SAMVOKES AND DANNY INGS, A LETHAL DOUBLE ACT DANCE TOGETHER IF WE GO UP!
WE’LL DANCE TOGETHER ONLY IF WE GO UP! ANNY INGS, A LETHAL DOUBLE ACT
IT isn’t every day that a footballer greets you with a quiz question. “Which country,” says Danny Ings, looking up from his seat in the middle of Burnley’s boot room, “does flamenco dancing come from?”
“Er, Spain,” I venture, momentarily flumoxed.
“See!” shouts Sam Vokes, Ings’ good mate and partner in crime. “Everybody knows that. Only you think it’s Mexico.”
It’s just one of many disagreements the pair have during a 40-minute TV interview, including Vokes’ declaration that tea is best brewed with a knife.
“A knife?” says Ings, incredulously. “Who stirs tea with a knife? What’s wrong with you?”
Thankfully for the Clarets, however, the pair are far more in tune on the green grass of Turf Moor.
Thrown together in August following the sale of last year’s top scorer Charlie Austin, Ings and Vokes have become the Championship’s answer to Suarez and Sturridge, an old-fashioned partnership in the age of false nines and second strikers.
And like the Liverpool duo, they have shown that the old ideas are still the best. With 24 for Ings and 16 for Vokes, the pair have now netted an incredible 40 goals between them this season, their efforts the primary factor behind Burnley’s unexpected push for the Premier League.
But for all the statistics, what really catches the eye is their understanding. Alan Shearer once said that his renowned partnership with Chris Sutton at Blackburn was the result of grinding hours on the training pitch.
Yet when he played with Teddy Sheringham for England, it was pure intuition, two good players who knew almost telepathically what the other would do . T hat’s certainly how it appears at Burnley, with Vokes, tall, muscular, brilliant with his back to goal, feeding the diminutive, terrier-like Ings, all scuttling pace and soft feet.
“Obviously we work every day on the training pitch,” said Vokes.“But the main thing is just playing with each other every single game. There’s no better way to get to know someone than being alongside him 30-odd times in a row.”
“I completely agree,” adds Ings. “But I’d also say that when Charlie left, that heaped extra responsibility on us. Individually, I think we both relished the challenge of being the main goal scorer and you can see us rising to it.”
For both players, being the main man is a new experience. With Vokes, now 24, it was a matter of poor timing. He moved to Wolves from Bournemouth just as Mick McCarthy’s men won promotion to the Premier League, unwittingly condemning himself to a life on loan. Between 2009 and 2012, the Welsh international played for seven different clubs.
In Ings’s case, it was injury. Just days after a £1m switch to Burn- ley in 2011, a knee problem ruled him out for five months. Then, after a blistering preseason in the summer of 2012, a cartilage injury to the other knee cost him a further six months.
It’s why, despite interest from above, neither is particularly interested in breaking up the partnership.
“For the two us, it can’t get much better than this,” says Vokes. “As a striker, all you want is to be playing regularly and scoring goals. If you do that, things will come your way. making big strides for as players and that’s im us.”
Both players start Bournemouth under th of youth team man Roach, albeit three yea are they big mates off
“Yeah, definitely,” says Ings. "I do think it helps coming from the same area. We both knew each other before so we’ve got childhood stuff in common. Just for the
. But we’re rward here mportant to ted out at he tutelage nager Joe ars apart. So f the pitch? says Ings. “I ng from the knew each e got child. Just for the record though, I don’t live with him. I couldn’t have that.
“Na,” adds Vokes. “I don’t think we could live together, that would be a bit much. But we don’t live far from each other. And it’s not just us who knock about together, it’s the whole team.
“We’re tight, and everyone is together. Even the lads who aren’t playing are tight with the lads who are. There’s none of the bitterness you can get in a squad.
“Those boys don’t get enough credit for what they’ve been doing this year and in a way the defensive record is just as impressive as ours.
“There are no egos at the club, no-one who thinks they’re better than anyone else. I think that’s why we’re such a solid group. We all work hard for each other and that’s what you see on the pitch. The spirit is brilliant.”
So far, so friendly. It really does seem that Ings and Vokes are more Toshack and Keegan than Cole and Sheringham when it comes to relations off the pitch. Is there anything that winds the other up?
Ings shakes his head. Vokes too. Then the big man changes his mind.
“Actually, no,” he says.“That’s not true. What annoys me about Ingsy is that he won’t dance. He’s a good dancer and he won’t show it off.” Eh? “All the lads try and get me to dance,” admits Ings. “There’s a video that’s just come out of me dancing at Bournemouth when I was about 18. Pretty impressive, obviously.
“But now the lads have seen it, they expect me to dance for them. I’ll do it, but only if Sam has a dance off with me – and we win promotion.”
Vokes thinks for a moment. “OK,” he says. “I’m up for that.”
So is promotion possible? Burnley after all, have used fewer players than any other team in the Championship.
“I don’t think the lads are tired,” insists Ings. “Our mentality since pre-season has always been about being the fittest.
“With the budget here, we can’t have the biggest squad. But money can’t stop you being the fittest squad.
“People from the outside may use that to write you off. And when teams aren’t performing well, they’ll often use it as an excuse. But I think if you ask any one here – in fact any footballer – they’d want to play every game of the season. Just look where it’s got us.”
OFF THE MARK: Sam Vokes scores the first goal for Burnley against Bolton