Burnley FC column: Blake had so much to offer, but instead he sat in the stand (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Burnley FC column: Blake had so much to offer, but instead he sat in the stand
THERE was no surprise in seeing Robbie Blake named among a long list of departures from relegated Bolton Wanderers.
His last Premier League start was for Burnley after all, some two and a bit years ago – just five games before the Clarets themselves bowed out of the top flight after an all-too-brief return.
It was inevitable he would be moved on this summer.
Not to mention sad.
His reasons for turning down a new deal at Turf Moor centred around his uncertainty at where he would figure in Brian Laws’ plans.
It was no real secret that he didn’t have an easy relationship with the then manager. He felt he wasn’t guaranteed football.
But what made him quite so sure he would be at the Reebok is anyone’s guess.
Of course the opportunity to effectively remain a Premier League player could be deemed too attractive to resist, depending on where your motivation lies.
But Blake’s rationale for doing so was misguided.
In the last two years, he was only called on by Owen Coyle just nine times in the league, and only then from the bench.
Surely that wasn’t good enough for someone who said he wanted to play.
To add to the frustrations of those who felt he had much more to give, he turned down the chance to join Norwich City on loan and add another promotion to his CV in 2011.
Coyle was glad, insisting that Blake had a realistic chance of being more than a bit-part player and working his way into his first team plans.
In reality, it was lip service.
Blake was 34 when his second spell with the Clarets came to an end. He still had decent years ahead of him.
The legs might not have been able to keep up with a sharp football brain, but his vision and the way he read the game gave him an extra yard and made him more than capable of sustaining his status as one to watch in the Championship for at least another couple of seasons.
Instead he has whiled away those precious months in the autumn of his career on the bench or in the stands.
Even his reserve appear-ances have been limited.
Blake turned out for the second string only five times last season.
Instead of trying to help Burnley put up a fight to regain Premier League status, he threw in the towel.
Once a wizard with the ball at his feet, he became a dressing room jester. Coyle felt his ‘banter’ brought out the best in Bolton. Fun while it lasted possibly, but now it’s no laughing matter.
Because what happens next?
One presumes his fitness has suffered, given his lack of game time, not to mention the impact that has had on his reputation.
He was a player defenders feared.
He brought Manchester United to their knees in his last season at Turf Moor.
But could Blake’s quest for one more crack at the Premier League ultimately have led to early retirement?
Who will take a chance on him after two years in the wilderness?
Even if he does find another club, the last two years have been a sad waste of a mercurial talent.
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