Richard Hobbs chats to No Nay Never, a Burnley blog and podcast about several former Wolves who now play at Turf Moor.
Last season Burnley’s fantastic form saw them promoted to Premier League ahead of teams with bigger budgets and larger stadiums. Their promotion-winning team contained several players who were also part of Wolves who were crowned Championship champions in 2009. Michael Kightly David Jones, Jason Shackell and Sam Vokes all played their part for Burnley last year as the finished 2nd in the Championship and the Lancashire club signed another member of the Wolves team from 2009 this summer, utility man Stephen Ward. Talking to No Nay Never, an independent Burnley blog and podcast, we take a look at how they are doing down Turf Moor.
Richard: Jason Shackell never really settled down Molineux, but seems to have developed into an influential figure at Burnley. How important has he been since his arrival at Burnley and having played most of his football in the second tier, do you think he is good enough to play in the Premier League?
No Nay Never: He’s been hugely important, you can’t underestimate his impact. Shacks was carrying an injury when he first came to Turf Moor and he struggled to settle initially, but he thrived once Howe left and was replaced by Sean Dyche, who tightened up our leaky defence. Shacks was soon one of our most vital players. He’s calm on the ball, always seems to be in the right place and leads the side superbly.
I was confident he’d be fine in the Premier League but it’s been tough. It’s a big step up for everyone. Shacks has had bad games and good games but there are signs he’s finding his feet and he was excellent when we beat Hull. It’s always going to be hard for a defender to shine in a team that is up against it, but I have every faith that Shackell is a Premier League player.
I, like many, were quite sad to see David Jones leave Wolves. He had such a cultured left foot and is fondly remembered for his flick and volley freekick against Stoke. How influential was Jones during your promotion winning campaign and do you think he can make an impact for you in the Premier League?
Massively influential. I was concerned about losing Chris McCann but Jones is a superior player in virtually every department. His partnership with Dean Marney was a major factor in our promotion and the pairing just works – Jones uses the ball brilliantly and Marney quickly wins it back if we lose it.
It’s been harder in the Premier League where Jones’ lack of pace and one-footedness has been exposed a little, but when we get on top in matches it is inevitably Jones that is running the show. I’d like to see us give him some more protection with a player in the holding role behind him as I’m not convinced he has the legs to play in a midfield two at the top level, but he’s excellent on the ball and sets our tempo nicely. Jones on a free is some of the best business we’ve ever done.
Stephen Ward played in about half the outfield positions when he was at Wolves, joining Wolves as a striker before finding his position at left back. How do you think Ward has settled down Turf Moor and do you think he can make that position his own at your club?
I was underwhelmed when we signed Ward as I felt he was a worse player than last year’s left back Ben Mee, but he’s done alright since coming into the side. Mee has struggled a bit but was arguably coming into form when he was dropped, so the timing of the switch was a little odd.
Ward’s versatility and experience is very useful and he helped set up the winner against Hull but I suspect he’s in the team instead of Mee for his attacking and we haven’t quite seen enough of that yet. It’s a while since he played regularly in the Premier League though so it might take a while for him to readjust after a few years away. It’s Ward’s shirt to lose now and he is getting better each week.
Having signed for the club for only £25,000, Michael Kightly was adored by Wolves fans the season we were promoted to the Premier League for his enthusiasm and effort. After signing on a permanent deal for Burnley this summer, do the Claret and Blue Army have a good relationship with Kightly and with his injuries behind him; can he be consistent in the top flight?
The jury is still out a little bit on Kightly and with us spending £3 million on George Boyd he’s been out of the team in recent weeks. You know what you’re getting with Kightly. He’ll run all day and show lots of desire to get in the box, but we haven’t seen enough of his quality in the final third. It’s very rare you see him take on his full-back these days, he seems to lack a bit of confidence.
I think the injuries have taken a yard of pace from him and that has limited his ability to make an impact in the Premier League, but he will still contribute from the bench. We paid about £1.5 million for him and that was probably too much, but he’ll never let us down and his excellent form at the end of last season helped us to get over the line and seal promotion with minimal fuss. I wouldn’t call Kightly a fan favourite but there’s definitely respect for the role he played last year.
Most fans were upset to see Sam Vokes leave Wolves when he left to get more first team opportunities. Seeing how well he did at Burnley last season with Danny Ings, he appears to have matured and showing his potential and it was a shame to see him pick up a bad injury towards the end of the season. How big a loss is he for Burnley and how much of a difference could he have made to Burnley so far this season if he was fit?
He’s been a huge loss. Not only is it taking 20 goals out of last year’s team, but he made everyone else play better. The team was set up to take advantage of Vokes’ height and strength and without him we’ve struggled to make the ball stick. We’ve tried various combinations to replicate his pairing with Danny Ings but none has looked anything like as effective; they just clicked.
It’s hard to say what impact he could have had, but Vokes being missing has certainly affected Ings’ form and as the player we bought to replace him, Lukas Jutkiewicz, is far inferior it has clearly made our attack worse, which helps to explain why we’ve struggled for goals.
But we can’t expect too much from Vokes as he has very little Premier League experience and when he comes back he will have been out for nearly a year. It will take time for him to get back to his best and I’m worried that a lot of fans are deluding themselves when they assume he’ll be immediately back to his old self and the Ings-Vokes partnership will pick up where it left off.