Former Clarets winger Leighton James believes the Premier League newcomers should seek inspiration from weekend opponents Swansea City in a bid to aid a potential battle against relegation.
The Welsh wizard, who represented his country 54 times scoring 10 goals, had three separate spells at Turf Moor throughout his career and helped the Swans climb from the old Third Division to England’s top tier in the ‘80s during his stay at the Vetch Field.
Last season - under the guidance of Michael Laudrup and the Dane’s successor Garry Monk - the club accumulated a meagre two points against the division’s top eight sides but still culminated the campaign in 12th position with 42 points. That, James declares, emphasises the importance of beating the teams expected to finish around you come May.
“I think Swansea have been the benchmark for the newly promoted clubs,” he said. “They’ve virtually been in the top half of the Premier League for three seasons which speaks volumes. They’ve bought wisely and spent within their means. I think Burnley can learn a lot from them.
“You can’t judge Burnley until October/November when the league takes shape. But they’ve got to prioritise picking up results against the teams that are expected to finish around them. That’s got to be the ambition.
“That’s what Swansea have done so well. You obviously go in to every game believing you can win it but the reality is that any point picked up against the top clubs is a bonus. That’s how Swansea, a small club, has found a way to survive. It would be nice if Burnley can do the same and stick two fingers up to the pundits at the end of the season.”
Home supporters at the Liberty Stadium will be highly expectant of three points tomorrow after goals from Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson toppled Manchester United at Old Trafford on the opening day. And James is sensing a similar outcome.
“I’ll be there as a guest of honour with Brian Flynn. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time. My heart says it’s going to be a draw but I’ll be one of few people there who can’t lose either way.
“My head says it’s going to be a long afternoon for the Clarets, though. Swansea were brilliant against United. The manner of the victory was superb. That will give them confidence ahead of their first home game of the season.”
James, who made more than 300 appearances for the Clarets in which he netted 67 times, played under a number of esteemed personalities during his Turf Moor tenure. Jimmy Adamson, Harry Potts and Brian Miller, on two occasions, were all at the helm at some stage.
When asked about current boss Sean Dyche, the 61-year-old said: “I’ve never met Sean but I can look at what he has achieved - getting automatic promotion from the Championship against the odds. He did it with one of the smallest squads and smallest budgets in the division. He deserves a lot of credit for master-minding that because it’s a great achievement.”
He added: “It’s a hell of an achievement to survive in the Premier League these days and Burnley will find it tough this season. Players will have to step up to the mark.
“If Burnley finished 17th on goal difference I’d be delighted for them because it means Premier League football again next year. I’ll always have a huge place in my heart for Burnley. I spent many years there and they gave me my first opportunity. This was the game I looked for first when the fixture list was unveiled.”