Strikers giving boss nice selection headache

Ashley Barnes
Ashley Barnes

Sean Dyche has got the sort of selection dilemma every manager wants - his strikers fit, scoring goals and vying for a starting berth.

Burnley’s last five goals have all been scored by different players, including forwards Chris Wood, Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes.

Barnes has started two of the last three games, netting the second against Swansea, while top scorer Wood’s last goal was the equaliser at home to West Ham, before a hamstring injury at Manchester City curtailed his influence.

Vokes, meanwhile, came off the bench to score the winner at Southampton, and has been unfortunate not to get more starts of late.

Deadline day signing Nahki Wells is also fit and raring to go after recovering from an ankle operation.

Dyche said: “It’s the headache we wanted at the beginning of the season, with Nahki Wells as well.

“Jon Walters is different because he can fill a number of positions, but you want those headaches, you want players to be performing.

“Vokesey was terrific at Southampton and it was a toss up whether he or Barnesy played last week.

“Barnesy was excellent, a real handful, did all the ugly stuff well, which we know he does, and scored a fantastic goal as well.

“Players are operating on the pitch, from the bench, and it’s a very healthy situation.”

Wood sat out the win over Swansea after taking three flights on his return from international duty with New Zealand, arriving back at Gawthorpe the day before the game, straight from the airport.

His hamstring issue restricted his game time in the World Cup play-off with Peru, but Dyche explained he is back in contention: “Chris Wood has had a good week with us, he’s definitely available for selection.

“Dean Marney and Jon Walters are getting fitter and stronger all the time as well.

“Jon has been on the grass for a couple of weeks just making sure he’s going in the right direction.

“And Tom Heaton is moving on now, which is good. It’s longer term but it’s moving forwards.”

The depth and quality of the squad means there is no rush for all three to return: “Deano is doing great, he’s in front of the timescales. I spoke to him this week about bearing in mind that he is in front of the timescales so don’t be in a crazy rush to get back. He’s training with us full on all the time now.

Jon is a step behind that. He’s been training with the physio’s but he’s just beginning to join in with warm-ups and get himself back into the group again.

“The thing with Deano, his thirst to get back...the animal instinct is to be back playing hard, but we have to make sure he’s well.

“He looks well, he’s moving well, and Jon Walters is as well, he’s had a good rehab, we knew it would be a little bit lengthy, but the strength in his knee and recovery period is such, we need that.

“The thirst to get back is fine, but just enough that we can hold them back to make sure every step of the way.”

Heaton is also ahead of the curve after dislocating his shoulder: “He’s moving more freely all the time. The actual internal side of it is fantastic, he’s had it checked out, it’s strengthening, but you can imagine with a keeper you want it over-strong if you like.

“If its an outfield player, the chances are you’d be back quicker, because there’s less chance of reinjuring, but with a keeper, you’ve got to be so strong.

“We obviously want him back in the group. Nick Pope is doing fantastically well, but Tom’s done brilliant for us over a longer period.

“He’ll know, he’s experienced enough, sometimes the experienced players are so desperate to get back, but on the other hand they have a deeper understanding of where it’s at, and I think Tom is about right.

"He has a thirst to get back but knows this is an important injury to be make the rehab is really good, and so far it's going really well.”