Jay Rodriguez: From Championship Burnley to the England Squad

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Jay Rodriguez: From Championship Burnley to the England Squad
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A reserve team match for Burnley against Hull City isn’t the most glamorous of events.

If lucky, the crowd will trickle into triple figures—if you include the people working the turnstiles—and, as a young forward looking for a Premier League break, you will manage to mark the score sheet with your name.

If unlucky though, you fracture your ankle going in for a header, ruling you out for the next three months. “He's an integral part of our side,” said then-Burnley manager Owen Coyle of Jay Rodriguez via ESPN FC. “It's a blow to lose him.”

He never did return for his Premier League bow with the Clarets, instead going out on loan to Barnsley in the Championship where one goal in six appearances hardly yielded rave reviews from fans of the Yorkshire club.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Rodriguez is a quiet, personable guy though, and following that low point in his career it's been no surprise to see him work so hard to accelerate his career.

Thursday's call up to Roy Hodgson's England squad is a reward few that know him would deny he deserves.

Born to a Spanish father—Kiko Rodriguez was a prolific scorer in semi-professional football and once had a trial with Deportivo de la Coruna—and an English mother, the Southampton striker couldn't be less Spanish and more Lancastrian if he tried.

And it's the little things he does off the pitch which have led to not just the Saints' fans, but Burnley fans too—he left Turf Moor to move south for £7 million in 2012—getting all giddy over his international call up:

From opening a shop for his Mum, to leaving Burnley with the heaviest of hearts, Rodriguez's career has been underlined by warmth and humility.

“I can't thank everyone enough,” he told Chris Boden of the Burnley Express when he left. “It's obviously a sad time for me, but the club will still have a place in my heart. I will always follow them.”

To warrant the price tag he did, though, he had to be doing more than just being a nice guy off the pitch.

And he was.

His first big goal came against Fulham, clinching a Carling Cup win at Turf Moor in 2008. Later, in the same competition, he scored the goal which took Burnley to extra-time against Tottenham in the semifinal—Spurs would go on to win in the 119th minute.

Burnley would be promoted that season though—Rodriguez claiming the goal of the season against Nottingham Forest—and Jay Rod was set to shine in the Premier League in a side which played exciting, attacking football.

Until that reserve game against Hull.

After missing a season in the big league, Rodriguez returned from his loan spell at Barnsley to cement his place in a Burnley side now managed by Brian Laws in the Championship.

Often playing in a wide berth, he would go on to score 15 goals that season, including a dramatic late winner as Burnley came from behind to beat rivals Preston 4-3, while also securing a cap for the England U21s against Italy in February 2011.

The following season, now under Eddie Howe's tutelage, he would score 21.

That's when Southampton swooped.

Being a good guy can have its drawbacks, and perhaps the negative for Rodriguez is he doesn't necessarily have that belief, yet at least, to drive him to the very, very top—think of the arrogance shown by the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Daniel Sturridge from a young age.

It meant it took him time to settle at St. Mary’s.

Playing a supporting role to Rickie Lambert was a throwback to the majority of his early career in the Burnley first team, and it took him a while to adapt to his new surroundings.

Mauricio Pochettino's arrival, replacing Nigel Adkins who originally signed him, seems to have benefitted Rodriguez though.

Richard Sellers/Getty Images

He's scored four goals so far this season and will surely better the nine he managed last season.

To look at him now, it is easy to tell that he is a different man to the one that left Burnley—the change in his physique, as a result of hard work, is there for everyone to witness.

Via The Express, Hodgson said on Thursday that he thinks “Rodriguez could play a similar role to Welbeck,” and while some may think that seems absurd, the 24-year-old has made a habit of proving people wrong through actions.

Most Burnley fans, hand-on-heart, didn’t really believe he was England potential until his second last, maybe even his last season with the club—he was by no means earmarked for this level of success as a 15, 16-year-old.

An early loan spell with Stirling Albion was not exactly a stirring success in 2008.

Then the football world cried wolf at his £7 million price tag in the summer of 2012, which eventually led to some Southampton fans beginning to wonder too: had they indeed overpaid for him?

Now it's his chance to turn around the thoughts of an entire nation if he's handed some minutes in England's friendlies against Chile and Germany next week.

His story might not be as dramatic or exciting as Rickie Lambert's, but Jay Rodriguez is equally as deserving of his place in the England squad.

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