Burnley Under 18s coach Tony Philliskirk on the search for the next Dwight McNeil

The challenge for Burnley's academy is to find the next Dwight McNeil.
Dwight McNeilDwight McNeil
Dwight McNeil

And while that is certainly not going to be easy, Under 18s coach Tony Philliskirk feels the club are making good strides on and off the pitch in that regard.

The Clarets are currently hoping to move up to Category One the top level of the Elite Player Performance Plan introduced in 2012, although that process has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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That step up will improve the calibre of clubs Burnley will compete against on a regular basis, and hopefully, in time, bring on the young talent at the club.

McNeil is the first youngster to come through the ranks and establish himself in the first team since Jay Rodriguez a decade or so ago, with only really Richard Chaplow, Chris McCann and Kyle Lafferty emerging in the last 15 years.

Philliskirk, who helped guide the Under 18s to the last eight of the FA Youth Cup, said: “We want the next Dwight McNeil, to be brutally honest.

"To be fair, some of the 18s have trained with the first team and the first team staff have come to us and said, while I’m not saying they’re that level yet, they didn’t look out of place - they were very complimentary.

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“That’s what it’s all about, now this 18s team is basically our 23s, some of the boys are 16, I’ve got 15-year-olds playing in the 18s, and that’s what Burnley does, the boys get an opportunity, and that’s what we’ve got to maintain.

“Hopefully we keep raising the standards year after year, and I repeat, going cat one is going to be tough, we’ve had this talk, it will be tough to play against teams like Man City and it is going to take us time, but we’ve got to be patient, and we coaches have to work really hard in improving players physically and certain, tactically and technically to compete.

“I think Burnley’s just on the start of that if we go cat one next year, and hopefully many years to come you’ll see the improvement and ultimately try and find the next Dwight McNeil."