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Exclusive: Burnley hero Blake declares Premier League 'looks out for itself'

The Premier League and Championship seasons are in full swing. Football is back – or at least that's the football and political establishments in England would like you to think. It is a perception supporters up and down the country are generally accepting.

But outside the top three divisions of English football the game is still frozen, and without financial support many League Two and non-league clubs face possible administration in the coming months. It is a dire situation and one badly under-reported by the media, whose focus on the glossy entertainment of the Premier League has distracted from impending catastrophe among clubs that desperately need ticket sales to survive.

Few people understand the chasm between the Premier League and non-league, between the appearance of football's resumption and the reality, better than former Burnley striker Robbie Blake, now the first team coach of Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Bognor Regis Town. He spoke to Tribal Football about the difficulties facing non-league football, and his own plans for a future in management.

"I think every club at this level, if you're not bringing supporters through the gates, is under threat," he said. "I think it's been shown: the Premier League is just out there to help itself, and don't really think about even League One or League Two, because it's very difficult for these clubs.

"Over 50% of these football clubs can't function properly, and I'm very surprised at the moment they haven't fallen into more difficulty. That might come in the next couple of months. I think the Premier League 100% looks out for itself and doesn't think about anybody else."

The amount of money it would take to bail out scores of non-league football clubs, saving their communities, is relative peanuts to a multi-billion pound organisation like the Premier League. Despite passionately believing more should be done, Blake is sympathetic to the predicament the football authorities are in.

"I think the FA and PFA do as much as they can, but obviously the Premier League is such a massive organisation, and so wealthy, you would think there would be more help for everybody," he said.

"I understand also it's very difficult for the Premier League – it's not an easy thing to do. Clubs don't budget for what's going on. I know it's difficult. I just thought they would have been giving out a bit of help. But it's not going to happen now."

Fortunately for Blake and Bognor Regis FC, the local community have stepped up in the absence of help from governing bodies. Supporters have so far donated over £42,000 to help the club through these times, far exceeding original expectations to help secure the club's long-term future.

"It's absolutely incredible. It shouldn't go unnoticed how well the club and the supporters have come together. For the fans, and people in general, to respond like that is nothing short of incredible. We've been very lucky to have support like that, and very fortunate to have such great supporters."

And so it is no surprise that Blake, who is perhaps best known for his heroics during Burnley's first season in the Premier League, and for scoring the goal in their 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Turf Moor's debut, has been enjoying life at Bognor Regis.

"I absolutely love it! It gives me great satisfaction when we work on things and it comes off, or you ask the lads to do it and they do it. I'm really enjoying it, I'm still relatively young in my coaching career, and I'm learning a lot.

"The next progression is to be a manager. It would be nice to have that opportunity and see how I do. You've got to have the belief in your own ability, then once you've been given the opportunity it's up to you to achieve something. That's true in all walks of life. It is results that matter, and I'd love to be given that pressure, and that opportunity, to do it."

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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