Burnley's Jay Rodriguez feels at 'home' following his Turf Moor return

Burnley's Jay Rodriguez
Burnley's Jay Rodriguez

You can take the boy out of Burnley, but you can't take Burnley out of the boy! Just ask the club's returning son, Jay Rodriguez.

The striker left Turf Moor to seek further education in football in 2012 - joining last weekend's opponents Southampton for a then club record fee - having made 129 appearances in all competitions for the Clarets.

Rodriguez made just three appearances less for the Saints over a five-year spell at St Mary's before making a £12m move to West Bromwich Albion two year's ago.

Plenty has happened in the in-between. He scored 68 times, played for England in an international friendly against Chile at Wembley, suffered a serious knee injury and married hometown sweetheart Simone Lee.

However, through it all, his loyalties never wavered. "I always looked out for Burnley because my family and friends are from Burnley," he said.

"You try to keep in touch with a few people. It’s been really nice to see faces I haven’t seen for years and catch up with them.

"It feels like home. When I finish training I’m back home. When you live away for so long you do miss out on family and friends.

"I think this club has totally changed in the right direction. I totally feel like a part of it, I feel lucky and I'm excited to get going with it.

"To come back here is a real buzz for myself and my family. Putting that kit on again was a little bit surreal. It's such a good feeling and I just want to do well for the team. I just want to get on with it now."

The 30-year-old featured in the famed "Capital Punishment" run to the League Cup semi-final in 2008/09.

Rodriguez netted the winner against Fulham and then scored the third goal in the second leg against Spurs that put the club within seconds of the final at Wembley.

That was the only time the forward would get to play against Premier League opposition in his first spell for the Clarets.

He made a couple of appearances in the League Cup the following term before being shipped out on loan to enhance his development at Barnsley by former boss Owen Coyle.

On Saturday, though, Rodriguez pulled on the shirt in a competitive fixture for the first time in seven years, replacing Ashley Barnes in the 84th minute against the Saints.

"The first game of the season at Turf Moor was extra special," he said. "I never managed to do it [play in the top flight] when I was here last, so I was really excited for it. You always want to play against the best teams and the best players and do well.

"That [the League Cup run] was my real first taster of playing the big grounds and getting so close and then going to Wembley [in the play-offs], the highs and lows of it.

"It was a real journey for me and the team. The promotion that year was really good. The work the team put in was special and it set me up for the rest of my career."

Rodriguez, who scored six times in pre-season, knows that he has a job on his hands in attempting to dislodge the club's leading marksmen.

But he sees the competition for places as a huge positive. He said: "I think we’ll all push each other on throughout the season.

"Healthy competition is always good, it keeps everyone pushing and improving so I’m really looking forward to it.

"I'm hard working, I give everything I can on the pitch and in training. Hopefully, I can create chances and score goals.

"If I’ve come off the pitch and I’ve scored, then you know you’ve done your job as a striker. Equally, if you work hard for the team and bring other people in to play and whatever the manager has told you to do then that’s good.

"Over the years I've learnt to play out on the left and the right and upfront. I can drop in to the number 10. I've always wanted to learn and being able to play them positions has helped me."

Three points against Ralph Hasenhüttl's men was just the tonic for the Clarets, who had endured a frighteningly slow start to the campaign last time out.

It doesn't get any easier, either, with Arsenal up next at the Emirates, followed by Wolves and European champions Liverpool.

"When you look at every fixture in the Premier League there's not one easy game," said Rodriguez.

"We've just got to focus on ourselves and what we can achieve and do. You just get excited when you see the teams in front of you and you want to make the most of it.

"What I've seen when being a part of pre-season is the quality and the hard work that the lads put in.

"Everything is set up perfectly and there's no limit at times to what we can do. I think we've done really well in the games we've played.

"I've definitely been impressed with the quality and the standard of training. I'm really excited to be a part of it and coming in every day gives me joy and I feel like I'm improving every day."