Andre Gray believes he is starting to come of age as a Premier League striker – helped by his first top-flight hat-trick.
Gray is the Clarets’ leading scorer after four goals in two games over the Christmas period took his tally for the season to five.
And that means he goes into Saturday’s Turf Moor return against Southampton with momentum behind him following an up-and-down start to the campaign interrupted by a four-match FA ban.
“It was difficult at the start of the season. There was a bit of a high and then a low,” admitted Gray, who was suspended over historic social media messages which came to light just hours after he had scored his first Premier League goal in the Clarets’ 2-0 win over Liverpool in August.
“It was a tough time. It was a long five or six weeks but I’ve come through it and hopefully I don’t have to look back at that now.
“I learned a lot about myself a long time ago and I learn about myself every day – that’s on and off the field.
Andre Gray scored the second goal in the win over Liverpool
“It took a while to get back into it and at the same time I am developing as well, in general.
“It was always going to take a bit of time to get used to the Premier League, the pace of it and the physical aspect.
“It’s been a bit of an up-down season so far but I feel leading up to the Christmas period I’ve settled back into the team and got used to the quality of the Premier League and feel like I’m adapting better as the games go on.
“There’s still a long way to go and still a lot to work on but I feel I can compete at this level and scoring a hat-trick has helped that confidence.
"I feel I can compete, but at the same time I still have an awful lot of work to do. That’s the only thing I can do and I’m happy to keep learning.”
Gray’s top-class treble against Sunderland on the last day of December gave the Clarets a seventh home win of the campaign.
Sean Dyche’s side therefore goes into the meeting with EFL Cup semi-finalists Southampton in 12th-place in the table – just one point behind the Saints.
And Gray is looking to extend Burnley’s remarkable home run – which has seen them win five of their last six games at Turf Moor – with a place in the top half of the table a potential prize.
Gray's goal against Middlesbrough kick-started a perfect Christmas
The in-form striker added: “We had a great home record last season as well and we are a force here.
“It’s shown not many people are happy to come and grind out a result, because that’s what they’ll have to do.
“They’re not going to roll us over. It’s been good to us and we have to keep that going.
“We’ve got the base now and we know we can compete in this league and compete pretty well, and that’s what we need to keep doing.
“We are here to do a job. People will say the first thing to do is stay up. We are on course to do that, but we know there is still a long way to go.”