ASEASON in pictures for Sam Vokes: all smiles at a prolific partnership, a new contract, 20 Championship goals, international prominence, individual accolades.
A season in which the Burnley striker has done so much to put the Clarets in real contention for automatic promotion. A season to look back on with great fondness.
But not just yet – partly because the inset photo (above right) serves as a painful reminder that his season is prematurely over.
If this was an episode of ‘Have I Got News for You’ it would not take someone with the IQ of Ian Hislop to decipher the ‘odd one out’. Football can be so magnificent for so long, and then in the blink of an eye so cruel.
With great highs come great lows, and yet there has been one constant for Burnley all season. Sean Dyche. The manager was completely unflappable when Charlie Austin was sold on the eve of the season, and the same sentiment applies now.
The big difference between the two events was that Austin’s exit was something the Clarets could prepare for. It was inevitable, and he would have gone sooner but for a hiccup with Hull, which led to his eventual move to QPR.
Although you can expect injuries over the course of a season – a gruelling Championship one especially – you cannot legislate for them, you cannot pre-empt when they will happen and you certainly cannot bargain for them being as bad as this one, or for key members of your squad all to be struck down at the same time.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Dyche this season, it is that whenever there is a problem, the Burnley boss refuses to dwell on it.
Instead, all of his energies are concentrated into finding a solution. It is not impossible that Steven Hewitt could provide it. In the Under 21 Premier League Cup semi final with Manchester City on Tuesday the midfielder played off the front, darting around, closing, pressing, passing and making forward runs in a manner not dissimilar to Danny Ings.
With Burnley better in a familiar 4-4-2 than 4-5-1 it could be that Hewitt was trialled there with a view to filling the void. Forget that he is young and inexperienced at senior level.
With enthusiasm and boundless energy he could spring a few surprises on Championship defences, but against as much as with the ball. Whatever plans Dyche makes for Watford and any other remaining games without Ings, players are very often influenced by their manager and tend to mirror them, in thoughts and actions.
The Burnley boss is not the only one to utter the phrase “one game at a time” this season. That calm, collected, pragmatic approach will rub off on the squad.
There will be a determin-ation to get on with the job. Added to that there will be a desire to ‘do it for Sam’, so that when the striker is ready to come back, it will to play Premier League football.