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On Friday, 22nd April 2016, a Joey Barton goal had secured a 1-0 win against Preston North End at Deepdale leaving us confident that we’d be promoted to the Premier League for a third time.

Just a few hours later, on the Saturday morning, I was at Gawthorpe watching our youth team lose 3-0 against Wrexham in the Youth Alliance League. It was an eighth successive defeat and we lost at Port Vale the following week to make it no points from the final nine games of the season.

U18 coach Tony Philliskirk

The fortunes of the first team are, rightly, the main priority at any football club, but I despaired at what I’d been watching that season at youth team level. Terry Pashley and Andy Farrell were, by then, long gone. Pash was scouting and Faz had moved to work with the development squad under Michael Jolley. All the good work done by such as Martin Dobson and Vince Overson, with such limited resources, had, in my view, been destroyed by a regime that was just about bringing our youth system to an end, and remember we’d gone out of the FA Youth Cup that season against the Metropolitan Police.

Move on to today and we are now one day away from playing our first games as a Category 1 club. Tomorrow the youth team will travel to Stoke for their first ever U18 Premier League game while an hour later the under-23s, who back in 2016 weren’t even playing competitively, will kick off against Wolves in Premier League 2 Division 2 at Kidderminster.

What a transformation. In the first of those four years since that Wrexham defeat, Michael Duff took over as youth team coach and led us to second place in what was our final season in the Youth Alliance League; we’d ended the previous season ahead of just Morecambe.

The summer of 2017 saw us move up to Category 2 within EPPP. Duff took charge of the under-23s with Danny Cadamarteri replacing him with the youth team. His first action was to take his squad to Prague for a pre-season tournament, a trip paid for by Up the Clarets.

Since, Duff and Cadamarteri have gone with Steve Stone and Tony Philliskirk now in charge of the two teams. There won’t be a Burnley fan anywhere more delighted than I am and as proud as I am to see us play at the top level of academy football in England.

I use the word ‘see’ but unfortunately that won’t be possible for a while because of the restrictions brought about by COVID-19 so it will severely restrict the coverage of the two teams on this site although we will carry all the results and will continue to offer the weekly reviews of both leagues.

Under-18 (youth) team coach Philliskirk, has admitted today that his squad, because of the restrictions, have still not been able to train together, so it is a very difficult start for them. He will have a lot of new players available to him and that will be the same for the returning Stone who has five new players in his squad along with those moving up from the under-18s.

We at Up the Clarets would like to wish both teams all the very best for this coming historic season, our first as a Category 1 club, and look forward to the time when we can be back watching the games.

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