Ex-Claret Blake back in football
IT is less than five years since Robbie Blake helped to fire Burnley into the Premier League.
Now the one-time fans’ favourite has made the step into non-league.
The forward has signed for Northumbria University side Team Northumbria, who are currently struggling in Division One of the Northern League – the ninth tier of English Football.
Startlingly, he was not considered fit enough to play by manager Paul Johnson at the weekend and denied a debut against Newcastle Benfield.
But it is perhaps even more alarming that Blake has not been able to stay in the Football League, given that he only made the drop down to League One in the summer of 2012 and has commanded transfer fees totalling £3.6million in almost 20 years in professional football.
Some might say his decision to quit the Clarets in July 2010 signalled the end of his career.
After the Clarets were relegated back to the Championship, Blake was offered another season of Premier League football with Owen Coyle at Bolton Wanderers.
But, despite making 12 appearances in league and cup that season, he never started a top flight game. He was kept on for a further 12 months at the Reebok Stadium, but made only three appearances that season, and only one in the league as a late substitute in an opening day win at Queens Park Rangers.
Blake moved closer to his Yorkshire home the following summer, joining Doncaster Rovers on a free transfer, but played only a bit-part in the first half of their title winning season.
Having just turned 37, his contract was terminated by mutual consent under Brian Flynn’s watch in March, after the Welshman – another ex-Claret – had succeeded Dean Saunders at the helm in the new year.
For some ex-Clarets, non-league football has offered an exciting new chapter in their career.
Former captain Frank Sinclair has dipped his toe into management with Colwyn Bay, but has yet to hang up his playing boots and is juggling both roles well with the Conference North club.
He has been joined there by former team-mate Ade Akinbiyi, who has taken on a player-coach role.
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