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For a third successive year it is take your pick time for the first public pre-season friendlies on home soil; we had to choose between Alfreton and Kidderminster Harriers two years ago, it was Curzon Ashton and Macclesfield Town last year and tomorrow we have the choice between a game at Gresty Road against Crewe Alexandra or one around thirteen miles to the east at Port Vale.

I’ve opted for Crewe. It wasn’t a toss of a coin but it is easier to get to by train and it is considerably longer ago that we played a first team game there. We were most recently at Port Vale on a miserable August night in the League Cup four years ago but it is fourteen years since the first team were last in action at Gresty Road, the opening day of the 2005/06 season when a Crewe team that featured Steve Jones beat us 2-1 with David Vaughan scoring an 89th minute winner for them against a Burnley team for whom Gifton Noel-Williams scored a debut goal.

1617 burnley ashley westwood 00 500x500Like all of those going to one or the other game, we have no idea which players we will see on duty and whether we will get a first sighting of Erik Pieters or the returning Jay Rodriguez but we understand that manager Sean Dyche is likely to be at Vale Park.

Crewe boss David Artell believes we will provide his team with their toughest test of the pre-season no matter which players are in our line up at Gresty Road. “Burnley also have a game at Vale Park on the same day so the squad will be split evenly,” he said.

“We should still see some top Premier League players and it will be brilliant for our players and supporters. It will be a great test for us. We will be tested in different ways and in ways we want to be tested. We will be asked questions in and out of possession against top players and we will learn a lot about our own players. Hopefully the town will come down and make it a good atmosphere.”

Although I couldn’t start to predict which Burnley players will be where come 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon I do suspect that Ashley Westwood (pictured) could be at Crewe, potentially leading the team out against the club for whom he played over seventy times before moving to Aston Villa seven years ago.

Artell added: “It will be a great experience for our young players to play against elite players and compare where they are in relation to them. They should look at someone like Dwight McNeil and see what it takes to be a young player playing at the top level. I only say McNeil because he is the latest one off the block for them.

“If Ash (Westwood) plays they should learn from him. Go and ask him what has taken him to the Premier League. He has shown that it can be done. They should want to ask him what he did and what he didn’t do. What was it like at his age playing at Crewe. It is all there for them and it will be interesting to see how we do.”

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