TAKING stock over the international break, Clarets boss Eddie Howe feels his young squad is heading in the right direction.
And he believes team spirit is stronger than at any time since his January arrival from Bournemouth.
Burnley went into the break on the back of four games without defeat – taking seven points from nine in the league, while advancing to the last-16 in the Carling Cup.
Three weeks ago, after defeat at Peterborough, the side were out of the bottom three on goal difference alone, but Howe never doubted his players.
He said: “It was a difficult start for us, there’s no denying that. We felt we should have beaten Watford in our first game, and a win seemed to take a long time to come.
“Confidence with a young squad and a different team took a bit of a hit, but we were confident and believed in the players.
“Thankfully, we’ve had back-to-back wins, and that’s made a huge difference to the belief we’re heading in the right direction.”
A huddle in front of the travelling Burnley fans after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Millwall showed the togetherness, and Howe said: “The unity and spirit in the squad is as good as we’ve known it since we’ve been here, but there’s improvement to be made in all areas still.
“We’re not kidding ourselves, we’re not 100% where we want to be, but we’re moving in the right direction, and we feel the lads are showing a great attitude.
“They want to do well for Burnley, and we’re really happy with them. We’re really positive.
“It’s so important – you can’t underestimate team spirit. A lot is made of it and talked about it, but the better it is, the better chance you have of being successful.
“It will be a long winter ahead, and there’s some tough places to go, and you need the lads to fight for each other and want to succeed.
“I’m really pleased with the advances we’ve made in that area. Hopefully the more time we spend together as a group, it will improve even more.
“The lads can identify with each other, and there’s good partnerships developing in the side.
“Players are beginning to get used to how each other plays, there’s consistency in selection – which is important – and if you can build those partnerships and get to know each other even more, you’ll be a more successful team.”
Meanwhile, Howe has taken a look at Mansfield Town defender Tom Naylor this week in training and in a development squad game against Nike Academy.
The 20-year-old has had trials at Fulham and Derby, while Bournemouth had an offer for him turned down last month.
Howe said: “We have a very open mind, the level of player doesn’t really make much difference to us, it’s about how good they are as individuals.
“We’ve had a look at Tom and we’ll assess how he does.
“It’ll depend on how well he does, but he’s got a good attitude and he’s a decent player – we’ve seen him play a couple of times.”
As regards loan signings, Howe added: “I wouldn’t rule any business over the break out totally, but I would imagine probably not, especially now with the work the team’s done in recent weeks.
“And with a very strong bench, it would be difficult for me to bring anyone in at the moment.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to play any of the squad that we have, so although it’s a small squad, we do have quality.
“But if we get an injury or two, then definitely.”