If ever evidence were needed of Burnley’s considerable advancement over the previous five years, it can be found in the number of their players who now feature with increasing regularity and prominence in various international teams around the globe.
Time was and not so long ago, Burnley players would occasionally crop up representing some of the more remote outposts of the footballing world, but were by and large off the radar of most international managers.
This was understandable, Burnley were after all a moderate second-tier outfit. But now that the Clarets are establishing an ever firmer foothold on the cliff-face of the Premier League, their players are now in greater demand.
This is especially gratifying with a World Cup on the horizon next summer. The sport’s principal competition has been scantly attended by Burnley players in the past, not since Billy Hamilton’s stirring exploits for Northern Ireland in 1982, has a Burnley player left more than the tiniest of thumb prints on the tournament.
That may well change in Russia next year, particularly if the Republic of Ireland come through their play-off against Denmark in mid-week. Should they do so, it isn’t inconceivable that Martin O’Neill’s squad will contain no fewer than five Burnley players.
Add to that Johann Berg Gudmundsson for Iceland, Stephen Defour for Belgium and maybe Chris Wood, if his New Zealand team beat Peru in their play-off.
Hopefully, such a strong representation will be enhanced still further by inclusions in the England squad. Gareth Southgate has had an ambivalent attitude to selecting Burnley players; Tom Heaton before his injury and Michael Keane before his departure to Everton had become regular Southgate selections and the inclusion of Jack Cork for the current squad was particularly gratifying.
But set against this is the baffling omissions of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, as well as the frankly insulting overlooking of Nick Pope in favour of Angus Gunn, a Manchester City loanee currently at Championship side Norwich. Let us not forget that statistically Pope is the top goalkeeper in the country, with five clean sheets in eight games.
Let us hope that all those Clarets’ players continue to press their claims and shout their credentials from the very rooftops, so that they may be heard even at St George’s Park.
Of course, with so many of his squad away on national service it is a concerning time for Sean Dyche as he offers a prayer to whichever footballing deity he worships that all his charges will return fit and in readiness to play.
International call-ups go hand in hand with success at club level. All major teams experience it and all should be grateful for it. After all, it means only that the club has good players and it would be sad indeed if Burnley were to revert to the days of being overlooked when the international fixtures come around.
Let us hope that this does not occur any time soon?
Written by uber Burnley fan Dave Thornley, on behalf of Clarets Mad. (TEC).