BURNLEY return home tomorrow after four weeks on the road.
I say four weeks, but Clarets first team coach Stuart Gray admits Deepdale felt like a home from home on Saturday due to the noise from the Shankly Kop!
And as the Clarets entertain Crystal Palace at Turf Moor, Gray has called on the army of Burnley fans to pump up the volume.
Since the 2-1 home win over Norwich on February 5th, Burnley have endured tough trips to Watford, Cardiff and Preston in the league, as well as an FA Cup trip to Premier League West Ham.
And while the cup exit is best forgotten, seven points from nine on the road have lifted the side to within four points of a play-off berth, with two games in hand.
The abiding memory from those trips away, along with the results, has been the tremendous backing from the fans - capped by the 5,500 that packed out Preston.
Gray would love to hear the noise they created there replicated tomorrow: “It’s good to be back at home.
“We seem to have been in a club tracksuit for a month, getting on a bus all the time.
“But in the four games, apart from a mad nine minutes or so at West Ham, we have done well .
“To be fair, it felt like a home game at Preston on Saturday, there was an absolutely fabulous following and the fans generated fantastic noise.
“The reception they gave the players during the warm-uo gave them a huge lift.
“It was a great day all round, a great time to get the winner, and a great response from the fans.
“The players fully appreciate them travelling round the country in difficult times - the backing at Watford, Cardiff and West Ham was superb as well, and we know tickets are not cheap to come by.”
Burnley may be back at Fortress Turf Moor tomorrow, but under Eddie Howe they have turned their away form around, taking 11 points from an available 18.
And Gray points to the players’ strong mentality: “You can say things have clicked away from home, but if you look back, we can all beat ourselves up at the points we’ve thrown away away from home, particularly at Norwich and Sheffield United when we led 2-0.
“I don’t think we were playing particularly badly away from home, but the most important thing is the character the lads have shown.
“To go a goal down at Cardiff and get a point and again on Saturday and come back and win is fantatic.
“That’s when the backing has helped from the fans, they get right behind the players.
“The players have to lift the fans and vice versa, and hopefully we’ll get our just rewards.”
Gray expects a tough task against Palace under new boss Dougie Freedman, who he worked with at Selhurst Park almost a decade ago: “When Kit Symons was named caretaker at Palace, he asked me to join him on the coaching staff, and I worked with Dougie then. He was a very popular figure with the supporters, a good goalscorer and fully-committed to Crystal Palace.
“I’m pleased he’s been given the opportunity in management, and I look forward to having a beer with him after the game, but hopefully after we’ve got the result we want.”
He added: “He was quite an introvert, a deep thinker on the game. But when players get to 31/32, they start thinking about life after football, and he’s done his homework and had a grounding with George Burley.
“I never had an inkling he’d go into management when I was there, he just wanted to play, but it’s a popular decision. And he’s done well, he’s got them out of the bottom three and got them playing.
“He gave 100% as a player and the players are showing that same committment under him, so we can’t take Palace lightly.
“They’ve not travelled well though, and the first goal could be important.”