EDDIE Howe feels the future’s bright – the future’s Claret!
Looking ahead to 2012, the Burnley boss, appointed in January, believes the only way is up for his young side.
Within striking distance of the play-offs after an excellent end to the year, the surgery performed on the squad is reaping dividends.
It hasn’t been the smoothest of years for the former Bournemouth chief, who has had to cut his cloth accordingly as the club moved into a second season of parachute payments, with the Financial Fair Play ruling also looming on the horizon.
But Howe’s faith in the talent at his disposal has never wavered, even when Burnley teetered on the brink of the bottom three in November following a run of four successive defeats.
The side have bounced back impressively since, and Howe said: “I think the signs are there – we have an excellent squad with a good young base for the future.
“There have been a lot of changes, if you look at the squad that was here when we took over, dramatic changes.
“When you do that to that extent, there are teething problems, with players getting to know each other and adjusting to our philosophy.
“But there’s been a lot of improvements and we’re going in the right direction.
“I think the future is bright.”
While he is building for the future, as in 2009, if the opportunity comes to make the top six, and beyond, Howe is eager to snatch the opportunity.
He said: “We always strive to be as successful as we can and try and maximise our season.
“Whatever that will be, only time will tell. There was a period where we looked out of it, but we’ve had a run that has put us back in it.
“There’s a long way to go though, and I think as long as we are making progress as a team, we are happy.
“It’s a long-term project, but if a chance comes to be successful, we’ll take that.”
As he looks back on his first year at the helm, there are some stand-out moments both home and away: “The highlight has probably been a couple of individual games and results.
“The win at Preston in February, being such a big game for us, and getting that first win at Portsmouth just after taking over was extremely important.
“The win at West Ham stands out, as do the Nottingham Forest and Ipswich performances – especially second half against Ipswich.
“I think we’ve shown our fans what we’re capable of, we just need to produce that on a consistent basis.”
Howe now hopes to be able to bolster his squad in the January transfer window to push on over the second half of the season.
He said: “When the window opens I’d like to strike early and get players in as soon as we can.
“But there are two sides to the story, so we’ll wait and see.I would like to make a couple of additions, and hopefully we will do that.
“If we don’t, we still have a good enough group to move forward.
“The key thing is to keep the squad together through to the summer – we would like to have that stability.
“You can never say never, but hopefully we can keep the squad intact and add to it.”
One bonus is the imminent return of Danny Ings, who has yet to kick a ball for the club after picking up a serious knee injury shortly after signing from Bournemouth.
Howe is excited by the prospect.
He said: “Danny is stepping up his rehab all the time and is up to sprinting now – he’s pretty much up to full speed in terms of his work, and the next step is to join in light training, non-contact.
“We’re still looking at the turn of the year to join in full training, and once he does for a couple of weeks, we’ll look to get him a reserve game.
“Everyone will be anticipating Danny’s return, many won’t have seen him, but he has a little bit of everything.
“Technically he’s very good, he’s mobile, quick, and a good finisher.
“I’ll be delighted to add him to what we’ve got.
“He can play in a variety of forward positions – up front on his own, out wide or off the front – and I feel he compliments the strikers we’ve got.
“We’ll see where we’re up to, but I would have no doubts in putting him straight in when he’s fully fit.”