WHILE the focus remains on pushing for a play-off place, while it remains mathematically possible, Eddie Howe is already formulating plans for next season.
The Clarets boss looks set to trim the squad, and he is also keen to try and promote promising young talent at the club - to find the next Richard Chaplow, Kyle Lafferty, Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez.
Burnley may have used the fewest players in the Championship, but have a sizeable squad, with six professionals currently out on loan.
Howe worked with the bare bones at Bournemouth, due to a transfer embargo, and while he wouldn’t want to struggle to make up the numbers, he wants everyone in the squad to be involved, rather than sat in the stand.
He said: “I don’t think you want a huge squad where you’ve got a lot of lads behind the scenes who aren’t playing.
“But I certainly believe in developing young players and giving them scope.
“I think it’s the right way to go, in my opinion.”
He wants to bridge the gap between the youth and reserve teams to the first team, something which Brian Laws tried to do by starting a development squad.
However, the likes of Alex MacDonald, Wes Fletcher, Kevin Long, Chris Lynch, Nik Kudiersky, Chris Anderson, Alex-Ray Harvey, Dominic Knowles and Michael King have found their way to the squad barred - only Fletcher and King, in the Carling Cup win at Morecambe - have got onto the pitch for the first team, with Harvey twice an unused substitute in the league.
Howe said: “With all young players you have to give them an opportunity if they’re good enough.
“There has to be a way for them to make that breakthrough into the first team.
“It does get more difficult with the money around now in football.
“The easy thing to do I suppose is to buy players again.
“It’s a double-edged sword because the players have to be good enough to come in.
“You can’t give opportunities if the lads aren’t up to the level, but in saying that, you need to push them through if they are good enough.
“The higher you are in the football pyramid the more difficult it is to bring your own through, because the higher you go, the higher the demands of the standard, and it takes a talented lad now to come through at this level.”
While at Bournemouth, Howe faced competition for young players from bigger clubs such as Portsmouth and Southampton.
Here in the North West, the competition is even tougher, boasting nine Premier League clubs alone at present.
And he added: “There’s big competition for players in terms of recruitment.
“We’ve got to be smart and try to recruit as well as we can, and then it’s down to the coaching and the quality of that to see how we can nurture the talent.”
In the past, the likes of Crewe would take on players released by the big clubs, develop them and sell them for a big fee - the likes of David Platt, Robbie Savage and Neil Lennon were on the books of the Manchester giants.
But the likes of City and United can hold onto that talent longer now, as they can afford to keep them: “The difficulty with that is that they tend these days to hold the talent as long as they can so they don’t make any mistakes.
“In the old days I think it was slightly easier.
“Now they carry huge squads, and if they’re in any doubt they keep them and loan them out.
“So that becomes a little more difficult.
“There is competition but we’ve got to try to be smart and find the ones that will be good enough for us.”