Burnley boss Sean Dyche’s respect for long-serving centre back Kevin Long

Sean Dyche has spoken of his respect for centre back Kevin Long ahead of tonight’s game at West Ham.

The Republic of Ireland international will again fill in for skipper Ben Mee, who could miss the rest of the season with a thigh injury.

Long came in for his first league start of the season against Sheffield United on Sunday, and performed well.

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He had come on at Crystal Palace in the previous game as one of three centre backs to see the game out after Jack Cork's injury, but his only other top flight action this season was coming on as an auxiliary centre forward at Everton on Boxing Day late in the game.

Kevin Long

The 29-year-old is the club’s longest-serving player, signed by the outgoing Owen Coyle in January 2010, but has only made 67 appearances for the club, the most in one season being the 19 times he featured two years ago.

Long has 13 caps for his country since his debut in May 2017, and while he would obviously want more regular football for the Clarets, Dyche admires his professionalism: "I thought he delivered a good performance on Sunday, it's not easy getting thrown in last minute, and some of these lads haven't had a lot of football.

"I thought he did very well, and I think the players are adapting very well to the challenge at the moment, and he's one of those.

"He knows he's respected, we respect all the players here.

"It has been difficult for him to break through and play more regularly, but if you look down the years, he does get a clutch of games every season and he has often delivered.

"He's respected, and he knows that.

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"Every manager wants good pros and want people who are, by no means happy - I can assure you Kevin Long often pops in and has a word with me, 'look gaffer, I'm working, I want to play' - he's not accepting of it, but he's professional enough to know he has to be ready and right.

"We talk to all the players about it, all the time, when your chance comes, be ready to deliver.

"It's no good questioning it, and your chances comes and you're not ready to deliver, because you don't stay in the team.

"He's well aware of that, but equally he knows he's well respected here.”

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Burnley’s last two goals have come from centre backs, Mee getting the winner at Palace, and James Tarkowski opening the scoring against Sheffield United.

Long is also a threat in the opposition box, so could he add to that?: “He's physically a good specimen, he's aggressive, he wants to attack the ball, so who knows? We'll see.

"We've been a threat all season, particularly from set pieces, so it's good to get anyone scoring, but if you can spread goals around the team, that's always a good sign.

"It's difficult to rely on just your strikers all the time, so it's appropriate we get goals from everywhere else.

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"I fancied Dwighty to get one on Sunday, unfortunately just dragged it a bit, but we do want players scoring from all areas of the pitch.”