Winger Michael Kightly feels he is reaping the benefits of a full pre-season.
Kightly has started every game this season, having featured in less than half of Burnley’s Premier League outings last term, having had a knee operation last summer.
The 29-year-old was playing catch up as a result, but now feels the fittest he has in a Clarets shirt, and he admitted: “I didn’t play as much as I’d like last year. It’s nice to be playing. I thought I had a good pre-season.
“I just had a little clean out in my knee last pre-season so I missed all pre-season and was playing catch up from the start and never got to the fitness of the other boys. When I did play it was one in, a couple out. It’s difficult to find any form.
“And it’s difficult in the Premier League because you’re not picking up points every game. Obviously managers can only choose 11 players and he didn’t choose me as much as I’d like. That’s part and parcel of football.”
The former Wolves and Stoke man added: “It was key for me to come back fit pre-season which I did. I worked hard over the off-season and come back in and hit the ground running. I felt like I did do that pre-season and I’ve started the season and stayed in the team. Hopefully I can continue to do that.
Playing week-in, week-out helps your performances. I’d like to chip in with a few goals as wellMichael Kightly
“I feel fit now. My knee feels really good. I haven’t missed a day’s training since last pre-season. That’s pleasing and hopefully I can continue to stay in the team. We’ve got good competition for places.
“Playing week-in, week-out helps your performances. I’d like to chip in with a few goals as well. I feel like I haven’t had too many chances this season but if I could chip in with a few goals that would be nice. I feel sharp and feel like I’ve got the beating of my full-back at the minute which is nice. When you know that in your head, that you can take him down the line or come inside it helps. When you think you can’t do that it becomes a battle.”
A feature of Kightly’s play this term has been his direct, positive nature down the flank, and he explained: “I’m trying to be (positive). That’s the way I’ve always played. I have been hampered over the years with injuries and it does affect you when you come back. You think have I got the pace to do that anymore? I feel really good. I’ve not had an injury for a long time now.
“In a long time it probably is (the fittest I’ve been). I had a good pre-season. Pre-season was very tough and it was my first pre-season here really. It helps.”
While a player in a Sean Dyche team has to work hard as a prerequisite, Kightly feels there is room to express yourself as well: “That comes with confidence. When you’re struggling with a bit of confidence you take the easy option and when you get the ball you pass it off. In my eyes, my job is to get crosses in, beat my full-back. When you’re not confident and you feel like you can’t do that you take the easy option. That becomes a confidence thing. When you’re younger you don’t overthink things. When you’re older and you know the game you start to overthink things sometimes.
“But that’s what a wide player is paid to do. With the gaffer, we’ve got defensive duties but also he likes wingers to get crosses in. We’ve got strikers in the box that can score goals from crosses. I like to get as many crosses in as I can.”