More to come from in-form striker Jay Rodriguez, says Burnley boss Sean Dyche
And while Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes started the season as the preferred partnership, given their success when paired together, Rodriguez has shown why Dyche tried on numerous occasions to bring him back to the club.
Since the turn of the year, he has eight goal involvements in 13 starts - with his six goals including a memorable strike to seal victory at Old Trafford, before superb headed winners against Watford and West Ham after the restart.
Dyche said: “I mentioned when we got him in here he’d get sharper and his game would get back to where I thought it could do, because he’s a very good player.
“I think he’s shown signs of that and there’s more to come.
“He’s super fit, he looks after himself, he’s a really good professional, and he’s a joy to work around.
“He gets on with his job, quite unassuming and he’s an all round good pro and will continue to move forward and improve.”
Rodriguez has 10 goals for the season in all competitions, seven in the Premier League, to add to 11 for Wood, and six for Barnes, who has been out since New Year’s Day.
Wood has hit double figures in the league in all three seasons at the club since his club record £15m move from Leeds, while Barnes reached 10 in all competitions in 2018 and 13 last term.
Rodriguez netted 17 at this level with Southampton in 2014, before the cruciate knee ligament injury which cost him a place at the World Cup, and he recovered to net 11 in all competitions as West Brom were relegated in 2018.
There is a train of thought that you have to spend £20m-plus to land a striker who can get you at least 10 goals in the top flight, but those three have shown it’s not a necessity.
Dyche said: “We spent a few quid on Woody, that was an essential target after losing Andre (Gray) for £18m, Woody was about £15m, Barnesy was £450,000, but”, he joked, “I still see that as expensive, I keep reminding him of that!
“Jay Rod was £10m.
“But, look, it is difficult, I understand the point, there are players that grow with your team, and you might find someone you brought in for less who matures with the team, but if you want someone who, if you’re hedging your bets who you think has an increased chance of doing the job, then £20m isn’t far off.
“Strikers do cost a lot of money, they always have, they’ve always been the most sought-after players.
“And they’re hard to get.
“I like all the strikers we have, and Vyds was £8/9m, so for a club like Burnley, they’ve all been very good signings and very effective signings.”
Rodriguez became Burnley’s then record sale at £7m when he joined Southampton in 2012 on the back of a 21-goal season with the Clarets.
He returned a far more rounded striker, and Dyche added: “I’ve been a big fan of Jay’s for a long time, I know he went through a tough injury period, but a lot of people I’ve spoken to in the game have always spoken incredibly highly of him, as a pro and how he conducts himself on and off the pitch.
“And that’s all become true, it’s fact.
“He hasn’t always played as a starter this season, but he knows deep down he’s never far away, neither are the other strikers, to be fair.
“I think we’ve got a strong clutch of strikers.
“But I’ve always liked Jay’s game, he has an all-round game, when we signed him, I explained we were looking at him as an out and out centre forward, because he’s done a great job coming in off the wider positions, where he can still score goals, but I do like him as a centre forward.”
Rodriguez has one England cap, earned in a friendly against Chile at Wembley in 2013, but could be add to that if he maintains his levels?: “To be fair, Gareth is taking it in a different direction now, with the age bracket, and I totally understand, no rights or wrongs, Gareth has his own thoughts on it, but you never know.
“It’s one of those things, he’s been down that road before, so you never know.”