The Opposition View - Burnley
1. What were your expectations before the season started?
In all honesty before the season began most of our fans were skeptical about our chances. We finished 11th last season but only managed to secure our Championship status with a couple of games to go. However in pre-season, Dyche has bought well and therefore after a couple of games we have seen that this team can go places.
2. After your superb start, do you think Burnley can keep this up until the end of the season or your form could tail off at some point?
It is too early to say whether we can keep our form over the season and to maintain a strong play-off or even automatic promotion push. The worrying aspect for me and for other supporters is that the promotion candidates at the start of the season (minus Bolton) have all made very good starts; yourselves, Leicester, QPR, Forest, Watford and even the old enemy B*ackburn seem to be improving game by game. If we can keep our main players fit then they seem to be as good as anyone in this league but I do believe it'll be tough to maintain this form throughout the season. Miracles to happen though ;)
3. Sean Dyche is now being branded the `Ginger Mourinho` by your fans and deservedly so. Assess his start as Burnley manager in the 2012/13 season, compared to now? What changed this season compared to last?
Dyche when he arrived late last October, we were shipping in goals left, right and centre under Eddie Howe. We were scoring well enough but by conceding more than two and a half goals a game, we were nailed on for relegation, despite Charlie Austin. Dyche came in to anchor the defense and in fairness he did that. However we all believe that he went too far the other way, we then couldn't score goals. There was a stage in March where we played three home games, all on Tuesday nights, where the quality of football was the worst I've ever seen us play, that includes under Steve Cotterill's era. However he kept us afloat so he did his job. This season, he has a full pre-season to instill the style he wants, to play free-flowing football but to also be solid at the back. Since we drew 3-3 at Watford last March, we haven't conceded more than 2 in a game.
4. Do you think the departure of Charlie Austin has coincided with this great form, or purely just the team stepping their game up massively?
Charlie Austin leaving was a blessing in disguise for me. Under Dyche last season, we oddly played better and got more points when Austin wasn't playing than when he was. This was because Austin was our main, and to an extent, our only goal threat, therefore we played to him. This left him isolated though and in essence restricted his goal threat. This season, Danny Ings (Ings can only get better! D:Ream) and Sam Vokes have given the opposition a different threat, with the big man little man partnership. Also, despite it being the most well known system, not many teams play 4-4-2 these days and defending against it has been difficult for teams playing against us this season.
5. Who is your stand out player at the moment?
Where to start, sadly I can't pick one as it would be unfair on others. Tom Heaton in goal has been a wonderful signing, he's vocal, a good shot stopper, kicks well and can handle bombardment in the box from corners and free kicks. The centre backs of Duff and Jason Shackell have been incredibly solid, Kieron Trippier in my opinion is the best attacking full back in the Championship, Ben Mee is a left back that just defends, but does this job very efficiently. Our midfield have been solid, Dave Jones and Dean Marney very good, Scott Arfield is a grafter and Michael Kightly has undoubted skill, he just needs some game time. And then there is the obvious threat of Sam Vokes and Danny Ings, who have both been excellent.
6. If you could take any Reading player at the moment, who would it be and why?
From what I have seen of Reading this season and in previous seasons, I have admired Adam le Fondre greatly. He is a player that I have always been impressed with, especially from his time at Rotherham. Also I think Karacan is a good player for this league and Billy Sharp is a player who always seems to impress me. If I had to pick one it would be le Fondre due to the fact he seems to be like another Jamie Cureton sort of player, who just scores wherever he goes (including Reading).
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see on Saturday?
I expect Dean Marney to come back into the centre of midfield as he was suspended on Tuesday night and David Edgar to drop back to the bench. We will play 4-4-2 with the creativity mainly coming from Trippier and Arfield on the right. We will probably mix the play about more on Saturday and perhaps at times go for a more direct route (with the aid of Vokes that is always a useful viable option), though we will no doubt also spread the ball on the deck at times too.
8. What is your prediction for the game?
For me, this will be our biggest test of the season thus far. We have three massive games coming up which if we come out of them successful, my opinions on us maintaining the pace at the top may change. Reading at home, Ipswich away and QPR at home, plus a league cup fourth round tie at home to West Ham, will all be difficult games. In all honesty I either see a draw or a Reading win. This is not to belittle our team one bit, but ever since our promotion season when you seemed to run out of steam and we were riding the crest of a tidal wave, you have since had the edge over us and we have consistently put in poor performances against Reading. I would love a victory and that is not beyond the realms but I'd snatch your hands off for a draw, purely to maintain this unbeaten run.