Nathan Collins signing would be a big boost for Burnley and Sean Dyche

It is not often that Burnley have spent eight figures on a player.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 2:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 2:28 pm
Nathan Collins
Nathan Collins

And the imminent signing of Stoke City's 20-year-old centre back Nathan Collins - for £12m plus add ons - is something of a statement from the club and new owner Alan Pace.

The Republic of Ireland Under 21 international is set to sign a five-year contract, as he bolsters a central defensive unit that is down to three senior options in James Tarkowski and captain Ben Mee, who are both out of contract next summer, and Kevin Long, who recently extended his deal to 2023.

Jimmy Dunne is at the end of his deal, but has been offered terms and would attract a fee should he move on.

Ben Gibson, meanwhile, will complete an £8m move to promoted Norwich City next month after a season on loan at Carrow Road.

But the signing of Collins - only behind Chris Wood and Gibson (£15m) and Robbie Brady (£13m) as Burnley's most expensive players in history, with Jack Cork, Jeff Hendrick and Matej Vydra the only other £10m-plus signings - is something of a breakthrough after a hugely frustrating few years in the transfer market.

New chairman Pace has promised to back Sean Dyche, and such a deal is proof, although, in terms of strengthening the first team immediately, it remains to be seen whether Collins will have to be patient, as Tarkowski was as understudy to Michael Keane for 18 months, and develop on the training ground, getting ready for first team appearances as and when required.

But, to get a main target through the door before the players return to pre-season training would be a rare boost in that respect for Dyche, with much of the little business at the club of late often done towards the end of the window, if at all.

Burnley have made the most of Stoke's situation on the back of their relegation in 2018, with the club looking to balance the books under the EFL's profit and sustainability rules, and the deal looks the best for all parties, with the Potters now able to reinvest some of that figure, as boss Michael O'Neill said recently: "We have been asked about selling assets, I think what we will maybe have to do - and it's different because we've been in the Premier League - is that we have to trade a bit to strengthen the squad if that's necessary.

"That's something we'll try to do.

"Equally, we've been in a pandemic and it's very difficult to trade at this minute in time.

"Those are all things that going forward will help.

"Every transaction, whether it's bringing a player in or moving a player out to bring a player in is designed to strengthen the squad as well.

"I've enjoyed the challenge to be honest. I enjoy that side of the game."

Collins, meanwhile, has been working at Stoke's training ground after sitting out the end of the season after fracturing bones in his foot at Norwich in February.

He was still on crutches in March, but appeared on social media last week doing kick-ups in the gym.

O'Neill said at the end of last season: "It’s quite a delicate injury, broken bones under the base of his toe, an area where he would jump a lot from. Clearly, as a centre-back or defender, that’s something that Nathan will have to do quite a bit.

“Just the nature of how he actually got the injury is what you’re trying to avoid and making sure when he comes back, that area is really healed and strong.

“We would hope that Nathan would be back for pre-season.”