Burnley boss Sean Dyche sensed the goals would flow again for striker Chris Wood
Sean Dyche never had any doubt that striker Chris Wood would return to top form.
The joint record signing, who arrived from Leeds United for £15m in the summer of 2017, hit double figures in the Premier League for a fourth-successive season with a hat-trick at Wolves last Sunday.
The New Zealand international is back among the goals, having only netted four by the end of January, when a hamstring problem saw him miss five games.
However, he has come roaring back, with six in the eight games since his return.
There was criticism of Burnley’s strike force at the turn of the year, and Dyche’s preferred pairing of Wood and Ashley Barnes, with the side netting only four goals in seven games - one a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang own goal - at the turn of the year.
But after being paired with Matej Vydra, the duo have nine in six games between them, with the side netting 11 in total, which can only be topped by Manchester City and Leicester City in that time.
Dyche was always relaxed and continued to play Wood whenever fit, sensing the goals would come.
Wood faces West Ham on Mo day evening, looking to add to six goals in seven Premier League appearances against the Hammers, and Dyche said: “I don't think I have ever been one to panic, I look at stats and facts and try and be as objective as I can and look at form, speak to the players and believe in the staff, players and the team around them and how it is functioning.
“I then try and stay balanced within that to find a way that is appropriate to solve any kind of question marks.
“Early season it was about the centre forwards not scoring, and I did say they would score, and that it is also about that quality of chance.
”Sometimes that includes them, their runs, movement, timing and link play.
”Sometimes centre forwards can go 'I am not getting the chances' while part of the game is you making the chances for yourself and others.
”But I always believed that my forwards and others, can be productive and they have shown signs of that.”
Dyche hasn’t had Wood or his fellow strikers in for extra finishing practice or anything, keeping them clear-minded, and he added: “The thing about coaching you’ve got to remember is not to over coach.
”The game is still the best teacher.
“Of course you analyse and show them things, but sometimes we let them find their own way through.
“Earlier in the season, I was not overly analysing their games or picking faults.
”I just spoke to him and said ‘look, keep getting in the right areas, keep believing in what you’re doing’.
”Almost deloading from him to get in the zone of not overthinking it.
“My personal opinion is sometimes is when you’re feeling it a bit, you don’t need more, you need less.
“Sometimes I chose to work in that manner.
”The point is they mature as we prompt and push them. In my opinion, the credit should always go to the player.”
Dyche has spoken about how Wood scores all different types of goals, and has a knack of sniffing chances out - which is why he worked so hard to get him through the door four years ago.
And on Wood joining Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min, Mohamed Salah, Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette as the only players to hit double figures in each of the last four seasons, Dyche admitted: “Yeah, terrific. Season one for someone like Woody, got double figures and some people may have thought ‘yeah, not bad’.
”Second season he did it again and the response again is ‘yeah, not bad’.
”But we are four seasons in and he’s done it again, that is not an easy achievement.
“I think he continues to improve.
”He’s worked hard at his game to improve and he has to continue to improve because in the Premier League, you can’t stand still and expect to improve. You have to continue to work at it.
“Certainly I think he’s a very good centre-forward.”
Wood hadn’t been able to establish himself in the Premier League before joining Burnley, after spells with West Brom and Leicester, but he has made Turf Moor home: “He had a loan spells, I think Leeds was one of his longest spells.
”He was similar to Sam Vokes and when I signed him I said ‘look, you’ve had so many different experiences, but now you’ve got to work here’. He did and he was a a credit to himself.
“I think with Woody he’s found a home here and he’s worked to make it that.
”He didn’t hope it would happen, he’s worked on his own game and his understanding of what we do to make sure this becomes his home.
“He’s been here four seasons, scoring goals and enjoying his football.”
But Dyche isn’t slapping himself himself on the back for signing Wood, and his subsequent success: “Woody cost £15million, a very good looking £15million. But at the time, don’t forget, people were going ‘I’m not sure about that’. Now they’re ‘what a signing he was!’.
“These are risk and reward scenarios and I can apply that to a lot of players here.
“It’s not an exact guarantee if you do that, the player comes out as this.
”But we’ve been very pleased with the outcomes we’ve had from the players we’ve signed and he’s part of that.
“They’ve all added something and that’s what I’m most proud of here.”