CLARETS boss Sean Dyche admits striker Sam Vokes has been a victim of his system - but is convinced he will be a big player for the club.
Vokes is one of only two players to feature in every league game so far this season, along with keeper Lee Grant, but he has only started twice - in August at Middlesbrough and Huddersfield.
And ahead of today’s trip to Birmingham City, Dyche admits the Wales international is closing in on a starting berth after improving his fitness.
The former Wolves man has had to play second fiddle to 22-goal Charlie Austin, who has, since the final game of Eddie Howe’s reign, been employed as a lone frontman in a 4-1-4-1 formation or variation of.
Dyche has preferred an extra midfielder at the expense of a second striker.
But after coming off the bench to make an impact as a substitute - including goals at Ipswich Town and, crucially, to earn a draw in the derby at home to Blackburn Rovers, his stock has risen among the supporters.
He almost won Saturday’s game at home to Watford with the last effort of the game, seeing his header saved by Manuel Almunia, having only been introduced in injury time.
Asked about Vokes at the club’s Annual General Meeting on Monday evening, Dyche explained Vokes’ situation: “We’ve walked into a situation where the club had an open style of play which could be good on a good day, and not so good on a bad day.
“We’ve had to look at the best system possible.
“We’ve got round pegs in not square holes, but not quite round enough holes.
“We’ve been testing that and playing around a little bit.
“But Vokesy has moved around a lot on loan.
“When we got here his basic fitness levels were not appropriate for what we wanted.
“Now he is leaner and a bit fitter and we’ve worked with the whole group on that.
“His part will come.”
Vokes, like the rest of the squad, has responded well to Dyche’s arrival and ideas, and the manager feels his hard work will pay off ultimately: “Players like Vokesy are getting stronger and sharper.
Another player looking to break back into the starting XI is wideman Junior Stanislas.
The former West Ham youngster was a regular starter under Howe and caretaker boss Terry Pashley, before being taken off at half-time in Pashley’s final game at the helm at Cardiff.
Dyche was in the stands ahead of taking over at Turf Moor, and witnessed the 4-0 mauling.
Stanislas has had to be content with a place on the bench ever since, but has made his case for selection by coming on and creating Vokes’ goals against Ipswich and Blackburn.
And Dyche said: “It’s a funny one with Stan.
“He has talent and we want him to deliver that for longer in games.
“He is another one we are working with behind the scenes.
“We do a lot of work with him away from the football pitch on analysis.
“That’s with all the players.”
l HAVING knocked Manchester United out of the FA Youth Cup a fortnight ago, Burnley have been handed another trip to Manchester to take on City.
Terry Pashley’s side stunned United at Old Trafford in the third round, winning 4-3 after extra time, with a hat-trick from Jason Gilchrist.
And Burnley now take on the blue half of Manchester as they look for another major scalp, having reached the semi-finals of the competition last season for the first time since 1978.
Burnley earned their only victory in the competition in 1968, when they beat City and United in successive rounds.
City have won the competition twice, the last time in 2008 when skippered by current Claret Ben Mee, while Kieran Trippier was also in the side.
The game is likely to be held at Hyde United - City’s designated choice as an alternative ground for home games - although their third round tie against Sunderland was played at Stockport County’s Edgeley Park.
The fourth round ties - the last 32 - are to be played by Saturday, January 19th.
Meanwhile, the Youth team’s fixture against Accrington Stanley, scheduled to take place at Gawthorpe last Wednesday, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, January, 16th (kick-off 1 p.m.).