7:46am Tuesday 12th June 2012
Exclusive By Suzanne Geldard
JAY Rodriguez admitted leaving Burnley tore him apart, but he felt he had to let his head rule his heart for the sake of his career.
The striker achieved one dream – of reaching the Premier League with the Clarets.
Along with scoring his first senior goal – a Carling Cup winner against Fulham in 2008 – promotion was a career highlight.
But hopes of playing top flight football for his boyhood team were dashed when he suffered a broken ankle in a reserve game against Hull City in late September 2010.
If he has one regret during his time at Turf Moor, it’s that.
“I’d hoped to break into the team the year after promotion. I’d always backed myself. I wanted to test myself and I thought I could do that in the Premier League that season.
“I knew it wouldn’t happen straight away. Breaking my ankle was a disappointment, but it probably made me stronger in the long-run.”
After a loan spell at Barnsley, Rodriguez returned and eventually worked his way into former manager Brian Laws’ plans after coming off the bench to score a last-minute winner at home to Preston North End a month into Burnley’s season back in the Championship.
Rodriguez continued to thrive under Eddie Howe, and went on to become an England Under 21 international.
He has had to wait three years for another shot at the Premier League; one he felt he couldn’t pass up, even though it meant leaving the club he had spent half of his life at.
“The thing that tore me was leaving Burnley. Everyone knows how much the club means to me,” said the 22-year-old.
“Every person at the club has been great to me and the fans have been amazing with me. It was such a buzz to run out in front of them every week.
“It was frustrating missing out on the Premier League, because it is the best league in the world, but I’ve got a good chance now. It was good for me to speak with Southampton, and as soon as I had I knew I had done the right thing.”
But that notion didn’t make it any easier for the Burnley boy to reach his conclusion.
“I had to think it over a lot,” he said. “I dreamed of winning promotion again and playing in the top flight with Burnley. That was my aim but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It will always be the first fixture I look out for – especially when it’s the derby games!
“It will be a good season for them and I will try to get on as many games as I can.”
He added: “It has been hard for me to leave.
“There weren’t any tears, I’ve tried to keep it as professional as I can. It has been emotional for my mum and dad though. They’ve said it will be weird seeing me without a claret and blue shirt on.”
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