Jimmy Dunne admitted playing the role of senior pro was a strange feeling as he made his comeback from injury in the Clarets’ U23s.
But it was a job he was happy to do as he stepped up his fitness following the injury that curtailed his loan spell at Hearts.
That loan stay officially only ended in time for him to play for the Clarets in their 1-0 Professional Development League defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Monday afternoon.
But an ankle injury sustained at the end of November effectively brought an end to his successful stay at Tynecastle 14 games in and prompted a return to Turf Moor for treatment and rehabilitation.
“It’s the first 90 minutes for a month or so, so I think I needed it just to see where my level of fitness is at,” said Dunne, who along with fellow 21-year-old Dan Agyei was the oldest outfield player in the Clarets’ line-up.
“Without looking too far ahead it was just about getting back right, getting the ankle sorted and getting my fitness back and I think we’re really on the road to that.
“I remember Longy (Kevin Long) playing with us a few years ago and I was looking up at him.
“Now there’s a couple of much younger lads and I probably look a bit older to them now, so it’s kind of weird how the tables have turned.
“But fair play to the lads, they worked really hard and I felt a little bit sorry for them because Sheffield Wednesday only had one shot and it went in and we dominated the game.”
A deflected strike from defender Ben Hughes was enough to give the Owls victory at a rain-soaked Tameside Stadium.
Dunne, who may go out on loan again to continue his development, gave Steve Stone’s men an added measure of control as they looked for the win that would take them level on points with north group leaders Birmingham City.
But without Dwight McNeil, now firmly fixed in the first-team plans, the Clarets lacked a cutting edge to reflect their domination and reward impressive midfield performances from the central duo of Josh Benson and Mark Howarth (above).
“There were some really good performances in the first half. I was really pleased with Mark Howarth in the middle of the park. He and Josh were really good,” said Stone, who is trying to develop more of a passing style.
“I have been demanding more of Mark. I’ve been really tough on Mark.
“Josh can handle me being tough, but I wasn’t so sure Mark could. So, it was great they both got on the ball and tried to pass it and dominate it. They were the pleasing things.”
The U23s’ boss added: “That was the best we’ve passed the ball in any conditions, so I was delighted by that because we are developing footballers who have to be technically good.
“I have been drumming it into them that they need to be able to handle the ball. While they’re all good athletes you need that side of it.
“That was really pleasing, but, like this team as well, you need more than a load of chances to score goals.
“We don’t convert enough and it was the same from set-pieces. We created a lot from the wide areas in terms of balls coming into the box but no-one is near it.
“And in the second half it was disappointing when they tried to go long and I wanted them to pass the ball again and work the wide areas. But it’s a good learning curve for all of them.”