Sean Dyche revealed how a pep talk helped teenage star Dwight McNeil to another man-of-the-match display against West Ham.
The 19-year-old was disappointed with his performance in Burnley’s defeat by Sheffield United last weekend, when he was subbed early in the second half.
Clarets boss Dyche said: “I told him I’d kick him somewhere if he didn’t smile more.
“When you’re young it really hurts you when you have a bad day and he looked like that. But I reminded him, ‘you’re a professional footballer and you’re playing in the Premier League and you’re doing a fantastic job’.
“He looked like he was smiling today when he was playing.”
McNeil gave West Ham’s defence a torrid time and set up the second goal in the 3-0 victory, robbing Fabian Balbuena before squaring for Chris Wood just before half-time.
Eight minutes earlier, the teenager had produced one of the crosses of the season, which Wood headed into the top corner, only for a VAR review to show the striker was just offside.
McNeil came into the side in a game against West Ham on December 30 last season, when Burnley were at a low ebb and appeared in serious danger of relegation.
He scored that day and has started all but one game since, such has been his impact.
Dyche said: “We’re always looking, when’s the time, does he need a break? But I said to the staff, last time he had a tough one like that he bounced out of it with a great performance and he’s done that again.
“I’ve got belief in him, his belief is growing. Part of his development will be having a tough one and seeing if you can come out of it, and he has done, so that builds resilience and it builds belief in what you are as a player.
“He continues to do that and I thought he was excellent. His cross for Woody’s goal, I know it was offside, but what a ball in that is. That’s the kind of power the kid’s got.”
McNeil has broken into the England Under-21 squad this season and is reportedly attracting suitors, with Manchester United strongly linked.
Dyche has already accepted McNeil will outgrow Burnley at some point, and he has no issue with the spotlight on the teenager.
“No because I think we all want to see young players thriving in the Premier League, whatever club they’re at,” said the Clarets boss.
“And as long as it’s the right attention, which I think it is, then it’s valid. He’s a top young player. I’ve been saying it for months but he continues to show it and long may it continue.”
While Burnley ended their own iffy run, West Ham have now gone seven matches without a win in all competitions and will want to forget their trip to Lancashire as soon as possible.
Midfielder Declan Rice offered no excuses, telling whufc.com: “When we had that high at the start of the season there was a real buzz around the place but we haven’t kicked on over the last five games and we’ve been poor. There’s no two ways about it.
“We’re not doing the basics properly, the simple five-yard passes, the tackling. We’ve got the international break now, the manager will get everyone together and we’ll work really hard.
“Eleven players win you games, you don’t win games with one or two players. Everyone has to be at it from the start of the game. If you’re not, looking at (this game), we were bullied all over the pitch being honest.”
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