ZIMBABWEAN starlet, Vernon Masara, has thanked God for His guidance and blessing after he was named Burnley’s Academy Player of the Year for the 2023/24 season.

Masara, who turned 17 last month, has spent most of the season playing with the Under-21s squad and has impressed with his eye-catching performances.

Masara was presented his award by Chairman Alan Pace at half-time of the men’s team’s Premier League match against Newcastle United yesterday, with his family proudly watching on. 

“I would like to thank God as I’ve had some tough moments battling with a few injuries since I’ve been at Burnley, but I’ve always managed to overcome them and come back better and stronger.

“It’s a really proud moment for me and my family and a bit of a relief moment, too, proving that my hard work is paying off.

“I am very appreciative of the coaches that have helped me progress and given me a platform to improve over the years and I really look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

Academy Manager, David Longwell, said:

“This award for Vernon is very well deserved.

“The fact he was competing with older players at U21s level while just 16 years old is testament to how he has performed.

“He has developed his game this season, playing across all front three positions, and his hard work has also been really pleasing to see.

“It’s also recognition for all the staff that have worked with Vernon over the years and played a part in his development to this point.” 

The first-year scholar has shown flexibility by playing through the middle and off both flanks, and has scored 21 goals in all competitions.

Having been with the Clarets since the age of nine, Masara penned a two-year scholarship deal ahead of the 2023/24 season.

He started the campaign with some injuries but, with the help of the Academy’s medical and sports science teams he adapted to the demands of full-time training.

With the guidance of Under-18s Manager Tony Philliskirk and U21s boss Andy Farrell, Masara improved on and off the pitch and was afforded more opportunities.

That included 26 appearances for the U21s as a 16-year-old, highlighting the possibility of progression within the age group set up.

March was a particularly fruitful month for the teenager, who scored six goals in four games including a second half hat-trick away at Crewe Alexandra.

The forward also marked his Turf Moor debut with a goal, showcasing his pace to score a late goal in the 3-1 victory over AFC Bournemouth. — Sports Reporter/Burnley.

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