As he made the short journey across the Dales from Harrogate to Turf Moor, Gareth Southgate may well have had Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson on his mind.
The Cherries striker has been linked with an England call-up in a position where the Three Lions are not exactly blessed with options. Wilson, however, did himself few favours on a miserable afternoon.
The 26-year-old will not have known it at the time, but his early miss proved incredibly costly as Eddie Howe’s men went on to suffer a 4-0 pasting.
Aaron Lennon celebrates with Ashley Westwood after scoring his side’s second goal
England manager Gareth Southgate looks on during Burnley’s clash with Bournemouth
At least others provided food for thought as Southgate returned home, and none more so than Burnley winger Aaron Lennon.
The former Leeds and Tottenham man put in arguably his best performance for Sean Dyche since his move from Everton in January. A constant menace on the left, his controlled, sliding finish was the previously winless club’s second goal in as many first-half minutes after Matej Vydra had given them the lead.
With Bournemouth seeking a response which would never come, Lennon’s pace and intelligence on the break was key in the two late goals from Ashley Barnes which put a slightly flattering gloss on the scoreline.
Lennon, 31, won the last of his 21 caps in 2013, a 14-minute cameo after replacing Theo Walcott in a 2-1 friendly victory over Brazil at Wembley. It is safe to say that in the half-decade that has followed, there have been other things on his mind. It was only 17 months ago when Lennon’s mental health issues became very public.
To see him playing well and with a smile on his face, as was often the case on Saturday, is incredible progress. He was smiling again when informed of Southgate’s presence.
Lennon shoots to double his side’s lead during the Premier League clash at Turf Moor
‘It’s a long time since I played international football,’ Lennon said. ‘Who knows? You never know. But the only thing I am concentrating on is playing well for Burnley. Whatever happens, happens. But today it is just about the win, nothing else.’
They are wise words from a player who is clearly taking things a step at a time. His goal itself was a landmark, it being two-and-a-half years since his last.
‘A long while,’ Lennon admitted. ‘It’s been playing on my mind to be honest. I should score more. I’ve had few chances this season but it is great to get the goal today.’
The victory was Burnley back to being Burnley, something not often seen so far this season. Last year’s heroics, grabbing seventh place, increased expectations and air miles. Participation in the Europa League meant that this was the first full week Dyche had been allowed to spend on the training ground with his men.
‘We worked all week on getting back to basics,’ said Lennon, ‘being on the front foot and doing what we do. From minute one we were in their faces and it paid off for us.’
The Englishman wheels away after netting his first goal of the new Premier League season
It did. Burnley were in Bournemouth’s faces and peppered their visitors’ box with crosses. Lennon believes the Clarets’ can now repeat last term’s success
‘I don’t see why not,’ he said. ‘The squad is pretty much the same, we’ve brought in a few quality players as you can see and obviously we’re out of the Europa League now and we go back to one game a week so we get to work on the training pitch and hopefully we can kick on from there.’
With Lennon back on form, Burnley would appear to be a place for rehabilitation. Joe Hart finally appears to have found a permanent base from which to rebuild his career in east Lancashire.
He was again excellent here, pulling off a number of important stops, none more so than his second-half denial of the impressive David Brooks, who had raced clear at 2-0 but could only fire at the ex-City stopper’s legs.
‘The Hart save was a key moment,’ said a frustrated Eddie Howe. For Howe’s side, who had taken 10 points from their opening five matches, this was a heavy return to earth. The manager, barracked on his return to Turf Moor, insisted they had not underestimated their previously winless hosts.
‘We were well prepared for Burnley,’ he said. ‘They are a very good team who can hurt you if you don’t do the basics.’
Howe reserved praise for Brooks and could see some positives through the gloom. ‘I thought he had a really good day,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t all doom and gloom for me but we certainly contributed to our downfall.’
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