Sean Dyche has praised his support cast after their step forward into leading roles in the Clarets’ late push for Europe.
Dyche has had to dip into his squad strength since lockdown with a clutch of senior men unavailable.
That has given others an opportunity to grab a starting slot and all have played their part in bringing in the points – including Premier League debutant Josh Brownhill.
“He’s done nicely so far,” said Dyche of the midfielder who had played only a couple of minutes of top-flight football ahead of the season’s suspension following his January signing from Bristol City.
“We’ve kind of thrown him in at the deep end. We were hoping to get him some football this season to ease him into what we do.
“He has certainly a good training period with us before and after lockdown.
“But I think he’s done very well, and Erik Pieters has been a shining example of the professional is.
“Whatever we ask him he gets on with. Not that I ever doubted that, but it’s different throwing him in left side, right side; he just delivers performances.
“And Kevin Long has come in again and delivered a couple of big performances.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised like I didn’t know it was there, but it’s pleasing to see the work they put in on the training field – even if they’re not selected every week – pays them back when it’s time to play. I’ve been really pleased with that.”
Long has played in the Clarets’ last two games as James Tarkowski’s central defensive partner following a 19-month absence from the starting line-up for a Premier League fixture.
And Pieters – a left-back for the majority of his 14-year professional career – has stepped up in a wide midfield position with Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady not yet considered for a start following injury.
Gudmundsson replaced Pieters for the last couple of minutes of last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United, while Brady has also been a substitute for the Clarets’ last two games
Dyche will take the same squad that won in mid-week at West Ham – making it 10 points from four games to get the Clarets within three points of the top six – to Liverpool on Saturday to face the new Premier League champions, with Ben Mee, Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes and Matt Lowton expected to miss the rest of the season.
The Burnley boss is keen to get Gudmundsson and Brady into action but won’t rush to increase the lowest number of substitutions made since lockdown.
“If you need to change you change, which we’ve had to do due to injury, and if we need to change games we will do when we think is appropriate,” added Dyche, who has made just seven substitutions from a maximum permitted 25 in the last five games.
“There’s a modern clamour to make substitutions. I think my record is pretty strong, although I don’t make many. It’s making effective substitutions; not just making them for the sake of it.
“We have managed to blend Woody into the last couple of games. We’d be hoping to do that with Johann and Robbie too. At some point we do need these guys playing.
“It is more difficult in the tight games. When the team is operating, I tend to leave it alone, if you look at my history.
“When the team is operating I pick that team for a reason, so I believe it’s going to operate throughout a game so it will depend on that as well, how the game is going to how much game-time we can give to those players.
“And I always believe in giving them the best chance to be clear of injury, which is difficult at the moment because they haven’t had the amount of game-time they would normally have coming out of an injured period.”