Key summer after a time of transition

TWO spectacular strikes - sadly one for each side - brought season 2011-2012 to a close.

It was a campaign that began with real uncertainty with a number of high profile summer departures (Eagles, Mears, Fox, Cork), reached giddy heights in the excellent series of results up to Christmas and, for me, began to peter out in the narrow defeat at Reading in February.

Having matched the eventual champions for much of the game but losing 1-0, you could almost hear the air coming out of the balloon as Burnley’s form faltered and Reading powered on to the Premiership.

The lows this season are the home form - anything like Burnley’s usual return from matches at Turf Moor coupled with some excellent results away (a reversal of what normally happens) - would have seen the Clarets in the top six.

Similar comments can be applied to the number of games they failed to close out from winning positions. There is also the strong possibility that striker Jay Rodriguez may be head-hunted by a Premiership outfit.

The highs are the way Burnley recovered from an indifferent start, that away form and the clear promise in signings such as Keiran Trippier and Ben Mee, among young players who will improve on strong beginnings.

Eddie Howe has plenty to work on during the summer - this time the material isn’t as raw and his coaching staff can put a shine on some rough diamonds.

Tactically there are things to iron out - the midfield never looked truly solid, although Dean Marney came very good through the second half of the season and Marvin Bartley is a useful live wire. Chris McCann, back from long-term injury, seemed weighed down by the captaincy at times. Sorting out the best formation from these three could give Burnley more solidity next time.

There is room alongside Michael Duff for another experienced defender, I feel, and too much tip-tapping the ball about at the back instead of moving it forward from a winning position cost the extra points against Bristol City when possession was lost. Burnley need to cut this out, or at least learn when to kick it into the stand and when to pass it.

Up front, even if Jay Rod goes, Ings and Austin have plenty of firepower, Burnley’s strongest suite.

Having gone through transition, this will be a key summer for Eddie and his team.