All set for lat­est Burn’s night cel­e­bra­tion

Wi­gan cap­tain keen to top­ple Southamp­ton as lit­tle Lat­ics chase a fourth Pre­mier League scalp

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - James Ducker NORTH­ERN FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

From push­ing trol­lies at Asda to si­lenc­ing Ser­gio Aguero, Dan Burn’s jour­ney to within touch­ing dis­tance of a place in an FA Cup semi-final at Wem­b­ley has not been con­ven­tional, but then his ca­reer to date has been a tri­umph for per­se­ver­ance. The Wi­gan Ath­letic club cap­tain will be hop­ing to claim a fourth Pre­mier League scalp when Southamp­ton and their newly in­stalled man­ager, Mark Hughes, visit the DW Sta­dium this af­ter­noon and, in the process, se­cure the club’s pas­sage to a third Cup semi-final in six sea­sons. Bournemouth, West Ham United and, most mem­o­rably, Manch­ester City, the run­away top flight lead­ers, have all been dis­patched there by the League One club this sea­son. And lis­ten­ing to Burn, their af­fa­ble 6ft 7in Ge­ordie cen­tre-half, tell his story over an en­gag­ing half-hour at Wi­gan’s Eux­ton train­ing ground this week, it is easy to un­der­stand why he plays like ev­ery game might be his last.

Take his spell on loan at Yeovil Town from Pre­mier League Ful­ham five sea­sons ago, for ex­am­ple.

“I re­mem­ber go­ing to see the Ful­ham man­ager [Martin Jol] at the time and say­ing, ‘I’m not happy in the Un­der-21s, I want to go out on loan’ and he was like, ‘Well, no one wants to take you’,” Burn re­calls. “Gary John­son was the Yeovil man­ager and his brother was a scout and for­tu­nately he must have been watch­ing one of the Un­der-21 games at some point and thought he’d take a chance on us.”

The sea­son was al­ready two months old by the time Burn pitched up at Huish Park on a four-week loan. His de­but was event­ful.

An own goal four min­utes from time was fol­lowed by his first se­nior goal 60 sec­onds later as Yeovil lost 3-2. “Things didn’t start the best. We lost six in a row,” Burn ex­plained.

He feared he might be back at Ful­ham no sooner than he had left but Yeovil opted to ex­tend his loan un­til Novem­ber and then again un­til the end of the sea­son and, ben­e­fit­ing from a sus­tained run in the team, he grad­u­ally be­gan to ex­cel. Be­tween Christ­mas and mid-Fe­bru­ary, Yeovil won eight suc­ces­sive matches in League One and, against all ex­pec­ta­tions, reached the play-offs.

The only prob­lem was Burn ended up rup­tur­ing an­kle lig­a­ments three weeks be­fore the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Sh­effield United. “I should have been out for about six weeks but I went back to Ful­ham and told them, ‘The play-offs are in a few weeks, I need to be fit!’ I spent a lot of time in hy­per­baric oxy­gen cham­bers and at the end they gave me some pain killers and I had heavy duty strap­ping on the an­kle. It was painful but I wasn’t miss­ing the play-offs for any­thing. We shouldn’t have been near the play-offs that sea­son but we played very well and once we got to the final I knew we were go­ing to win.”

And so, eight days af­ter Wi­gan pulled off the big­gest Cup final up­set for 25 years by beat­ing Manch­ester City at Wem­b­ley, Yeovil over­came Brent­ford, with Burn scor­ing in a 2-1 win.

“I’ve been try­ing not to think too much about that and pos­si­bly go­ing back to Wem­b­ley be­cause we’ve got to beat Southamp­ton first but ev­ery­one dreams,” he said.

By his own ad­mis­sion, Burn thought his dreams of be­com­ing a foot­baller were shat­tered when he was re­leased by his boy­hood idols, New­cas­tle United, as an 11-year-old and there would be fur­ther set­backs to come.

He was strug­gling to even get a game for his lo­cal Sun­day league team at one point and, af­ter fail­ing to make an im­pres­sion at lo­cal am­a­teur side New Hart­ley Ju­niors in Northum­ber­land, a few miles from Blyth where he grew up, he ap­plied for a job at Asda. He was 16 and un­cer­tain about his fu­ture.

“I did the in­ter­view, turned up in a suit and ev­ery­thing, and thought I’d be do­ing shelf­s­tack­ing or on the check­out but all they had was push­ing trol­lies so I took that,” Burn re­calls.

“I went there half one till 10 ev­ery Satur­day for about six months.”

Burn was play­ing for Blyth Spar­tans on Sun­days and got a lucky break when he was se­lected to play in a mini-home na­tions

tour­na­ment for lo­cal play­ers one week­end in Durham and caught the eye of Dar­ling­ton, who signed him on an ini­tial £55 per week.

Those early days at Dar­ling­ton were cer­tainly far re­moved from mark­ing Aguero and top­pling City. “I still don’t think it’s sunk in now,” Burn says.

Pep Guardi­ola, the City man­ager, be­came in­volved in an an­gry touch­line bust-up with Wi­gan man­ager, Paul Cook, af­ter Fabian Delph was sent off in the 44th minute for a reck­less chal­lenge on Max Power. But Burn thought City’s griev­ances were some­what hyp­o­crit­i­cal given their com­plaints all sea­son about tack­les against them.

“If one of our play­ers had got sent off for the same sort of tackle we wouldn’t even be hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about it,” he said. “Peo­ple would be say­ing, ‘That’s League One foot­ball for you … shock­ing tackle’. City spoke to the FA about tack­les against them and then that hap­pened. You can’t have your cake and eat it. They were on for the quadru­ple so they are go­ing to be bit­ter about be­ing put out by a team two leagues be­low them.”

Burn played nine times for Ful­ham in the Pre­mier League the sea­son af­ter his Yeovil ex­pe­ri­ence but, look­ing back, he thinks he took it for granted.

“I don’t think I ap­pre­ci­ated that time in the Pre­mier League as I should have,” he said. “I didn’t ever think I’d be go­ing back down to League One.”

Sec­ond in League One, five points behind lead­ers Black­burn but with three games in hand, Wi­gan and Burn might not be in the third tier for much longer but, for now, all he is think­ing about is Southamp­ton. “Their man­ager [Mauri­cio Pel­le­grino] has just got sacked which nor­mally means they will pick up a few good re­sults straight away!” he said. “I wish they’d left that un­til af­ter play­ing us but they need to be in the Pre­mier League so hope­fully their bat­tle against rel­e­ga­tion will be a dis­trac­tion against us.”

‘Man City were on for the quadru­ple so they would be bit­ter about los­ing to a team two leagues be­low them’

Top marks: Burn su­perbly shack­led Ar­gen­tine su­per­star Ser­gio Aguero in shock FA Cup win

Cup of glee: Burn con­tem­plates an­other win and (be­low) cel­e­brates beat­ing Man City

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