'I felt for him' - Paul Merson expresses sympathy for up-and-coming Burnley talent
Paul Merson has admitted that he felt bad for Burnley midfielder Josh Benson last week.
The 21-year-old made his Premier League debut seven days ago after being drafted into midfield for the 5-0 defeat to Manchester City, and gave a decent enough account of himself under difficult circumstances.
The Clarets youngster even came close to scoring an impressive debut goal, and was unfortunate to see a whipped free-kick deflected narrowly wide of Ederson’s upright.
But Merson has claimed that he still felt sorry for Benson after the player was given such a fierce baptism of fire.
Given that the midfielder dropped back out of the starting XI for the 1-1 draw against Everton on Saturday lunchtime, the pundit also went as far as to express his hope that manager Sean Dyche hadn’t simply included him as a means of sending a message to his board about his lack of squad depth.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, he said: “I felt for him.
"When you’re making your debut, coming into a team, one, you don’t want really want to play at Man City away, and two, I feel at the moment Burnley are in a situation.
"I hope he wasn’t showing a sign to the board and using the young kid. That could set the kid back. I know they’re not going to come up against Man City every week, but it’s still hard for the kid – it will affect his confidence.
"I think Burnley are in the business, at the moment, of picking and choosing their games. I think they’ve got to go, ‘You know what? We’re not getting much out of Man City, doesn’t matter if we have the best day of our lives, we don’t do well there, they’ll rip us apart’. They’ve got to highlight games.
"At the moment, they are in a relegation battle, and there’s a little bit of a gap. If you look at 14th, it’s Arsenal, and let's be honest, Arsenal aren’t getting relegated. There’s going to be a gap sooner or later.
"I felt for the kid, but he was bang unlucky with the free-kick.”