CLARETS boss Eddie Howe feels striker Martin Paterson’s imminent return will be a big boost at a key stage of the season.
The 24-year-old started the first game of the season – the 2-2 draw at home to Watford – but was withdrawn at half-time with a recurrence of the thigh problem which has severely curtailed his impact over the last year.
But he is due to play a behind-closed-doors game in the next week or two as he looks to step up his fitness.
Paterson has made only 41 appearances since winning promotion to the Premier League at Wembley in May 2009, due to knee and thigh injuries.
But Howe is eager to add his quality and experience to his side as they look to move away from the wrong end of the table.
Burnley are five points outside the bottom three, and seven from the play-offs.
And Howe – who also hopes to have Danny Ings available in seven weeks or so – said: “We’re hoping to arrange a game for Pato in the next week or two.
“He’s still a little bit away, but we’re really pleased with his rehab.
“He’s done everything that we’ve asked of him, and he’s hit all the targets that he needs to.
“The next stage is really for him to play a game and I’m sure, touch wood, he’ll be fine.
“To get Pato and Danny Ings back would be huge for us.
“Pato’s proven at this level and experienced and would make a big difference to our squad, as would Danny Ings.
“I can’t wait to get them both fit.
“It would give us a lot more options. and enable us to mix things up when we feel we need to.
“You can’t have enough good players around you.
“It would definitely add to the squad, and we’d have no problem keeping everyone involved.”
Paterson hit 19 goals in his first season with the club, after signing for £1.3m from Scunthorpe.
“But a knee injury restricted him to 26 appearances in the Premier League season, scoring four goals after his return to fitness in February 2010.
He started last season on the right flank, but when moved to his preferred central role, he scored twice in the 2-2 draw at Norwich a year ago last weekend, before suffering a thigh injury at home to Doncaster three days later.
He enjoyed a scoring return in Howe’s first game in charge in the FA Cup against Burton Albion, only to suffer a recurrence at Doncaster in early February, and following a full pre-season, his bad fortune continued on the opening day.
His energy and enthusiasm has been missed, and Howe said: “He’s been champing at the bit, and he’s done everything right.
“He’s worked extremely hard, and you can see in his face how desperate he is to get out there with the lads.
“He’s a good character to have in the changing room as well. He’s a winner – you see that with everything he does.
“He would be great to add to our squad.
“He’s a real grafter, you can see that with the way he plays.
“He sets the tone really in terms of his closing down and work-rate.
“He’s been a big loss to us, but hopefully he’ll come back at a good time.”
In his absence, Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriguez have scored 17 goals between them, but Howe has not been blessed with striking options, and feels the extra competition will only benefit his players.
He said: “When you know you’ve got quality players behind you it gives you an extra push.
“Not that I feel the two lads have needed it as they’ve worked extremely hard together and will continue to get better. But it would be great to have that option available to us.”