Michael Duff described the gulf between the Professional Development League and the Premier League as “enormous” but explained that his proteges are improving markedly under the club’s new set up.
The youngsters are benefiting from the hike in academy status at the Barnfield Training Centre after it was upgraded to Category 2 in the summer on passing its audit under the Elite Player Performance Plan.
Duff acknowledges that his players are still acclimatising to the challenge of their new surroundings in the northern section of the competition, but said that they were learning on the job.
Burnley’s under 23s, who have so far beaten Ipswich Town and Leeds United, have also been given a mouth-watering taste of where they could be heading when training alongside the first team under the watchful eye of Clarets boss Sean Dyche.
“Some of them have trained with the first team this year, which is good because it’s a huge jump from where we are to PL football,” said Duff. “It’s an enormous gulf but we’ve stepped up a level in the academy, we’re playing better opposition which is hopefully going to make the players better.
“I’m the same as the players really, just a little bit closer to the sharp end of where you need to be. With the 18s you let them get away with a little bit more.
“Now the lads are professionals and they’re trying to eek out a career in professional football so you can’t accept certain things.
“It’s about the professionalism of how they live their life, the way they go about things and what’s expected of them.
“A lot of the time they’re learning on the job. With the 18s and the first team you pretty much know who’s playing, you know what they’re going to play and how they’re going to play.
“Sometimes the lads walk out on to the pitch and it’s like ‘right, they’re playing that formation’. They have to try and work things out for themselves which is good because it increases their understanding of the game.
“But it’s more about what we do and how we want them to play. The opposition obviously come in to it but it’s the things we want to get out of each game.”
With the Clarets flying high in the top flight, and showing what it takes to be successful at the highest level, Duff believes his players couldn’t ask for better role-models.
“It’s brilliant,” he said. “They are doing everything that we are trying to get our lads to do - hard to beat, resilient, tough, fit, organised and with a mentality to go on and win games. They are a perfect example for us, that’s what we’re aspiring to be.
“If anyone says anything about Burnley, it’s about hard work and organisation. If you’re not prepared to run around you’re not going to have a career in this industry.
“Sometimes they need a reminder of that because in academy football it’s all with the ball but you only have the ball for 90 seconds to two minutes of the game when there’s another 90-odd minutes so what are you doing in that? It’s about reminding the lads; a lot of it is starting positions and game awareness.”