularly as the Dubliner is embarking on the final year of his current contract.
But Howe is better prepared for those eventualities this year.
In life you often learn the hard way. There is no doubting the Burnley boss was stung by last summer’s departures. He reacted well to adversity 12 months ago. Few expected him to find a match for Mears, but he signed arguably a better player in Kieran Trippier.
Now, Howe has assumed control. He is no longer waiting for others to make the first move before he can respond.
That security can only make for a more settled squad, and a more solid season going forward.