Dyche – Fitness factor is vital

Ashley Barnes.
Ashley Barnes.
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Clarets boss Sean Dyche feels the fitness factor will be crucial as the promotion race heats up.

Burnley, second in the Championship, entertain third place Derby County at Turf Moor tomorrow, with Dyche’s squad in the best shape it has been in all season.

With striker Ashley Barnes added to the group in January, and Ross Wallace up to speed after five months out after a knee operation, the Clarets are fighting fit.

The pair were involved in the Development Squad’s 3-0 win at Stoke City on Tuesday, and Dyche said: “The whole group was fantastic at Stoke.

“The lads who have been on the edges of things needed some game time, and their attitude and application was top drawer. I’m enthused by that, that we have players who are ready to go when called upon.

“They are all chomping at the bit, and all know their roles and the expectations once they are in the team.”

Physical fitness, allied with drive and desire, is a potent mix, and Dyche added: “It’s important all season to have players fit and well, but I think our energy levels are outstanding.

“You can see it, particularly over the last four or five games, the feel of the group and the manner in which they are going about their business.

“They are strong physically and mentally, and it is fantastic for them to be as fresh as they are. I’m proud of the way the players look after themselves, and that will be an important factor.”

Only midfielder Brian Stock is currently unavailable, although he is back in training after a back problem.

Tomorrow sees the Championship’s game of the day, but Dyche insists it is just another 90 minutes: “I don’t worry too much about who we are playing.

“They are all massive games, and this is another important one.

“My job is to make sure we are ready, and I’m sure we will be.

Burnley won 3-0 at Derby in August, but since then Steve McClaren replaced Nigel Clough at the helm, they have only lost three of 23 league games, but Dyche said: “It’s all details. I thought they were a fair side under Nigel, but Steve has added to it and they have been on a good run.”