Clarets midfielder Brian Stock admits no-one can let their standards slip for the fear of being “left behind” by the rest of the squad.
The former Doncaster Rovers man asked to play in Tuesday night’s U21 Premier League Cup tie against Wigan Athletic at Turf Moor to boost his fitness levels.
He came through 120 minutes, including extra time, and scored in the 7-6 penalty shootout victory, and explained why he felt he had to feature: “I think the manager deserves a lot of credit for how he’s transferred the mentality in the group and it’s a very strong mentality.
“I think if anyone does start to come off the gas or if anyone doesn’t train as hard as we have been it’s going to stand out now because the group are going to leave them behind.
“I heard about the game and wanted to play in it, so I asked if I could. I haven’t had much football lately. It wasn’t so much a case of wanting to do it as needing to do it, which hopefully – especially playing 120 minutes – will bode well.
“They put the question to the gaffer and they said ‘absolutely fine, if you want to play you can play’. Although it’s not an ideal scenario to play in an under 21 game, it’s football at the end of the day and it’s been a really good run-out for me.”
Stock’s desire to maintain his match fitness, having played only 83 minutes of first team action so far this season, was such that not only did he volunteer to play, he was desperate to win the game: “I’ve struggled in the past when I’ve had to play in these sort of games to (raise myself), but whether I’m playing table tennis, darts, football, a game of cards, I want to win at everything.
“I have that winning mentality and if it’s a game for the Under 21s in a cup, I want to win it, it’s as simple as that.
“That’s my attitude at the start of it and I’m delighted that we’ve won the game.”
Stock has had something of a watching brief in the first team, but with the form of the side, he has no complaints: “You can’t argue about not getting into a team if they’re winning every week.
“The performances have been terrific this year, the energy and determination that have been shown have been brilliant.
“For me the biggest thing is what goes on behind the scenes in the club. You’ve got a really good tight knit squad and every single person wants to win, be it the team that’s starting, the people on the bench.
“I’ve played in teams where you’ve got one or two who say ‘I hope we lose today’ or ‘I hope he has a bad game’ or ‘I hope he gets injured’ or ‘I hope he gets suspended’. There’s none of that. I’ve not heard any of that this season.”
And Stock was impressed with what he saw from the development squad players trying to force their way into Sean Dyche’s plans.
Stock feels the good habits shown by the current Championship leaders are proving a good yardstick: “The fitness levels we showed towards the end I think epitomises what we are at the club.
“If you take comparisons to the first team and what we’re like in the Championship, I think it’s starting to take effect right through the club.
“You can see the lads out there, young lads 19 and 20 running their hearts out, and I know the gaffer will be pleased with that because that’s what he wants his players to do and I thought everyone gave a good account of themselves. There are a lot of lads who have done themselves no harm.
“All the team beliefs that we have on a first team level I’ve seen in the under 21 match. Before the game, with the preparation, and during the game. Everyone’s habits are becoming a natural thing throughout the whole club.
“The habits are starting to go right through the club now at every level, and when these players do step up to the first team it’s going to be a seamless transition. It will gear them up for what could be a potential first team place.”