The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

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.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

OFF THE MARK: Sam Vokes scores the first goal for Burn­ley against Bolton

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