Jay has the world at his feet - Vince Overson
Former Claret Vince Overson insists Jay Rodriguez won’t be overawed if he makes his England debut tonight.
Burnley-born Rodriguez - coached by Overson in his formative years - received his first call-up to the senior squad for the Wembley friendlies with Chile tonight, and Germany on Tuesday.
And the 24-year-old is in line to start against Chile in the absence of injured Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck.
Overson first worked with the £7m striker as an 11-year-old at Barrowford Celtic, and was on the Burnley youth staff when he was awarded his first professional contract in 2007.
He feels Rodriguez has a real opportunity to stake a claim for a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, and he said: “He has an unbelievable chance now, I’m sure he’s saying ‘is this really happening to me?’, but he’ll take it in his stride.
“He won’t let it affect him, the world is his oyster.
“I hope he does well, certainly the number 9 shirt is up for grabs.”
Hodgson has spoken of him as an alternative to Welbeck on the left of a front three, but Overson says he could play anywhere in the forward positions: “He started on the left at Burnley, but he was only young and you could see him playing anywhere across the front, in a front two, or in a three.
“He played as a main striker with us, but knew he could play anywhere, he just needed experience.
“I saw him as a Teddy Sheringham-type, but, to be fair, he seems to have found an extra couple of yards of pace.
“They have done a good job at Southampton clearly with their strength and conditioning work.
“He’s a big lad now, but he has that pace as well, which he didn’t get from his dad Kiko!”
What he did get from his father was a good grounding, and Overson added: “He’s got a great family behind him as well, a footballing background, and he’s stayed grounded, with his feet firmly on the floor. But all credit goes to Jay, he has a great attitude, then and now. He’s worked so hard to get where he has and appreciated he had to improve in certain areas.”
Overson admits you can never be certain a player will go on to the top level - there are too many factors involved - but he always believed Jay had a chance: “You never know what level a player is going to reach - if you did, every coach would be a multi-millionaire - but with Jay, he had great potential, and we knew it.
“He was technically sound, great touch, good game understanding - an old head on young shoulders.
“Game intelligence you can coach to a certain extent, but most of the time it is natural, instinctive, and Jay just had it.
“And he shot up in height, became, bigger, stronger and quicker.”
Overson has known him for a long time, after playing alongside son Jack at Barrowford Celtic, and he looked back at his beginnings: “I knew him from an early age, myself and Geoff Smith ran the team he played in. I had moved up from Stoke and needed a team for my son Jack, and we went to Barrowford.
“We ran the team in the Warburtons League, and they cleaned up - Jay, Jack, Connor Smith all got a lot of plaudits.
“Jeff Taylor at Burnley asked if they could come down and have a look at a few lads and they took those three on at Burnley at the age of 11. All three earned scholarships and came through the system, but Jay got a professional contract in 2007.
“But things didn’t always go well for him. His combination play was great, and his touch, but for a while, he couldn’t score.
“I remember one game against Bradford, aged 13 or 14, where he got so frustrated, he cried his eyes out.
“A lot of hard work has gone in to tweak his game all through his career, from himself, and good coaching, Brian Taylor, Jeff Taylor, myself, and under Terry Pashley and Andy Farrell he flourished.”