Sean Dyche believes winger Dwight McNeil “has got to be one of the top talents in the country.”
Chelsea’s youngsters were rightly lauded after the 3-0 win over Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with Tammy Abraham, 22, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, 19, on target, and Reece James, 20, many observers’ man of the match.
But, fighting a losing battle, McNeil, 20, showed he belonged in such exalted company.
From his free kick, Ben Mee headed on for Jeff Hendrick to nod home - although the goal was ruled out for off-side, with VAR backing the assistant referee’s flag.
Then. with the Blues leading 1-0, McNeil’s quick thinking and accurate delivery forced a fine save from Kepa Arrizabalaga at his near post from a superb free kick.
The game got away from Burnley, but McNeil kept trying to drive the Clarets forward, at points in the second half gliding past Chelsea players two and three at a time.
And Dyche noted: “On a platform like today, I thought Dwight McNeil was outstanding.
“He has got to be one of the top talents in the country for me at the moment.
“The game is getting away from you and it is a hard day at the office, and he was different class.
“You could give him the ball and he was dribbling past three or four different players and carrying it.
“He was absolutely different class for me.”
Asked whether he might get more recognition with a bigger club, Dyche answered: “Possibly, but on the other hand, he’s getting a lot of football, which at a bigger club he might not, so there’s a balance to that.
“But he’s a fine young player, I think he’s got a long way to go in the game and he can forge his way to times bigger than us.”
McNeil was released by Manchester United aged 14, the player himself admitting: “One of the reasons I got released was because my set pieces weren’t the best.”
But, times have changed, with his delivery a huge part of his armoury.
He boasts four assists and one goal so far this season, and while he is yet to score from one of his free kicks, that appears to be a matter of time.
Only six players have put over more crosses than McNeil so far this season.
And Dyche added: “He’s learning.
“His delivery is good.
“But there’s a long way to go to get up with the best in the Premier League, because there’s some fine talent, without a doubt.
“But he’s earning the right to be a player, the way he’s going about it, his work ethic, he’s a humble lad, which I like, and he’s willing to work.
“I just thought he was terrific in a game that was getting away from us, still getting the ball, still active, still working back, all the things you want from all players, particularly young players, to go and play with freedom in the Premier League.”