Burnley boss Dyche on winger McNeil’s worth amid Arsenal, Manchester City speculation
Sean Dyche admits Dwight McNeil’s contribution to the side has been priceless.
Speculation has already begun over the 19-year-old winger’s future, with his Premier League performances seeing him linked to Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle United this week.
The former Manchester United youngster, with three goals and five assists, is the most productive teenager in the top flight so far this season, and, having earned his first England Under 20 call last month, also enjoyed the bonus of being called up by Gareth Southgate to train with the senior squad.
McNeil could potentially save Burnley millions in the transfer market, as the first product to establish himself in the first team since Jay Rodriguez, who left seven years ago.
Or he could, in time, make the club an awful lot of money.
Dyche said: “It’s a strange one, regarding his worth, I look at some of the figures bandied about for some of these young players, and I don’t know what you put on him.
“His worth to the team I’m more interested in, and that’s the way he’s delivering performances.
“I like his assuredness, he’s quiet, he’s calm, but there’s a toughness in there, particularly to have the ball.
“That’s something that can come and go with players, but he’s certainly got that desire to grip a game with the ball, ‘give me the ball, I want to do something’.
“That’s a powerful thing, particularly in a young player, because sometimes that’s hard, but he will have the ball under any circumstances, he wants the ball, to try and produce something.”
McNeil’s statistics put him ahead of some highly-regarded talent in the Premier League, such as Ryan Sessegnon, Diogo Dalot, Michael Obafemi, Declan Rice, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Domingos Quina, Morgan Gibbs-White and Phil Foden.
Dyche isn’t interested with comparisons, however: “I’m not really bothered about aligning him with any other players, I’m more interested in what he does, and he’s doing well for himself and the team, and the club.
“We’ve mostly left him alone, a few prompts, a few pointers, but I believe in self-learning as well as the coaching, analysis, debriefing - it can be too much at times.
“So he’ll learn from the first team environment, his performances, and the little things we offer him, little details in performance, and we try and find a healthy balance, which we’ve done her historically.
“He deserves the credit for taking that self-learning on, and that’s really important in modern football.”
Quiet and calm, how will the Rochdale-born youngster cope with the speculation? “He’s been here long enough to see that happen to other players, hopefully he’ll take it as one of those things.
“He’s certainly in a balanced environment here, where I can’t see him running away with any outside noise, he seems to be quite steady and enjoying his football.
“That’s what I want him to do, play with a smile on his face and enjoy the challenge.”
McNeil’s form is the more impressive when you consider he is keeping two left-sided wide players on the bench in Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady, both of whom have senior international tournament experience.
Dyche said: “That is the great thing about football, I played for 20 years and you’re always looking over your shoulder, is the next one getting signed, coming through the system, who’s showing signs of what?
“That’s the in-house competition I often speak about, and Robbie and Johann are established Premier League players, internationals, and they’ll be thinking ‘this kid deserves his chance’.
“I think there’s an honesty about our group and I’ve not had too many gripes from Johann and Robbie, they want to play and get disgruntled if they’re not, but not that disgruntled where they’re looking and thinking ‘I should be playing’, because they know Dwight is delivering performances.
“But Robbie and Johann are ready, full of fuel, they want to be active and affect the group, so that’s a good thing to have as well.”