Sean Dyche on key man Ashley Westwood ahead of reunion with former club Aston Villa

His signing went somewhat under the radar at the time.
Ashley WestwoodAshley Westwood
Ashley Westwood

Go back to deadline day in January 2017, and Ashley Westwood arrived at Burnley for £5m from Wednesday night's opponents Aston Villa, shortly before the club spent a club record £13m on Robbie Brady from Norwich City.

But, while injuries have affected Brady’s impact, Westwood has proved remarkable value for money.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 30-year-old has made 132 appearances in four years, and become a key figure in Sean Dyche’s side, finishing as player of the year in 2019.

He made his full debut against Sunday’s opponents Chelsea, as did Brady, in a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor, in which Brady scored a sublime equaliser from a free kick.

Former Villa bosses Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood likened him to Michael Carrick, indeed, Lambert said: “Westwood is in that mould of Paul Scholes.”

But he had to leave Villa to revive his career, and Dyche said: “He’s very important. I think he’s still maturing as a player. I think he has done in his time here.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“When we got him here I think he was just playing slightly within the game I think he’s got. Now he’s got his shoulders back and delivers everything.

“He passes forward, he’s got a tremendous passing ability, and he’s a top professional that’s for sure.

“His work, his endeavour and his willingness to help the team, that rubs off on others. He’s a sensible fella anyway, but he leads by example with his performance levels.

“I think he’s a top-class player.”

Things didn’t work out at Villa, with the club relegated in 2016, and Dyche added: “I think the thing that’s pleasing, he had a tough end to his time at Villa, and it’s pleasing to see him play well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“You can only guide and offer support and direction to these players, but then they have to run with it and I think he has.

“He’s listened, he’s observed and he’s taken on a lot of what we offered him and now he’s made it his own and that coincides with his performance levels.”

“Another player, and they’re good players by the way, but sometimes they can’t quite see the picture clearly as regards their careers.

“He wasn’t far away, I just think I nudge in the right direction in a different environment, a different format and he’s really run with it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He deserves a lot of credit. We think the environment and culture here is good, but he deserves a lot of credit for bringing himself on.

“We’ve seen that with a number of players here.

“We’ve seen Michael Duff play in the Premier League here at 36, 37, it’s not about age, it’s about mentality. And if the mentality is right, then these players can continue to learn and develop and Westy’s certainly got the right mentality.”:

Westwood is under contract until 2023, having agreed a new three-year deal in September, and Dyche feels he can continue to deliver at this level: “The players now have so much support and awareness on the food and nutrition side of things, it comes down to desire.

“These players who are at the top of their game, they have a desire beyond contracts, beyond all that sort of stuff. Their desire is to play at the top level for as long as they can. That’s the key thing for me.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Age will eventually catch up, but at 30, you can easily go on to 33 or 34, players are playing longer.

“When the brain and the heart are still connected, you can keep going. If either the brain or the heart goes and you lose that edge to want to be the best, then it diminishes quickly.

“I think these guys know that as long as they keep that edge to their performance levels, they can go on for a long time.”