Clarets boss Sean Dyche feels Burnley have a “big player” on their hands if Dwight McNeil maintains his performance levels and workrate.
Ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Molneux to face Wolves, Dyche has been delighted with the way the 19-year-old winger has started the season.
McNeil, who assisted the first goal and scored the second as Burnley beat Wolves 2-0 in their last meeting at Turf Moor in March, had a real breakthrough season last term, earning his first England Under 20 call, and recognition from L’Equipe on their list of the top 50 players Under 20 in Europe. He caught the eye again in pre-season, and has turned in two impressive displays against Southampton and Arsenal to date.
At a time when Burnley are being handed some unflattering labels, with David Luiz branding them “anti-football” last season, and Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos appeared to gesture on Saturday that all the Clarets do is play long balls, McNeil’s cultured performances are a counter to all that.
He prompted a change of plan from the Gunners to stop him getting at Ainsley Maitland-Niles, as they introduced £73m winger Nicolas Pepe at half-time, and Dyche said: “We’re not too worried about the stories from outside our camp, we know what we do have, we think we have some very good, very talented players, and Dwight is one of them.
“We’re enjoying what he’s doing, he’s growing and maturing in the game all the time, and he’s had some really good moments again at Arsenal.
“He’s a really good player and he’s got a real chance of being a big player in the future, so long as he keeps right and keeps working, as he is doing.”
McNeil was the only Burnley academy product to play any minutes last season, and so far this, but at a time when Chelsea have won the FA Youth Cup in six of the last seven seasons, and are only now utilising some of their homegrown talent due to a transfer embargo, Dyche added: “We don’t overthink that (him being homegrown) but it is nice when you are bringing youngsters through, when they are in the system and they do come through.
“It is difficult, we all talk about the Class of 92, it’s never been done again, and you imagine the power of these clubs in world-wide scouting, and they can’t get that clutch of youngsters to all come through again.
“But it’s nice when the odd one does come out of the pack, and really obviously as well.
“Earlier than we did, we thought about getting Dwight in last season, and when we finally did, he performed straight away, and he’s still maturing.”