Burnley boss Sean Dyche has spoken of the confidence he has in Dwight McNeil as he described the winger as a player who could “slot into any team in the Premier League”.
While McNeil has scored seven goals and provided 17 assists in the English top flight since making his debut in 2018, the figures are none and one for this season in 29 appearances.
When asked about that current form at a press conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to Norwich, Dyche, who took the 22-year-old out of the starting line-up for the 3-2 victory over Everton on Wednesday, said: “He’ I’ll come through that period.
“There was a lot of noise about that during this season and that you can play on a player, it really can, particularly when you are younger.
“But he’s got ability, there’s no two ways about it. He could slot into any team in the Premier League, I am convinced of that, with his technical ability from him. And he continues to learn the game and when to get higher up the pitch, when to break the back line, when to go high and wide.
“His usual game is to come inside and drop short to get the ball. What he has to work on – which he is doing – is recognizing the opportunities to go and break the back line, to get wide and run forward, because when he does that, he is a real threat.”
Dyche said McNeil had taken being left out of the starting XI “absolutely great”, and added: “He’s learning all the time.
“He’s definitely aware that that’s part of the professional job – if things aren’t quite working for you, you come out for a bit, you go back in and you’re effective again.
“He’s understanding what it is to be a professional. He’s rounding himself as a professional all the time and that’s part of it. He’s in a great growth cycle, for me.
“When you are going well, you do learn and develop, but when the challenges come your way, that’s often when you learn more about yourself, about the role, about the profession.”
McNeil came on late on in a contest that saw Burnley come from behind to win, having been 2-1 down to relegation rivals Everton at half-time.
Maxwel Cornet scored the winner in the 85th minute as the Clarets ended a run of four straight defeats – and games without a goal – and moved up to 18th, closing the gap to the 17th-placed Toffees to a point.
The trip to Norwich, who are bottom of the table, is the first of nine more matches to go.
Jay Rodriguez, scorer of the equalizer on Wednesday just before the hour mark, said: “It (the mood in camp) hasn’t (changed with Wednesday’s win). We’re a positive group of lads.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling to get that win against Everton and hopefully it carries on, the momentum. But we know that’s done now and we’ve got a big game against Norwich, a tough game, and everything has been focused straight onto that.
“We’re a level-headed group of lads that’ll continue to work as hard as we can.”
Norwich have eight fixtures remaining and started the weekend seven points adrift of safety. Drawing 0-0 at Brighton last time out brought only a second point in eight outings.
Dyche said of Dean Smith’s men: “They’re still fighting, still working and still believe I’m sure.
“They’ll be feeling they’ve still got something to play for, as we all do.
“Our guard’s got to be up, we’ve got to ready mentally, physically, be prepared, organized, to go and deliver.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.