GOOD, BAD & UGLY

Striker Ben Burgess takes us through his most mem­o­rable mo­ments

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR most foot­ballers, re­tire­ment means coach­ing badges, af­ter­dinner speeches or a stint on the TV pun­dits’ couch.

Not Ben Burgess. When a ru­ined knee forced the for­mer Hull and Black­pool for­ward to call it a day in 2012, he en­rolled on a PGCE course and is now a fully-qual­i­fied pri­mary school teacher.

“It’s chal­leng­ing, but it’s very en­joy­able,” says the 34-year-old. “Mind you, even a dress­ing room doesn’t pre­pare you for a class of chil­dren!”

Tak­ing time out from les­son prep to speak to The FLP, Burgess re­calls his ter­ri­fy­ing de­but against a ‘man moun­tain’, that fairy­tale pro­mo­tion to the Premier League with Black­pool in 2009-10 and how those knees have re­sulted in a new sport­ing pas­sion.

FIRST CLUB

Black­burn Rovers. I joined them when I fin­ished school at 16. I’d been at Ever­ton when I was younger, but Black­burn paid them a bit of com­pen­sa­tion to sign me.

It was only a cou­ple of years af­ter they’d won the Premier League and every­thing about the club was cutting edge. They were just build­ing their academy and it was a re­ally ex­cit­ing time.

I came through with Damien Duff and David Dunn. They still had a cou­ple of peo­ple from the ti­tle sea­son, like Chris Sut­ton.

I was 18 when I made my de­but. It was a Cham­pi­onship game against Portsmouth and I was up against the ab­so­lute man moun­tain Dar­ren Moore.

The day be­fore the game all the first-team­ers were go­ing ‘You just wait and see who you’re up against to­mor­row — he’s about 6ft 5in and 17 stone’.

I thought they were just wind­ing me up. I mean, who’s ever heard of some­one like that play­ing foot­ball? Then I saw him and he was the big­gest hu­man be­ing I’d ever seen. Ter­ri­fy­ing.

BEST MAN­AGER

I’d have to say Ian Hol­loway, purely for what he did with us at Black­pool in 2010. We’d just avoided rel­e­ga­tion the year be­fore, and on the first day of pre-sea­son he talked to us for about two hours solid.

He was say­ing how we were go­ing for the play-offs and that this time next year we’d be in the Premier League. We were look­ing back think­ing ‘We knew this bloke was mad, but maybe it’s worse than ev­ery­one thought!’

But he com­pletely changed the way we played. He’d had a few years out of the game and he’d been watch­ing Barcelona play. Sud­denly, he wanted the cen­tre-halves to split and the mid­field­ers to play through the mid­dle. Very Guardi­ola-es­que.

Look­ing at the state of us, it was a brave move, and those first few train­ing ses­sions didn’t go so well. But, as pre-sea­son pro­gressed, the de­fend­ers re­ally took it on board. They got bet­ter on the ball and every­thing snow­balled from there.

Ian’s a lot more in­tel­li­gent than peo­ple give him credit for. He plays up to the ‘mad guy’ im­age for the cam­eras, but there’s noth­ing crazy about what he does.

I’ve got to men­tion Peter Tay­lor at Hull, as well. Ian was the best man­ager, but Peter was the best coach. His ses­sions were fan­tas­tic.

BEST TEAM-MATE

Black­pool had some great play­ers. David Vaughan was fan­tas­tic. Char­lie Adam was a ter­rific foot­baller with a wand of a left foot. Sea­mus Cole­man came on loan to us from Ever­ton in the pro­mo­tion sea­son and was un­be­liev­able.

But the best was Damien Duff, from when I was at Black­burn. He could go past the best de­fend­ers in the busi­ness even then. You just knew how good he’d be.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

At Hull in 2003-04. We went up from League Two to the Cham­pi­onship in suc­ces­sive sea­sons un­der Peter Tay­lor. They were prob­a­bly the best years of my ca­reer, even though I was only about 22.

I’d been on loan to Brent­ford when we lost in the League One play-off fi­nal against Stoke, but we were a small club with no money and no­body ex­pected much.

With Hull, it was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. They had the money but they hadn’t been pro­moted for about 18 or 19 years and there was so much ex­pec­ta­tion.

We were the Manch­ester United of League Two. Ev­ery­one raised their game against us. We’d of­ten have more fans than the home side and at the KC we’d get gates of 25,000 ev­ery game.

To play un­der that pres­sure ev­ery week and see it through meant a lot to us, even more so now when you see where it led. Where Hull are now is where a club of that size should be – even if we never dreamt it then.

FUN­NI­EST PLAYER

Marc Joseph, who I played with at Hull and Black­pool. He was fan­tas­tic on a night out. He al­ways had loads of games to play. He had great one­lin­ers in train­ing as well. Sometimes they went over peo­ple’s heads but I al­ways got them and he had me in stitches.

Man­agers loved MJ. When things were tense in the chang­ing room, he was the per­son who’d crack a joke to make peo­ple laugh. You need that just as much as the se­ri­ous side. He ac­tu­ally works for Black­pool FC Com­mu­nity Trust now, so he comes to my school sometimes.

FUN­NI­EST IN­CI­DENT

When I was at Notts County, we had Mar­tin Allen as man­ager. We were stay­ing in a ho­tel be­fore an FA Cup game and we got a call say­ing there’d be a team meet­ing at 11.15am.

We got to the room, sat down, and waited for Mar­tin. Five min­utes went by. Then ten. By that stage we were all slag­ging him off, talk­ing about him be­ing mad and all sorts.

Then, sud­denly, Mar­tin popped up from be­hind this screen at the front of the room. He’d been sat there lis­ten­ing to us the whole time, just for a laugh.

We thought he’d go men­tal at what we’d been say­ing about him, but he just walked off. He was ab­so­lutely nuts.

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

Partly it was car­ry­ing on for so long de­spite all my in­juries. Look­ing back, though, I’ve got to say get­ting pro­moted from ev­ery divi­sion – with Hull from League Two, then Black­pool from League One and the Cham­pi­onship. Not many play­ers have man­aged that.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

The in­juries. I first did my knee when I was 21 and it’s been a bat­tle ever since. Ev­ery time it went, it was months or a year out. And, as much as clubs try to keep you in­volved, you never feel part of things.

I did my an­te­rior cru­ci­ate, my pos­te­rior cru­ci­ate and my menis­cus. Then I did my me­dial lig­a­ment.

Per­haps the worst part was go­ing to tell Ron­nie Moore, my man­ager at Tran­mere. I’d signed for him about a month be­fore, which I should never have done be­cause I knew my knee was no good. I man­aged about two out of 30 train­ing ses­sions

I still re­mem­ber his face when I knocked on the door to say I was re­tir­ing. I was his big sum­mer sign­ing and hadn’t even played a game.

I prob­a­bly should have stopped a lot sooner than I did, but you naively think ‘Well, what will I need knees for when I’m 40?’ Then you have kids you want to play with!

I played in a char­ity game last year and ended up need­ing an­other

op. The sur­geon told me I’ll need a knee re­place­ment in 5-10 years. It’ll stop the pain, but not the prob­lem.

TOUGH­EST PLACE TO GO

When I was at Hull in League Two, I hated play­ing at Boston. It was a big game for them and they had one side of the pitch where the fans were right on top of you.

At the other end of the scale was St James’ Park, New­cas­tle. It’s a fan­tas­tic place to play but I lost 4-1 there with Brent­ford and Black­pool.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

I played against Jonathan Woodgate at Mid­dles­brough when I was quite a bit younger.

He’d had his in­juries and I re­mem­ber think­ing ‘He’s past it, he’s frag­ile, I’ll be able to rough him up a bit’. But I never got a chance. He read the game bril­liantly and was im­mac­u­late on the ball.

He wasn’t par­tic­u­larly strong or quick, but he didn’t need to be. I was hugely im­pressed that day.

An­other guy bet­ter than I ex­pected was Fabri­cio Coloc­cini (pic­tured

be­low) at New­cas­tle. He was im­mense in that 4-1 de­feat.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO

Wem­b­ley is ob­vi­ously a spe­cial place to play. I’ve been lucky enough to ap­pear there three times and it’s al­ways a mem­o­rable day. But I’d also men­tion Lof­tus Road. I al­ways scored there and it had a nice small pitch, which makes things eas­ier when you’re slow like me. I didn’t get found out too much! The ground was great as well. Re­ally small, re­ally com­pact, great at­mos­phere. It’s a proper foot­ball sta­dium – the com­plete op­po­site to all these big open bowls you see now.

AM­BI­TION

Ev­ery now and then, I day­dream about get­ting back into foot­ball.

Truth­fully, though, I just want to be the best teacher I can. One day, maybe be a head­mas­ter.

Out­side of foot­ball, I’d like to swim from Al­ca­traz to San Fran­cisco.

I took up swim­ming on the ad­vice of my sur­geon, who ba­si­cally told me it was the only kind of ex­er­cise I could do.

From that, I started open-wa­ter swim­ming and I’ve re­ally en­joyed it. I’ve done the Great North Swim in the Lakes and the Great Manch­ester swim in Sal­ford Quays.

I’ve done sport all my life and just need some­thing to aim and train for. Al­ca­traz is it – my swim­ming am­bi­tion!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

I DO LIKE TO BE BE­SIDE THE SEA­SIDE: Ben Burgess cel­e­brates scor­ing for Black­pool

Fun­ni­est in­ci­dent: Mar­tin Allen Big­gest achieve­ment: Pro­mo­tion from each divi­sion Tough­est op­po­nent: Jonathan Woodgate

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