Belfast Telegraph

Michael Duff's Premier ambition is still burning bright

By Ken Gaunt

Michael Duff feels as though he is in a corner of Belfast when he runs out at Turf Moor, the modest home of Premier League newcomers Burnley.

The defender's mind flashes back to memorable Northern Ireland home wins over the might of England (1-0), Spain (3-2) and Sweden (2-1) when he was thrilled to be part of the squad.

And like the feisty international side of years gone by, his famous old club have proved to be difficult opponents on their own patch.

Burnley remained unbeaten in the Championship until March, but recovered to gain automatic promotion when they were widely tipped for relegation.

Duff, now 36-years-old, hopes they can carry that momentum into the new season when again they will be favourites for the drop.

"We had a strong home record last season . Turf Moor has the feel of an old style ground, a bit like Windsor Park," Duff told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It can be a bit raucous, especially when we are up against top teams. The supporters are not afraid to make themselves heard and it can be very lively when we have a full house."

Duff is determined to make the most of his second crack at the top flight – the last one ended in relegation – after signing a new one-year deal to extend his stay in Lancashire to 11 years.

With manager Sean Dyche at the helm, Burnley supporters are thrilled at the prospect of their first two home games, against Chelsea and Manchester United.

Is Duff apprehensive at the prospect of successive stiff tests against Stamford Bridge new recruit Jorge Costa and Old Trafford twin powers Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie?

"No, not at all. It is a challenge I relish," said Duff, capped 26 times by Northern Ireland.

"This is the reason we worked so hard to get promotion. You want to test yourself against the rest and hopefully I will be involved."

The only surviving member of the last Premier League squad, Duff thought it prudent to do some work on his own this summer before returning to training.

After all, he knows full well the need to continue to put a shift in having worked his way up through eight leagues, which he believes is some kind of record, playing over 300 games for Burnley and Cheltenham, where he struggled initially to make his mark.

After playing 41 of 46 league games last season, he said: "I have only had one bad injury, touch wood, and I feel great. I was in the top bracket last season when they assessed our overall fitness.

"I know how important rest is at my age but it can be a bit difficult when you have a couple of kids running around the place."

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