KEVIN Long insists there is still more to come from him after a breakthrough year with the Clarets.

Twelve months ago Long had yet to make a top flight start for Burnley and hadn’t made a league appearance for the club since December 2013.

Injuries to Michael Keane and Ben Mee handed the 27-year-old his chance at the end of last season when he started on May 6 against West Brom. He followed that with starts against Bournemouth and West Ham.

Long was promoted to third choice centre back in the summer following Keane’s departure to Everton and he has found chances plentiful this season, making a further 14 Premier League starts and impressing recently in Mee’s absence with a shin injury.

Asked how much he had improved through exposure to top flight football over the last 12 months, Long said: “A lot. Just coming in and getting a run of games is what I needed.

“If you come in and play one or two it’s hard work, especially in the Premier League because you get punished for your concentration levels.

“With a run of games your concentration improves and you get that confidence of where you’re playing.

“I’ve been enjoying it. I’ve been here a long time now and to get a consecutive run of games in the Premier League is what I wanted.

“I still think I’m learning and progressing. I haven’t played many games over the last few years so getting a run of games is going to help me but I still don’t think I’m at my peak yet.”

Long’s rise has resulted in international action, with the former Cork City man winning five caps for the Republic of Ireland since June.

Having spent eight years at Turf Moor he had to plough through loan spells at Accrington Stanley, Rochdale, Portsmouth, Barnsley and MK Dons before becoming a regular part of Sean Dyche’s squad.

While Dyche’s decision not to sign a replacement for Everton-bound Keane last summer could be viewed as a show of faith in Long, the defender insists he has never doubted himself.

“I’m confident in my own ability, I just needed a run of games,” he said.

“I knew if I got that run of games I’d be able to show everyone what I’m able to do.

“That’s the case at the moment and hopefully the fans are appreciating what I’m doing because I’m giving everything for the team. Hopefully I can keep playing like that and keep on progressing.”

Long’s remarkable rise is one of several such stories in the Burnley squad and he will cap it with European football next season.

“It’s massive, we’re on the verge of getting in to Europe. For a club like this it’s a huge achievement and we’ll keep giving everything,” he added.

It’s a scenario Long certainly didn’t envisage when he arrived in East Lancashire from the League of Ireland.

Long is also a regular in Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland squad now and he’s delighted with the way things are going on the pitch.

“To play for your country is a massive achievement and if I’m playing European football alongside that then it’s what every lad dreams of,” he said.

“Playing in the Premier League, playing European football and playing international football - it can’t really get any better than that can it?”