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At season’s end, many players find themselves out of contract and the possibility of then having to search for a new club should there be no offer of a new deal at their current clubs. Today, we look at three former Burnley strikers, all of whom have ended seasons at Burnley as leading scorer, who have found themselves in this position since their seasons came to an end.

Taking them in chronological order of the decisions being made, two of them who have been playing in the Championship are leaving their clubs at the end of their contracts next month.

Steven Fletcher has been released by Stoke having been at the bet365 Stadium for the past two seasons. It’s thirteen years since we paid a club record fee to bring him from Hibs following our first promotion to the Premier League. With relegation following a year later, the Shrewsbury born Scottish international departed having scored eight league goals for us in 35 appearances.

He signed for Wolves where he spent another two years in the Premier League, moving to Sunderland when Wolves were relegated in 2012. Four years at Sunderland followed but in the second half of his final season he was shunted out to Marseille on loan before making a move to the Football League with Sheffield Wednesday and then, after four years at Hillsborough, at Stoke.

Now aged 35, it’s no surprise to see him released. He started just sixteen league games for Stoke last season with a further nineteen substitute appearances, scoring just three times. Two of those goals came in a 3-3 home draw against Cardiff in October and a week later he scored his final goal at Blackpool in a 1-0 win. The second of those goals against Cardiff was his one hundredth in English league football.

Fletcher was our leading goalscorer in the 2009/10 season with those eight goals. In both the 2011/12 and 2012/13, that award went to Charlie Austin with sixteen and twenty-five goals respectfully.

Austin signed for QPR on the eve of the 2013/14 season. Two and a half years later he went to Southampton and after a further two and a half years his next stop was West Brom. He spent just two years at West Brom with the last half season back at QPR on loan and he returned to them on a permanent basis last summer.

Like Fletcher at Stoke, he made more appearances from the bench than starting, fifteen starts and nineteen substitute appearances in the Championship. Now 32, he’s no longer the prolific scorer he was at Swindon, Burnley and in his first spell at QPR, and netted just five goals last season, his last for QPR coming in his final game for them. He gave them the lead against Sheffield United, a game they went on to lose 3-1.

Dropping into League One, there is a real success story for a player that the Burnley fans loved during his time at Turf Moor. Having been on loan at several clubs, including Burnley, Sam Vokes, like Austin aged 32, always said he’d found a home at Burnley. He enjoyed great promotion partnerships with Danny Ings and Andre Gray and in his first Premier League season in 2016/17 was our leading scorer with ten goals.

He left for Stoke in January 2019 and I don’t think I’m the only Burnley fan mystified that things didn’t work out for him there. Released last summer, he signed for Wycombe and has scored sixteen league goals for them in a season that’s seen them reach the play-offs. Goal number seventeen was their vital second in the first leg of their play-off against MK and he’s now looking forward to a day at Wembley against Sunderland.

Before that final, he’s taken a further step forward at Wycombe by signing an extension to his contract. His manager Gareth Ainsworth said: “This is a massive statement of Sam’s commitment to Wycombe Wanderers, and of our ambitions to keep this squad as strong as it possibly can be.

“Bringing Sam to Adams Park last summer was a big coup for us and I’d say that keeping him here is even more significant, after the year he’s had. Sam has made this place his home from day one and he’s enjoying his football again after a frustrating period before he came here. He’s shown exactly why he’s earned so many caps for his country and played in the Premier League, and he’s led by example both on and off the pitch.”

I’m sure Burnley fans will be keeping a close eye on that final against Sunderland and hoping Sam can add another goal to take Wycombe back to the Championship.

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