Clarets boss Sean Dyche has hailed defender James Tarkowski’s professionalism and patience, ahead of a potential reunion with the man he replaced at Turf Moor.
Tarkowski was signed from Brentford for £3m in January 2016, but had to watch on as Michael Keane and Ben Mee build an impressive partnership at the back.
The former Oldham Athletic man came in for the last four games of last season with Mee injured, and, after the summer sale of Keane to Everton for a club record £25m, rising to £30m, he has started every game so far this term.
Ahead of Sunday’s game with Everton at Goodison Park, Tarkowski has made more clearances than anyone else in the Premier League, and is second in blocks, showing there is life after England international Keane.
The New Moston-born Tarkowski was a long-time target of Dyche, and brought in with a semblance of succession planning in mind.
Dyche said: “That’s the way we try and work, but it’s not an exact science.
“He’s had to be patient, but we speak to the players who aren’t always playing to remind them that they can still keep learning and improving, and Tarky is a great show of that.
“Playing improves the depth of your understanding, but you can still improve through training and getting involved in everything we offer as a club.
“Kevin Long is another good example. He goes under the radar, but he ended the season playing for us in the Premier League and playing for Ireland.
“If you are prepared to work hard and take on what we offer, you will move forward, and when your moment comes, you will be more ready.
“It seems common sense, but you’d be surprised how many players don’t follow that. Our culture pushes players all the time. Development is really important to me as a manager.
“Behind winning, you can achieve through development, players moving forward, and Tarky is a good sign of that. When you are doing things the right way, when you get in, it is there for you.”
Dyche points to summer signing Charlie Taylor as another example.
Taylor hasn’t made the 18-man squad for the last three Premier League games, as he awaits his first top-flight appearance: “Charlie Taylor is another. Believe me, he is moving forward in his career, and I’ve told him that.
“He is moving forward as we speak.
“The last couple of weeks have been a challenge, but with the bench, we have to be as flexible and have as much cover as possible with the six outfield players.
“Charlie has Wardy (Stephen Ward) doing well, Robbie Brady can play left back, Bardo (Phil Bardsley) as well, and at right back we only have Bardo covering Lowts (Matt Lowton).
“It’s not about him not doing well, because he is, he’s doing excellently every day.
“It’s not to do with what Charlie is delivering, we’re really pleased with him and I can see him being a really big player for us. But you have to continue working hard on a daily basis to continue pushing forward.”