Belfast Telegraph

Highly-rated Burnley defender Michael Keane talks up Championship

Burnley defender Michael Keane admits it is "flattering" to be linked with a big-money transfer but says a season of hard work in the Championship was the best thing to happen to him.

Keane's stock has risen considerably since the start of the season, having twice been called up to England squads by Gareth Southgate and reportedly caught the eye of Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.

Leicester looked at the 23-year-old in the summer and could come back in when the transfer window reopens, while Everton are also said to be mulling over a January bid.

Keane has noted his increased profile but puts it down to a year of learning and development away from the Premier League spotlight last season.

Having started his career with Manchester United but risen to the cusp of an international debut at Turf Moor, he sees the benefits of regular, competitive football further down the food chain.

"When you see people say nice things about you, links with other clubs even, it is flattering but it only happens if you're doing well on the pitch," he said ahead of Saturday's home clash with Bournemouth.

"It gives you that confidence but you can't get carried away. I've just got to keep working hard, keep doing the same things and hopefully it carries on.

"Last year in the Championship was the making of me. I played a full season, 46 games, and it was the first full season I've played in my career.

"To play in that league can be difficult so to come through that as champions gives me confidence.

"Then coming into the Premier League, starting off well and getting into the England squad I just feel I'm growing more and more. I'm loving it and just need to carry on.

"I feel like I went from strength to strength in my defending last year and that's continued this year."

For Clarets boss Sean Dyche, himself a former central defender who has been an important figure in Keane's development, the situation feels like deja-vu.

During the club's last campaign in the Premier League there was near constant speculation over striker Danny Ings, who eventually left for Liverpool but only once the 2014/15 season - and his contract - were up.

"I remember sitting here with what seemed the obsessive questioning about Danny Ings...it started about a year before anything happened," said Dyche.

"I was like 'are we talking about that again?' I 'm quite used to it, it's nothing new. It's the ying and the yang...part of it means the players are being recognised and are doing a good job, part of it is a threat situation for the 'what if' scenario.

"So far we've been clear in our minds. We've made a strong case for what we're going to do. We're not under pressure to sell anyone and that's my thoughts on it."

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