Long-serving defender still proving worth to Clarets
Michael Duff might have become a football pensioner but insists there is plenty of life in the old dog yet.
Duff turned 35 last Friday – the age players used to qualify for their full PFA pay-out.
And just 24 hours later he was again under-lining his value to the Clarets’ cause by helping keeping a clean sheet against one of the most potent strikeforces in the Championship as Burnley beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Turf Moor.
“The rules have changed slightly but 35 is still known as the pensioner age,” the long-serving defender told the Clarets' official website.
“It’s just another excuse for people to label me old but as I have said since turning 30 really, it’s just another motivation.
“People are constantly looking to write you off and if you have a bad game it’s because of your age.
“But I’d like to think I look after myself quite well and I live right and I think I can still go on a little longer yet.”
Duff is in his ninth season with Burnley and clocked up his 250th League appearance for the Clarets at the turn of the year.
He has served under five different managers since signing from Cheltenham Town with Sean Dyche the latest to benefit from the experience of the Northern Ireland international, who has helped bring about a major defensive improvement since Dyche took over at the end of October.
“It’s something we talked about earlier in the season. It’s impossible to have to score three or four goals every game to win a game,” Duff admitted.
“Charlie (Austin) hit an unbelievable vein of form and, no disrespect to Charlie, but I don’t think any centre-forward in the world, unless you are Lionel Messi, is going to keep that up.
“So it is important that if we do score a goal we can grind out 1-0 wins, although I don’t think we have been grinding out performances. We have been creating a lot of chances.
“The gaffer put quite a few stats to us on Friday, which was quite interesting.
“There is this concept and pre-conceived idea that we have tightened things up but at the expense of not creating as many chances, and that’s not true.”
Statistics produced by Dyche showed that the Clarets are now conceding less than a goal a game, compared with an average of 2.2 in the opening couple of months of the season, while creating, on average, only one fewer chance.
And Burnley’s three wins from their last four League games have all been recorded on the back of clean sheets with Duff and captain Jason Shackell forming a solid central pairing between in-form full-backs Kieran Trippier and Danny Lafferty.
“Ultimately from a defender’s point of view we are judged on clean sheets,” added Duff.
“I think the back four in recent weeks has been settled and me and Shacks are starting to develop a little bit of understanding, along with Granty, who, whenever he has been needed, has stepped up as well.
“It’s something we take pride in. Before the game we talk to each other.
“We talk about clean sheets. Other people have other jobs but that’s what we are in the team for.
“We are not getting carried away and it’s something we are building but that’s seven or eight for the season.
“It’s something that’s improving and it might be nice to prove a few people wrong, who said at the start of the season we couldn’t defend when maybe we knew we could.”