Time to fly the nest
Feature by Andy Dean
Updated Tuesday, 5th June 2012
Saturday, April 28th 2012 could well be the last time Jay Rodriguez ever pulls on the claret and blue shirt of Burnley Football Club for a competitive fixture.
And although the thought of losing one of the most talented young footballers our club has ever produced is hard to face, I can’t help but feel the time is right for Jay to go.
21 goals in all competitions last season, 15 the season before – this is a boy who has come an awful long way since a loan spell with Stirling Albion.
I’ll hold my hand up and say that there was a day when I didn’t believe he would grow into the player he is today. I saw nothing in him that made me think he wasn’t anything more than the next Anthony Shandran (now of Bedlington Terriers).
Rodriguez properly introduced himself to the majority of Burnley fans in 2009 when he netted the third goal in the second leg of the heartbreaking Carling Cup Semi-Final against Spurs. He followed that up with the goal of the season in the 5-0 drubbing of Nottingham Forest two months later.
After spending the majority of the club’s season in the Premier League recovering from a broken leg then on loan with Barnsley and in the reserves, it wasn’t until the start of the 2010/11 season that he started to make a name for himself.
Cult hero Robbie Blake had left for Bolton, record signing Steven Fletcher had become a Wolves player, David Nugent had returned to Portsmouth after his successful loan spell and thankfully Frederic Nimani had gone back to wherever he came from!
Chris Iwelumo arrived but doubts remained about the long-term fitness of Martin Paterson and the happiness at the club of Steven Thompson. Rodriguez had his chance to become Burnley’s number nine - and he took it.
He scored against Preston in the third home game of the season and never looked back. He ended the season with 15 goals and became our leading man, no question about it.
In the last twelve months we’ve seen him revel in the role of the talisman in a side vastly better with than without him. Four goals against Burton in a Carling Cup game kick-started a season that saw him earn a place in the PFA Championship team of the year and become a 20-goal striker.
Not 23 until July, Rodriguez’s market value at present is around the £7million mark. If we don’t sell him this summer will we ever get a higher price for him? If he stays for another year and scores another 20 goals then probably, but his value is unlikely to rise much above where it is now. He will never leave the club for more than £10million – Championship players of that value simply do not exist.
Imagine if he decides to stay and endures a tough season, only managing a handful of goals, will the big boys still be waving their chequebooks then? No, they’ll have moved on to the next young English hope whose banging the goals in for fun.
Now is the right time for Burnley to cash in on perhaps the most valuable playing asset they will ever have. We are a club in transition, finally moving on from the contrasting reigns of Owen Coyle and Brian Laws.
With Charlie Austin, Paterson, Danny Ings and a few million pounds to spend on a new striker, the loss of Jay would not cripple us, it would hurt, but it wouldn’t be a fatal blow.
Now is also the right time for Jay to fly from the Turf Moor nest and see just how good a career he can make for himself in the big time.
A player’s star only burns brightly for so long. Look at Dave Kitson, Robert Earnshaw, Darren Huckerby, Leroy Lita, Nathan Ellington, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Jon Stead – big money moves to Premier League clubs do not come along very often.
Danny Graham had a terrific season with Watford in 10/11, got a big-money move to the Premier League and performed so well for Swansea in the top-flight that he was mentioned, somewhat optimistically, for the England squad at times this season.
That said, a move this summer doesn’t guarantee Jay a ticket to the top, but I’m firmly of the opinion that this would be his best shot at it.
If he doesn’t go now he could condemn himself to a life in the second tier – not a bad life I know – but I genuinely believe he has the talent to go on to become a full England international, and the last Burnley player I said that about was Gary Cahill.
Nothing is set in stone yet. Should Jay walk out for the first match of the season with the number nine shirt of Burnley Football Club on his back there would be no Clarets fan happier than me.
But if he starts the season alongside Nikica Jelavic at Everton, up front with Papiss Cisse of Newcastle or with Southampton’s Rickie Lambert, I would be incredibly proud to say ‘He was bloody good at Burnley tha knows’.