Exclusive: QPR defender Jimmy Dunne reflects on treasured Turf Moor memories ahead of Burnley's trip to Loftus Road
Irish defender Jimmy Dunne will always cherish the time he had at Turf Moor.
But the 25-year-old centre back felt that it was the right decision to move on last summer.
Dunne, who moved to Burnley following his release from Manchester United in 2017, confirmed that an offer to stay at the club was on the table last summer.
The former Red Devil, however, could no longer see a future for himself with the Clarets, and expressed his desire to seek opportunities elsewhere.
"There wasn't much," he told the Burnley Express. "They offered me a couple of contracts, but they weren't enough to make me want to stay and not play football. I don't think anything would have been enough to make me stay and not play football.
"I really understood at the time that I needed to pursue a career elsewhere, because there wasn't much of a pathway at Burnley. I could've sat around, I could've played here and there, but I wasn't getting any younger.
"With the competition with the fantastic centre backs that were at Burnley at the time, I didn't think it would be wise to stick around. Once the compensation was covered by QPR that was it really."
Dundalk-born Dunne, who earned a couple of caps for the Republic of Ireland Under 21s, recognised the valuable part the Clarets played in his development, ahead of his reunion with his former club at Loftus Road on Sunday.
He had a loan spell at Barrow in the National League, made his Football League debut with neighbours Accrington Stanley when replacing Janoi Donacien in a 4-0 win over Chesterfield in January 2018, and furthered his education at Hearts, Sunderland and Fleetwood Town.
His Burnley bow came in September 2020, during the pandemic, as he partnered compatriot Kevin Long at the heart of defence in an EFL Cup triumph over Sheffield United.
Dunne then marked his full league debut, and his inaugural Premier League appearance, with his first goal for the club in a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
He would play just seven times for Sean Dyche's side prior to his departure. Dunne said: "I was really upset when I was released from Manchester United at 18, I didn't want to go anywhere else, but Burnley helped me transition from a boy to a man. I had umpteen amounts of loans throughout the leagues, Burnley guided me through that, so I can be nothing but grateful.
"And on top of that Sean Dyche gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League, so I can't speak highly enough of my time at the club. When my contract expired it just wasn't the place for me to continue my development. QPR has helped me move on to the next level again, I'm still developing and I'm still learning."
Dunne has now played 53 times for the Hoops in the Championship and has netted four times. He was handed his first league start by Mark Warburton in a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside last term and he hasn't looked back since.
"I got chucked in relatively soon, but I wasn't a young player anymore and I'd played a lot of football matches," he said. "I wasn't a kid playing in the Championship, I had loads of experience, and I was raring to go.
"I'd spent the previous season-and-a-half training with Premier League players and that was really beneficial for me. I played a couple of games and I was surrounded by top Premier League centre backs day in and day out, so I really felt like I was ready and I jumped straight in there.
"It's the most valuable progression point of my career to date. I came as a boy and Burnley wasn't the place where you could be laksa daisy. Everybody came into work, you didn't get spoon-fed like I'd been used to at Man United, everything kind of hardened me."
Dunne added: "For the last year-and-a-half of my contract is when I learned how Premier League players behave, how they trained, all of that. I learnt a lot of lessons from the other centre backs; Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee.
"I was training with them every day, I got to watch them every week, I listened to them a lot, and I would often write down things that they had told me. I would always try and learn from them.
"My time at Burnley was unbelievable for my development at the start of my career, there is no better place that I could've gone to help me transition from an academy footballer to a competitive professional footballer at men's level. It was the best and only place for me."