Nathan Blake (born 27 January 1972) is a Welsh former professional footballer, who played in the Premier League for several clubs representing his country at the international levels. Blake was relegated from the Premier League five times, a record he holds jointly with Hermann Hreiðarsson. He was relegated in 1993–94 at Sheffield United, twice for Bolton Wanderers in 1995–96 and 1997–98, in the following season for Blackburn Rovers and in the 2003–04 season while at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
|Full name||Nathan Alexandar Blake|
|Date of birth||27 January 1972|
|Place of birth||Cardiff, Wales|
|Height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|2005||→ Leeds United (loan)||2||(1)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Blake was a trainee at Chelsea but was released in 1990, without graduating to the first team. He moved back to his home-city club Cardiff City after this, where he quickly made his senior debut against Bristol Rovers in March. He quickly rose to being a first team regular in 1990–91 and went on to become a firm favourite with fans.
He helped the club to the Third Division title in 1992–93, scoring 11 times, and made a strong start to life in the third tier the next season, scoring 14 goals in 20 games. It was during this season that he rose to national prominence when he scored a spectacular goal against Manchester City to send them crashing out of the FA Cup. This form attracted Premier League Sheffield United to snap him up for £300,000 in February 1994. In total, he scored 40 goals in 164 appearances for the Welsh side.
Blake scored five goals in the remainder of Sheffield United's top flight campaign, but could not halt relegation. He then finished as the Blades' top scorer in the next two seasons, but neither season saw the club mount a serious promotion challenge in Division One. During the 1995–96 season, his goalscoring again won him a move to the Premier League, as he joined Bolton Wanderers in December 1995 in a £1,200,000 deal.
Blake failed to make an immediate impact at Bolton Wanderers and only managed one league goal as they dropped out of the Premier League after a solitary season. He rediscovered his goalscoring prowess in the 1996–97 season though, as he notched 19 league goals to fire Bolton back to the top flight as champions. The next season saw his best seasonal tally in the top flight as he bagged 12 goals, however this couldn't prevent yet another relegation for the club after one season.
He started the 1998–99 season brightly, with 6 goals in the opening 12 games, which won him his third move back to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers in a £4.25m deal in October 1998. History repeated itself though for Blake as he again suffered the drop in a season that saw him manage just 3 goals.
The striker remained at Ewood Park for two full seasons, the second of which saw him again win promotion, but he managed only 9 goals over these seasons. He started the club's return in the top flight, and scored their opening goal away at Derby County, but was swiftly returned to Division One when he was sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers in September 2001 for an initial £1.5m fee. Blake, who had a strained relationship with Blackburn manager Graeme Souness, was offered the chance to stay and fight for a place in the side but decided to accept the transfer.
Blake quickly refound his form at First Division Wolves, scoring on his debut against Stockport County, and ending the season with 11 goals. However, he missed out on another promotion as the club suffered a late slump to fall into the play-offs where they lost to Norwich City. The next season saw Blake better his tally, despite suffering a broken foot during a match against Portsmouth in November 2002, as his 12 goals helped the club go one step further as they won the play-offs. Blake himself scored in the 3–0 final win over his former club Sheffield United, held in his homecity of Cardiff.
His final crack at the Premier League was hindered by a year of niggling injuries that kept him sidelined for the majority of the games. He managed just one goal, against Newcastle United, from 13 appearances as the club proved unable to survive. This relegation gave Blake the unenviable distinction of the player suffering the most Premier League relegations with five different seasons ending in the drop, a record that has since been matched by Hermann Hreiðarsson.
Blake left the club in acrimonious circumstances, having fallen out of favour, Blake fell out with manager Dave Jones after a proposed move to Portsmouth fell through when Wolves continually raised their asking price for Blake before eventually cancelling the deal.
Blake was released by Wolves upon their relegation in 2004, after making 85 appearances, scoring 26 times in all competitions. He joined fellow relegated club Leicester City on a one-year contract after having also had a trial at Sunderland. His opportunities here were mostly only as a substitute and he never scored a league goal for the Foxes, but did score once in a League Cup defeat to Preston North End. Failing to make an impact, he was instead loaned out to Leeds United in January 2005, where he managed the final goal of his league career against Coventry City. His loan was cut short by a ruptured hamstring and he returned to Leicester, but did not feature again before being released by the club in June 2005.
His professional career derailed as he was given a six-month suspension in August 2005 for testing positive for a recreational drug. After serving his suspension, he had a trial at Stoke City but decided he was unwilling to commit to playing full-time anymore. Instead, he spent two months playing for non-league Newport County, where he had originally been a trainee, before his deal ended in October 2006.
Before breaking through as a footballer, Blake fell foul of the law and was prosecuted for theft from a fruit machine in London. Following his retirement from professional football in 2006, he set up and runs his own property management company in his native Wales.
On 27 January 2012 following several race related scandals in the English game, Blake came out to say whilst he was a player he was sent a racially motivated death threat after withdrawing from a Wales squad.
Blake won the award for Best Supporting Actor at Film Fest Cymru 2014 for his role in short film The Homing Bird, in which he plays a football coach. He had been nominated the previous year in the same category for his debut role in Say It.
Born in Wales and of Jamaican descent, Blake won 29 caps for Wales, scoring 4 times. He made his debut on 9 March 1994 in a 1–3 friendly loss to Norway, that marked the only game of John Toshack's first spell in charge. He scored his first goal against Moldova in a 1–3 Euro 96 qualifying defeat. Blake refused to play for Wales team manager Bobby Gould after accusing Gould of making a racist comment in training His other three international goals came against Turkey (August 1997), Norway (October 2000) and Poland (June 2001). He also set the unfortunate record of being the first player to score an international goal at Wales' Millennium Stadium when he put through his own net against Finland on 29 March 2000.
- Bolton Wanderers
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Cardiff City
- Blackburn Rovers
- Football League Championship: Runners Up (2) 2000-2001
- "Nathan Blake". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
- "West Ham: Are you sure you want Roger Johnson? He's one of football's most relegated men". Metro. 6 January 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
- Gareth Rogers (2 April 2009). "FootballNation – Farewell to Ninian – Ninian Park: The voice from the terraces". WalesOnline. Retrieved 6 September 2010.[full citation needed]
- "Ten top Ninian Park memories". BBC. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "Roaring Twenties inspire Cardiff: Echoes of a famous Wembley victory are sustaining a side deprived of their Cup talisman". Independent.co.uk. The Independent. 20 February 1994. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- "Wolves sign Blake". BBC Sport. 13 September 2001.
- "The ex-wolf - Nathan Blake". Wolves Express & Star. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
- "Blake joins Leicester". BBC Sport. 1 August 2004.
- "Leicester 2–3 Preston". BBC. 4 October 2004. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "Coventry 1–2 Leeds". BBC. 3 January 2005. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "Scan confirms Blake injury fears". BBC Sport. 11 January 2005.
- "Blake suspended for six months". BBC Sport. 23 August 2005.
- "Blake fuelled by Newport mission". BBC Sport. 30 August 2006.
- "Blake parts company with Newport". BBC Sport. 13 October 2006.
- "Blake reveals race death threat". BBC News.
- "Ex-footballer Nathan Blake wins Welsh film festival award". BBC News.
- Price, Karen (12 October 2014). "Football star Nathan Blake wins acting award".
- "An Englishman over the border". BBC News. 5 June 1999. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "Blake calls time on Wales". BBC Sport. 23 September 2004.
- Nathan Blake at Soccerbase