Pre-season performances hint that Dwight McNeil could be a star in the making
McNeil is proving a tough player to stop (photo: Twitter / Burnley FC)

Pre-season performances hint that Dwight McNeil could be a star in the making

Only 18, the Burnley midfielder followed a string of positive showings with an impressive display against Espanyol.

Chris Lincoln

Remember the name - Dwight McNeil.

In all the excitement of Burnley's Europa League success against Aberdeen, their last pre-season friendly of the summer against La Liga side Espanyol went somewhat under the radar on Sunday. Yet 18-year old McNeil lit up Turf Moor once again with another impressive display.

Already impressed at youth level

Following a handful of positive pre-season performances, McNeil has gradually been working his way through the ranks at Burnley. Once a youth player at Manchester United, the young man from Rochdale made the move across Lancashire at the age of 14 before being granted a two-year scholarship at 16.

The starlet was a key figure in the Burnley Under-23 squad last year, ending the season as the Young Clarets Player of the Year. His dead-ball expertise combined with passing ability and flair on the ball helped persuade Sean Dyche to grant him a two-year professional contract, before making his Premier League debut as a late substitute in the final game of last season.

Still three months short of his 19th birthday, McNeil was shown faith again when thrown on as a substitute with the Europa League qualifier in the balance against Aberdeen last week.

A shining star in a dull performance

The Burnley performance against Espanyol was not one to live long in the memory. Whilst Dyche rested all of his Europa League starters, the Spanish side fielded a very strong 11.

Playing an impressive brand of attacking football, underpinned by slick passing, Espanyol created a succession of chances throughout the 90 minutes. Adam Legzdins, Burnley's fourth-choice goalkeeper, made a string of excellent saves to keep the score at 2-0.

Yet McNeil proved to be the solo dangerous outlet for the Clarets when they went forward. In fact, the side only created two real chances of note and both came from McNeil who was lively and positive throughout the contest.

Visibly not phased by nerves against the esteemed visitors, McNeil planted a pinpoint corner on the head of Kevin Long who could only glance wide. McNeil's set-piece delivery could be vital to a side who rely on corners and free-kicks to score a large percentage of their goals.

The teenager then forced the Espanyol goalkeeper into his only real testing save as he half-volleyed a strike from the edge of the box that stretched a diving Roberto. Confidence doesn't seem to be an issue for the youngster and will give him a solid foundation to build a possible breakthrough season at a club who have made minimal signings this summer.