BURNLEY boss Eddie Howe is delighted at the fierce competition for places that has been sparked by the return of strike duo Martin Paterson and Charlie Austin.
The pair were greeted by rapturous applause when replacing Junior Stanislas and Sam Vokes in respective changes by Howe in the 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth.
On the opening game of the campaign against Watford, Paterson suffered a ‘grade 2’ tear of the same thigh muscle that plagued him on two separate occasions last season.
Meanwhile, former Swindon Town hitman Austin suffered the recurrence of a shoulder injury after landing awkwardly in the 2-1 reverse to Leeds at Turf Moor. The 22-year-old first dislocated his shoulder in September last year before joining the Clarets in January’s transfer window. He then endured a repeat of the same injury in a training session the following month and was ruled out for the remainder of the season.
“It gives us a massive boost – it adds real competition for places as you can see from the players who were out of the squad,” said Howe.
“I’m delighted to get both players back and now it’s a case of making sure they’re match fit and ready to play.”
Paterson was given a standing ovation following his introduction in the 59th minute on Saturday while Austin was given his chance to mark his return with a quarter-of-an-hour of the game remaining.
“It’s difficult for them coming into a game like that because we didn’t really pass the ball particularly well,” said Howe. “We struggled to get the ball wide and hurt them in wide areas, and that’s what we’d worked on. Both wide players found it difficult to get into the game.
“From an attacking point of view we weren’t at our best, and that’s disappointing because lately we’ve been very good going forward but Saturday we suffered a little bit.”
That growing strength in depth was such at the weekend that Republic of Ireland international Keith Treacy and former Hammer Zavon Hines were ommitted from Howe’s 16-man squad. And when teenage striker Danny Ings makes a full recovery from a freak knee cartilage tear there’ll be an abundance of forward options at Howe’s disposal.
“We’re getting strength in numbers and bodies,” said Howe. “We’ve got two strikers on the bench and you’ve got to have a balance. You need a defender and a midfielder on there, and that’s the beauty of having those players back. It gives everyone competition for places – no-one’s guaranteed their place, which hasn’t always been the case for me this season, so it’s a really good choice for me to have.”
Now, after embedding the absentees back in to the fray, Howe’s next target is to pick his team up after the Clarets’ winning streak was halted abruptly.Howe said: “Obviously from our point of view we’re very disappointed.
“It’s not the time to react after the game. We will review it and have a look at it. We’ve just got to make sure our work during the week’s right because when we train very well we usually perform – the two go hand-in-hand.
“We can’t get complacent or sloppy because this game will find you out if you are. So we’ve got lessons to learn.”
He added: “This season’s all about becoming a better team as the season progresses – I feel we’re doing that, but sometimes it feels like you take three steps forward and a couple back.
“It’s just a reminder that we need to make sure we’re fully focused at all times.”