FORMER Barnsley player and coach Mark Burton has landed a new job with a category one academy, while being happy to see some of the players he brought through the Oakwell youth system get a chance in the first team.
‘Bunny’, who lives in Penistone, played for his hometown club the Reds in the early 1990s before his career was ended by a serious knee injury. He then spent more than a decade in the Oakwell academy, bringing through the likes of John Stones and Mason Holgate.
“I always follow Barnsley,” said Burton, who has just joined Blackburn Rovers as under 23s coach after a spell with Notts County.
“I am a Barnsley lad and an ex-player and coach at the club.
“I am really proud of the likes of Stonesy and Mason who are at the top of the pyramid but also the others who have made a career out of the game like Danny Rose, Jordan Clark, James Bree and Paul Digby.
“It is good to see players like Jack Walton, who we signed from Bolton at 15, in the first team now.
“Matty Wolfe had a lot of injuries but me and Hecky (Paul Heckingbottom) convinced Patrick Cryne, who was the owner at the time, and others at the club to keep faith in him.
“I didn’t have much to do with Marshy (Aiden Marsh) but we would always look at the reports of the younger teams and see he had scored a lot of goals.
“I was sad to see Barnsley get relegated.
“You would like to think the younger players will get a chance in League One, but it is still a tough league so you can’t rush them in expecting them to stroll it. The club will need to recruit well this summer to add to the young lads.
“Hopefully they can play hundreds of games for the club and maybe some of them will be sold.”
Burton was made caretaker manager of Barnsley’s first team in February 2015 after the sacking of Danny Wilson.
He immediately oversaw a 5-1 loss at Crawley Town then wins at Scunthorpe and at home to Crewe before being replaced by Lee Johnson.
“It wasn’t good when I took over and we got walloped at Crawley.
“That affected my chances of getting the job because I won the next two games but they replaced me.
“I hadn’t had any time on the training pitch with the team before Crawley.
“I thought I had turned it around and I was disappointed not to be given the opportunity I deserved.
“But I don’t hold grudges. I would never change it, we got an away win for the first time in four months then won at home in front of my family.”
Burton’s former colleague Martin Devaney was the caretaker for the final three games of the most recent season, assisted by Tom Harban.
“I would like Davvers to get the opportunity I didn’t get.
“I am really happy for him and Tom. They shouldn’t be judged on results.
“I know what it is like to take over a team that is really lacking in confidence.
“You just have to pick them up, hope for a result, get smiles on faces.”
Burton left Oakwell in 2017 then, after a short stint at Rotherham United, spent four years with Notts County.
“With Notts getting relegated to non-league football, it massively affected the academy. We lost 31 players last summer from age nine to 16, and it set us back about five or six years.
“It has been challenging but also rewarding because we still got two players sold to Premier League clubs, and others getting through to the first team.
“I have learned to be flexible and adaptable which has given me a good grounding.”
Burton will now work with former Barnsley striker Mike Sheron at Blackburn.
He said: “I sometimes thought my chance to coach at the highest level of youth football had gone.
“I have always liked Blackburn as a club, even when we played them at Barnsley.
“They are in the Premier League for academies, facing Manchester City, Liverpool and the other big clubs.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me at a football club who want to promote youth. I think Barnsley were the only younger team in the Championship last season.
“I went on my A licence course with Shez. He’s a top bloke and I thought he did really well at Barnsley. There is a good nucleus of staff there.
“I have got a replacement knee now, which had still been impacting me for 25 years after I had to retire with it, so I can get back out on the grass more which is my strength.”