CLARETS midfielder Chris McCann has reiterated his desire to play in the top tier of English football.
With the Championship clash against Bolton Wanderers on the horizon, the 25-year-old reminisced about one of the most challenging moments of his career when limping off in the 1-0 defeat to Owen Coyle’s Trotters at the Reebok Stadium during the Premier League campaign.
The Dubliner had been sidelined earlier that season after damaging medial ligaments when tussling for the ball with Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson in a 3-1 triumph at Turf Moor. He returned against Reading in the Carling Cup tie at the Madejski Stadium four months later only to be withdrawn after 12 minutes of the local derby in Horwich and replaced by Kevin McDonald.
That gloom and frustration would then be exacerbated as the Clarets dropped in to the relegation zone for the first time that term, consequently failing to recover. “That was a difficult night for me,” McCann declared. “Although I didn’t have the surgery it was the first time I got a start and I didn’t last long.
“Touch wood nothing like that ever happens again. I’m determined to go there and have a positive effect on the game this time. I just came down awkwardly, I never had the surgery on it, but it was one of those things. I was out for the rest of the season and the rest is history.
“It makes me want to achieve more as a person in my career. Something like that spurs you on a little bit more. The last time we played there was in the Premier League and that’s where I aspire to be. I don’t want to play in the Championship week-in week-out for the rest of my career. I want to play at the highest level I can. Going to Bolton on Saturday is a massive game because it’s another stepping stone to getting in to those play-offs at the end of the season and having another crack at getting back in to the Premier League with Burnley.”
Determined to add to his seven appearances in the top tier, McCann is gunning for the top six. And it’s a feat he feels his realistic with the Clarets sat on the fringes of those elusive play-off spots, just four points shy of Middlesbrough.
“The play-offs are very realistic if you look at where we are in the league,” said McCann. “We’ve played everybody once now and we know there’s nothing to be fearful of. We’ve played them all and we’re as good as anybody else. There’s a lot of good teams in the Championship, don’t get me wrong, but we feel that we’re one of those good teams. We’ve shown on our day that we’re capable of beating anybody. A good run from now until the end of the season will stand us in good stead and hopefully we’ll make the play-offs.
“He (Sean Dyche) is definitely the right man to take us there. I think anybody that has met him around the club, and all the players will tell you, that he comes in everyday with a smile on his face. He’s bubbly, enthusiastic and he has that will to win and that motivation.
“He has the ability to bring the best out of every player on the field, he demands the best every day in training and that has a positive affect when we go in to each game. Results lately have been good, performances have been good and we’re defensively solid. Some say the goals have dried up but if you look we’re still creating a lot of chances and we’re still scoring. He has us on the right track.”
While representatives of the club and McCann continue negotiations over a new contract, with his current deal set to expire in the summer, the midfielder has his sights firmly set on tomorrow’s derby day. The Clarets are unbeaten in the derbies this term - beating Wanderers and Blackpool while drawing with Rovers on home soil - and McCann is determined to extend that record.
“I’m looking forward to it because it should be a good game,” he said. “It’s another big, local derby and I think the fans really build the rivalry up. If Owen Coyle hadn’t have gone there it probably wouldn’t be as big a rivalry, nonetheless it’s a big derby and the lads will be geared up for it.
“It was disappointing last week because we felt we could’ve gone to Peterborough and taken maximum points but we’ve got to lift our heads again, get ready for Saturday and try and go on a run because when you look at the league table we’re not too far off.
“The spice is still there because it’s still a Lancashire derby. There’s a lot at stake and we’re unbeaten in the derbies so we want to keep it that way. On the other hand it’s just another game for us that we need to win if we have any aspirations of ending the season on a positive note.”
He added: “It’s huge, not only for the club but the town in general. You saw that with the Blackburn game when we drew 1-1. Everyone was ecstatic in the stadium when we scored and the whole atmosphere around the game brings that little bit extra to the club and for the players to go out and show that pride and passion and to win. It’d be nice to give the fans something to smile about at the end of the day. We’re looking forward to it and we’ve got a good week of training under our belt. We want to put last week right.”
A familiar face is also expected to line-up for Dougie Freedman’s strugglers, though McCann insists his team-mates will need to look way beyond the threat that Chris Eagles, who spent three seasons at the club, poses.
“I still keep in touch with him and I’ve seen him a couple of times since he’s left,” he said. “We’ll be aware of the danger he poses on Saturday and we’ll have that well documented in training. But we’re not just going to concentrate on him because there are 10 other players there that you’ve got to keep an eye on. They’re a good team even though the league position doesn’t reflect that. You can’t take anything for granted in this league.”
Meanwhile McCann, who attended the second installment of Brian Jensen’s testimonial on Wednesday evening, applauded the “Beast” for his spectacular decade at Turf Moor. The midfielder, who progressed through Burnley’s youth system after joining from Irish club Home Farm as a teenager, could be awarded a testimonial of his own with next year set to mark his 10th year as a Claret.
“I don’t think I’m far off it,” he beamed. “It’s a credit to him, he’s a good guy and he’s had a great career. The turnout showed just how popular he is around the town, not just at the club. It shows how highly regarded he is that people have taken the time out of their schedule for him. Steve Caldwell, Wade Elliott and even Stephen Jordan came from up Scotland. People have made the effort to come and see him so good for him. He’s got at least another year in him anyway.”