Fans have voted you the Football League’s best player. Congratulations! Thanks very much. I’m buzzing about that. It’s a great honour, and I didn’t expect it. You’ve scored goals consistently ever since you joined Burnley from Brentford back in August. How have you rated your season? I’ve been pleased so far – it’s been going great for me and the team. I knew I could score goals in this league because I did it last year with Brentford, but this has been my best season so far. I scored 30 at Luton but that was in the Conference. To score more than 20 goals in the Championship has been brilliant. But the main aim is still to get promoted. Before Burnley made their move for you, Brentford rejected a bid from Hull and then Bristol City had an offer accepted. That must have been a crazy month for you... It was quite difficult – I’d never been in that situation before. I felt it was the right time to leave Brentford but I wasn’t going to leave unless it was to progress and fight for the title. It was a choice between a team who had just been promoted [Bristol City] and a team who had just been relegated from the Premier League [Burnley] – it was easy in the end. Two years ago I was fighting at the top of the Conference with Luton; now I’m here fighting to go into the Premier League. It’s been a whirlwind. In joining Burnley you had to follow in the footsteps of Danny Ings, while the club had doubled their previous transfer record to sign you. Did you feel any pressure? No, I didn’t see the fee as pressure. Ings’ boots were pretty big ones to fill but I didn’t come here thinking that I had to replace Danny. I’m a different player to him.
At the very start of your career you were released by Wolves and then Shrewsbury. How tough was that as a youngster? The Wolves one was tough. Shrewsbury was expected and I took the blame for it. That was me not being in the right mindset. I didn’t work hard enough there – I’ll openly admit that. I lost my grandad just after I left Wolves and I lost my focus for a while.
What was it like dropping into non-league football with Hinckley United?
I was on more money at Hinckley than as a first-year professional at Shrewsbury, so in my mind at the time it was progression, even though it actually wasn’t. In the second year there I was on the substitutes’ bench and reality started to kick in. I wasn’t having to get up in the morning because we were part-time, and everyone wants to get up in the morning and do something. It was then that I started to realise what I wanted to do with my life. I got my head down and started doing well.
How much did being stabbed outside a nightclub in 2011 influence you as well, given the scar it left on your face?
I don’t really notice the scar any more. But looking back at how my life used to be, that’s what drives me on today, so that I don’t have to be in that situation ever again. Things could have gone one way or the other after that happened, but I realised I couldn’t do anything about it. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it made me stronger as a person. I had to get my act together. Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin have both progressed from non-league to the top flight in recent years, with Vardy earning England honours as well. Do you think you could do well in the Premier League, too? I don’t see why not. I believe I can step up and compete in that league, but only time will tell. It helps everyone to see how well people like Vardy and Austin have done. They’ve set the bar high for the boys in non-league now.