Hometown hero Jay Rodriguez more than ready for Championship return with Burnley

Burnley are more than ready for life back in the Championship, says hometown hero Jay Rodriguez.

The Clarets kick off the Football League calendar tonight [Friday] as they take on Huddersfield Town at the John Smith's Stadium, live on Sky Sports.

It'll be the club's first game back at that level since a 3-0 triumph over Charlton Athletic at The Valley sealed the title six years ago.

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The 32-year-old, whose season at Southampton had ended as Sean Dyche's side stretched their record to 23 league games unbeaten, said: "It has come round really quick, but we all feel prepared and ready for it now.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley celebrates with teammates Aaron Lennon and Maxwel Cornet after scoring their team's second goal during the Premier League match between Burnley and Everton at Turf Moor on April 06, 2022 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

"It can't come quick enough, I think the lads are excited and we're improving every day and getting ready for that season to begin. Training has been tough, but we have enjoyed it. The lads have worked hard."

Rodriguez's last game for Burnley in the Championship was a 1-1 draw at home to Bristol City in April 2012, a campaign which saw him finish the term as the leading scorer with 21 goals.

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More than a decade later, the England cap is champing at the bit to get going again after extending his stay at Turf Moor. The striker, who netted 11 Premier League goals for the Clarets since resigning in the summer of 2019, spoke positively about pre-season under new boss Vincent Kompany.

The ex-Manchester City skipper has made wholesale changes since switching from RSC Anderlecht, with eight new additions brought in to replenish a squad that had lost some familiar faces.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Jay Rodriguez of Burnley evades the challenge of Jack Cork of Southampton during the npower Championship match between Southampton and Burnley at St. Mary's Stadium on February 11, 2012 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Goalkeepers Nick Pope and Wayne Hennessey, former captain Ben Mee, defenders James Tarkowski and Nathan Collins, Phil Bardsley, Erik Pieters, Aaron Lennon, Dale Stephens, Wout Weghorst and Matej Vydra were all part of a mass exodus following Chris Wood’s move to Newcastle United at the start of the year.

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Meanwhile, Arijanet Muric, CJ Egan-Riley, Luke McNally, Samuel Bastien, Josh Cullen and Scott Twine all signed permanent deals while Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Ian Maatsen joined on loan from Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

However, Rodriguez believes that the warm weather training camp in Portugal has brought some cohesion to the group. "It's been really good so far, it's always good to get away somewhere different, different facilities, different weather, it's been nice," he said.

"I think getting away from the training ground together is good, we spend a lot more time together and I think that's important. From watching films together and chilling out, to being out training, it's really important for us to get that bond together."

He added: "We have worked hard, on the pitches, in the gym, but you do need the downtime too. It's been nice to switch off together and become one, as a team and just get to know one another more.

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"It's a top place to come and train, it's got everything you need to improve and to work with. The pitches have been top class too, it has everything we need for us to get better, it's a class environment."