FEW Burnley youngsters in recent years have generated such excitement as Richard Chaplow. The teenage star has been wrapped in cotton wool, while rocketing from Turf Moor trainee to England Under 21 international in under a year. Now, for the first time, Clarets starlet Chaplow tells DARREN BENTLEY about his meteroric rise. In the last of a three-part interview, he brings the fairtytale up to date. . .

BURNLEY and 14-year-old Richard Chaplow were getting along swimmingly.

He had signed YTS terms, dismissing offers from Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City to sign for the side he felt could give him a better leg up in the game.

It showed remarkable maturity to snub bigger clubs in favour of the Clarets, but within two years the talented teenager in great demand was fighting hard just to keep his head above water.

"Burnley was always going to be the club for me," insisted Chaplow. "Despite the offers, I wanted to stay there because they had treated me well.

"I was still young and I felt I had better chance of making it at a smaller club, rather than going somewhere I might end up sat behind a long list of foreigners.

It seems strange looking back, but I was told if I was good enough I would progress and those teams might want me later."

The problems first surfaced as a 16-year-old. Cutbacks behind the scenes meant Burnley had only an under 19s side, into which Chaplow had made brief soirees.

He soon found out precisely why.

"At 16, I wasn't playing very well and was probably considered average," he recalled. "I certainly wasn't as good as I should have been and I think from progressing well at 14 and 15, I just stopped improving and started getting sloppy.

"I was told that I was no longer impressing Burnley and that even if I took the contract I'd been offered, there was a good chance I wouldn't be playing every week and it could be a hard life.

"They gave me the option not to sign, but I decided to take my chances. I signed and within six months I was in the youth team.

"That was probably the wake-up call I needed. Looking back now, I'd been offered a contract and I slackened off.

"Once I was in full training every day, I brightened up again and within six months I was in and out of the team. After a year-and-a-half, I was getting a regular place in the reserve team."

During that steep learning curve, Chaplow was boot boy to Ian Cox and Graham Branch - both first team regulars who, more importantly, coughed up £10 each on time and every week to supplement the teenager's meagre £90 per-week pay packet!

But dreams of joining them in the first team, and all the riches that came with it, were still exactly that - dreams.

Under the tutelage of youth team coach Terry Pashley, he felt his all-round game was progressing rapidly.

"Terry can be an intimidating character, but he gets his points across well and is a good coach who always wants you to improve," revealed Chaplow.

"He always brought me up to track back, saying I should be running back faster than when I run forward.

"That's something I have always remembered in games and something that has helped me become more of a box-to-box player down the years."

The raw ability was now honed; the sublime skills ready to be unleashed.

But now, with first team manager Stan Ternent at the helm and helping to turn around a listing ship, another iceberg loomed large on the horizon.

Chaplow recalled: "It was quite hard to break through at that stage because we had quite big squad.

"But then the financial problems started to bite and I started asking myself whether it was a good or bad thing as a youngster.

"Either the club wouldn't be able to afford to take us on as professionals, or they would need to take us on to supplement a small squad.

"We had absolutely no idea which way things would go."