KIERAN Trippier admits he has never worked harder in his career than in the last three months.
But the graft is paying off, both personally, and collectively as part of a Burnley team who are four points outside the play-offs after a run of four wins in five league games.
The Clarets defender is enjoying the new regime under Sean Dyche, and allying the ugly side of the game to more aesthetically-pleasing raiding down the flanks he has become renowned for.
Ahead of tomorrow’s home game with Birmingham City, Trippier said: “I think it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked. If you ask any of the lads I think they’d say the same.
“He is one of the toughest managers, but he’s a good manager as results have shown.
“We’ve been doing more fitness work, more defensive work with the forwards attacking us.
“No disrespect to Eddie Howe, but the new manager’s realised what was going wrong before he took over, he’s put it right, and hopefully we can carry on.”
Burnley’s pressing game has been more prevalent under Dyche, with increased energy levels, and the proof has been in the pudding with the results of late.
Trippier added: “We’re fitter and stronger. When we were winning 1-0 at Millwall on Saturday, they were piling everything on us. At the start of the season we possibly could have got beat 2-1.
“Going back to the Watford game last year, we were winning 2-0 and got beat.
“But we’ve put that right now, we’re winning and not conceding late goals.
“You need to be fit these days to play at this tempo.
“You can see by the stats how far we’ve run individually and as a team. We’ve matched everyone we’ve played since the Wolves game, we’ve run more than any other team and passed more, and the stats don’t lie.
“That’s what gets you the results.
“He looks at the horrible side of the game.
“He’s done a great job since he’s been here and all the lads are willing to do the dirty work.
“We’ve been so much fitter and everyone can see that. We’re willing to press and win together. If we lose, we lose together, but the good thing is that everyone’s putting their bodies on the line, everyone’s doing the ugly bits for each other. It’s not just about the style it’s about substance too.
“When it comes together it can make a big impact.”
Trippier won a number of player of the year awards last term, but, by his own admission, had a slow start to the campaign.
However, he is beginning to hit his straps again - although he feels there is much more to come: “I’m doing well but I’ve still not started yet.
“Last year I was flying. I think I’ve got a long way to go yet.
“I’ve still not reached my best.”
The improvement in form and league position has added to the feelgood factor among the players, and Trippier explained: “Everybody’s smiling and happy and confident. We’re all going into the games buzzing.
“Since the new year we’ve got three wins and three clean sheets.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start and everything we’ve done on the training field is being put into the matches and hopefully we can keep the run going.
“We don’t want to give it up.
“We’ve got Birmingham now. We know what they’re about and we’ll be doing our studies on them and hopefully we can get another great win like Palace.
“Birmingham aren’t an easy side to beat but it will be a good game.”
Burnley go into the game arguably on the back of their best two performances of the season against Crystal Palace and Millwall, and the former Manchester City man said: “Going to a place like Millwall is difficult, with their fans and everything, but I thought we did well.
“It was a great win and a great clean sheet.
“I don’t think it was the best we’ve played – Palace possibly was – but we did our job well, we stuck to our task and we got the win, which is the most important thing for the team.
“Everyone knew we were letting too many goals in and people were making individual errors, but now we’re all putting our bodies on the line for the team and for the club and we’re doing really well.
“Hopefully there are more results to come.
“It’s great to be around the play-offs and challenging.
“It’s something that we aim for and it’s something exciting for us and the fans and hopefully we can keep pushing.”