DEFENDER Kieran Trippier has heaped praise on Eddie Howe after the Burnley boss celebrated a year at Turf Moor.
A convincing 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside proved the perfect gift to mark the anniversary as the Clarets cemented a seventh success in nine outings, incorporating five clean sheets, to stride within a solitary point of the play-off places.
“He’s done a lot,” said the 21-year-old. “All the players really like him and he’s a very good manager. Personally for me since I’ve come here he’s helped me settle in.
“He’s a young manager, he understands me, and he’s done a lot for me one-to-one. He’s done that for other players as well and that’s what’s really good about him - his man management. I think he’ll do really well here; he’s a great manager.”
Trippier added: “He’s believed in me as a young player. Tyrone Mears left a big boot to fill but he brought me in, trusted me and hopefully I’ve shown him what I can do. I’ve signed here and hopefully I’ll progress as a better right-back and with Eddie as manager he’ll lead me in the right direction.”
Howe, whose player acquisitions, including loan signings, boast an average age of 22, faced testing times as the Clarets sank towards the bottom three following defeat to Birmingham City in November, a fourth consecutive loss. But Burnley’s roaming right-back credits Howe’s belief, positivity and focus for the impressive transition in form.
“He’s put together a very young team,” Trippier said. “We’re one of the youngest teams in the league. When things weren’t going too well for us a couple of months ago he was still believing and telling us ‘It’ll come’. He knew we’d do well and we just had to believe in ourselves. Over the last 10 games we’ve done that and we’re starting to gel as a team.
“When you’re going through a bad spell, like we were, we were a bit nervous and wondering what was wrong. But we looked back on those games, knew what we were doing wrong, and put it right before Christmas. Look where it’s put us now.”
He added: “All the players that he’s brought in are brilliant. The players are all young and he’s built a brilliant team. I think we’ll do well this season.”
The former Manchester City starlet, who penned a three-and-a-half year contract with the Clarets at the beginning of the month, capped a fine individual and team performance with an ambitious drive from distance that crept beneath rookie keeper Connor Ripley - son of former Boro and Blackburn Rovers winger Stuart - just before the half hour.
“I’m absolutely delighted with it,” beamed Trippier after scoring his third of the campaign in all competitions. “It was a similar one to my goal against Brighton but maybe the keeper’s made a bit of a mistake. At this point I’ll take any goal.
“It was a long way out but I’d struck one just before and it wasn’t far off so the first thing that entered my mind was to strike the ball and thankfully it went in.
“We found out before the game that they had a young keeper but he’s a good keeper and he made a few good saves.”
He added: “Obviously you want to score an early goal in any game to set you off. Fortunately our set-piece worked and Jay Rod has set us off with a goal and I took my goal well so it was a good 2-0 win with a clean sheet.
“I don’t score tap-ins, I’m never in the box. I’m just delighted to get on to the scoresheet. Every goal is a bonus for me really because I’m a defender.”
The performance against the 2006 UEFA Cup finalists was full of energy, with the Clarets pressing high up the pitch forcing a relatively lethargic Boro in to becoming uneconomical in possession. “Those were our tactics,” Trippier declared. “Obviously Middlesbrough did very well against us at home - Joe Bennett’s a great player - so we just had to get tight to them and press them high like we did against West Ham and that’s what got us the victory along with the team spirit. I thought we defended well from the front.”
And it was that desire and drive to unsettle their opponents that ultimately rewarded the Clarets with yet another unblemished defensive display. After 18 games, only two sides had conceded more goals than the Clarets in the Championship. But that statistic has changed drastically with just four goals shipped in nine games.
Trippier said: “At the start of the season people may have been criticising the back four but over the last seven or eight games we’ve defended really well as a unit; not just the back four but all the team. We’ve gelled together now.
“Andre Amougou was coming in and out before and so was Easty. But we’ve got our back four back and we’ve clicked. Me, Edgar and Ben Mee are very young and we’ve got the experience of Duffo there who is always talking and always guiding us which is great.
“Duffo is a very experienced player. I’m only young and he’s played 10 times the amount of games that I have. It’s very good to have an experienced player next to you. It helps you a lot as a defender. It’s good to play with experienced players that have been there and done it and you learn a lot from them.”
Now Trippier wants January’s transfer window to pass without interruption to the current crop at Turf Moor.
“We need that window to shut but as a team we just need to stick together, keep spirits high, keep having a laugh and work hard on our defence and going forward,” he said. “There’s a real buzz here, everybody’s great with each other and everybody gets along.
“We just want to keep playing like we do and we’re playing well as a team and a unit. When I signed my contract I said we’d be in those play-offs and if we keep playing like we did today we will be.”
He added: “There’s a lot of good teams in this league and anybody can beat anybody, like we’ve shown at West Ham and here today. It’s a good response and Burnley Football Club has started to show other teams in this league what we’re about in the past 10 games.”