Belfast Telegraph

Vokes close to Burnley return

Burnley striker Sam Vokes is inching ever closer to a first-team Christmas comeback, boss Sean Dyche has said.

The 25-year-old Wales international was pivotal in last season's promotion, scoring 21 goals, but has been sidelined since March after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against Leicester.

Clarets manager Dyche has so far been unable to pair Vokes with Danny Ings, a partnership which yielded 47 goals for him last year, but that day could come around the festive period.

Vokes has played two full development squad games in recent weeks and, with another pencilled in on Monday against Blackpool, his return appears imminent.

"Vokesy is on his way back," said Dyche, whose men face Tottenham this weekend.

"He got another 90 minutes in the other day so he's right at the end of his transition back into the main first-team squad. We're really pleased with that and he's pleased with that.

"In the grand scheme of things he's not had four full games. If you'd finished one season and gone into the next you roughly have a three-month window and during that transition back into playing again you probably have a 45, 75 and minimum of three 90 minutes. That's with normal shut-down.

"He's had eight and a half months out and we've got to be mindful of that when you're talking about true fitness and true ability to play in the first team.

"He's going well, he's feeling good and we're really happy with that at this stage. He's getting closer."

After a lengthy nine-month absence, Dyche completely understands that Vokes is itching to be involved in first-team affairs again as soon as possible.

"It's a long haul," said the ex-Watford manager.

"I had a few long-term injuries and it's difficult. You want to be involved all of the time and you know you can't be.

"There's a lot of individual work, a lot of loneliness . Luckily here, because of the environment we've got, you're almost stumbling across people.

"He's never felt like he's not involved in it because there's always some of the players around, the staff around.

"But true involvement is playing and I'm pleased for him that he's back - at least playing - and now it's moving on to the first team."

However, there is certainly no guarantee Vokes picks up where he left off alongside England Under-21 international Ings in Burnley's attack.

Ashley Barnes' goal against Southampton last time out moved the east Lancashire club out of the bottom three and was also the second time this season he has grabbed an important winner.

Dyche, though, welcomes having such selection headaches.

"That's a dilemma any manager wants," he conceded.

"A lot was made about the financial side but we wanted a group that was demanding of each other with real true competition. I feel we've definitely got that.

"Where it can take us, we'll see. But we like the demand that's in the group and Vokesy will only add to that."

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