CLARETS boss Eddie Howe is determined to keep hold of two of his best young stars.
Player of the year Jay Rodriguez and fit-again Chris McCann are not short of potential suitors, including Premier League clubs, but Howe is prepared to fight to make sure both remain at Turf Moor.
Rodriguez, who, on Monday, missed out on the final 23-man England Under-21 squad for the UEFA European Championship Finals in Denmark, is believed to be interesting Championship winners QPR.
But Howe insists that the 21-year-old is not for sale.
And McCann, who is out of contract, with Bolton reportedly monitoring the situation, has, I understand, been given a fresh contract offer to mull over.
Rangers boss Neil Warnock is a known admirer of Rodriguez, and is looking to add firepower after winning promotion to the Premier League.
Last week he had a £2.5m offer for Watford’s Danny Graham – the Championship’s 24-goal top-scorer – turned down, and he said: “I’m working hard behind the scenes in a bid to improve the squad ahead of the new campaign.”
He admitted in January on Sky’s Football League Show that he had been impressed by Rodriguez’s rise to prominence, describing him as “a super player.”
However, although it appears Rodriguez is on Warnock’s hit-list, Howe said: “I’ve not heard anything from QPR, but if I did, they would be told to go away in no certain terms.
“We’re not open to any offers for Jay, and we won’t encourage any either.
“He’s had a fantastic season and he’s a big part of our plans.”
McCann, meanwhile, is another player essential to the future of the club.
Before the final game of the season, midfielder McCann spoke of his desire to get his contract situation sorted as quickly as possible: “There’s a contract been offered. It’s just about discussing that and trying to get it sorted out as soon as possible. I don’t really want to be going away in the summer not knowing what I’m doing.
“I will just try to get this done as quickly as possible and try and push on next season and hopefully stay injury-free.”
Talks continued last week, as operational director Brendan Flood met McCann’s representative last Tuesday, but I believe the club have returned with an improved offer as they push hard to keep the Dubliner at the club, and are currently awaiting a response.
McCann was offered new terms by former boss Brian Laws earlier in the season, despite playing only 100 minutes for the first team between September 2009 and April this year, after reconstructive surgery on his cruciate knee ligament.
Howe was suitably impressed with McCann to throw him back into the fray at Derby at the end of April, and he responded with the fourth goal in a 4-2 win at Pride Park, before playing the remaining three games of the season – leading the side out as captain on the final day against Cardiff.