LAST season, the Clarets went to Elland Road gunning for a Championship play-off spot.
This year, Eddie Howe’s side go in to the trans-Pennine derby against Leeds looking to kick-start their season.
But though the Clarets face a much different proposition in terms of league standing, the ambition, objective and passion within the Turf Moor ranks remains the same, if not even more intensified.
The Clarets undeniably face a season of transition, but Howe maintains that he doesn’t want the campaign to pan out that way.
“We always set ourselves targets,” he said. “I like to keep them to myself, but we are constantly monitoring and reviewing what we’re doing and setting ourselves goals, because I think that’s very important.
“We certainly want to be successful this season, we don’t want a season of transition and a season where we set ourselves no targets – that’s not what I’m about.
“We’ve still got our eyes very firmly on trying to achieve things this year. Whether that happens or not we’ll have to wait and see, but we’re still trying to be very positive.”
An inconsistency in results has hampered Burnley’s progress so far in the Championship.
Their recent trend of two wins followed by two losses, which has happened in the last eight league games, has been a catalyst for their stay in the bottom half of the table.
But Howe is confident that everything is starting to fall into place, with his young players striving to improve.
“The key thing is looking at the amount of games that the squad has played in the Championship,” Howe said. “There’s not a lot of experience to fall back on in terms of Championship games. They’re almost getting their experience in the team, which is sometimes difficult. But there’s no reason why this team can’t be successful.
“There have been certain games this season where everything’s clicked and the team’s gelled we’ve looked a really good side. You just get two sides to the coin, and on those bad days we’ve got to try to get results when the team’s not performing well.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction in terms of attitude and mentality. That’s the key thing. Once you get that right I think everything else falls into place.”
Defeat against Bristol City at Ashton Gate saw the Clarets go in to the international break in 18th spot but with a game in hand on the clubs around them.
And, with the games coming thick and fast as the hectic winter period approaches, Howe knows a couple of wins can transform the season.
“The league is so tight, with back-to-back wins we’re again looking at the top six,” he said. “Obviously after back-to-back defeats we’re in need of a win.
“It is so tight, anyone can beat anyone. It’s been proved already throughout this season.
“There’s a host of clubs looking for a run of results to transform their season, and we’re in that bracket.”
Going in to the domestic break on the back of defeat certainly hurt the Clarets and Howe admits it’s been a long wait to put things right. However, the Burnley boss has been buoyed by the reaction of the players and the desire they’ve been showing in training.
“The lads have trained well,” said Howe. “I gave the lads who have played a lot of games in such a short period of time a little bit of time to recuperate from those games, and now we’ve got a tough spell of fixtures coming up.
“We’ve also had time to get a couple of the lads who haven’t had a lot of football some fitness work and really get them up to speed so it’s been a useful period.”
He added: “We’ve done a little bit of everything, we’ve done a little bit of team building, some hard work on the training pitch and the lads are in good spirits. It’s been a long wait. It was horrible to go into a two-week break on the back of a defeat so we’ve been waiting for this game.”
And Howe is fully aware that victory in a derby of this magnitude – which is being broadcast live on the BBC, kick-of 12.45pm – will give his players an almighty boost.
He said: “We’re ready for this game, we know the importance of it, we know it’s a massive game on the calendar this season with the rivalry, which is there for everybody to see, the history of the fixtures which is there for everybody to see.
“It’s a massive game for many reasons. We’re on the back of two defeats so we’re eager to put that to bed and get back to winning ways if we can. And it’s on television against one of our fiercest rivals so it’s all set up to be a classic encounter.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t disappoint and we can produce a similar performance to that against Blackpool in the first half when we were outstanding in a similar type of game. That’s the type of performance we want.”
Howe, who won’t be pursuing a move for Zenit St Petersburg defender Sebastien Puygrenier following the Frenchman’s trial, added: “The atmosphere created by supporters from both clubs will be a hot one. We’ve shown that we can respond to that and the players enjoy playing in a good atmosphere, so it’s something we’re looking forward to.”
A minutes applause will be held in honour of Clarets legend Jimmy Adamson prior to kick-off tomorrow. Adamson, a former manager and captain of the club at the peak of its powers, died at the age of 82.
The Ashington-born right-half gave three decades of magnificent service to the Clarets and is honoured at Turf Moor by a suite bearing his name, which was opened last year.
And Howe was full of praise for the man whose legacy will live on along Harry Potts Way.
“Reading everything about him, what he achieved for this club – not only that but the manner in which he did it and the way he coached, I’ve heard some fantastic stories about him.
“His funeral was a really sad occasion but an honour to attend. It just made me realise what a legend he is here and what he did for the club.”