Burnley boss Sean Dyche sees an opportunity to gatecrash the Championship’s top six as the division’s so-called big guns continue to miss-fire.
The Clarets face Birmingham City at Turf Moor on Saturday looking for fifth win in six league games in a run that has lifted them to within four points of the play-off zone.
And with the clubs relegated from the top flight last season – namely Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn – all in the bottom half of the table, Dyche believes play-offs places are up for grabs.
“It’s a rare season where the so-called bigger names and the bigger budgets are not necessarily at the top of the league,” admitted the Clarets’ chief.
“They are kind of bobbling around the mid-table whereas usually, but not always, of the teams coming out the Premier League you normally get a minimum of one, probably two, and sometimes three, who are right back up there.
“This season has a kind of different feel so it will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next 18 games.
“It makes it a good prospect for anyone to really challenge themselves to go hard and we are certainly showing signs of it and that won’t be something that is stopping, because we believe in the team going hard for every game that can go their way.”
Burnley were pegged back in a 2-2 draw at St Andrew's
The Clarets’ next test comes against a Birmingham side which has also slipped off its pedestal over the past 12 months.
The Blues went close to bouncing straight back to the Premier League last season when they reached the Championship play-offs.
But after losing to Blackpool in the semi-finals, City have struggled to cope financially and look set to lose a number of their top players before next Thursday’s transfer deadline.
They are also too close to the relegation zone for comfort but Dyche is taking nothing for granted after sharing the points in a 2-2 draw at St Andrew’s just before Christmas.
“I thought we did more than enough to win the game with a very good performance, but the fact is we didn’t. We got a point,” added Dyche, whose side has since lost only once in the Championship and conceded a solitary goal.
“It’s not about revenge, it’s about being ready to go again and being ready to take on a good side.
“They have a lot of players there. They have changed between young and experienced and they are still searching for that mixture to make them as strong as possible to win games.
“We will take them seriously, but we believe in what we are doing so we will be focused on ourselves to go into the game in good confidence and good spirit.
“We have put together a nice little run and now it’s about continuing that run and building on top of each game as it comes.
“We have got that good mentality at the minute and all the players are looking to deliver their part of the team performance and that’s a vital thing to have.”