Feature by Tony Scholes
Updated Monday, 4th November 2013
Date and Place of Birth
4th March 1976 - MIDDLESBROUGH
Transfers to and from Burnley
First and Last Burnley Games
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (h) - 3rd February 2002
sub: replaced Ian Moore
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (h) - 9th May 2010
sub: replaced David Nugent
DARLINGTON, WATERFORD UNITED (loan),
BRADFORD CITY, NOTTINGHAM FOREST (loan)
BIRMINGHAM CITY, LEEDS UNITED
BOLTON WANDERERS, DONCASTER ROVERS
Transfers to and from Burnley
from BRADFORD CITY - 25th January 2002 (£1 million)
to BIRMINGHAM CITY - 5th January 2005 (£1.2 million)
from LEEDS UNITED - 13th July 2007 (£250,000)
to BOLTON WANDERERS - 1st July 2010
Burnley Career Stats
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Others||Total|
Profile by Tony Scholes
At midnight as we went into the first day of July 2010, Bolton Wanderers confirmed the signing of Robbie Blake, bringing to an end his second three year spell as a Burnley player.
It was the second time the player had left under a big heavy cloud, and this time despite his pleas that he wanted to stay with Burnley and was leaving with a heavy heart.
His two departures must be included in any profile of the player, but they cannot be allowed to dominate such a profile given what he's produced for Burnley Football Club during his six years at Turf Moor, becoming for many Burnley fans simply the best player they've seen in a claret and blue shirt.
Blake arrived at Turf Moor for the first time in January 2002, but by then he'd already played for three other Football League clubs whilst also enjoying a short loan in Irish football. The first of those clubs was Darlington where he enjoyed an apprenticeship before winning his first professional contract.
Whilst there came the loan in Ireland where he played just twice for Waterford, but back at Darlington he was really beginning to make an impact and was in the side that reached the then Division Three play off final in 1996. He had a disappointing game at Wembley as Darlington were beaten 1-0 by Plymouth.
He was watched that day by Bradford City boss Chris Kamara and his assistant Paul Jewell. Kamara, Middlesbrough born like Blake, already had him on the radar and eventually, in March of the following year, he took him to Valley Parade in a £300,000 transfer.
Bradford City had just won one promotion and Blake was to feature prominently in the next one as they reached the Premiership in 1999 with Jewell by now in charge of the team. He formed a partnership with new striker Lee Mills. Blake scored sixteen that day including the goal on the last day of the season at Wolves which clinched promotion.
Unfortunately, in two years at the top, he was never able to hold down a regular place in the Bradford City first team and during the second of those seasons he was loaned out to Nottingham Forest. That's where we got our first sour taste of him. He played for Forest against us at the City Ground as we suffered a 5-0 defeat. He didn't score, but he certainly impressed Stan Ternent.
It wasn't long after that and we were linked with him, but it wasn't until January 2002 that Ternent was able to bring him to Turf Moor for a £1 million fee. We were on the verge of signing Stockport's Shefki Kuqi but when the green light came from Valley Parade we dropped the Kuqi move at the eleventh hour and spent our million on Blake.
By then he wasn't even getting a regular game at Bradford following relegation, and the fans there were disappointed with the way he'd gone about engineering the move for himself, but he was now a Burnley player as we pushed for promotion.
Unfortunately he arrived with an injury, one that restricted him to just one start and a few substitute appearances during the remainder of that season. He made no impact whatsoever, and in terms of using that money to strengthen the squad for a promotion push it might well have been far better spent on Kuqi.
I wonder now, over eight years later, how many Burnley fans would ever consider that we might have been better off spending it on Shefki Kuqi than Robbie Blake.
Fit for the start of the 2002/03 season, he was in the starting line up for the opening game, a shock 3-1 home defeat against Brighton. He didn't impress to be fair and certainly he didn't impress his manager, Ternent accusing him of playing in diving boots.
He was promptly dropped and despite the awful start to the new season he was out of the side for the next four games and only got a place back when Gareth Taylor was away on international duty and Glen Little was dropped for the visit to Derby.
Nothing changed; we were 1-0 behind at half time and poor. Little came on at half time as a substitute and there Burnley's an in particular Robbie Blake's fortunes changed. Blake was the catalyst, Blake was the star, and we came back to win 2-1 with an own goal and a penalty which gave him his first Burnley goal.
He quickly established himself with the Burnley fans although not always with his manager and more than once he was left out again, most famously during the cup run which left both he and Little on the bench for the quarter final at Watford.
There wasn't much time on the bench in the 2003/04 season, just one game when he was ill. That season was a real struggle for Burnley and the nearest we came to relegation from the Championship. Blake scored nineteen league goals that season.
None of those goals were more important than the penalty he converted at Walsall on Easter Saturday that gave us a vital 1-0 win. Yet, for me, his best goal that season came in the FA Cup win against Gillingham with a sensational free kick at the cricket field end.
There was a new manager in Steve Cotterill for the 2004/05 season and he employed Blake as the front man in a 4-5-1 formation. It worked and by December he'd already notched ten league goals.
The last two of those came in a 2-0 home win against Preston. The first of them, this time a free kick at the Jimmy Mac end of the ground, right on half time was an absolute stunner. Sadly, by then, there were rumours that he wanted out, and so it proved.
He played the following week at Sunderland but for the next home game he was an unused sub against Wigan the team he was desperate to leave us for. It was just the same scenario that had seen him arrive at Turf Moor three years earlier.
He didn't play for us again, and in early January 2005 was sold, although not to Wigan. He went back to the Premiership with Birmingham City. His stay was short lived, although he did score for Brum against Blackburn, and by the summer he was on the move again to Leeds.
When he played for them against us he was booed by the Burnley fans, and needless to say he scored against us with a free kick at Elland Road, that one in the 2005/06 season. His last game for Leeds against us was in April 2007 and by then he looked a shadow of the player who had been such a Turf Moor favourite.
Even so, I was excited when Cotterill brought him back to Burnley that summer in a cut price deal following Leeds' relegation to League One. He signed a three year deal and I just couldn't believe that the money could be spent any better.
I think the last three years have very much proved that. Again he was straight into Cotterill's team, playing alongside Andy Gray, but that wasn't to last too long. When new manager Owen Coyle arrived it didn't take him long to move Robbie from his favoured central role and play him on the left hand side.
He could never guarantee himself a start but was always in the squad and always used and there were some special performances and special moments. During the promotion season, as he celebrated his goal at Coventry, the team's practical joker Stephen Jordan pulled down his shorts to reveal the now infamous 'Bad Beat Bob' underpants.
A brilliant season that led all the way to Wembley, but again I turn to a cup game for my best Blake memory. The performance from the little magician on that heart breaking night in the Carling Cup semi-final defeat to Spurs was perhaps as good as any he'd given us.
Yet, how close he came to missing that game. He was out of the side, but four days later had come on as a substitute at Deepdale and scored a brilliant free kick. Without that goal he wouldn't have played against Spurs and I'm certain we would never had seen that wonderful comeback.
May 2009 saw him dancing around Wembley with his short pulled down flashing his 'Bad Beat Bobs' and when he next stepped out onto Turf Moor in competitive action he scored the only goal of the game against Manchester United.
In a catalogue of sensational Blake goals this one must be close to the top - it was a stunning volley that goalkeeper Ben Foster must be grateful he didn't get near to. Sadly it proved to be his last ever Turf Moor goal, his only other Burnley goal that season coming in the defeat to Blackburn at Ewood Park.
Brian Laws came in as manager in January and Robbie saw himself getting less opportunities and that led to him questioning whether he wanted to stay with Burnley when his contract expired.
Would he or wouldn't he? He was offered a one year deal with a one year option if he played twenty games or more, with Laws confirming that he'd be playing a big part in the Championship.
Blake however said he wanted a two year deal and wouldn't sign a contract with anyone for less than two years. Burnley left the door open for him, but in the end he signed a one year deal with Bolton Wanderers and got himself a return to the Premier League.
It was all a bit messy and a very sad way for his Burnley career to end and it tarnishes things a bit, but for me I just keep thinking back to the goals, the performances, and the superb entertainment he's given us in six years as a Burnley player.
We all have our favourites and I'd suggest that Spurs game was his finest performance for the Clarets.
There are so many fantastic goals to consider but I'll go back to August 2004 for mine. Despite all the great strikes, many from free kicks, my choice is the equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Wolves when I remain convinced he beat the entire Wolves back four about thirty times as he twisted and turned in a short space inside the box before slotting the ball home.
When I reported his departure I said I couldn't wish him well at his new club, but there is one thing for certain - I'll miss him.
Despite featuring very rarely for Bolton in the 2010/11 season, a season in which he turned down the opportunity to join Norwich on loan, he agreed a new one year deal to remain at the Reebok for the 2011/12 season. HIs second season proved to be his last. He sat on the sidelines virtually throughout the season as Bolton suffered relegation from the Premier League on the last day of the season. Five days later he was one of 11 players released.
There was speculation that he was considering hanging up his boots, but that was ruled out on 27th June 2012 when he signed an initial one year deal with Doncaster. Things didn't go well. He couldn't force his way into the team and he made only seven substitute appearances in League One for his new club, not featuring at all when Brian Flynn replaced Dean Saunders as manager. On 25th March 2013 Doncaster confirmed that his contract had been terminated by mutual agreement.
Over seven months after leaving Doncaster, Blake returned to football in the Northern League after signing for Team Northumbia.