Burnley midfielder Josh Cullen knows the value of 'graft' and 'craft' as Clarets look to keep hold of Championship top spot
Burnley midfielder Josh Cullen knows the current Championship leaders will have to portray both sides of their personality if they are to preserve pole position.
With more than half-a-season still to play — and their involvement in both cup competitions still intact — the 26-year-old summer signing understands that 'graft' will hold equal value to 'craft' from here on in.
Vincent Kompany's Clarets own a three-point advantage over Sheffield United at the top of the division having averaged just short of two points per game so far this season.
He said: "I think, in the main part, performances have been good in the league, even though we've not got the points we probably should have. We've just got to stick at it, keep doing what we're doing and keep working hard.
"We're going to need both sides of our game this season because we know that there are going to be difficult moments where we have to dig in. We've got to stick to the way we want to play, and our principles, we've got a strong squad and people want to come in and perform."
The former West Ham United academy star, who had spent a couple of seasons with Anderlecht in the Belgian Pro League, has missed just three league games this season, having been sidelined for victories over Norwich City, Reading and Rotherham United.
Cullen, who recently landed the FAI senior international player of the year award, following in the footsteps of Roy Keane, Paul McGrath, Steve Staunton, John Aldridge, Robbie Keane, Ray Houghton, Steve Staunton, Andy Townsend and Richard Dunne, will happily roll his sleeves up and play through the pain barrier to see his side over the line.
However, he acknowledges the squad's worth, with last term's League One Player of the Year Scott Twine, Macedonia international Darko Churlinov and fellow midfielder Ashley Westwood all closing in on a return to action.
"As a player you just want to keep playing games and build that momentum," he said. "It's nice to always be out there, it's what we grew up wanting to do, so I'll play any game that I'm available for.
"It's key to have that competition for places in the squad and knowing that changes can be made, for whatever reason, because there are so many games in the Championship that come thick and fast."
The Republic of Ireland international has formed a strong bond alongside club captain Jack Cork in the middle of the park, while Young Lions skipper Taylor Harwood-Bellis sits just behind at the heart of defence.
There are many leaders in Burnley's pack and Cullen is keen to impart his own insight when he feels it necessary. "There are a lot of leaders within the group and I just try to help as much as I can," he said.
"I try to get ideas across on the pitch, which the manager has obviously taught me over the few years that I've worked with him now. There's nothing about me doing anything special, I'm just trying to lead by example."
Finally, Cullen has doffed his cap to the fans, who have been patient and persevered while the wheels of Kompany’s project rolled into motion.
There have been some setbacks, with leads against Blackpool, West Brom, Preston North End, Cardiff City, Stoke City and Birmingham City surrendered, but the good has certainly outweighed the bad.
Cullen concluded: "It takes time when there are new ideas with new faces coming together. Of course there are going to be difficult moments when we'll need the fans to get through that. They've been brilliant this season, they've backed us and supported us no matter what sort of moments we're going through in games.
"They've been there for us and we've really felt their presence so we've just got to keep learning as a team and as a club and keep growing together. We'll stick to our philosophy and our ideas and I'm sure that will prove successful in the long run.”