EDDIE Howe has a mouth-watering range of striking options available as he plots Millwall’s downfall.
The Lions travel to Turf Moor tomorrow with the Clarets eager for the three points to stay in range of the play-off places.
While Josh McQuoid, on loan from Millwall, is ineligible for the game, Howe has arguably the strongest hand he has had available all season.
Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin, currently the first-choice pairing, have 29 goals between them, while Zavon Hines also netted his first goal for the club in midweek for the second string.
And Martin Paterson and Danny Ings are fit again – both coming through Tuesday night’s reserve team defeat to Oldham unscathed.
And that leaves Howe pondering how best to utilise his glut of attacking talent.
He said: “It’s difficult. We want to get all our attacking players in the team if we can, that’s a given.
“We’re that style anyway – we’re quite an open team, we want to play attacking football, so you want your attacking players and your strongest players in your team.
“But there is a balance and we’ve got to make sure we get that balance right and play a system that gets the best out of everybody.
“We’ll have to look at that. But we’ve got competition for places and people know that they’ve got to perform.
“We’ve got the luxury of leaving players out, which from my point of view is what we’ve wanted all season.
“We want that squad and people pushing for places, not just on the bench but in the starting 11, and I think all the players now know that if their performances dip, their place is under threat.
“I think, for the first time this season, we’ve really got that competition throughout the positions – not just in one area.”
His players have to perform to stay in the squad, with Howe not afraid to leave out the likes of Keith Treacy and Hines entirely from the 16 of late.
There has been much debate this week as to the merits of dropping from seven substitutes to five, in view of West Ham’s gamble of going without a back-up keeper on the bench – with midfielder Henri Lansbury taking over the gloves against Blackpool after Rob Green was sent off.
And Howe has wondered whether to follow suit.
He said: “I have been tempted. There have been times this year where I’ve looked at that.
“But I always think it’s tempting fate.
“The one time you leave your keeper out and suddenly Granty goes down after two minutes and you can leave yourself a little bit red-faced.
“You can only put three players on, so I think the keeper is there when needed.
“But it doesn’t bear thinking about how teams coped in the past with one or two subs, as I struggle with five.”
He would like to see the subject looked at in the summer, as he looks to keep all his players happy.
He said: “For me personally as a manager I want seven substitutes.
“You want to involve all your squad, you want to keep everyone happy and you want everyone to feel like they’ve got a part to play.
“With five, the money the club saves is minimal, it really is, and of course you’ve got the debate where young players don’t get the opportunity to perhaps be on the bench when you’d like to give them a chance.
“I don’t think it works, personally, I think it’s much better going back to seven.
“If teams want to save money they can still just put the five on the bench – they don’t have to use the seven. I think that’s the key point.
“I think they are reviewing it in the summer, and fingers crossed common sense will prevail.”