JAY Rodriguez is hopeful of another reunion with Burnley next season – in the Premier League.
The Clarets had a reminder of life in the top flight through Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie, when they pushed Southampton close in a seven-goal thriller at St Mary’s Stadium.
Burnley return to league action this weekend, looking to strengthen their position at the top end of the Championship with a trip to struggling Yeovil.
Having been a Christmas number one and started 2014 in second place thanks to a New Year’s Day win over Huddersfield Town, promotion aspirations are growing at Turf Moor.
And Rodriguez, who was on the fringes of the first team when the Clarets won promotion in 2009, is backing his old club for a Premier League return.
“Of course. They’re a solid side and have great attacking players so it’s a good combination,” said the striker.
“Fingers crossed let’s hope they do. I don’t see why not. They’ve got the belief there and that’s the main thing. Hopefully they can do it.”
Rodriguez, a Turf Moor youth team product, has always kept tabs on his beloved Burnley since completing a £7million move to Southampton in 2012, but Saturday’s cup clash provided a rare opportunity for the striker to see the side first hand.
And the 24-year-old admitted he was impressed by Sean Dyche’s men as they came back from 2-0 down in a scintillating second half, only for Rodriguez to have a hand in a 4-3 win for Saints.
“Burnley have always got the fight so it’s no surprise they pulled it back.
“They caused us a lot of trouble and showed why they are scoring a lot of goals,” said Rodriguez, who feels that with Southampton-born duo Danny Ings and Sam Vokes providing the firepower Burnley can stay in the promotion pack.
“We were disappointed to concede three goals but Ingsy and Vokesy are on fire at the moment so there was no surprise they got on the scoresheet,” said Rodriguez, who knows the January transfer window could be crucial to the Clarets’ cause.
While Vokes has committed his long-term future to the club with a two-year contract extension, speculation surrounds top scorer Ings, with a number of Premier League and top end Championship clubs scouting the England Under 21 international.
“Unfortunately Danny picked up a bad injury when I was at Burnley but when he came back he was a great player and it’s no surprise he’s scoring goals for fun,” Rodriguez added.
“He’s a great talent and a good lad as well so I am sure there’ll be a lot of interest in him during the January transfer window.
“But I’m sure Burnley will be able to keep hold of him and do well this year.”
On a personal note, Rodriguez took his tally for the season into double figures with the third of Southampton’s four goals on Saturday.
“It was my 10th goal. I’m pleased with it but I’m annoyed with some of the chances that I’ve missed in games that I probably should have converted so I know I’ve got a lot of hard work to do to keep improving and keep going,” said the former Barden High School pupil, who feels he is already reaping the benefits of his first England cap in November.
“The England experience was a massive help. To go and perform for your country is the best thing but to play with those players you learn a lot. It’s a real boost to confidence and self belief, so it was a good thing.”