IMAGINE scoring an ambitious acrobatic goal at the expense of your boyhood idols but for the benefit of your home-town team.
Self-confessed Manchester United fanatic and one-time Deportivo La Coruna trialist Enrique “Kiko” Rodriguez will never claim to have even paralled the magnitude of son Jay’s sporting success, but the 43-year-old does boast the bragging rights when it comes to finding the net for the Clarets against the Red Devils.
Granted the overhead kick came during a reserve appearance at Turf Moor, but a goal embracing such confidence and quality, witnessed by up-and-coming stars including Russell Beardsmore and Clayton Blackmore, can understandably be tucked away in memory for a lifetime.
“Jay won’t like this because I keep reminding him about this goal,” Kiko said. “It was against Manchester United at Turf Moor, an overhead kick to make it 1-1 at the Cricket Field end for the reserves. They had Beardsmore and Blackmore and I remember Gary Walsh in the nets picking the ball out. I can still remember the goal like it was yesterday but unfortunately there’s no footage of it. I really wanted to find a clip so I could show it Jay.”
An anthology of Championship goals, a memorable Carling Cup semi-final strike against Premier League opposition and an international cap may not be prevalent in Kiko’s curriculum vitae, but the striker orchestrated much of the success he achieved among the semi-professional ranks. He won the Hospital Cup with Padiham, beating Brunshaw in the final, and heroically shrugged off a serious injury to guide Burnley Bank Hall to the final of the Adidas Shield, which also culminated in a championship trophy.
Kiko, who now works as an assembly manager at Futaba Tenneco UK’s Liverpool Road site, said: “I won the Hospital Cup which is a local thing but it meant a lot at the time because it was on the Turf. It means a lot when you win it because you’re playing roughly all the teams in Lancashire. At Bank Hall the main one I won was the Adidas Shield so I’ve won a fair few major semi-pro trophies.
“In the Adidas Shield I scored the winning goal in the semi-final over at Chorley. They had a corner, I cleared it and I felt something pop in my knee, and I just carried on. I picked the ball up and I ended up taking a few players on and scoring, making it 1-0 and as I turned around I ended up on the floor and my cartilage ended up popping out. But we won 1-0 so I’ve still got memories of that. I ended up getting carried off.”
Kiko admits that a failure to make the grade as a teenager while at Turf Moor was the product of his own neglect and lack of aspiration, opting instead to play uncompetitively with mates. That persona was then coupled with a period where he met, and later married, wife Carol.
“I went to Burnley on trial and I was roughly there for about three or four months, playing for the reserves; at the time they had an A team,” said Kiko. “It didn’t pay off - a lot of it could have been my fault; I wasn’t dedicated enough and I preferred playing football with my mates. At that time I was 17/18 and I met Carol, we got married when I was 20 and then we had Jay when I was 21.”
He added: “The Burnley manager at the time was Brian Miller but my manager of the reserves was Arthur Bellamy. He looked after me. I played a few games for the reserves, I think I played about a dozen, and it was enjoyable. At the time I was working so I wasn’t training with the first team, I’d work then go down for games on trial. On Saturdays I’d go down and play with the A team.”
But Kiko states categorically that he wouldn’t consider trading his semi-professional experiences for the riches of a professional career: “You always regret things in life whether it’s football, work or anything. You always think to yourself that you could have done better. I can’t kid myself because what I’ve got now – a nice family and a great job.
“I look at Jay, Joseph and my wife and think I’d rather have this. I might not have had it if I’d have made it as a football player because you never know what would have happened. But I don’t regret it and I think I’ve come out a lot better at the end.”
But regardless of a career gracing the lower leagues of football, Kiko maintains that he’s been privileged enough to play alongside many famous and well-respected Clarets disciples. Among those enscribing their names in Turf Moor folklore include stallions of ‘87 Nigel Grewcock and Ian Britton who scored the two goals versus Leyton Orient to dramatically salvage Burnley’s Football League existence.
He said: “Things change when you have a family. I ended up playing football locally for Burnley Bank Hall and during that season there was about nine ex-pros playing including Ian Britton, Ashley Hoskin, Jason Harris, Neil Grewcock, Derek Scott; so we had a good system there and we went all the way to the North West Counties but that folded in the early 90s.
“I ended up going to Burnley United, where I originally came from, and played there for a couple of years before going on to Nelson and Padiham. I was successful at Padiham because we won the Hospital Cup. We had a great side there with the likes of Phil Malley and Geoff Smith who were also ex-professionals.”
And that spell at Burnley United also culminated with unprecedented celebration: “There’s been a few fond memories but I remember when Burnley United won the league. Bank Hall folded and a lot of us ended up there and it had been 25 years since Burnley United had won the league. And then we won it!
“We were playing at Barden against a team from Blackpool and we needed to win 5-0 on the final game of the season. It was 0-0 at half-time and their manager was ringing people saying that they’d won the league. Then we came out in the second half and we won 6-0 to win the league. It was good because it was local and Burnley United won the West Lancs League.”
While Rodriguez senior enjoys the unbroadcasted and unscrutinised grass roots level of football with Burnley Miners’ Veterans, sons Jay and Joseph continue their glittering ascendency on their respective platforms. The younger of the siblings is currently free-scoring for Padiham’s A team and Kiko believes there’s hope for him yet.
He said: “It’s very hard because it’s one in a million. Jay may have been the lucky one because Joseph hasn’t had the coaching that he had. But what I see in Joseph is that he is a very clever footballer. He’s more confident than what Jay was when he was that age but unfortunately he hasn’t been picked up.
“But will he do something in football? When he gets a bit older, a bit more mature and he realises how good he is, me personally, I’d give him a chance. He’s dedicated and always turns up for the team he’s playing for. He just wants to play.”
In the meantime Jay’s pedestal, both domestically and internationally, is in a formidable state of elevation. A broken ankle sustained on reserve team duty in September 2009 hindered Jay’s Premier League prospects, however, Kiko believes that period in his career has contributed to him being the determined and focussed player we see today.
Kiko said: “His success is not through luck, it’s through all his effort and hard work. He broke his ankle and he was proper down. To live with him for three or four months when he couldn’t do anything and he thought the world had ended. But he bounced back, he had knockbacks with people coming in, but he’s fought it and this year he’s taken his chance and he’s not been left out since. He puts everything in to it, works hard, some fans do get frustrated with him, but one thing you can say about him is that he does give 110%.”
After missing out on a chance of a Premier League appearance through his four-month absence followed by a loan spell with Barnsley, he’s made a return and grasped the opportunity, becoming the Clarets leading scorer this season with 13 goals in all competitions.
In all he’s scored 18 goals for the club, but which one stands out for Kiko? “A lot of people mention the Nottingham Forest goal he scored but I think it’s the Fulham one. He’s only a young kid, never had much experience, Owen Coyle has put him on in what was his debut game really in Burnley colours and to take it round an international goalkeeper in the manner that he did, that’s my favourite goal even from the ones he’s scoring now.”
That goal-scoring record attracted the attention of England Under 21 coach Stuart Pearce who handed Jay his international debut in the 1-0 friendly defeat against Italy in February and Kiko couldn’t be any prouder of his eldest son.
“I think that’s just a dream for anybody,” he said. “I think even Burnley fans are proud of that. As parents it’s just a dream come true and we are proud of Jay and everything he’s done. He did well; I watched it on the internet and I thought he did what he had to do. He did things simple and played a totally different game from what he does for Burnley. I think he did well.”
Kiko said: “One thing about Jay is that he doesn’t expect anything in life and that’s just the way he is. He’s not down about it but obviously he wants to go and play like anybody does. The main focus for Jay is Burnley Football Club. He’s signed his new deal and he always had the intention of signing that deal because he wants to be at Burnley.
“England is a bonus for him. He’d love to represent England. Jay is not naive, he knows that he’s not guaranteed anything. He even says himself that he’s not guaranteed to get in the Burnley side. You’ve got to work for it and if it comes off, it comes off.”
On Jay’s new two-year deal at Turf Moor, Kiko added: “It was a massive relief for him because he wanted it. I’m his dad, I’m not his agent or anything like that, so I don’t know the background or anything that was going on. Not once did he say he was leaving, he always wanted to go on and play for Burnley.
“He’s come right through as a kid. He was ball boy, boot cleaner to where he is now. It’s great watching his development. From a 10-year-old I think he went through about 30 centre forwards that kept coming and going and there were some good ones. They got reviews every 12 months and you were always wondering were they going to keep him on. We ended up being more worried than him.”