Places still up for grabs - Eddie Howe

LOOKING TO SHINE: Andre Bikey is among a handful of players who hope to get a chance to impress Eddie Howe on Saturday
LOOKING TO SHINE: Andre Bikey is among a handful of players who hope to get a chance to impress Eddie Howe on Saturday

CLARETS boss Eddie Howe admits he hasn’t nailed down his first-choice side to kick-off the new Championship campaign a week tomorrow.

And his players have one last friendly outing to try to force their way into the team as Burnley round-off their pre-season preparations at home to Premier League side Sunderland tomorrow (kick-off 3 p.m.).

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Howe, while seeing a top-heavy squad whittled down over the summer, is still pleased with the competition for places and quality available, although he still wants new faces brought in.

Some of that competition in certain areas has given him a number of welcome headaches as he formulates his plans to face Watford in the seasonal opener.

Asked whether he had determined his team to face the Hornets in his mind, he said: “No, I have a vague idea, but it’s not settled yet.

“The lads still have time to force my hand.

“There’s competition for places, there’s battles going on in various positions to see who’s going to get picked, and that’s what I want, those dilemmas.”

Aside from the personnel he intends to pick, the shape of the team is also not apparent, having alternated throughout the five warm-up games to date.

Howe has used a straight forward 4-4-2, and variations of 4-3-3 - 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1, and the players have been kept on their toes.

He rested seven on Tuesday for the goalless draw at Oldham – Chris McCann, Dean Marney, Jay Rodriguez, Andre Bikey, Ben Mee, David Edgar and Brian Jensen – not down to injury, or, in the wake of the sale of Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears to Bolton, in readiness for moves.

He said: “There’s nothing in it. We looked at it and we wanted to get some 90 minutes in and a few of the lads hadn’t had that, so the ones that had we decided to give a rest to.

“The ones that hadn’t, we needed to get them some game time.

“There are no knocks, everyone’s got a clean bill of health at the minute.”

He remains hopeful of adding to his two summer signings to date, after landing Manchester City pair Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier on season-long loans, and said: “We’re working on it.

“Work’s going on on a couple of players so we’ll just wait and see over the next few days.

“Hopefully there’ll be a few more.

“We’ve got a decent squad – you saw it on Tuesday.

“We made a few changes, and there were lads with a lot of quality not playing, and you still look at the team and think it’s a strong team. We’re okay. We just need a couple more.”

Sections of the support have been frustrated at the lack of money signings, but Howe doesn’t want to be over-reliant on loans.

He said: : “I’ve said all along I don’t want too many loans, I think you can have too many.

“Season-long loans are excellent, as we found with Jack Cork, as you have that stability, they will be with you for a period of time.

“But permanent signings are my preferred choice, although you have to find the right players – that’s the difficult part.”

He doesn’t, however, expect to lose any more of his players, after seeing Clarke Carlisle, Graham Alexander, Chris Iwelumo, Eagles and Mears depart, on the back of players released at the end of last season.

Howe said: “I certainly don’t want to lose any more. I certainly hope we don’t.

“I don’t think we will. In terms of outgoings I think that’s it. We’re trying to build something now and we need to get new players in and settled quickly.

“The last thing we want to do is lose any more of our key players, and I’m sure we won’t.”

• BURNLEY were yesterday linked with a season-long loan for Manchester City wideman Vladimir Weiss, but while I understand Eddie Howe is a fan of the player, no move is imminent.