big hopes | 

Josh Cullen targets two dreams as he sets his targets high

Cullen is playing a role in Burnley’s push for a return to the Premier League.

Republic of Ireland international Josh Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Damien SpellmanPA Media

Josh Cullen is hoping to live his dreams on two fronts next year as he gears up for a Premier League promotion drive and the battle for a place at the Euro 2024 finals.

The 26-year-old midfielder reported for international duty with the Republic of Ireland after playing his part in Burnley’s 3-0 derby victory over Blackburn on Sunday, a result which cemented their place at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table.

Pushing home that advantage during the second half of the season and helping Ireland, who face Norway in a friendly on Thursday evening, to launch their qualifying campaign when it gets under way in March will provide a dual focus in the next few months.

Cullen said: “These are the years that you dream of a young player and a young lad growing up. To be able to represent your country in the massive qualifiers we have coming up in the next year and to have the opportunity to try to fight and get into the Premier League is a massive thing in my career as well.

“I’m really looking forward to the future and what lies ahead.”

Cullen has already played in the English top flight – he made his Premier League debut as a late substitute for West Ham in a 3-0 win at Liverpool in August 2015 when he was still only 19.

He has since had to bide his time, heading out on loan to Bradford, Bolton and Charlton before making the bold decision to complete a permanent move to Belgian side Anderlecht and work under Vincent Kompany in October 2020.

Such was his impact that Kompany took him to Burnley when he was handed the manager’s job at Turf Moor, and Cullen, while taking nothing for granted, is convinced he would now be much better equipped for life among the big boys than he was as a teenager.

He said: “I’ve developed a lot of experience throughout different leagues, obviously my time at Anderlecht helped me see a totally different side of the game.

“I feel I’m a much better player now than I was then and if we can gain promotion, I’ll be feeling like I’m well-equipped and ready for the challenge of the Premier League.”

On the international front, Cullen has established himself as one of Stephen Kenny’s key lieutenants and this week was presented with the Republic’s senior player of the year award by Ireland great Paul McGrath.

And Cullen is well placed to assess the progress which has been made by the team.

He said: “We know that we’re by no means the finished article and there’s still a lot to improve on as well, but I think we can take a lot of positives out of the last year and see improvements that we’ve made.

“We’ve probably been a little bit disappointed with not coming away with results we feel like we’ve deserved, so now it’s time to just make sure that when we do play well, we win games, it’s as simple as that.”

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