CLARETS boss Eddie Howe has paid tribute to departing defender Clarke Carlisle.
Barring any complications, the 31-year-old is set to agree a one-year loan deal with home-town club Preston North End today following discussions with manager Phil Brown.
Carlisle, the chairman of the management committee of the Professional Footballers’ Association, was one of Steve Cotterill’s most shrewd signings.
Wantaway defender Wayne Thomas was shipped out to Southampton in the opening week of the 2007/08 campaign in a deal worth £1.2m, enabling Cotterill to entice Carlisle from Watford to Turf Moor for £200,000.
Carlisle formed an immediate solid defensive partnership with club captain Steven Caldwell, a combination which flourished during Burnley’s transformation with Owen Coyle at the helm.
The former England Under-21 international became an integral part of the Clarets epic Carling Cup run in his second season at the club, a campaign which culminated in a Championship play-off final success at Wembley.
He made 28 appearances in all competitions during the club’s Premier League voyage, and continued to feature heavily in the starting XI after Eddie Howe replaced Brian Laws in the Turf Moor hotseat.
However, Carlisle lost his place following the 2-0 defeat to Bristol City at Ashton Gate in March, and made just one substitute appearance after that in the 3-1 home win to Middlesbrough.
“The two clubs have agreed for Clarke,” said Howe. “Now it’s a case for him to talk to Preston and sort his stuff out.
“He’s been a fantastic servant for the club, and we’re sorry to see him go but we’re building for the future.
“He’s been fantastic since we’ve come in, in terms of attitude and commitment to the cause, and if he does go, we wish him all the best.
“It will probably be a loan for the year, and then I’m sure Clarke will agree something.”
Carlisle’s departure, which follows Graham Alexander’s mutual release, will now free up some capital for Howe to work with as he looks to strengthen his squad prior to the Clarets pre-season tour of the South West, when they will take in games against Bristol Rovers and Torquay.
“We’re losing a few players so we need to bring a few in to replace them,” Howe said.
“We want to strengthen the squad. We need to, and that’s what we’re looking to do next week.
“We know the areas we want to strengthen, and we certainly hope to do that sooner rather than later, because we need to get people embedded into how we want to play. Hopefully we can do that this week.
“In an ideal world, we would sign players before the tour. If we have to wait for the ones we want, we’ll wait, but that trip’s going to be important to the team.
“For building what we want to do, I think we need to get the bodies in.”
Howe has been patient so far in the transfer market, and in his meticulous quest for quality, he insists he won’t be panicked in to buying quantity to fill the void.
“I don’t think we need to bring in a load,” he said. “I think quality in certain areas to make us a better team.
“I don’t think we’re far away. When we get our best team on the pitch, I think we’re going to be competitive.
“There’ll possibly be some loans. We’ll look at everything.
“We don’t have unlimited funds, we’ve got to be clever with what we do. If it’s a loan it’s a loan.”
Meanwhile, it seems Howe will add former Bournemouth goalkeeper Jon Stewart to the squad as cover for Lee Grant and Brian Jensen.
The 22-year-old started his career with Swindon’s youth squad before moving to Weymouth.
From there, he moved on to train with Portsmouth before joining Howe at Dean Court last season.
Howe said: “He’s a very good, young goalkeeper. He’s only 22. He hasn’t had a lot of first-team action but he’s someone that we like, he’s got the raw attributes to be a really good goalkeeper.
“He needs a bit of work and a bit of coaching. He would come in with a view to being a No.3.”
The Clarets face Bury tomorrow night in a pre-season friendly at Gigg Lane, with kick-off at 7-45 p.m.
Admission for the fixture is £10 for adults, and £5 concessions.