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It's All Dwight On The Night

Teenager makes memorable debut as brave Clarets bow out

31 August 2018

The Clarets’ brave bid to prolong their European tour produced a memorable night at Turf Moor.

And among those who won’t forget it is Dwight McNeil, after the teenager made an outstanding full senior debut.

Boss Sean Dyche entrusted the 18-year-old left-sided midfielder with a role in trying to help Burnley claw back a 3-1 first-leg deficit from the first leg of their Europa League play-off tie with Olympiakos.

It was a task that proved just beyond them as a 1-1 draw saw the Clarets miss out on the group stages.

But on a night when Burnley did more than enough to get the result they needed – bar turning chances into goals – McNeil came of age with a performance that belied his inexperience and fully justified the faith of the management team.

“It was a dream come true to start my first game in the first team and hopefully in the future I can have more experiences like that,” said the Academy graduate who learned earlier in the day that he would be starting.

“With how the first leg went and being 3-1 down I didn’t expect to be playing. I just thought I would be in and around it.

“I was nervous, but more excited than anything. I tried not to change anything and just wanted to show people what I could do.

“I really enjoyed it but also disappointed we couldn’t quite do it.

“I thought we played really well and if we got that first goal you never know what might have happened.

“It was a good performance and we’ve got to move on and take it into our next game.”

The next game is a visit on Sunday from Manchester United, where Rochdale-born McNeil started his career before joining Burnley in the summer of 2014.

Last season he still played a number of games for the Clarets’ youth team, as well as learning his trade in the under-23s under Michael Duff.

His progress earned him a brief Premier League debut from the bench on the final day of last season and he has since been elevated to the senior squad on a permanent basis.

McNeil signed a first professional contract over the summer and after helping the Clarets get past Aberdeen in their first Europa League qualifier as an extra-time substitute, was rewarded with a first start against Olympiakos with five members of his family in attendance, including father Matty who played as a striker for Macclesfield Town and Stockport County.

“It’s been a massive change in such a short space of time. I can’t believe it’s happened but I’m very happy,” added McNeil, who was entrusted with taking many of the Clarets' set-pieces and created a potentially pivotal chance for Sam Vokes which the striker flashed just past the post with the score at 0-0.

“It’s great to have been around the lads and learning from them and they were a massive help to me last night.

“And the crowd, as well. It was so good to have them behind us, which gives that bit of extra confidence.

“It’s been great to have played in Europe and hopefully I can kick on this year and get a few more minutes in the Premier League as well.”

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