Josh Brownhill should have been starting his first pre-season with the Clarets about now but has seized his chance early to make his mark on the Premier League.
Brownhill had to wait for an opportunity following his January signing from Bristol City with the Clarets’ settled midfield unit propelling Sean Dyche’s men up the table.
But with the Covid pandemic prolonging the season and a combination of injuries and contractual issues shrinking the Clarets’ squad, the midfielder was given his opening.
And Brownhill has swiftly become a key part of a team battling the odds to keep their momentum going – despite a baptism of fire on his full top-flight debut at Manchester City.
“There is a massive difference, players have got such more quality especially when we played Man City first game,” admitted the 24-year-old, whose journey has also taken in stays with Preston North End and a loan stint at Barnsley.
“You feel like you are doing well and that you are in the game and next minute you are 3, 4-0 down.
“They are very clinical and move the ball a lot quicker and everybody is stronger and sharper.
“I have noticed it in training as well how good the quality is. It’s through the roof sometimes, but I feel like I have adapted to it quite well.”
Brownhill had played only a few minutes as a substitute on his Clarets’ bow in February before getting his first start in the 5-0 loss at City as Burnley returned to action following the lockdown.
But after helping the Clarets bounce back with a 1-0 home win over Watford, he had his best game yet when impressing in a similar victory at Crystal Palace last Monday night.
Operating on the right-hand side of midfield, he linked well with those around him and carried a real threat going forward.
And with his versatility across midfield an added benefit at a time the Clarets are struggling for numbers, the Warrington-based Brownhill looks set for an extended run in a side beaten only once in 10 Premier League games ahead of Sunday’s visit of Sheffield United.
“When the Premier League comes calling you can’t turn that down and it felt like the perfect move for me,” he added.
“Obviously what has gone on with this virus stuff has given a stop-start beginning to my Burnley career but I feel like I am getting into it more easily now and the appearances are coming thick and fast.
“I’m really determined (to stay there). With what’s gone on over the last few weeks, with people leaving due to contracts, we still have a really good squad and so it’s going to be difficult.
“We have people coming back fit so my place is not going to come easy, so I have got to be on it.”
The combination of absentees and a busy run-in to the season has stacked the cards against the Clarets.
But they have dug deep to take six points from nine since the restart and still sustain an unlikely challenge for a European place – facing a potential rival for one of those slots in Sheffield United, who went back above the Clarets with their mid-week win over Tottenham.
“It will be difficult as they are flying this year,” said Brownhill, no stranger to scraps with the Blades prior to their promotion last season.
“They are in form and we are in form, so it will be a good game - especially to get Europa League football that we are both want. It’s going to be a big game.
“It’s hard to get European football after a difficult spell. But we are on such a good run of form - before the lockdown and since the comeback as well - I don’t think it is out of the question. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”