CENTRE back Kevin Long hopes his patience will pay off after an impressive display on Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old made only his second start for the club in the 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough - just over three years since arriving from Cork City.
Owen Coyle landed the player from under Celtic’s noses, telling the club’s AGM that he could be in contention to feature towards the end of the Premier League season.
However, the young Irishman has since seen Coyle, Brian Laws and Eddie Howe depart, before getting his chance under Sean Dyche.
Five spells out on loan - including four under John Coleman at Accrington Stanley and Rochdale - have seen him clock up 65 appearances in the Football League away from Turf Moor.
And he is eager for the chance to nail down a regular starting berth: “It’s been a tough few years but I think I needed my loan spells out to gain experience.
“Since I’ve come back I think I’m a better player, stronger, and I just hope that I can kick on now.
“I think I did quite well on loan so whenever I came back I just had to work hard in training so the gaffer picks me.
“It’s always tough when you keep going away and then there are new players coming in all the time who need to settle in.
“But I’ve been around the club pretty much all season so I feel a lot more settled now.
“A lot of managers came in and they all wanted to see me out on loan to play some games first.
“I’ve done that with almost every manager. Even this season I went out to Portsmouth for a little bit.
“I’ve come in and trained really well so hopefully the gaffer keeps picking me now.
“Every time a manager comes in you just need to work hard on the training ground and hopefully he’ll take a liking to you.”
He admits he was expecting to compete for a place from day one in the Premier League: “I thought I’d just go straight into the team.
“But I needed the loan spells to gain experience. It’s a lot quicker pace than in Ireland.
“When I came over I was very raw and I just needed to work on a lot of things.
“The loan spells when I was out gave me a lot to work on and I think I did well.
“Hopefully I can just kick on.”
His contract is up in the summer, and he would like to stay and play: “I’ve been in talks recently but there’s nothing been finalised yet.
“I just need to wait and see what happens.
“I want to be playing games, so if that happens I’m happy.”
And Long felt Burnley deserved more than a point having dominated against Boro: “We were disappointed with the result in the end. I think they just came here and sat back for the draw.
“I think we played quite well though. We showed a lot of effort to go and win the game but we just couldn’t break them down in the end.
“I was happy with the clean sheet - you can’t be disappointed in that. We’re just disappointed we didn’t go and get the win.”
Defensively Burnley were not stretched until late in the game, and he added: “I think it was a more mental thing than a physical thing.
“They’ve come here to play for the draw.
“They just sat back behind the ball and didn’t want to go and score really after losing a few (away) games on the bounce.
“It was a lot tougher mentally than physically in the game.”
Long still feels the play-offs are possible, despite Burnley slipping down to 12th: “There are still plenty of games left so we just need to get on a run and get a few wins.
“The league is very tight so hopefully if we get a few wins you never know what can happen.”