JAY Rodriguez’s sparkling 2011 continues apace.
After earning his first cap for the England Under 21s, the 21-year-old was yesterday named the npower Football League Young Player of the Month for January.
A product of the Clarets’ Youth Development programme, the striker scored twice last month, against Sheffield United and at Portsmouth during an important month for the club, which brought four wins and two draws from seven games to keep Burnley in play-off contention.
During January, Burnley-born Jay also received his first call-up to Stuart Pearce’s Under 21 squad, and made his international debut against Italy in Empoli.
In receiving the award, in partnership with The Times newspaper’s football supplement, ‘The Game’, Jay said: “It is great news that I’ve won the award and I am over the moon.
“I never expected this and it’s a huge shock.
“I still think I have a lot to learn in improving my games, but this will give me great confidence to carry on doing well for Burnley Football Club.
“The season keeps on bringing great surprises and coming on the back of the England Under 21 debut it caps a fantastic couple of weeks.
“It’s an award that ranks highly in my career so far and it’s a massive thing for me.
“Obviously I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get where I am today.
“Everyone in the youth set up at Burnley, and especially Terry Pashley, has helped to improve my game and it’s great for young players to have an education here.
“I also have to thank the Burnley managers I have worked under.
“Owen Coyle and Brian Laws were brilliant for me and Eddie Howe has also given me great confidence to express myself.”
Each season, Football League clubs invest more than £40m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent.
Around a third of this money (£12.6m) is provided by the Football Association and Premier League.
There are 8,500 young players registered with League clubs making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally coordinated young player programme in world football.
The Football League’s Chief Operating Officer, Andy Williamson, said: “It has been another great month on the pitch for Jay who continues to cement his place in Eddie Howe’s side through a number of very strong performances.
“His development is a superb advert for the quality of young players being produced throughout The Football League.”
Each month, the Young Player of the Month Award is awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football.
To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21.
During the month of January, 31 players aged 21 or under made their professional debuts in The Football League.