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anderson conlan erringtonThe 2011/12 season was an up and down one for Burnley. We came close to dropping into the bottom three in late November but eventually finished 13th despite winning only seven home games throughout the season.

But there was some bright news coming through below the first team with Terry Pashley’s youth team reaching the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup, some feat for a club who, at the time, were running a centre of excellence. We lost that semi-final against Blackburn and we didn’t, ultimately, get any first team players come through from that team, but today I’m taking a look at three of the defenders from that squad who are doing quite well for themselves lower down in English football.

Central defender Tom Anderson was the captain of that youth team although he missed out on leading out his home town club against its local rivals because of illness. He’d more than played his part in the cup run which had seen us beat the likes of Ipswich, West Brom and Fulham, all academy clubs, to reach that semi-final.

Of the three, Tom came closest to a first team appearance for us, and made the bench for some first team games while also being involved in a number of pre-season friendlies, but eventually he had to find firs team football away from Burnley. He spent time away on loan with non-league clubs Barrow, Hyde, Halifax and Lincoln before getting his chance in the league with Carlisle, Chesterfield, Port Vale and finally Doncaster where he spent the second half of the 2017/18 season.

He made the move to Doncaster a permanent one that summer but then saw the manager who signed him move on but two managers later he’s now very much first choice playing for Darren Moore, himself a centre half. He’s been receiving plenty of accolades this season for his play and has been described as a defender getting back to basics.

Anderson himself said: “All the nice play looks good, but first and foremost, you are a defender and you have got to make sure you do that and that is as good as the other parts of your game. Sean (Dyche) always told me to be very level headed and worked on organisation. They are all things which are classed as the basics, but then again, it can make a big difference. Your organisational play, clearances and passing. You do not have to do anything fancy, just do the basics very well.”

Moving back into the North West and to Luke Conlan at Morecambe. Since dropping out of the side through injury, results have taken a downturn for the League Two club who are hovering just above the drop zone in the table.

He was their player of the year in 2018/19 when his performances won him a new deal at Morecambe as well as interest from elsewhere, and that form has now seen him nominated for the League Two Player of the Year in the North West Football Awards, nominated by his club alongside players from Bury, Macclesfield and Oldham.

I’m sure many Burnley fans will be VOTING in the Premier League Player of the Year and Rising Star of the Year categories for Ashley Westwood and Dwight McNeil and you might just drop a vote in for Luke who might have pushed closer to the first team at Burnley but for injuries.

Anderson at Doncaster and Conlan at Morecambe. Both are doing well but perhaps the biggest success story of the three is that of Jack Errington.  With Anderson and Alex Coleman the two regular central defenders in that youth team, first year scholar Jack would, in all likelihood, just have had a place on the bench but for Anderson’s illness.

He was impressing at youth level, no doubt about that, having followed so many players in moving to a league club from Wallsend Boys Club, but there was bad news around the corner for him. I recall chatting to him and his dad after a pre-season friendly at Alfreton in July 2012, probably giving him some stick for playing in pink boots, but never realising that I wouldn’t be seeing him play any football for some time.

Soon afterwards, Jack had a routine heart screening that showed he had an enlarged aorta with more tests confirming he’d require surgery. It was confirmed that he would be out of football for a year although that mattered not given the seriousness of his condition.

He came through the surgery, returned to Burnley for one season but was released at the end of the 2013/14 season and returned home to the north east. He’d played some non-league football up there but I’d lost track of where he was playing until last week when some friends of mine were spending the international break in the area and took in a game between Newcastle University and West Allotment Celtic in the Northern Football League to find the visiting Celtic team captained by Errington.

The University team led 2-0 in the game but West Allotment Celtic went on to win it 3-2 with Jack Errington not only turning in a man of the match performance but heading in the winning goal.

Who knows where Jack might have been now in football but for his heart surgery, although thankfully he was able to get that screening done back in 2012. His dad, as ever, was there watching him last week, still a Geordie and still very much black and white when it comes to football I imagine. The best news of all though is that Jack is enjoying his football and more importantly is fit and well.

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