Burnley’s injured players’ commitment and character is helping spur the Clarets on in their Premier League survival fight, believes boss Mike Jackson.
The Clarets are in the bottom three ahead of Thursday’s trip to Aston Villa but can move above Leeds United with a positive result. Burnley end their season at home to Newcastle United with the Whites at Brentford while Everton remain in the mix, two points above Jackson’s side, with games against Crystal Palace and Everton to finish.
A weekend defeat to Tottenham saw Burnley slip into the relegation zone and the Clarets are battling an injury crisis with eight senior stars missing last time out. That number won’t be reduced much for the Villa clash with midfielder Dale Stephens expected to return to the squad while striker Jay Rodriguez could feature. Centre backs Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have stepped up their returns but neither is expected to be risked.
Mee’s role off the pitch has been well documented in recent weeks with the captain part of the coaching team and his part skipper, part managerial role has earned him the nickname ‘scaffer’ with the squad. Tarkowski is also playing a major role off the pitch while long term injury absentees Ashley Westwood and Matej Vydra are at Gawthorpe and leading by example despite both being on crutches.
“For me that is everything, having them around. They are big characters and players so even if they are not involved, when the group sees them it keeps them at ease and they know they are with them and they can lean on them. That is really important,” said Jackson of the role of his injured stars.
” I can’t believe I have seen Vyds in hobbling round on crutches but he wants to be here, the same with Ash. They know how important it is. Westy is in the gym sweating and looks in unbelievable nick! That is the type of character he is and that can only rub off on your mates.
“Everybody in the whole place is trying to do their bit, and for them to see their mate coming in, hobbling around, everyone’s all in on it. That’s a big strength. The mentality of it, the physicality of it, the running they’re doing. We get the stats on it. They’re used to working hard. They’re putting themselves in those positions out of their comfort zone and they’re operating in that. And the more you do that, you’re used to living in those uncomfortable conditions and your performance levels stay.”
Burnley’s survival chances remain in their own hands heading into the final four days of the season, and Jackson knows there is pressure aplenty on his side and he is trying to remain calm and consistent with his message despite the magnitude of the situation.
“You can’t hide it,” he said. “Everyone knows it. But we’ve spoken about what do we need to do, what’s important to us, how do we attack what we’re doing. The lads know it’s there. But we’re at our best if we just keep that focus on what we’re doing now.
“I know it sounds a bit boring but you’ve got to do that, it keeps you on task, it keeps you where you need to be. Play now not what’s going to happen or what’s happened before.
“We’ve found our best performances come when we just focus on what’s actually needed in the game.”
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