THEY may come from rival camps but a Rovers legend and a Clarets star are firmly united when it comes to grass roots sport.

Simon Garner and Jay Rodriguez know all too well the importance of amateur sport, for both those who play it and for those who support it.

Record goal-scorer Garner, who bagged 194 goals in 14 years at Ewood Park, always made an effort to support community sport – something Jay Rod is now doing in his native Burnley.

And the pair agree that the Grass Roots Heroes awards, sponsored by United Utilities, are the perfect way to highlight the efforts put in and the talent on show at local level.

“I think these awards are a great idea because it is a chance to reward the talent and hard work you see in local sport,” said 21-year-old Rodriguez. “There are a lot of people who put in a lot of hard work for very little recognition.”

Although he joined Burnley’s centre of excellence as an 11-year-old, Rodriguez still recalls his first taste of junior league football.

“I still remember joining my first team,” said Rodriguez who played for a Brunlea Juniors team run by his godfather Andy Baker. “I couldn’t wait until the weekend to play football and we were all the same. I now know just how much hard work went in to running that team just so that we could turn up and play.”

He moved on to play for Barrowford Celtic under Geoff Taylor where he played alongside Jack Overson – the son of former Claret Vince.

Although he joined the Clarets system at an early age, Rodriguez – who has scored 14 goals in 62 appearances at Turf Moor – has never forgotten how important local sport is.

“I always make an effort to try and support it,” added Rodriguez. “If I am available, I’ll go to events and presentations. It is something you should never forget about because that is where we started.”

Garner is delighted to see the likes of Rodriguez and Rovers own home-grown talent, David Dunn, putting something back in to the game.

“Everyone in local sport appreciates it when a so called hero goes to their event,” said Garner. “But the truth is, they are the real heroes. They are the ones who make it possible. If it wasn’t for them, then grass roots sport simply wouldn’t exist.”

He added: “David and Jay are local lads and it means a lot to them to do what they can. I’m sure that if there were more local players at Rovers and Burnley they too would be doing more in the community. That was certainly the case when I was at Rovers because there were a lot more local lads in the squad back then.”

Despite being heavily involved in Burnley’s push for the play-offs, Rodriguez still tries to watch his fair share of grassroots football. His younger brother Joe plays for Padiham FC and helped the East Lancs Football Alliance win the Inter League cup.

“If we are playing at home then I will go and watch Joe play on a Sunday,” said Rodriguez. “He is a good player in a very talented Padiham team. I enjoy watching them play and it just shows what talent there is in local football.”