EX-CLARET Willie Irvine has called for Burnley to resist any temptation to sell Charlie Austin in January, after posting a £3.16million annual profit through the summer sale of Jay Rodriguez.

The £7million club record fee received for the England Under 21 striker from Southampton in June contributed to an £8.5m total profit on transfers, which offset operating losses of £4.4m.

And in a statement to shareholders, joint chairmen Mike Garlick and John Banaszkiewicz warned: “This player trading remains a cornerstone of how the club balances it books.”

That has sparked fears for the future of 20-goal top scorer Austin, with the Clarets facing another difficult 12 months financially going into the final phase of their Premier League parachute payments, and with crowds dwindling.

Figures for the 2011/12 financial year, up to June 30, were released to shareholders yesterday.

Other key points included the wage bill being reduced by around £2.5m to just under £17m, however turnover shrunk by £4m to £23m.

Match income, television rights, catering sales and retail sales were all down on last year.

And co-chairmen Garlick and Banaszkiewicz believe the transfer market will be key to retaining financial stability at Turf Moor.

“Despite recording an operating loss for the year, the transfer fee we received for Jay Rodriguez meant we were able to convert this loss for the year into a profit and provide the basis for supporting ourselves in 2012/13,” the statement continued.

“Looking forward, the reduction in our income in 2012/13 and 2013/14, now that the initial Premier League parachute payment period has ended, and the introduction of the Football League Financial Fair Play Rules mean that we need to continue to plan carefully for the future and act accordingly, to ensure that we operate within the rule and the income we generate.”

However, the chairmen insisted they remained committed to keeping the club competitive in the Championship.

“Your Board are true Clarets’ fans and we are committed to supporting the team and the manager to give us the nest chance of achieving the success we all feel the club deserves,” they said.

A portion of the profits has already been reinvested into the squad.

But former Burnley striker Irvine fears an emphasis on balancing the books could have a negative effect on the club long-term, and has instead urged the board to focus on retaining their best assets in an effort to mount another promotion push.

“They have got to hold on to the biggest asset they’ve got if they are ambitious enough to try to get out of the Championship,” he said.

“There’s a lot of focus on Charlie Austin but there’s also been talk of Kieran Trippier for Arsenal.

“The board should be talking to them about new deals and not leave it until it’s too late. We’ve got to keep hold of these players, otherwise the gates will be dropping even further.

“That means we won’t be able to offer competitive wages to attract the better players, and that will leave the club in danger of falling away.

“It’s difficult to keep unearthing gems.”