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Fan Focus: Burnley (A) - With 'No Nay Never'

Editor of the excellent Burnley online blog 'No Nay Never', Jamie Smith, gave Roker Report his thoughts on Saturday's upcoming clash at Turf Moor between his boys and the Black Cats. Despite being very early on in the season, the game already has that air of added importance about it, with three precious points at stake for both sides. See the bottom of the page (after reading the story, of course!) for ways of connecting with the No Nay Never team!

Wickham battles with former Sunderland winger Ross Wallace in 2011
Wickham battles with former Sunderland winger Ross Wallace in 2011
Clint Hughes

It’s early days, but are you enjoying the Premier League so far? How do you reckon the Clarets have done results and performance-wise?

Jamie: I am enjoying it so far, yeah, and I think we've held our own relatively well given the fixtures we've played. If Scott Arfield had scored that late penalty at Palace at the weekend we'd have four points and be in very good shape, but I'm not disappointed with how we've played. I think we're getting better - and closer to that first win - with every week. Successive clean sheets is a good platform we can build on now, we just need to improve at the other end of the pitch and we'll start picking up victories, starting on Saturday.

Do you think Sean Dyche has what it takes to succeed as a top-flight manager, despite a relative lack of experience at this level?

Jamie: You can't get experience without having a go, can you? I'd rather we had someone like Dyche than parachute in a foreign bloke who might have top-flight experience in another country, but no clue of how English football works. He's still inexperienced yes, but his record so far stands up for itself.

Long-term, can he be a Premier League manager? Impossible to tell, but I don't see why not at this early stage. The only tiny criticism I have of him is his use of subs: he doesn't use them. I'm sure he has his reasons but it's quite rare he's made a positive change and it's won us points. That's probably partly down to a lack of options on the bench, but it's still an area he can improve.

It seems that you’re becoming very hard to beat considering the last couple of results. Is that Dyche’s plan do you think – to keep a solid defence first and foremost? What’s his preferred style of play usually?

Jamie: That's the plan, yes - 100%. Last time we were in the Premier League we were wide open most weeks and took a few heavy beatings away from home as a result. That's not likely to happen much this season. It's the same back five as last season and that helps a lot. They kept a lot of clean sheets last season, so we've stuck with them and it's paying off so far. That doesn't mean we just stick ten men behind the ball though - we actually had most of the possession against Palace so we're quite capable on the ball, too. We can be a bit direct at times and usually play with a big lad up front - Sam Vokes last season and Lukas Jutkiewicz this year. We do lack a bit of pace, so a lot of our play is in front of the opposition, but Kieran Trippier's crossing from deep is a big threat.

What has the atmosphere been like at Turf Moor during your home matches so far? Do you feel it’ll prove to be an intimidated place for Sunderland to visit?

Jamie: It depends on who you ask. It didn't sound great against Chelsea, but it was better against United by all accounts. Having a Saturday 3pm kick-off should help and I'm sure Sunderland will bring a lot of noisy fans that will contribute. If we start well, I'm sure the fans will get behind the side. But honestly, Turf Moor isn't nearly as intimidating as it ought to be. We were struggling to generate a good atmosphere even after we'd won promotion, which is unforgivable really.

Former Burnley striker Steven Fletcher is in the Sunderland ranks these days. Do you think he’ll get a good reception from your fans should he appear?

Jamie: I would hope so, he was excellent for us and we made a good profit on him, so there's no reason why he wouldn't get a reasonable round of applause. It doesn't look like Poyet rates him much though, so he might not be involved. I think it's hard to justify leaving him out if you're picking Jozy Altidore in your squad, but what do I know?! I've always been a big fan of Fletcher - his first touch was as good as any Burnley player in recent history.

How do you rate your club's summer transfer business now the window has finally closed? Who’s your stand-out purchase?

Jamie: Mixed really. I think we've signed too many bits-and-pieces squad players who will only play a handful of games between them, and not enough players who are actually good enough for the team. But, we made three good signings on deadline day - George Boyd for £3m and Michael Keane and Nathaniel Chalobah on loan - and they're all capable of making the difference. Jutkiewicz is probably the most important of the ten new arrivals. He's done okay so far, but if he doesn't start scoring soon we're going to find it tough. If Chalobah is as good as Watford fans tell us then he'll be very exciting to watch, but he's not in the team yet.

What are your realistic expectations for this season?

Jamie: A relegation battle, but we'll scrap hard and we have every chance of staying up, especially if Dyche is still in charge at the end of the season. Last year there were probably eight or nine pretty poor teams in the league and it looks no stronger this year for me. I can certainly think of three teams we're capable of finishing above, absolutely no problem with that. Whether we will or not, it's still really early to guess.

Who are the Burnley players we most need to look out for this Saturday?

Jamie: We're a team rather than star individuals really, but Arfield has stood out so far this season. He's scored our only goal so far, so it's hard to look past him, but he could easily have had two or three more. He'll play on the right, but not really as a winger. Trippier will try to get forward from right-back, but we're putting a lot of faith in Boyd to be our main creator, especially if Danny Ings' hamstring injury is a bad one. Jason Shackell is very solid at the back and David Jones has absolutely dominated the midfield in the last two-and-a-half games.

Are there any Sunderland players that you’re wary of heading into the match and, if so, why?

Jamie: Honestly? Not really (sorry!). There's ‘has-beens’ like Brown and O'Shea who are still useful and then those like Johnson and Rodwell who have yet to fulfil their potential, but Sunderland just don't have a lot of good players. On his day, Johnson is tough to stop, but luckily his day only seems to be four or five times a season and assuming he plays on the left, Trippier is good enough to keep him quiet. I'm more worried about Lee Cattermole breaking half our team! Sunderland haven't kept a clean sheet yet, so it's a decent chance for Jutkiewicz and others to get their first goals.

Do you have a score prediction for us? Goalscorers, too, if any?!

Jamie: It's our easiest game so far on paper so I'm positive we'll get a result, especially if we play as well as we have in our last two games. You do wonder where our goals are coming from though. It'll probably be a tight one - I'll go 1-0 with Arfield to score.

You can follow Jamie @jamiesmiff and No Nay Never @nonaynevernet on Twitter, while their web address is Click on the links for direct access!

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