Burnley striker moves closer to return - can he help them stay in the Premier League?

Burnley

Burnley striker Sam Vokes returned to light training this week after suffering cruciate ligament damage in March - and the Clarets may need his goals.

Burnley defied the odds to get the Premier League last season, as manager Sean Dyche led a previously unheralded group of players to automatic promotion on a meagre budget, earning plaudits and praise at every turn of their stunning campaign. Yet if they thought they'd be up against it in last season's promotion race, this season takes on a slightly different yet even harder feel.

The Clarets have had only one season in the Premier League before this term, and that ended in instant relegation. Dyche will have to defy the odds once again if he is to better that record this time around - and the season hasn't quite got off to a perfect start. Successive defeats to Chelsea and Swansea left Burnley with no points by the team Manchester United rolled into town, and whilst a 0-0 draw was a credible result against Louis van Gaal's men, points mean more than performances; especially at the foot of the table.

Yet Dyche could in line for a boost in the coming months after Welsh international Sam Vokes made his return to light training having been sidelined since March with a cruciate ligament injury. Vokes thrived under Dyche last season, hitting 21 goals in 44 games as he and Danny Ings formed a devastating duo in the Championship, and having started running again, Vokes is on the comeback trail.

"It's been five months since my operation so it's another milestone for me, another month down the road and another month where I've improved. I've been in the physio room ticking down the days until I can get back and it's all working towards the big goal at the end.

"It was my first day of pre-season [on Tuesday] and I'm still feeling the effects of it today! It was a hard running session with the sports scientist Mark Howard trying to get my football fitness back. It's good to get back outside, out of the gym and into the fresh air again.

"For me to build the strength in my knee back up on grass is a big thing. Obviously it was a big year last year and it was great to be a part of but naturally there has been a lot that has happened since then. But it's great to be around the place and the gaffer has kept me involved in everything while I've been injured."

Vokes' strike partner Ings may have been prolific in the Championship with 26 goals, but he's yet to find the back of the net this term whilst the same goes for new signings Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell. With just one goal scored so far this season, Burnley need to find their shooting boots, starting with this weekend's trip to face Crystal Palace.

Vokes naturally won't take part in that game, but his return is much needed. Restoring the Ings-Vokes partnership which worked so well last season could be the key to Burnley's survival - and whilst they can't afford to rush Vokes back from injury in case of a relapse, they need him back sooner rather than later if they are to make a real push for survival.

Placing too much expectation on someone coming back from injury is always dangerous, but Vokes could hold the key to the Clarets hopes of playing Premier League football for more than one season.

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