Dwight McNeil set for bigger and better things - Burnley boss Sean Dyche

Dwight McNeil
Dwight McNeil

Sean Dyche believes Dwight McNeil could outgrow Burnley and go all the way to the top.

McNeil’s emergence this year has not gone unnoticed outside of Turf Moor, with the 19-year-old already linked with the likes of Juventus, Arsenal and Manchester City, among others.

And he was named by L’Equipe in their list of the top 50 players Under 20 in Europe, coming in at number 40.

He has already had his maiden England Under 20 call up - when he was also invited to train with the senior squad - and featured in the Toulon Tournament for Paul Simpson’s side in the summer.

McNeil has again started the season well for Burnley, and Dyche is under no illusions as to what a talent he has on his hands: “We want him to get recognition because he deserves it, he’s a very good player.

“I mentioned last year the positive effect it had on the team, he’s positive around the group, maturing into himself as a person not just a footballer.

“He’s more and more relaxed around the group and in what he does as a professional, and I want him to continue to show that on the pitch, to continue to play with that relaxed focus, as I call it.

“I ask them to go and play with that freedom, but also that edge when he knows there’s a professional responsibility.

“I think he’s doing a good job all round, he remains very humble, he remains driven to what he wants to do, and they remain important qualities.

“You’ve got to remain like that to really go to the top, to maximise himself with us, and I think he can go beyond us and on to pastures new at a higher level of club, certainly what’s deemed a higher level of club.”

The expectation is that young players can only get better, but Dyche accepts that it is not guaranteed: “We can all say there is (more to come) but it is the ups and downs of your own performances, and I think he has done very well with that.

“The best players I always think just raise their minimums so that on a quiet day they are still good.

“I think on a quiet day he can still find a moment, a pass, a cross, a goal or a set piece and he remains diligent to the basics.

“He works hard for the team and works hard in his pressing positions and he works very, very hard on transition.

“I have been really pleased. If he keeps doing all those things then I believe he can continue to improve.

“I think he can make big steps in the future. I think he is in the right environment and the right culture.”

McNeil has a taste of first team action a year ago, but really seized the initiative at the halfway stage as he started and scored against West Ham, and he has never looked back: “Sometimes players grip hold of a challenge and just continue. It is completely different but I remember Roy Keane getting pulled out of nowhere when I was at Forest and being put in the first team squad and played at Anfield and never looked back.

“Dwight has taken his chance, he delivered over half a season, he is still delivering and some continue their development and growth weekly. He came into a side that were having a really tough time last season and delivered. Now he is around people who are playing better, I think the collective energy and spirit has grown a little bit.”

Dyche feels there is every chance McNeil could make the step up into the England Under 21s his time, although he feels it may just be too soon for the seniors: “I doubt for the full squad, he’s still a young player and there are some good players as we know in the full squad.

“He had a little window training with them and may get some of that again, who knows?

“I genuinely don’t know if he will get called up for the 21s, I would think he’s got a chance, because it’s different doing what he did last season, and then starting the season.

“Everyone says ‘will he carry that on at the start of the season?’, and now he has, most of football, including the England lads, will think ‘okay, he’s started again’.

“So I would imagine he’s got a chance.

“And I think he delivered enough for the Under 20s to make sure people know what he’s about, as they would do, because he’s a very, very good player