Sean Dyche expects Dwight McNeil to outgrow Burnley.
Dyche turned to the 19-year-old winger at Burnley’s lowest ebb last season when they were staring at relegation and he seized his chance, going on to make 25 appearances.
McNeil is now an expected name on the teamsheet and was included by French newspaper L’Equipe among the 50 best players aged under 20 in Europe earlier this summer.
Speculation about McNeil’s future began last season, and he was even linked with Juventus this summer.
Far from playing down such talk, Dyche is happy to accept that at some point he is likely to have to let McNeil go – but not yet.
“We want him to get recognition because he deserves it, he’s a very good player,” said the Clarets boss.
“I mentioned last year the effect he had on the team. I think he’s maturing into himself as a person, not just as a footballer.
“He’s more and more relaxed around the group and what he does as a professional, and I want him to continue to show that on the pitch. I think he’s doing a good job all round.
“He remains very humble, he remains driven to what he wants to do and they’re important qualities. He’s got to remain like that to really go to the top, first of all with us. I think he can go beyond us and can go on to pastures new at a higher level of club.”
McNeil scored three goals last season and created several more, and caught the eye again in last weekend’s defeat to Arsenal by setting up Ashley Barnes.
But it is the improvements in McNeil’s all-round game that have most impressed Dyche, who said: “The best players I always think just raise their minimums so that on a quiet day they are still good.
“I think on a quiet day he can still find a moment, a pass, a cross, a goal or a set-piece and he remains diligent to the basics. He works hard for the team and works hard in his pressing positions and he works very, very hard on transition. I have been really pleased.
“Sometimes players grip hold of a challenge and just continue. It is completely different but I remember Roy Keane getting pulled out of nowhere when I was at Forest and being put in the first-team squad and played at Anfield and never looked back.
“Dwight has taken his chance. He delivered over half a season, he is still delivering, and some continue their development and growth weekly.”
Dyche is likely to stick with the same team for a third straight match for Sunday’s trip to Wolves, with Robbie Brady and Danny Drinkwater still out of consideration.
Brady is back training after suffering a hairline fracture of a rib but will not be risked while Drinkwater is set to make his first-team debut in next week’s Carabao Cup clash with Sunderland.
The on-loan Chelsea midfielder is building up his fitness and played in an under-23 match and a behind-closed-doors friendly this week.
Dyche said: “He is getting sharp. We know he can play and he understands the role as a central midfield player. It just comes down to his fitness and sharpness and that comes with loading training and games.”
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