Kevin Long was delighted to play his part in all but guaranteeing the Clarets’ Premier League status and prove to himself that he can operate at the highest level.
Long made his first Premier League start as the Clarets drew 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion at Turf Moor to go 14th in the table – six points and 19 goals better off than Hull City in the final relegation place with just two games to go.
The defender’s return in place of the injured Michael Keane marked his first top-tier appearance since he came off the bench at Newcastle United on New Year’s Day, 2015.
That outing was cruelly cut short by a serious knee injury and since then Long – the Clarets’ longest serving player – has been restricted to a Capital One Cup appearance and loan duty at Barnsley and MK Dons following his return to fitness.
“Keano and Ben (Mee) have been outstanding for two years. They’ve played nearly every game and have been brilliant, so I can’t really have any complaints on that front, but I was happy to play,” said Long.
“I’m not going to lie, it is frustrating not playing. The only thing you can do is keep your head down and train hard and hopefully your chance comes.
“All my games have been out on loan so to play in the Premier League is another kind of stepping stone for me to prove to myself I can do it.
“There’s always a doubt in the back of your head, ‘can you make the step up?’ But I felt okay.
“It’s just another box ticked off but there’s a lot of work to do on the training ground and I will just keep going.”
With Mee also sidelined with injury, Long, 26, formed a new-look central defensive partnership with James Tarkowski.
And the pair proved themselves another viable option as Sean Dyche’s men hit back through Sam Vokes’ late equaliser to secure the result that seemingly rewards a season’s endeavours.
Long told Clarets Player: “It was a long time coming. I was excited to get going and I was delighted to play.
“I felt comfortable in the first half. I hadn’t played for a long time so the last 20 minutes were physically a bit draining but I thought we did quite well today so I was happy.
“It was a good point in the end. As soon as we got the equaliser we just didn’t want to lose the game.
“It was a big point and we are more than likely safe now, so it was brilliant.
“The goal at the start of the season was to stay in the Premier League. It looks like that’s done now but there are two games to go and we’ll give our all in those two games.”