Chris Dunlavy pro­files Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge’s boss Wayne Bur­nett

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

SOME play­ers have a cab­i­net full of medals. Oth­ers the ado­ra­tion of a city. Many have noth­ing to show for their years but pride.

And for a hand­ful of play­ers, an en­tire ca­reer boils down to one glo­ri­ous mo­ment. So it was for Wayne Bur­nett.

“I can still see him now,” said John McDer­mott, Grimsby’s skip­per in the Foot­ball League Trophy fi­nal of 1998, the day Bur­nett wrote him­self into Mariners folk­lore with a golden goal win­ner against Bournemouth at Wem­b­ley.

“The cor­ner came in, a per­fect vol­ley with the out­side of his foot, then run­ning off to cel­e­brate like a rocket. By the time I re­alised the match was over, Wayne had al­ready gone be­hind the goal, over the sand­pit, over the bar­rier and he was in with the fans. No­body could catch him.

“It was an amaz­ing feel­ing. All the bench were on the pitch, my shirt was off, I was wav­ing to ev­ery­one, the flags were wav­ing. What a day.”

Though he would re­turn five weeks later to com­plete a mem­o­rable dou­ble as Grimsby won pro­mo­tion to Di­vi­sion One, noth­ing would eclipse that day – the Mariners’ first ap­pear­ance at Wem­b­ley just two years be­fore the old place closed its gates for good.

“It is some­thing that I will cher­ish and that will never be for­got­ten,” said Bur­nett last year. “By my­self or any­body con­nected to the club. The time I spent at Grimsby was the best of my ca­reer with­out a doubt. And that was the great­est mo­ment.”

It was a ca­reer that be­gan un­der Frank Clark at Ley­ton Ori­ent, Bur­nett’s vi­sion and pass­ing in cen­tral mid­field earn­ing both Eng­land youth caps and a reg­u­lar first-team birth by the age of 19.

Then, in 1992, came the call from Kenny Dal­glish. A few days ear­lier the Black­burn man­ager had signed a new striker and was of the opin­ion that Bur­nett was the per­fect man to pro­vide the am­mu­ni­tion. The striker was Alan Shearer, and it turned out he could do just fine by him­self.


After just three games, Bur­nett was on his way, first to Ply­mouth and Bolton, then to Hud­der­s­field and, in 1998, Grimsby.

“I re­mem­ber I’d gone to watch Richard Sneekes play for Bolton re­serves, and Wayne was also play­ing,” said Mariners boss Alan Buckley. “Richard had more flair and goals in him than Wayne but I saw some­thing I liked that night. He was in­tel­li­gent and could do it all. At £100,000, he was one of my best sign­ings.

“His first game as a sub was at Bris­tol City and we lost 4-1.Wayne was straight into the side from there and it trans­formed us. We only went one way and we looked a re­ally good team – set­tled, good on the ball and dif­fi­cult to beat.”

McDer­mott echoes that praise. “Wayne was tricky,” he said. “Not the quick­est, not the strong­est but very clever on the ball. And he was brave – not nec­es­sar­ily in the tackle but he wanted the ball all the time, no mat­ter what.”

Alas, those Wem­b­ley ap­pear­ances would prove Bur­nett’s peak in more ways than one. In­jured with in­creas­ing fre­quency, he fea­tured only fleet­ingly there­after, mov­ing into Non-League with Wok­ing, Fisher and Grays. By 2004, aged just 33, he had called it a day.

“Even in the fi­nals I was hav­ing in­jec­tions to play,” he ad­mit­ted. “I’d come back and break down, come back and break down. You al­ways think you can get back to your best but I prob­a­bly didn’t.” Yet the en­forced ex­pe­ri­ence of Non-League forged con­tacts that proved vi­tal in get­ting a foot on the coach­ing lad­der.

Two spells as man­ager of Fisher Ath­letic yielded the London Se­nior Cup and the South­ern League East Di­vi­sion ti­tle. Sea­son­long stays at Dul­wich Ham­let and Grays also al­lowed Bur­nett to gain his UEFA A Li­cence.

By 2009 the pro ranks had taken no­tice and, after a brief stint as youth team boss at Ley­ton Ori­ent, leg­endary Da­gen­ham boss John Still of­fered Bur­nett the chance to be­come his as­sis­tant.

There he helped nur­ture the likes of Dwight Gayle.“He helped to im­prove my game so much,” said the Crys­tal Palace striker. “And if I prove my­self in the Premier League, he’ll have played a big part.”

And when Still sur­pris­ingly left for Lu­ton in Jan­uary 2013, the ap­pren­tice be­came the master, staving off rel­e­ga­tion to the Con­fer­ence in sea­son one be­fore fin­ish­ing last year in a hugely im­pres­sive ninth place.

“It’s not an easy job fol­low­ing John Still,” said Bur­ton boss Gary Rowett, man­ager of League Two ri­vals Bur­ton. “But Wayne’s done an ex­cel­lent job. He’s pro­duced a team full of pace and en­ergy and I know the play­ers en­joy work­ing for him.”

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