HE has missed the last four games with injury as Burnley have climbed to the fringes of the play-off chase, but striker Charlie Austin continues to dominate the headlines.
However, Clarets boss Sean Dyche has no problem with his 23-goal top-scorer being continually linked with a move away from Turf Moor.
And, amid interest from Celtic, and, if Spanish speculation is to be believed, Real Mallorca, Dyche revealed there have still been no offers for the 23-year-old, with just under a week until the transfer window closes.
Asked if the speculation was bothering Austin, Dyche said: “It’s an ongoing thing, and in a strange way it’s good that we’re being recognised for the good players we have, and results heighten that.
“Charlie’s been talked about ever since I’ve got here and probably before, I’m sure.”
And asked whether there have been any offers for the former Swindon Town front man, he added: “No, none.”
Austin’s bid to shake off a hamstring problem in time to face Birmingham City at Turf Moor tomorrow hasn’t been helped by the weather, with training moved indoors this week.
Dyche explained: “We’ll see how he goes.
“He’s hindered slightly by the fact the surface isn’t great, and we’re trying to work around that with areas clear of snow and use the indoor 3G wisely.
“We’ll be working with the injured players to see if they’re fit.
“If they are, great, if they’re not then I look at the squad and people challenging to demand a shirt and that’s been really evident.
“It is a squad business nowadays, and that’s important.”
Burnley have crept under the radar into eighth in the Championship, slipping a place after Brighton’s injury time equaliser at Blackburn on Tuesday night.
But they have propelled themselves into the play-off chase, and, on the back of four wins in five, increased expectation.
Dyche is happy to handle that extra pressure: “It’s a good part of football, when expectation grows, but it is balanced with reality.
“I don’t think there is an easy Championship game - we’ve all seen the topsy turvy nature of it, so we take every game seriously.
“You do take every game as it comes.
“You prepare properly, you’re aware of the opposition.
“We don’t take anyone lightly and we’re ready to play.
“That’s our ethos - to be ready for every game.
“If expectation comes with that then usually that’s a good sign of a team doing well in the first place.
“We want that expectation, we want the demand of it and we want to make sure the players are aware of it in a strange kind of way, but there’s no fear with it.
“Expectation is usually part of a team doing well, so that builds confidence.”
Based on Dyche’s first 15 games in charge, the Clarets would be fifth in the form table, and, with 18 games to go, similar form could see Burnley hit the top six.
But it is all about maintaining what has been put in place so far, and building on it: “The main thing is to encourage the good habits the team have been showing.
“The work that we’ve done with them is showing good signs, and the players are taking responsibility and ownership of that work, because eventually it’s them that go out onto the pitch and deliver it.
“Long may that continue, but we’re constantly looking to improve it against our own challenges at the minute, and that’s getting on some grass on a daily basis!
“The lads are working hard at the minute, but not just working hard, they’re working smart.
“They’re thinking about their football, they’re playing at the right times and defending at the right times, and it’s glued together with pride and passion for the shirt.
“And the work ethic is quite obvious for all to see.”
It’s only a month since Burnley drew 2-2 against Birmingham at St Andrews - a quick turnaround - and Dyche hopes to go one
better and get the win, after Nikola Zigic’s late strike denied the Clarets the points last time: “They’ve had a few changes - they’ve gone young, then old, then young, then old a few times with the make-up of their side because they have got a big squad.
“We’ll just have to ready for whatever is thrown at us this time.”
And Dyche hopes the side’s form since the turn of the year might encourage more fans to the Turf tomorrow, and over the weeks and months to come, by connecting with the supporters again: “When I first came here I talked about the link between the fans and the players.
“We’re hoping that transcends into the community and we’re trying to involve the players more in the communuity, when possible.
“Around game time that’s not as easy, but when there’s a free week between games it allows the players more time to get out. Those kind of links are invaluable in promoting the club.
“The other thing is, the economy is hitting everyone hard. My family aren’t all in football and they have to work for a living for sure.
“All we can do is play good football, get wins and keep promoting the club from within and encourage the youngsters especially, because they’re the fans of the future, to come in and watch us.”
Results hopefully will continue to attract support, and he added: “You hope so but if people haven’t got money to come and watch football, it is what it is.
“We’re hoping it promotes itself from the results and the good feeling around the place.
“There is a connection between the fans and the players and I always feel that’s important.
“It’s accelerated by wins, the mesh that holds it together become even stronger, the challenge is if things don’t go quite as well to keep everyone on board and keep the noses pointing in the right direction.
“We’re enjoying it at the moment and we want more people to come and enjoy it, if they can do it of course.
“It’s a challenge, the economy, for everyone doing many different things.
“I’m sure football’s an important part for Burnley fans, in fact I know it is, but there are other important things in life that probably just come ahead of football at times.”