JASON Blunt has played in the Premier League, in youth internationals against the likes of Thierry Henry then coached Leeds United under 23s. But he is now hoping to make his local club one of the most successful non-league sides ever from Barnsley.

Blunt is manager of Dearne and District who are top of the Central Midlands League, the 11th tier, with the hope of reaching at least the seventh level. The 46-year-old was born in Cornwall but has lived in the Dearne area for most of his life.

Blunt, who joined the club last April, said: “I didn’t really want to get involved in Saturday league football because I have a lot of other things going on.

“But my wife convinced me that I should give something back to my local community.

“I have lived in Bolton-upon-Dearne since I was about seven.

“I saw how ambitious the club is and what they are doing with the junior teams.

“It’s a big part of the community

“I am all in now. There is nothing better than being involved in your local club.

“I see faces in the crowd all the time who I have known since school. There is huge excitement about how far we can go.”

Blunt wants Dearne to be the second Barnsley side ever to reach the Northern Premier League, one level below the National League, after Shaw Lane AFC who folded in 2018.

“I think getting to the Northern Premier League is a realistic aim then we can see where we go from there.

“We’re averaging 400 plus fans every game and we’ve had crowds of 720.

“The ground is developing nicely and there’s been a lot of work done on it.

“I was previously at a club in Cornwall called Mousehole and we did something similar with them.”

Blunt came through the Leeds academy and played briefly for them in the Premier League before spells at Blackpool, Scarborough and Doncaster Rovers among others. He also played for England under 18s alongside Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, with the latter visiting the Dearne club earlier this season.

“The highlight was making my debut for Leeds in the Premier League when I was 18. Also playing for England under 18s in a friendly against France with Owen and Heskey up front for us and Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet up front for them. I scored for England under 18s against Scotland in a Euros qualifier as well.

“Then later on I helped my local club Doncaster Rovers into the Football League which is a great memory.”

Blunt was then an academy coach at Leeds, working under Reds legend Neil Redfearn and with the likes of future Barnsley captain Liam Kitching.

“I still speak to Kitch regularly. I worked with him in the younger age groups.

“I worked with Kalvin Phillips too.

“It’s not just about me, it’s a team effort in a big academy like that.

“It was a good experience.

“Redders promoted me to under 23s coach and I learned a lot from him and Paul Hart.”

Blunt is now lead coach at i2i International Soccer Academy along with Colin Cooper, the former England defender. They work with international players from across the world and Blunt regularly travels to the USA and other countries to coach.