BURNLEY boss Eddie Howe has welcomed the backing of the Royal heir ahead of tonight’s encounter with a different set of Royals.
At a reception for the British Asian Trust at Windsor Castle, Prince Charles revealed for the first time that he is a Claret; timely support from the future monarch, as Howe’s men prepare for their Championship clash with Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
“I have seen it, it’s a bit different,” said Howe. “It’s not bad, we’ll take having some Royal support. You can’t get more powerful and influential than that, so the more the merrier. It would be good to see him in a Burnley top, show him round the changing rooms and meet the players. It’s great.”
That regal revelation sparked national interest, with many media moguls donating column inches and online coverage to the tale.
However, Howe’s focus is on a more local scale – getting a result in Berkshire in the hope of enhancing his side’s Championship play-off credentials.
“It would be great to close the gap on Reading, because they are one of the teams above us,” Howe said. “They are probably a team that you would say are direct rivals to us, so it would be good to compete against them, and improve on our performance against them from earlier on in the season. That was a game where we didn’t really perform.”
Burnley’s record at the Madejski isn’t one to shout from the rooftops.
Aside from their play-off semi-final second leg triumph in May 2009, the Clarets have failed to win in 10 attempts. Royal boss Brian McDermott has also proved somewhat of a nemesis – victory over the Clarets in the FA Cup fourth round two years ago paved the way for his appointment in a full-time capacity, and, since then, he has secured maximum points from three meetings.
Howe said: “They’re a good side, and Brian has done a great job there.
“He did a fantastic job last year in getting them to the play-off final. They were very unlucky, because they’d done everything in that second half of the season to get themselves in a position for promotion. “This season they’ve reacted very well to that setback. It took time, but they’ve been on a great run and they’re probably one of the form teams in the division, as we are. They are improving as the season goes on like they did the previous year. It will be a tough ask for us.”
Howe added: “It’s not a great record from our point of view. I know they did the double over us last year and of course they beat us at home this year with one of the last kicks of the game.
“The goal itself was a poor one to concede but we’ve learnt from that and I do believe we’re a stronger team and hopefully a different proposition. It was another tough one for us to take but hopefully records are there to be broken and fingers crossed we can do that.”
Howe sees many similarities between the two clubs, steering away from the financial implications after the backing of Russian tycoon Mr Anton Zingarevich and his newly founded company, Thames Sports Investments, at Reading Football Club.
But both sides have experienced a fall from the Premier League while having to contend with the loss of influential players in the aftermath. For Reading those players included the likes of Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt, Shane Long and more recently Matt Mills.
“There are a few similarities between the two clubs,” said Howe. “They may have some bigger investment behind the scenes so the days of them losing their best players might be over now. But certainly going back short-term they are pretty similar.
“They’ve lost some key players but they’ve managed to replace them. They’ve still got players like Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff who are two good players and there’s others as well. Brian has done well to keep them going and to get them right up where they are.”
The Clarets go in to tonight’s clash, aired live on Sky Sports, in good shape. Another clean sheet, their seventh in 10 league outings, a commanding performance and a goal apiece for strike pairing Jay Rodriguez and one-time Royals youth player Charlie Austin has instilled confidence within the Clarets camp.
“The lads are all in good spirits and they are confident going down to what is another tough away game following on from Southampton,” Howe said. “Three games in six games is a big physical ask as well so they’ll have to go again and hopefully we can follow up Tuesday night’s win with another one.
“The goals were important, you always want to see your centre forwards hitting the net regularly and both have done that all season. They’ve been excellent together. A clean sheet was also something important to get back to. We go there with real confidence; I don’t think there’s much pressure on us going in to this game.”
Meanwhile, Howe was buoyed by the return of teenage striker Danny Ings who marked his return from a six-month lay-off with a 10-minute midweek cameo against the Tykes. Martin Paterson is also pushing for a recall to the squad for tonight’s fixture.
Howe said: “It was great for Danny on Tuesday. He had a 10 minute cameo where he could run round and show everybody that he’s got pace, he’ll work incredibly hard and he’s very similar to Pato in terms of work-rate off the ball. He’s quick and athletic.
“He’s in the Pato mould which is great for us because neither player will give defenders a moments peace. They both compliment what we already have in the front line. It’s great to have him back, great for the lad himself to play and to finally announce himself as part of the team. I’m very pleased for him.”
He added: “There’s still Junior and Pato (with injuries). Junior won’t be ready to come back in but whether or not Pato is ready for this game is something we’ll have to assess nearer to kick-off. They are certainly both close.”