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From Barrowford Celtic to Carling Cup hero for Burnley striker
HIS father may have played for Spanish giants Deportivo La Coruna but Carling Cup hero Jay Rodriguez is Burnley through and through.
Rodriguez instantly became the name on the lips of every Clarets fan when he coolly rounded a flummoxed Pascal Zuberbuhler, an experienced goalkeeper with 51 caps for Switzerland, to score a late winner against Premier League side Fulham in the third round on Tuesday night.
It was the 19-year-old striker’s first Clarets goal and came just three minutes after he had joined the action as a substitute.
Burnley-born Rodriguez is a former Barden High School pupil, joining the Clarets’ centre of excellence at the age of 10 as well as starring for junior club Barrowford Celtic and the town team.
His promise earned him a call-up to an England under 14s training camp at Lilleshall.
When he signed schoolboy forms with Burnley in 2005, he enthusiastically told the Lancashire Telegraph that he was ‘proper excited’.
“If I work hard I hope I can make it as a professional,” he added.
“My aim is to be like Ruud van Nistelrooy because he scores a lot of goals and is very strong.”
But Rodriguez, as the surname suggests, comes from a rather more Spanish background.
His grandfather had trials with Real Madrid before moving to England for work reasons, but Jay’s father Kiko briefly returned to Spain to play for former Champions League semi finalists Deportivo – then in the Spanish second division.
Kiko decided he did not want to stay in Spain, though, and had seven months in Burnley’s reserve team during the Brian Miller era in 1983.
Attitude problems denied him his shot at the first team but he went on to become a profilic goalscorer in non-league with the likes of Burnley Bank Hall, Burnley United, Padiham, Rossendale, Burnley Belvdere and Nelson.
There seems to be little danger of an over-inflated ego halting Jay’s progress.
Rather than demanding a first-team start against Preston, he simply spoke of the hard work ahead of him at Tuesday’s post-match press conference.
And, still getting used to the media duties of a professional footballer, he humbly asked the Clarets press officer afterwards: “Was my interview OK?”
Clearly loving every minute of his big night, he also stayed in the press room to look at pictures of his goal before receiving a DVD of the match so he could enjoy it all over again.
After impressing in the reserves and making his only previous Clarets appearance as a substitute at home to Bristol City last December, Rodriguez was sent on loan to Scottish First Division club Stirling Albion to gain experience.
He made his debut at Parkhead in a Scottish FA Cup tie against Celtic before going on to grab three goals in 12 appearances.
It was enough to earn the forward, described fondly by Clarets teammate Wade Elliott as ‘a tough little sod’, an extended deal at Turf Moor in the summer.
When Rodriguez signed schoolboy forms, his teacher Nigel Hext was full of praise but offered a cautionary note.
He said: “There are a lot of people that get offered a two-year deal with a club and think they’ve made it, but it’s only something like one in 100 that do in the end.”
Rodriguez is showing every sign of being that one in 100.