Jay Rodriguez sees no reason why Burnley cannot repeat their heroics of two seasons ago as he prepares to begin his second spell with his hometown club.
A year after failing to prise him away from West Brom, Sean Dyche got his man this summer, with Rodriguez returning to the Clarets seven years after leaving for Southampton.
Having finished a terrific seventh in the Premier League in 2017-18, qualifying for the Europa League, Burnley made a poor start to last season and were in a relegation fight for most of the campaign before eventually hauling themselves up to 15th.
Rodriguez said: “Obviously it’s different seasons but what I’ve seen and been a part of this pre-season, the quality and the hard work that the lads put in, everything’s set up perfectly and I think there’s no limit at times to what we can do. I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”
Rodriguez was one of four summer signings made by Dyche, with full-back Erik Pieters and young goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell arriving on permanent deals while Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater was a deadline-day recruit on loan until January.
Dyche has made no secret of how hard he finds it to bring in players with the budget he is given but Burnley’s recent success has enabled them to comprehensively upgrade their training facilities.
Rodriguez said: “It’s totally changed. I think our changing room’s probably the same size as the whole building we used to get changed in.
“The facilities here are top-quality and I think to come in every day, you feel like you can do everything you want to improve as a player and recover as well as possible.”
Rodriguez had little choice but to keep in touch with how Burnley were getting on after his departure, with so many family members and friends supporting the club.
He admitted pulling on the shirt again in pre-season was surreal but will not be taking too much time to soak up the atmosphere during the Clarets’ Premier League opener against his former club Southampton on Saturday.
The 30-year-old said: “To come back here is a real buzz for myself and my family.
“It’s going to be special, first game of the season at Turf Moor, but you put your professional head on and it’s just business and whatever you can do to affect the game and help the team is the main focus.”
Rodriguez faces a battle with Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes for the striking spots but appears the most likely of the new recruits to start.
Ben Mee takes over from the departed Tom Heaton as captain while Nick Pope has been given Heaton’s number one shirt, with Joe Hart staying at number 20.
Dyche was a bit more cautious than Rodriguez about Burnley’s prospects but hopes they can build on their finish to last season.
He said: “The Premier League is an unforgiving place when things are not going right but I was very pleased with the second half of the season. I hope the players have learned from that.
“I think the additions help with that competitive edge. I’ve always believed we have quality here. We think we’ve brought in quality. Erik’s hit the ground running and so has J-Rod.”
Burnley will be without Robbie Brady and Steven Defour, who both spent the majority of last season out injured.
Winger Brady should return soon after suffering a hairline fracture of a rib during the final pre-season game but Defour’s absence will be months as he continues to recover from calf surgery in March.
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