Striker boost for Clarets as Barnes nears return

Ashley Barnes in action against Stoke in the penultimate game of last season

Ashley Barnes in action against Stoke in the penultimate game of last season

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After going top of the Championship, Burnley are set for another boost as striker Ashley Barnes closes in on match action on his return from knee ligament damage.

Barnes suffered a medial and cruciate problem in the last Premier League game of last season at Aston Villa, after netting five goals last term.

He recently returned to full training, and is now set for his first behind-closed-doors game as he builds up his fitness.

And boss Sean Dyche said: “Barnesy (Ashley Barnes) is back with us and we’ll be looking to edge him towards his first game, probably a segment of a development game.

“We’ll monitor Barnesy, but the main thing is he’s back training with the group actively - free training if you like.

“They have a period when they come in a bit more controlled, now he’s just training, as you would so that’s really good.

“We give him a period of that to make sure he’s ready to be with us, before we worry about a game, especially after so long out.

“But he’s making good strides, he’s joining in training freely.

“Players are human, they monitor the player who has been injured, so at first everyone is a bit unsure, but he’s not unsure, ironically!

“Now he’s challenging usually and free training.

“A period of that, going into a segment of a game, then we’ll build up the games programme.

“It ends up being quite common-sensical, once the injury is right, building up gradually and slowly, and more because of the amount of time out, reintroducing, almost like a pre-season.

“The first couple of games they play maybe a half, sometimes 30 minutes, and then it build up, 70 minutes, a full game.”

Dyche is, as ever, not pressuring the player by putting a time on his return, but it has long been hoped Barnes could return for the back end of the season to hell Burnley try and get over the line in their bid to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Dyche said: “I don’t time scale players, certainly not when they’ve been out a long time, so we’ll see, but he’s going well.

“Kev Long went out at Barnsley and did really well and now he’s back in with us, and (Sam) Vokesy has been gradually getting better and better, and recently been back to what we know of him, looking sharp and a handful, scoring goals, in a real nice run of form.

“I’ve said it can take time for players, and different players respond in different ways, some hit the ground running, some it takes time to get that real ground-in fitness, never more so in the Championship, Saturday-Tuesday.

“That brings a different type of fitness and the body responds to that, and Vokesy has been a good advert for that, looking fitter and stronger all the time.”