Next step is pivotal after Chris Wood sale - can Sean Dyche pull another goalscoring rabbit from the hat?

At the end of November, after reaching a half-century of Premier League goals, I suggested that Chris Wood's milestone proves he is a modern day Burnley great.
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Wood headed home his 49th top flight goal for the club against Crystal Palace, to add to one for Leicester City, but the response to the article suprised me somewhat.

Without going into scientific analysis of the interaction with Clarets fans, the piece split them down the middle.

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I pointed out Wood had joined an elite club last season, when he hit double figures in the Premier League for the fourth-successive campaign, alongside Harry Kane and Son of Spurs, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane of Liverpool, Jamie Vardy of Leicester, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette of Arsenal, and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling.

Chris WoodChris Wood
Chris Wood

And that 50 goals in what is now 154 top flight appearances was a remarkable statistic, given he was in a side who have, for half his time at the club, struggled in the bottom half of the table and found goals hard to come by.

Despite those figures, there remained no terrace chants in his honour, he was not universally lauded by Burnley supporters.

And his transfer to Newcastle has been derided in some parts, most notably by Gary Lineker, who, in not so many words, suggested a fee in the region of £20m was a lot of money to pay.

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There is no doubt Wood's presence will be missed - as I wrote a few weeks ago, his half-century came in only 18 games more than Edin Dzeko at Manchester City, and quicker than Paolo Wanchope, while he has more Premier League goals, in fewer games, than Troy Deeney, Bobby Zamora, Frederic Kanoute, Juan Pablo Angel, Dominic Calvert Lewin and Marko Arnautovic.

However, what was brought up more often that not, was the frequency with which he topped the Premier League's off-side stats - having been asked to play on the shoulder - while he has missed a sizeable number of big chances, memorably this season at Everton, and recently at Manchester United and former club Leeds United.

And three goals in 17 league games this season is a paltry return.

In a business sense, getting between £20-25m for a 30-year-old with 18 months on his contract, with his goal return this campaign, represents a good deal.

In a football sense, however, it could be suicide.

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Burnley are already in the relegation mire, with one win so far this season, and one of the first names on Sean Dyche' s teamsheet has been sold to a club on the same points, who have just brought in Dyche's favourite player Kieran Trippier, and look to be heading one way as the world's richest club, following their recent takeover.

Over the last decade or so, Burnley's sucession planning with their strikers has been magnificent.

After the sale of Andy Gray and Kyle Lafferty, Martin Paterson, Steven Thompson and Robbie Blake - with 39 goals between them - fired the club to promotion via the play-offs.

Steven Fletcher then top-scored with 12 goals in all competitions after arriving as the club's record signing, as the Clarets were relegated.

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Fletcher was sold to Wolves and replaced by Chris Iwelumo, who hit 11 goals, while Jay Rodriguez emerged as joint-top scorer with Chris Eagles with 15.

Charlie Austin was added to the squad in January 2012, before Sam Vokes and Danny Ings arrived that summer, after the sale of Rodriguez.

Those three were prolific for the club, with 'Vings' combining superbly in the promotion season of 2013-14 after the sale of Austin to QPR.

While the signings of Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell were far from successful, Andre Gray was the Championship's top scorer as the Clarets bounced back as Championship champions, and the likes of Ashley Barnes, 2017 arrival Wood, the returning Rodriguez and Matej Vydra have chipped in since.

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Wood's departure leaves Burnley with Barnes “ahead of the curve but still a few weeks away” having not played for almost 3 months, Vydra - who had Covid last week and has a groin/hernia problem which requires surgery at some point, and Rodriguez.

Dyche now has less than three weeks to put the Wood money to good use, or the Clarets' fate could be sealed.

The fact the deal went through ahead of two huge games at home to Leicester and Watford could not have been timed any worse - especially with top scorer Maxwel Cornet away on duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Over to Alan Pace then. If ever you need to back the boss, the time is now.