Record signing still touch and go

Chris Wood
Chris Wood
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Record signing Chris Wood is “touch and go” for Saturday’s trip to Huddersfield Town.

The £15m striker came off in the defeat at home to Spurs last Saturday after colliding with keeper Hugo Lloris, and missed the Boxing Day draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

Left back Stephen Ward is again a doubt after missing the last three games with a knee problem, while James Tarkowski sits out the final game of his three-match ban.

Boss Sean Dyche said: “Robbie (Brady) is longer term but his operation went well and he's recovering.

“Tom (Heaton) is making good progress, he's on course. No timescales but he's getting stronger all the time.

“Wardy is settling down well. Tarky, despite his suspension, his hand is settling down well. He's had a minor operation on that and some pins put in. The specialist is happy with that.

“Dean Marney is back and got involved the other day, Jon Walters got involved, so they're right at the end.

“And Chris Wood is also touch and go.”

Dyche expects a difficult afternoon against the Terriers, who drew 0-0 at Turf Moor earlier in the season: “I think they've all adapted well. They were making some noise at the end of last season about running it more business-like but they've gone on and spent, I think, about £50-60m.

“They've had a real go at it. I must say what they've done extremely well is mould a team. I don't know all the facts but I think only maybe four or five players are playing regularly who were in the side last season.

“That means you've had a lot of change and to mould that together is a fantastic thing to do as a manager, as a staff and for the players. To accept new players and get on with the task of making it a side, they've done that very well and got some very good points on the board.”

It is Burnley’s last game of the calendar year, a year which has seen them twice smash their transfer record, survive in the Premier League for the first time, and since prosper in a remarkable first half of this season.

Dyche looked back on the Clarets’ 2017: “A year is different. It was a very good season to stay in the Premier League and then to build on that into this season...over the whole year it's very pleasing.

“Is the team continuing to move forward? I believe it is. Individually and collectively we're getting stronger and I think that's a really big marker for me as a manager.”

What are his aspirations for 2018?: “The first aspirations are to better last season. That's obvious. From outside I think the fans are enjoying the ride. I think they;re well aware there's no gimmes and we have to earn the right in everything we do and I think our own fans are becoming aware we have to do that in different ways.

“At Old Trafford it's highly unlikely you're going to go there and dominate the ball, create huge numbers of chances. We had to defend resolutely, defend very hard. Over a season it's all as valuable as those moments when you're at top form and you get the wins everyone thinks you've played well enough to get.

“You have to find different ways of operating. From a fan's point of view they know we have to continue doing that and I don't think the fans here are too drunk on it all. They know there's a reality to it. We have to work for everything we get.”

And his message for the New Year?: “It would be good if we could do another version of it. We want to continue to be flexible, continue to improve. We're still going to look in the market if we think we can and if it's appropriate.

“But I've been really pleased with the development of the players. It's a big underlying thing of mine. It's something I promised myself as a coach when I came into it, and as a manager, can I add to the players? Can I give them something that helps them improve?

“That's beyond results. Results are what I'm measured by as a manager but there's a journey beyond that and that's the one for me. I keep seeing these players improving and that's really pleasing going into the new year.”

Speaking of messages, former Claret Kieran Trippier was pictured at the darts with Spurs teammate Danny Rose, with a placard calling Dyche the ‘Ginger Mourinho’, and Dyche smiled: “He used to call me that in training all the time - I don't know where he got it from. That's the kind of connection I have with my players, or ex-players in this case. He did warn me by text, he may have had a lager shandy...a bit of fun.”