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View From The Town End: Burnley

Ahead of Saturday's match against Burnley, Jamie Smith, host of Clarets' podcast No Nay Never, kindly answered a few of our questions previewing the game.

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How would you sum up Burnley's season so far?

We started slowly but since we got hammered 3-0 at Hull on Boxing Day we've shifted up a gear or two and we have excellent momentum. Some of the away performances - thrashings of MK Dons and Brentford - have been sublime and we're looking tight at the back and incisive up front. Dyche switched the defence around (to the back line some of us have wanted since the start of the season, ahem) and we've been unbeaten since. And when you have a striker like Andre Gray, you're always going to get goals. We're serious contenders.

Is the club in a better position to compete in the Premier League next season if you do make it back up?

Good question. I think our recruitment this season - bringing in proven performers like Gray and Barton - shows some lessons have been learned from the awful transfer business we did after our last promotion - buying Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell as a Premier League strikeforce was beyond a joke. Dyche's tactics are still quite rigid and predictable and he needs to develop a plan b and a plan c for when teams work out our plan a.

But if we do go up, it'll be three seasons in the PL in about ten years, so we need to start acting like we belong at that level, rather than play-acting at it. I would hope that if we go up we have a much better go at it than last time, put it that way, especially with the truly ridiculous TV money we'd get.

Reading's win at Turf Moor back in September was about as good as it got for us this season. We've not away since but what did you make of us that day and from what you've seen and read since.

I wasn't at that game but by all accounts we were under par and Gray was injured, so we weren't at our best, but you certainly did a job on us and we had no complaints about the result. It's been a surprise to see you struggle since because any team capable of beating us, I'd expect to be in the mix not floating around the bottom half. I like Steve Clarke and felt you sacked him a bit early, although I don't know what impact the Fulham business had on his position. Brian McDermott is a good manager but you generally need stability to do well in the Championship and Reading haven't had that for a while. You're obviously struggling for goals and we've kept a few clean sheets recently, so our defenders should be quite comfortable.

Who should Reading be wary of on Saturday?

Gray is the obvious threat we have and when he's on top of his game I don't think many Championship defenders can handle his combination of pace and power - he's too good. Both full-backs are comfortable on the ball and Joey Barton is the driving force in midfield. Lots of us were a bit wary when we signed Barton but he hasn't put a foot wrong for us, he's been a brilliant free signing. Gray's partner Sam Vokes is in good form too, he's scored four goals in six games. We don't really have a weak link to be honest. It says a lot that we could spend a few million on James Tarkowski in January and give him a couple of weeks to get up to full speed without even having him in the squad. If there's one slight issue we have, I'd say we lack a gamechanger off the bench, but Michael Kightly and Matt Taylor are decent options.

Any Reading player you're not looking forward to facing?

I've always liked McCleary's directness and eye for goal, but to be perfectly honest and with no disrespect meant, a team as strong as ours, in good form, shouldn't have too many problems with Reading. Kermorgant is a threat if he gets the right service, but Michael Keane and Ben Mee are both good enough in the air to keep him quiet.

Score prediction?

I'm usually pretty pessimistic but we've been winning games against bottom half sides very comfortably of late and the chance to go into the top two with Boro not playing until Monday is a big opportunity for us. I reckon about 3-1 to us sounds about right. We put our loss at Hull right by beating them last weekend and we should be out for revenge again.

Finally who's your three to go up and three to go down?

If we maintain our current excellent levels, we go up regardless of the games in hand others have. I'll go for Hull to join us in the top two because Bruce has been there and done it, and maybe Brighton through the play-offs since they're coming back into form at a good time - but there's always one who comes from nowhere. Ipswich or Forest?

Hard to call the bottom - it looks pretty tight. Bolton and Charlton will find it hard with their off-the-field issues, Rotherham couldn't have made a better appointment than Warnock, MK Dons have looked terrible whenever I've seen them this season. I'll take Bolton, Charlton and Rovers - just because it would be very funny for us to watch them drop to League One while we go up to the Premier League.

Thanks to Jamie Smith for his thoughts ahead of the game - you can find their excellent podcast herelike them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter with the handle @NoNayNeverNet.