Burnley boss Sean Dyche hoping break will benefit striker Ashley Barnes

Ashley BarnesAshley Barnes
Ashley Barnes
Sean Dyche hopes his careful handling of striker Ashley Barnes will be rewarded at the start of the new season.

Barnes hasn't played competitively since the 2-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa on New Year's Day, before undergoing hernia surgery.

He recovered to feature in a behind-closed-doors game against Bradford before lockdown, but he wasn't able to play any part in the final nine games of the season after Project Restart.

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But Dyche hopes to bring his striking pool up to a full compliment of four, with Barnes joining top-scorer Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra in a competitive unit.

Barnes ended the season with six goals, having netted four in the first three games of the season, leading to speculation he could be included in the England squad, although Gareth Southgate said: "We can't ignore the numbers that he's got.

"For us, the way they play at Burnley, he's more of a second striker.

"We don't really play that way so he feeds off (Chris) Wood a lot.

"The type of service he gets is a bit different.

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"So you've got to admire the quality of his finishing and the goalscoring record over a period of time.

"But also, he's 29, and we are going to struggle to hold Sancho back a lot longer, that's with Rashford and Sterling and Kane.

"So we've just got really good competition in every area of the pitch."

Barnes is desperate to get back and try and return to the form he showed throughout the calendar year of 2019, hitting 15 goals in total, and Dyche explained: “Because he’s had such a frustrating period, we’re not putting any dates on it, just letting him get back out there and get back to normal.

“He’s not there yet, as regards even training normally.

“It is a case of watch this space.

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“It settled during lockdown, and then it flared up again, so he’s had to be careful coming back to make sure we get it as right as possible.

“He was going well in lockdown, but just on the return he started feeling it, not the actual sight of the operation, generally in that area, so we had it double checked, and that was all clear.

“But you don’t just treat the scan or x ray, you treat the body, the person, so he’s beginning to make strides forward again, but they will be slow and sure rather than being rushed."

Barnes' game is based on power and aggression, and he admitted that was missing at the turn of the year: "I hoped to get to the summer, but come January, I was too weak. I remember one game against Aston Villa on New Year's Day, I literally was pushed over once - some may say I go down too easily, but I was just touched and I had no power or strength to stay up and face-planted the floor.

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"I was like 'this isn't right'. I had the scan and needed the double hernia operation."

And Dyche added, just before the end of the season: “I’m sure there’s times he’s had a freer run at it, in terms of his body, but usually players have something that’s niggling away, and the difference with this one is it’s just taken a bit longer.

“I’m sure he’s beginning to regain the power he needs, but we won’t be rushing him into it, because we have to be careful - with all of the players, because we have a very quick turnaround into next season, so we have that risk and reward scenario.

“How hard can we push this season to see where we can get to, but knowing there’s another season around the corner.

“If we push the players to where they break, we need them for next season."