WE’RE told if you love someone, you should set them free.
“He’s one of our own” is a song doting Burnley fans sing about Jay Rodriguez.
Born and bred in the town, the striker loves the club equally.
But some could argue that such is the apparently increasing gulf in class between him and the rest of the team, a parting of the ways in the summer is a looming danger.
That would be a big blow to Burnley and is surely something the club should strive hard to avoid.
Rodriguez grew up supporting the Clarets, joined the youth set-up and rose through the ranks to earn his first pro contract at Turf Moor.
Barrowford Celtic aside, it is the only club he has served.
From Burnley’s perspective, the England Under 21 international is one of the brightest stars to emerge for many years.
They are proud to have produced a homegrown talent – one which they hope will inspire a clutch of other young, local hopefuls.
Ideally the Clarets can up their game and start showing Rodriguez why he still has a future at Turf Moor.
A Burnley squad realistically challenging for a return to the Premier League would suddenly give the young striker food for thought.
You would imagine no-one would be happier than him if he could achieve his ambitions at ‘his club’.
Burnley need more players of his calibre to convince him to stay.
He needs to see a reason for hope and a reason to pledge his loyalty beyond the summer.
But while there were many question marks over Burnley’s last performance, against Millwall, one thing became abundantly clear.
Rodriguez is outgrowing this current crop of Clarets.
It has been observed in patches this season, but stuck out like a sore thumb on Saturday.
His touch, his movement, his vision, not to mention his composure from the spot – his all-round game was on another plane to that of his team-mates, and part of the reason why it was one of the
striker’s quieter afternoons.
Responsibility has weighed increasingly heavily on the 22-year-old’s shoulders for goals of late, but rather than buckling under the burden, he has grown with it.
Nineteen goals, with 13 games to go, will testify to that.
It wasn’t all down to him earlier this season though.
In fact, Charlie Austin was the one blazing a trail at the beginning, with Rodriguez playing catch-up at times.
Jay Rod had to wait until the end of September to get off the mark in the Championship but when he wasn’t scoring, he was making chances for Austin.
The complement was returned, making for a vibrant, exciting partnership.
They were totally in tune with each other’s game, but Austin hasn’t looked the same since making his comeback from a dislocated shoulder, and together the strike pair have lost their spark.
By carrying the mantle, and showing versatility by working equally well with Sam Vokes the target man and Martin Paterson the terrier, Rodriguez has moved on to another plane.
The striker was coveted by Southampton in the summer and Newcastle in January.
Burnley have survived two transfer windows to keep him.
I’m not sure they will get through a third.
They certainly won’t unless they raise their game.