A FITTER, leaner Ross Wallace has become a key cog in the Burnley machine.
The 26-year-old made just 26 starts in a frustrating first season after moving from Preston.
But he is an ever-present in the side so far this term, and a conscious effort to return for pre-season fighting fit is paying off.
The former Celtic and Sunderland man has three direct assists to his name so far, and has been on target twice.
And ahead of tomorrow’s test against Reading, he revealed the secret of his success: “I think I’ve had a good start to the season so it’s a case of keeping that up. That’s the main aim for me.
“It’s probably the fittest I’ve been.
“I’ve had a good pre-season under my belt.
“Ability-wise I feel I should stay in the team if I stay fit.
“I’ve got myself in better nick and I feel better in games than I did last year.
“I feel in better shape this year.
“I feel quicker and sharper.”
Burnley’s right side has been a key area of the team, with loanee Kieran Trippier also a provider of assists - and one free kick goal against MK Dons - while performing the day job of defending!
Wallace has been impressed: “Kieran’s got unbelievable pace and a good engine on him as well.
“He gets up and down really well and he’s been a revelation this year. He’s been outstanding.
“Hopefully we can keep that going down the right.”
Things are going well for the pair, and for the team in general, winning back to back league games going into the international break, to stretch their unbeaten run to four games.
And confidence is justifiably high: “The lads are confident after a couple of good wins.
“It was disappointing to go into the international break again, especially after getting on a little run, but it’s important we don’t let that affect us.
“It was good (at Millwall) because if you go into a break after a defeat, or if you’re struggling a little bit, it could be a long couple of weeks, so it was nice to go into it after doing well in the last few weeks.
“I don’t think there had been anything wrong with confidence, it was just with the new players it was going to take time to gel and get to know how each other plays.
“We’re getting the benefits of that at the minute.”
Boss Eddie Howe has tweaked the style of play from the tactics employed by previous boss Brian Laws, and Wallace feels that is suited to the players at his disposal: “It’s different to last year.
“We were a bit more aggressive getting the ball forward quickly.
“I think this year we have more technical players so it’s great for us to get the ball down and get it into the opposition’s box.”
The fans have responded well as they have seen the side begin to gel, and Wallace hopes Burnley can build on their first home league win last time out against Nottingham Forest: “I think when you’re playing well the crowd get behind you.
“At most clubs, if you’re playing rubbish the crowd will let you know.
“They’re going to boo you – that’s just natural and the way things go.
“If you play well the crowd are going to get behind you so it’s up to the players to get the atmosphere going.
“A good start for us in the game will make a difference.
“But it gives you that confidence knowing you’ve got the fans right behind you.
“To be fair, apart from one or two games, the fans have been really good.”
And while Wallace generally enjoys playing Reading - scoring three goals in seven appearances against the Royals - he expects a tough test: “Reading have done well in the last few years and have been unlucky (not to get promoted).
“At Christmastime they just went flying.
“They did really well to get in the play-offs and I thought they were going to do it because they were strong at the back and had a few good attacking players who could get goals, and experience.
“They’ve lost a few of those players but they’re still a threat. They’re going to be a good side and hard to play against but hopefully we can keep the run going and get the win.
“Hopefully it should be a good game for the fans. Fingers crossed we can get the result.”