SEAN Dyche insists he never lost faith in Kevin Long after the centre back shone on his first Premier League start of this season against Watford on Saturday.

The Republic of Ireland international will celebrate eight years at Turf Moor next month but he has made just 22 league starts in that time.

But four of those starts have come in the last 19 Premier League fixtures and the 27-year-old said on Saturday he had never felt closer to the first team at Burnley than he has does now.

His stock has risen at Turf Moor since the summer departure of Michael Keane, with Dyche's decision not to sign a replacement leaving Long as third choice, and the Burnley boss said he had always maintained confidence in Long's ability, despite his path to the first team being disrupted by injury and loan spells.

"I believe in these lads. You lose good players. It happens to a club like this but the belief in the work they do has to be there for a reason," Dyche said.

"I believe in the work the players do, so when the chance comes I trust my instincts that they’re ready to go and play.

"Kev is a good example. Scott Arfield is another, he’s kept himself right and comes in with a goal on Saturday.

"If you look after yourself and keep yourself motivated when it comes back round to you then you get your chance.

"If I didn’t think they could go in that’s a different thing and we’d be looking in the market."

Long has had eight different loan spells away from Turf Moor during his time at the club but Dyche believes his confidence is on the rise as he begins to establish himself in the top flight.

"He is in that strange category where it has not quite dropped for him at the right time where he starts every game," the Clarets chief said.

"Once you get that run then confidence builds in the player and yourself in what you’re seeing. But he is never far away.

"The marvel of having such a small, tight squad is that no player is that far away.

"We don’t leave them out the planning, they are all involved the planning. It’s a different viewpoint from players when they know they are in the edge of it, rather than being a player who was miles out of it and then comes in from the cold."

While Long has had to be patient for his chance at Burnley and has suffered his fair share of frustration as well he has never been particularly close to a permanent move away from the club.

And Dyche believes the former Cork City man enjoys being part of what Burnley are building.

"We look after him contractually and emotionally and he knows he’s part of it, he knows he’s not a million miles away," he said.

"But it’s his belief in staying here, players don’t just hang around for the sake of it. He likes the environment, he knows he’s well thought of and he knows he is not a million miles away.

"Players want to play, but they also want to feel part of something and he definitely feels part of what we’re trying to achieve here as a collective."