Red-hot Burns is tipping Linfield to blaze a trail
Aaron insists Blues can build on a perfect start as they seek to reclaim league crown
Aaron Burns believes Linfield are in a much stronger position to challenge for major honours this season.
The Blues sit top of the Premiership after taking maximum points from their opening three games.
The last time that happened was the 2011-12 campaign - the last time they lifted the Gibson Cup.
And while he admits a fortnight into the new term is no time to cast judgment, Burns senses a change in attitude at Windsor Park.
He believes the experience of last season and some astute signings have given Warren Feeney's side fresh impetus.
"I think we're a different squad this year," said Burns. "There's a lot more mental toughness and the boys are more mature. You saw that against Dungannon. Last year it's a game we could have dropped points in, but I think we're mentally stronger and a lot fitter.
"We're definitely a better squad. The gaffer has added some quality players and that's starting to show."
It isn't just Linfield who have started the season with a bang - Burns has scored four times in his first three games.
That form, following a 17-goal haul in the league last term, led Feeney to call him the Frank Lampard of Irish League football.
It's not a comparison that sits easy for the modest, articulate 23-year-old.
"I think that's maybe a bit too much," he laughed. "It's nice to hear things like that and have the faith of your manager that you can go out there and score goals.
"We've got that all over the park - goals from midfield, goals from the back four and great strikers. We are working on our finishing all the time in training and it's really starting to show."
Burns credits his team-mates for his sparkling early season form. He added: "I've been getting into good positions and the balls coming into the box have been very good. Hopefully it continues and I can contribute to winning plenty of games."
Linfield's new-found optimism faces a stern test today as the Blues head to Coleraine.
The Showgrounds is a stadium where they have occasionally slipped up in the past, and Burns admits they face a tough test in a game which sees the Bannsiders' Sammy Morrow come up against his former club.
"It's always a tough game - you never get it easy at Coleraine," Burns said. "Oran (Kearney) has a good squad with some good players. Obviously we know all about Sammy. They have been going well but it's a game we'll prepare well for.
"We'll not under-estimate them and we'll go up there looking for three points."
Linfield opened the season with wins over Ballymena United and Carrick Rangers.
They then hit five against the Swifts last weekend, although Burns conceded it was a much harder game than the result suggested.
And he is reluctant to get too carried away by their winning start.
"We haven't always been great starters but it's been a good start," he pointed out. "It's nine points from three games and hopefully we can keep the momentum.
"Wins breed confidence, and confidence brings the best out of you as a player."
While Burns believes Linfield have improved this season, he also acknowledges the same is true for most of their challengers.
"There are four, possibly five teams who can challenge for the title," he added.
"We can only focus on ourselves. It is about what we do and we have to focus on picking up points."
Meanwhile, Feeney is still aiming to bring in a striker - despite his side hitting 12 goals in three games.
He believes they still need reinforcements, and said: "We could do with a bit of cover up front. If a front man becomes available and I think he is worth it, then it's something I will have a look at."