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It’s three weeks since we played our last game of the season against Sheffield United and it is very much the close season now as we await the 2021/22 fixtures in four days time.

This is the time of year when clubs are linked with signing players they may be very keen to sign, players they could be interested in and players who they have no intention of signing. The early indications this year highlight the desire to strengthen our defence.

It’s no surprise. Ben Gibson is about to go out of the door for the final time after a Burnley career that lasted 63 minutes. He will make his move to Norwich a permanent one before we kick off again. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee are both just a year away from the end of their contracts while Jimmy Dunne is currently out of contract and Kevin Long is injured.

In terms of central defenders, that leaves just Long contracted to us beyond next season so it is probably no surprise that the early links have been with defenders, some we’ve previously been linked with and others not.

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Nathan Collins (top picture), Dale Frae and Joe Worrall (middle picture) are all Championship defenders with Stoke, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest respectively. None of those names will come as a surprise to Burnley supporters given they’ve all been linked with Turf Moor moves in previous windows.

One or two more traditional links, shall we say, have surfaced in Collins’ defensive partner at Stoke Harry Souttar and Liverpool pair Nat Phillips and Neco Williams while there have been others from further afield. Juan Iglesias, a right back from Getafe, is one. That one looked like the work of an agent, the 22-year-old has made one first team appearance for his club in their final game of 2020.

Victor Nelsson is another. The 22-year-old Dane is currently with FC Copenhagen and has made his full international debut. Like some of the domestic players linked, Nelsson is a central defender.

And then, yesterday, came a much more surprising link, that of Ashley Young who lined up alongside Sean Dyche when he made his Watford debut in 2003.

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Trying to piece all that together isn’t easy but we know Sean Dyche can often be linked with a player who then joins us some time later. Certainly James Tarkowski, Ashley Westwood and Jay Rodriguez in the current squad are all good examples of that and so it would be no surprise to see us go shopping for some of those previous targets.

Collins and Worrall seem to be the favourites. The 24-year-old Worrall seems to have been a target for even longer than his former Forest team mate Henri Lansbury. He’s now played almost 130 league games for Forest having previously added games for both Dagenham & Redbridge and Rangers during loan spells.

Moving over to Stoke, and that’s a place where Dyche seems to enjoy shopping having already brought in Michael Kightly, Jonathan Walters, Phil Bardsley, Peter Crouch and Erik Pieters from them. Could Collins become number six?

He’s an inexperienced player with just 39 league appearances to his name and he’s been ruled out since February with an injury. Reports this week suggest we’ve made an offer for him with conflicting comments that the offer has been both accepted and rejected while some would have you believe there are a number of other clubs with an interest.

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Then came Young (pictured above with the Serie A trophy), and that’s Young with a capital Y given that he will be 36 next month. The former England international, who most often now plays as a full back, has been playing and winning the Serie A title with Inter Milan and was expected to sign for Watford, his first club, on his return to England. However, news has now surfaced that Burnley could move in and sign him.

It was way back in September 2003 when Young came on for his Watford debut alongside Dyche and he scored too in a 3-1 home win against Millwall. He’s since played for Aston Villa and Manchester United while also winning 39 caps for England, the last of which was the World Cup semi-final against Croatia in 2018.

We’ve also been linked with midfielders, wingers and forwards but as my old friend Arthur Bellamy always used to tell me: “You sort your defence out first,” and that’s what speculation suggests we are doing with Collins, Worrall and Young currently the favourites.

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