AN­DRE ‘PETRIFIES’ JIT­TERY DE­FEND­ERS

Ar­field says striker’s won bat­tle be­fore kick-off

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Jack Fox

BURN­LEY mid­fielder Scott Ar­field be­lieves Cham­pi­onship de­fend­ers are as wob­bly as a freshly made jelly even be­fore star striker An­dre Gray steps on to the pitch!

Gray is the top scorer in the se­cond tier, tak­ing his tally to 22 with the win­ner in the 3-2 vic­tory at Ful­ham in mid­week that stretched the Clarets’ lead at the top to four points.

For Ar­field, it has been a treat play­ing along­side Gray, af­ter the 24-year-old joined from Brent­ford for a re­ported £9m back in Au­gust.

“Be­fore games in train­ing de­fend­ers will be watch­ing the high­lights and see how well he’s play­ing – and I think they’ll be ab­so­lutely pet­ri­fied of his pace and power,” said the for­mer Hud­der­s­field mid­fielder.

“Be­fore the games he’s al­ready half-beaten any cen­tre-back be­cause of his tal­ents.

“Half the bat­tle is done be­fore he even steps on to the pitch. Then it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore he finds chances and his fin­ish­ing is ter­rific.”

There must be plenty of Cham­pi­onship clubs wish­ing they had snapped up Gray last sum­mer. Pro­mo­tion ri­vals Hull City put in bids but baulked at the price de­manded by the Bees. Bris­tol City were re­jected by Gray. And while oth­ers hes­i­tated, the Clarets nipped in to do the deal.

No won­der Burn­ley boss Sean Dy­che is so glad to have the for­mer Lu­ton striker in his ranks.

Fear­less

Just a cou­ple of weeks ago, Dy­che said: “What I like about An­dre is his fear­less­ness. Left foot, right foot, he hits them. Some weeks they go in, oth­ers they don’t. But it doesn’t bother him. He just says, ‘Right lads, give me an­other one’. That’s why I paid £32m for him – or what­ever peo­ple are say­ing!”

Other pun­dits thought the sign­ing of the tal­ented but con­tro­ver­sial Joey Bar­ton last sum­mer could have un­set­tled the tight-knit Burn­ley squad Dy­che had put to­gether.

But Ar­field is glow­ing in his praise of the for­mer Manch­ester City, New­cas­tle United and QPR mid­fielder.

“There was so much said be­fore he came to the club but in terms of his ex­pe­ri­ence and what he adds to the dress­ing room, he’s been there, he’s done it and he’s an in­ter­na­tional foot­ball player. He’s been

ter­rific for us,” he said. Burn­ley are now in prime po­si­tion to se­cure an im­me­di­ate Premier League re­turn but Ar­field be­lieves the chas­ing pack ex­tends well be­yond the much-dis

cussed top four.

The Clarets showed all their re­solve to come from be­hind at Ful­ham on Tues­day night and cap­i­talise on Mid­dles­brough’s slipup at Rother­ham to ease clear at the Cham­pi­onship sum­mit.

Those two, plus Brighton and Hull, have been locked in a nerveshred­ding race for the top two spots ever since Derby went off the boil, with the lead reg­u­larly chang­ing hands.

Burn­ley, and Dy­che, know all about mak­ing the leap to the top flight – af­ter all, they did ex­actly that just two sea­sons ago – and at this stage it is theirs to lose.

They be­gan the week­end with five wins on the trot and with­out tast­ing de­feat in the league since Box­ing Day, but Ar­field in­sists plenty of sides are ca­pa­ble of putting to­gether a sim­i­lar run.

“There is so much made of the top four, but I think down to sev­enth or even eighth place are in the mix,” said the 27-year-old, a main­stay in the Clarets side this sea­son. “It’s any­body’s to grab but it’s all about stay­ing pos­i­tive and fo­cus­ing on what we do.

“You can’t con­trol what the other teams are do­ing so we just have to take care of our­selves – like we did against Ful­ham.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

HAV­ING A LAUGH: Burn­ley striker An­dre Gray, left, cel­e­brates scor­ing an­other goal with Scott Ar­field and, in­set, Joey Bar­ton takes con­trol

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