BRIAN Easton was only 21 when he was brought to Burnley in the summer of 2009, yet still had 102 Scottish First Division and SPL appearances behind him for Hamilton Academical.

Progress has been comparatively slow since arriving at Turf Moor though.

The Scot has played only 15 times in total as Danny Fox, and Stephen Jordan before him, largely pipped him in their left back battles.

But Easton never gave up hope and continued to provide fierce competition for his peers.

Boosted by encouraging words from manager Eddie Howe on the eve of the season, when Fox was picked ahead of him to start against Watford, he continued to work hard behind the scenes to earn his chance.

Fox’s sale to Southampton has finally fully opened the door to the first team for Easton in his third season with the Clarets, and he’s determined to make the most of it.

“I think it’s been quite frustrating for me here because I found myself on the sidelines, but I couldn’t complain too much because the boys that have played left back, including Foxy, have done well for the club,” he said.

“It’s all about keeping your head down and working away, and that’s what I’ve done.

“You didn’t really see Foxy being sold, but that happens in football and this is my chance.

“Right away from my youth at Hamilton I played every week, but coming here I didn’t play as many games as I hoped.

“With my position, if you’re not playing, it’s hard to get on the bench, so you either start or you’re not in the squad.

“Even on the bench you feel more of a part of it, but you can understand the manager wanting more attacking options.

“So it’s been about being patient, and I’ve always been happy here - with the staff, people around the place and the players in the dressing room.

“I like to think we’ve had some good left backs and I’ve maybe helped them because they knew I was there if their performance level dropped.

“Unfortunately for me, that didn’t really happen, but it ended up being quite good for the team.

“Hopefully that will be me taking my chance now.”

And Easton has thanked boss Howe for keeping him focused.

“There were times when I wasn’t making the squad and it was getting frustrating for me, and you think about going out on loan and getting some games, but the manager has always spoken to me and let me know where I stand,” the Glaswegian explained.

“He said not to get frustrated as he wanted me to play a part this season, and things like that make a big difference. It gives you a wee bit of hope and enthusiasm.

“It’s hard for players who don’t play, the main thing for a footballer is being in that starting line-up.

“But with this manager, he always keeps the boys involved that aren’t playing and makes sure their attitude is spot on.

“The manager spoke to me before the season started, he had his team in mind for the first game, and he spoke to quite a few of the boys.

“I felt I’d done well in pre-season, and he did as well, but it was a case of speaking to me and letting me know it wasn’t a case of me being dropped or anything.

“He told me to bide my time and keep focused, and that’s what I’ve done, and thankfully my chance has come.”

There is no natural replacement for Easton at present, but you won’t find the 23-year-old resting on his laurels.

“I know if I’m not doing a job for the gaffer he won’t have any hesitation in pulling me out, so I have to keep my performances high,” he said. “But it’s something to look forward to, it’s been a long wait, and hopefully I can cement my place now.

“If I think for a second it’s my spot, I’m not going to lose it, that’s when I will.

“I don’t think that will be too much of a problem for me though, I’ll be working hard for myself and the team, and hopefully if I get a few games under my belt, I’ll continue to improve and do well.

He added: “I have to try and play well every week, to do well for the manager and for Burnley.

“Now I’m in, I’m glad it’s worked out how it has.”