He has previously worked to quench Sam Allardyce’s relentless thirst for top flight football player and game analysis.
He has also had the unenviable task of helping to deliver sobering home truths to international players whose standards have momentarily slipped — all in the constant quest for excellence and consistency at the highest level.
But now, well qualified and experienced Chris Blake is relishing the latest job to drop into his in-tray having taken on the role of first team coach in the Penrith AFC dugout alongside manager Dabba Hewson.
Blake, aged 33, grew up in Thursby, near Carlisle and holds both the UEFA A Licence and FA Advanced Youth Award.
As an intern straight out of university, he worked full-time at Blackburn Rovers with then first team boss Allardyce as a sports scientist and performance analyst, receiving his first fascinating insight behind-the-scenes of Premier League football.
Blake then switched to Carlisle United, where he was a coach of under-18 players and worked alongside Eric Kinder and Alan Moore to guide youngsters towards professional football.
Thereafter, he joined Premier League side Sunderland where he was lead analyst in the Wearside club’s academy before a memorable 10-month spell as first team match analyst after being reunited, coincidentally, with Allardyce.
Blake’s spell — before Allardyce’s short rein in charge of England — involved putting together painstakingly gathered and forensically detailed game analysis packages.
“That would be everything from how the opposition set up and how they played, to set pieces and danger individuals, through to post-match, the review of the game that was given to management staff, who signed it off,” Blake told the Herald.
These would then be delivered by Allardyce, personally, to squad members. “It’s a good challenge,” revealed Blake.
“You’re potentially having to call out or highlight errors from players like Jermain Defoe and John O’Shea; Sebastian Larsson, a Swedish international at the time; Patrick van Aanholt who had been at Chelsea and then he’s broken into the Dutch side; and you’re calling them out.
“If a player makes a mistake in a game that leads to an opportunity or a goal for the opposition you can’t hide from it. You’ve got to show it, and they don’t like it.
“But on the flip side you try and find as many positives to say that what we’re doing is working because there’s no point beating players down. You learn those kind of things from working with professionals like the coaching staff.
“But you also get a real insight into the game because you’re working with Champions League winners — internationals and people like Sam Allardyce, (coaches) Paul Bracewell and Robbie Stockdale who’ve played and managed at the highest level of English football.
“I guess it’s one of things, when you look back and think ‘bloody hell what an experience and what a challenge’.
“At the time you don’t think about it too much. You just do your job, focus on doing it as well asyou can to help the team. It was great, absolutely fantastic.”
Blake later returned to Carlisle United and worked to develop teenage talent with Academy boss Darren Edmondson and coach David Wilkes as lead coach of players aged 12 to 16.
He has recently become a lecturer in sport at Carlisle College.
Having joined Penrith last month, Blake was instantly presented with a brand new challenge in the form of unopposed, technique-based training sessions which conformed to strict COVID-19 social distancing rules and were, he admitted, “totally different”.
Blues players are now back in full contact training and have played three summer warm-up matches behind closed doors ahead of a new Northern League Division I season which has no definite start date.
“I’m just working with Dabba to find out how far we can push the lads,” said Blake.
“Last season wasn’t great in terms of position but we know they’re a good squad of people so that’s something you can work with.
“We’ll try and push forward and do better in the league but ultimately we want to push a different way of playing that lads enjoy being part of – but one that also causes the opposition problems.”
And Blake admitted he was relishing his latest role.
“It’s brilliant. I love it. What a challenge!” he added.
“Now you’ve got to work out different strategies and solutions to help the lads as best as possible. And they’re working hard.
“They’re trying to do what they can and we’re just trying to come up with ways to ultimately help win games.”
Reflecting on Blake’s appointment, Hewson said: “We’re wanting to change a lot of things about how we move the club forward. He’s exactly what we need in terms of a young, well qualified, well experienced coach to move us in that direction.
“He’s got great pedigree, he’s got a vast amount of experience from a number of different clubs and roles and responsibilities he’s had within those clubs. A real top quality coach who we’re really happy to have on board.”
And speaking about Blake’s impact in his first month, the Blues boss added: “He’s an absolute breath of fresh air. Great ideas. Great training. He’s done everything I wanted of someone coming in alongside me – it’s just very early days for him.
“He’s still getting to grips with who we’ve got and what we can work with, but we’ve got a plan and what we want to work towards. It’s just a case of sticking to that, and trusting and believing that we’ll get there.”