Fighting fit Ashley Barnes determined to fire Burnley back to the big league

Fighting fit Ashley Barnes is determined to fire Burnley back to the Premier League.

Barnes is buzzing after completing pre-season under Vincent Kompany with no issues, starting the first three games of the season, and he hopes to bring the good times back for the fans after a number of lean years.

The former Brighton forward has struggled with injuries since netting 12 goals in 37 Premier League appearances in 2018/19, with his most appearances in the intervening seasons coming last term, when he played 23 times in the top flight.

However, he is raring to go ahead of Tuesday night’s home clash with Hull City.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Ashley Barnes of Burnley warms up ahead of kickoff during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burnley and Luton Town at Turf Moor on August 06, 2022 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

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Usually, in pre-season, under Sean Dyche, the players would be tested mentally and physically to the limits in his annual Gaffer’s Day, but Barnes explained: "Obviously managers have different ways of training, I loved Gaffer's Day, running us for two hours without a ball, and it does work, but for us older ones the new gaffer keeps going on about - and you don't feel old - but he's managing us in different ways to be available for every game possible,

"He takes it on his head if we were to break down.

"The fitness is there, pre-season is there to work hard, and we've done that, now it's just the tactics and everything.

"But the games come thick and fast in this league, it's relentless, and you need to prepare, recover quickly, as you get less time to recover.

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"You have to be on it all the time.”

Barnes was Dyche’s first cash signing in January 2014, coming in for the second half of the season as Burnley finished runners-up to Leicester City in the Championship to win promotion, and he played a big role in helping the club enjoy seven out of eight seasons in the top flight, and a European tour.

He is having to adapt from a style where the side were more effective without the ball,to one that dominates possession.

Barnes has played in similar set ups at Brighton, under Gus Poyet, whose side played passing football and dominated possession, and Oscar Garcia, who spent 15 years at Barcelona, and worked with Johan Cruyff with the Catalonia national side.

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Barnes said: “It’s quite similar to Gus, but that was a long time ago and I've been away from that for a while.

"The way we used to play before this gaffer came in, it worked, but we've got a good group here, a lot of new faces, so it is a transition period, and hopefully with us older ones to help them and show them what this club means, it's something we can give and hopefully bring some happiness back to the fans.

"The last few seasons we've scraped through until last season, and everyone wants to be back in the big league now.

"If we can do that, it would be brilliant.”

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In terms of Kompany’s style of play, Barnes is still learning at the age of 32: "It's been amazing, you respect him on every level and it is a pleasure to work with him.

"His ideas are incredible and you do come out baffled after meetings and you take so much in!

"It is like being back at school and you are just willing to learn every day and get better as a player.“It is brilliant, he is an amazing person and had an amazing career and he is now passing that onto us and giving us a new lease of life.

"You're learning something new every day, we're now the team that is going to have possession, and have the ball a lot more, and the movement is vital - the timing, when to move, when not to.

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"If you can occupy a few bodies, you're doing your job, and that's what people are learning.

"You might not think you're doing anything sometimes, but you're doing a lot for the team, and that's what the gaffer is trying to put across.”

Barnes is his own harshest critic in terms of his hold up play, and added: “The frustrating point for me is I've given it away quite a lot in the last few games, too many times if I'm honest, and that's where I need to be at my best, holding it up and bringing people into play and getting into the box.

"I need to create runners off me and try and get in the box to finish.

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"Playing as a lone striker at the moment, I have to adapt and that is what we do as footballers. We practice on the training ground to do just that. It's new for all of us and hopefully we can perform well.”

And while he feels the weight of expectation in terms of putting the ball in the net, he feels there are goals throughout the side: “People need to realise that is not just the strikers that need to score, everyone have to contribute.

"I need to hold the ball, do the basics and keep it simple and bring the basics in.

"As a striker I want to score every game and finish as top scorer of the league, I am sure all strikers will.

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"We need to work hard every day on the movements and patterns and it is a matter of time, hopefully it will come.

"We are going to score shedloads of goals and everyone will go 'this is amazing the way we play' but first and foremost we need to do the basics right. It is a long season and we are just at the first period of it now.

"It is not just how many goals you score in the game, it is the relentlessness of keeping winning and taking that into the next game.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be the man to score the goals and to fire us back up.

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"It is about doing the basics right, bringing others into play and getting goals. As long as I can occupy those centre backs for runners and team-mates and bring them into play then I am doing my job.”