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1213 burnley jason blake 01 300x500Up the Clarets understands that academy manager Jason Blake has left Burnley Football Club after five years at Turf Moor to take up a position at a North West university.

Blake was brought in to Burnley by Eddie Howe in the summer of 2011 to replace Ash Hoskin as reserve team coach, but within months he also took charge of the youth set up when, in October of that year, both Martin Dobson and Vince Overson were pushed out of the door to herald a new era.

A few months later, in a meeting I had with him and Alex Ouzounoglou, the academy head of sports science, to discuss our funding of heart monitoring equipment, he boasted that we now had a professionally run academy that would soon be Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) Category 2. “It’s nothing personal against those who were here previously,” he said, adding “But since I took over it has been run professionally.” I’m not sure what he thought Dobbo and Big Vince and their team had been doing previously but I was far from happy with his comments against two people who I know well and have considerable respect for. As it happened, under Blake’s watch, we even failed the initial audit for Category 3, let alone Category 2, and only a last ditch effort at the re-audit, when we benefited from being a Premier League club, saved us from just about losing our youth set up altogether, that being the result had we dropped to Category 4.

The facts are that since taking over, he’s lost staff in their droves, both scouts and coaches, and these are undoubtedly the most important people in such an environment. Some of those staff are now working at Bury, and others I know are now working in Category 1 academies at clubs such as Blackburn and Liverpool. These were people whose contributions were very much valued as the youth department started to improve from 2004 to 2011.

Blake took over at a time when our youth team (under-18s) were embarking on a run towards the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup but there has been a marked deterioration at that level since and certainly there has been no sign of any of the players moving towards or even getting close to a first team debut, albeit some have been on the bench at times when the number of players available for the first team was low. To add to that, the youth team has just endured its worst ever season since the introduction of the Youth Alliance League in 1998/99. The 2015/16 season was one where we swapped and changed coaches far too many times with Blake himself even taking charge during one period. Only Morecambe ended the season below us in the Youth Alliance League.

I remain bemused that he’s been allowed to remain at Burnley Football Club for as long as five years. I think most people who know me are aware that I have a real desire to see the club have a successful and thriving youth department and so I can’t hide my delight at the news of his departure. Hopefully the repair work can now start even though, as yet, there has been no confirmation as to who might come in to the club to take over.

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