Burnley-born Jay Rodriguez insists relegation battle is personal

Burnley v Manchester United – Premier League – Turf Moor
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

For Jay Rodriguez the battle to keep Burnley in the Premier League is more than just his job.

The relegation scrap is personal for the 32-year-old local lad, who came through the ranks at Burnley with a debut in 2007 before spells at West Brom and Southampton.

Rodriguez returned to Turf Moor in 2019 and is now on a mission to keep his boyhood club in the top flight.

“If I can help keep Burnley in the Premier League, that’s the best thing for me,” he said.

“It doesn’t just affect me, it’s my family, friends and people that I know. Every lad in the changing room feels that because some have been here for a long time. They know how much it means.

“Being back at Burnley is unbelievable and being able to represent them in the Premier League is a dream for a Burnley lad. The way the club is moving it’s a great thing to be a part of. I do feel lucky as a Burnley lad, it’s special to me.”

Rodriguez said that personal connection comes with some added burdens, but ones he thrives on.

“I think it’s important to keep this club at the top, I think it deserves to be here,” he added. “It’s a big pressure, but it’s a good thing that I can help have an effect.

“It would be massive. Since I’ve come back the biggest thing has always been to stay in the league. We’ve worked hard over the years and the club deserves to be in the Premier League.”

Burnley are no strangers to a relegation scrap but this season has been tougher than most. Prior to last weekend they had only one league victory all season, keeping in touch only by virtue of a stubborn defence which had earned them 11 draws from 21 games.

But back-to-back wins over Brighton and Tottenham have moved Sean Dyche’s side off the foot of the table and to within two points of safety heading in to Saturday’s trip to face Crystal Palace.

“Obviously people are happy and it’s a happy changing room when we’re winning,” Rodriguez said. “But I think the gaffer is dead right, we shouldn’t get too high or too low. We continue to work.

“We have not been too far away with the performances and that is the best way to work – not too high, not too low. The next game comes really quick in football and things can change. We’ve got to make sure we’re on it and control what we can control.”

Dyche has spoken of the reset his side needed after the 3-1 loss to Leeds on January 2, and meetings that took place during a period of Covid-19 postponements have had the desired effect.

Burnley picked up draws against Arsenal and Manchester United – Rodriguez scored his 100th league goal in a 1-1 draw with Ralf Rangnick’s side – before their first back-to-back wins in 13 months.

They also gave Liverpool a real game in a 1-0 home defeat before delivering a performance on Wednesday which left Antonio Conte questioning his future at Tottenham – a run which Rodriguez says show Burnley can compete with anybody in the division on their day.

“(Tottenham) were the same team that had beaten Manchester City in the game before so it shows we are competing with the big teams,” he said.

“You look at their front three, they’ve got world-class players, but we dealt with that extremely well and also showed quality to beat a great team.

“Now we’ve got a big game on Saturday and we’ve got to move on to that.”

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