Clarets striker Ashley Barnes is determined to prevent his Premier League dream from transforming in to a nightmare scenario.
The 25-year-old’s days of plying his trade in the lower echelons of England’s football pyramid have been consigned to memory.
But the ambition harboured during spells in the Southern League with Paulton Rovers and an occupancy in the Conference with Oxford United, Salisbury City and Eastbourne Borough has been realised. And he’ll fight tooth and nail to preserve that.
Barnes, who will be hoping to make his 23rd successive start against Everton at Goodison Park today, said: “I’ve had a fantastic run. I would obviously have liked to have scored a few more goals but hopefully that will come and those goals will keep us in this league.
“I’m delighted - it’s every boys dream to play in the Premier League and now that I’m here I don’t want it to stop.
“That’s the same for every one of us in that dressing room. We don’t want it to end. We want to keep going.
“It’s amazing. When you’re walking out through that tunnel, playing against champions and world class players, it’s mind blowing and it’s what I dreamt about as a young boy.
“Luckily enough I’m doing it. We need to get points on the board and you never know where that will take us at the end of the season.”
Sean Dyche’s side lie 19th in the table at present, just two points from safety with 540 minutes of the campaign remaining. But Barnes has revealed that the squad are putting in the hours at Gawthorpe in a bid to enhance their chances of survival.
“It’s simple,” he said. “To stay in this league is the main aim. The positivity around the group and the staff remains the same and so it will continue.
We believe in ourselves. We’re in this together and we’re striving for one thing, and that’s to stay in this league come the end of the season.
“Survival would top the season off for sure. To stay in the Premier League for another year would be amazing, not just for me personally, for team-mates, staff, for the fans and everyone else around the place. It would be amazing if we can do that.
“We just crack on with the work in hand. We’re just buzzing to have a ball at our feet and getting out on that training ground. We never want to come in. The gaffer has to shout us to come in because this is our dream.”
While Barnes hasn’t netted in eight appearances, leading scorer Danny Ings hasn’t scored since the trip to Old Trafford since December. Sam Vokes is also searching for his breakthrough in England’s top tier.
“Obviously it gets on your case when you’re not scoring,” said Barnes, who has notched five times this term. “That’s is our main, to score goals. If we can do that then goals win you games.
“You’re in the firing line as a striker, but that’s our job at the end of the day. You need to stick the ball in the back of the net.”
On England international Ings, he added: “You can all see for yourselves that he’s conducted himself really well. He’s hot property, there’s no doubt about that. If he goes somewhere else come the end of the season he’s been fantastic to play with.
“He’s brilliant. But it’s not just him. The gaffer has put together a good group here and we’ll fight to the end.”
The Toffees haven’t been beaten on home soil since Boxing Day, but it marks the beginning of a cluster of games where the Clarets need to start taking points.
“I’d probably look at Everton and Stoke as maybe being safe and that’s more of a chance that they will take their foot off the gas a little bit, but I doubt it because everyone will go to the end, and we will for sure,” Barnes said.
“We’ve got games around us that are must-wins but it’s just about picking up as many points as possible.
“You would probably look at the fixtures and think that we’ve got the easiest run-in but every game is tough in this league and we need to be fully focussed and get as many points as possible to stay in the league.”