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Wayne Burnett Interview
By: Richard Lord
IN an exclusive interview as part of The Fishy's new "Slipped Through the Net" series, Richard Lord caught up with Wayne Burnett to talk about his time at Blundell Park.
What were the circumstances surrounding your move to Town in 1999?
I'd had a frustrating time at Charlton and picked up a couple of injuries. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, I did have some rough injuries to contend with and I didn't play the amount of games I hoped to have played. I went out of contract and Alan Buckley offered me security and a good contract so we decided, for the first time, to relocate and move away from London.
Was your initial loan spell with Grimsby just a loan, or was it with a view to a permanent move?
It was with a view to a permanent view I believe.
Was that down to yourself or either of the managers?
It was down to Alan Buckley.
The fans instantly took to you, why was that?
I came to the club and the first game I played in we won 4-0. We went on a run of four or five wins I believe so that had something to do with it.
You did score against Scunthorpe..
Yes, at the time I didn't know they were a local rival so that had a big part to play in it. They (the fans) did take to me quite well, which was really nice.
You also managed to score a few goals in the Auto Windscreen competition..
I think I may have scored two or three goals and I came into it around about the third round or something like that.
There was the goal against Scunny; you scored against Blackpool and then the actual one in the final as well. It all culminated in the Wembley game, talk us through that..
Obviously we had gone 1-0 down then Kingsley scored after about 70 minutes. We've gone into extra time and I remember them (Bournemouth) going up our end and Aidan Davison pulling off a save. Then we immediately went back down their end - I don't usually go in for corners but I thought I would take a chance - the corner's come swinging in and it seemed to have eluded everyone. I've managed to get my left foot on it and re-direct back in the direction it came from.
What about the incident when you hit the stanchion behind the goal?
It was strange really because I'd hit the volley and thought "this is not going in, this isn't going in" then all of a sudden it started to curl back towards the goal and thought "this might have a chance of going in". The crowd went a bit wild because they thought it was in, and then I thought to myself "did it go in"? Obviously I knew it hadn't gone in. I was unsure until the very last minute.
Did you keep the match ball?
Directly after scoring the goal - I knew it was the end of the game - I jumped over the hoarding boards. I was unaware that the boards were quite lengthy and I merely fell over on my celebration run. Luckily I managed to leap high enough.. But no, it was a fantastic day; it's something I'll never ever forget. It was the highlight of my career - playing at Wembley and scoring. It was a memorable day, it just passed so quickly. You wish you could just re-live it or capture it. I didn't keep the ball or anything unfortunately; it didn't even cross my mind at the time.
You said it was the highlight of your career. Had you won anything before in your career?
I don't think I'd won anything major. It had been my third time at Wembley. I'd played at Wembley as a kid It was in 1985 I think, it was the year Watford and Everton played in the FA Cup final. I took part in a super-skills competition. I came second and there were five in the final but there had been hundreds and thousands that had taken part. I managed to get down to the last five and we performed before the FA Cup final took place.
Did you see the move to Grimsby as stepping down?
I was at Huddersfield and we were in the First Division. A new management had come in - Terry Yorath and Peter Jackson - they said 'go out on loan' and what not. I didn't see it as a step down because I knew of Alan Buckley and I knew the type of football he played. Obviously I wanted to try and stay in the First Division but I wanted to play first team football. It was an opportunity for me to get some first team action.
Wembley aside, what else do you remember from your time at Grimsby?
Playing against Huddersfield, that was good. It's always nice going back to your old club and doing relatively well. I probably played over 100 games for Grimsby but I was blighted with that injury. If I'm honest, looking back my only memory is being injured for so long and not being able to play as many games as I would have liked. I had some fantastic times there.
How do you rate the midfielders you played alongside with?
I enjoyed playing with Grovesie because I think we complemented each other quite well. He was the type of player who liked to get forward and created more space for myself.
Did you expect to achieve so much when you first moved to Grimsby?
When I arrived they were mid-table and I knew they were a footballing side. I knew there were some decent players there but I never imagined that the club could go they way it did. It was quite remarkable because to get to Wembley twice in a season and to win both games.. It was the highlight for me, to score the winner, but it meant more to me to go up to the First Division.
What was the whole injury experience like? How frustrated were you?
I'm not a great watcher of football to be honest. I couldn't seem to get over my injury. It affected me quite badly; I'd never been out for that period of time. I was out for months at a time and I didn't think we were going to get to the root of the problem. It was a nightmare.
How many operations did you have?
I had three operations in the end. The first operation didn't work at all, and then I went back and had another one that was still no good. Obviously I had the last one, which was successful.
Despite the third operation being successful, you did struggle to a certain extent?
Initially I did because I'd been out for about 18 months. I'd come back and broken down, come back and broken down and I didn't recapture the form that I had before. I can honestly admit that. I felt I tried to come back too quickly and I never realised the extent to my injury but I felt that maybe towards the end of the last six months I was finding a bit of my old form. We're never going to know because after that I was released. I don't have any effects or recurrences from that injury at all now. Whether a prolonged rest has done me the world of good, I don't know.
Did you feel that some fans didn't take into account the effects of that injury?
Football is all about opinions and when you start off reasonably well at a club and then your form dips, fans have their own opinion and they stick by it. Obviously I feel that when you get an injury like I had it does take a while to get back to your old self. A lot of it for me was about getting my fitness back. When you've been out for so long it's not as easy as 'three weeks' training and you're back to full fitness', you have to strengthen the muscles and do the correct rehabilitation.
Despite all the injury problems you did play a lot of games for the club. Where there any opposing midfielders you used to relish or hate playing against? Did any midfield battles develop?
Just the midfield players that run lots! I felt that if I was at the top of my game then I would give anyone a good game. When Alan Buckley was there he said to me, "go out and play your own game" and that's always good if you've got that in a manager, and you understand them and they understand you. The most disappointing thing for me was not being able to show the fans what I was still capable of.
How did it affect you when Buckley left and Lawrence came in?
When he came in I was injured. I came back and resumed training in October November time, so I was still getting myself fit. The following season I was unfortunately not in the team. Menno was in the team - he'd brought Menno in and he was one of his players so he had to play him really. When you're in that position there's not a lot you can do. I felt I should have played a hell of a lot more. I didn't and there you go.
What was the competition in midfield like? There were plenty of players for just two positions.
There's always competition for midfield places and it's the same at every club you go to. The majority of players can play in that position. It's healthy to have competition for places, they were all very good players and that's how it should be.
Did you ever feel left out during your time at the club and come close to signing for another club?
Not really, no, because I was at a First Division club that liked to play football and that suited me. I could possibly have moved on but it didn't enter my mind. There were rumours that I could have gone back home and played for another club in a lower division but I wanted to apply my trade in the First Division.
You didn't get to play at Liverpool. How did you spend that day?
I watched teletext. I was chuffed for the lads but gutted that I wasn't playing. Then we played Arsenal and I was lucky enough to play there.
What was the Arsenal experience like?
It was good but I don't think we did ourselves justice. I don't think they got out of first gear and they didn't play a lot of their so-called top players and I don't think we really did ourselves justice that night.
Did you ever come close to getting sent off for Town?
I don't think I ever did. I got booked a few times!
What is your disciplinary record like over your career?
I've been sent off twice and I've been booked on numerous occasions. I've not had a terrible disciplinary record - I'd say average, really.
What's the best part of your game, as a midfielder?
I think I'm a passer more than anything. I'm a playmaker and I try to create things. I get as much joy out of creating the goals as I do scoring a goal.
Do you have any match-day superstitions?
I don't like to be the last out of the changing room. When I was at Grimsby I used to have my right tie-up longer than my left one, and I always had the tongues of my boots tied over. Does that make sense? I'd turn my tongue over and tie my laces on top of that. It's something I've always done. I think players go through a procedure every Saturday. I always used to go in and hang my suit up - whereas other players just throw theirs I hang mine up. Some players have the most bizarre superstitions.
Any Town players included in that?
Some of them won't kick a ball before they go out, one will put his left boot on before he puts his right boot on and some of them wear lucky T-shirts.
Who did you used to sit next to in the dressing room?
In training I used to sit next to.. Unfortunately Gally on my right or Peter Handyside but he obviously left so it was Gally, and I used to have Kevin Donovan on my left or Richard Smith.
Were you happy with that order?
I wasn't really happy with Gally but he had his highs and lows. He can be quite entertaining at times.
What happened when you left Grimsby? Was it as simple as 'no contract so move on'?
I don't know if you know the story but we were all offered new deals - the ones out of contract. We were all offered new contracts - myself, Bradley Allen, Danny Butterfield etc - this was the Monday after the Millwall game. I was told to go away for a week while the club was going to sort out their budget. I went away for a week and I got a message on my answering machine saying 'can you ring us' and it was basically 'ITV Digital have gone bust, we can't afford to offer you a contract'. It was 'we can't offer you anything' not 'we can offer you lower terms'. I was willing to accept lower terms because I just wanted to play. I held on right until the beginning of the new season, waiting to see if there was something there. I was still unsure whether I was going to go back there and unfortunately it never materialised.
Did you go straight to Woking?
I didn't go anywhere for a while. I didn't play football, I kept myself fit. I went to Woking and played two or three games but it wasn't really for me.
What are your plans now?
I'm hopefully going to nick Grovesie's job and take over the team. I don't know if it would be an ideal job but it would certainly be a job! I'd love to stay in the game; I haven't given up the hope of playing somewhere this season.
Next: Wayne Burnett Fans Piece
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