Had circumstances worked out slightly differently, Dan Burn could well be lining up in the black and white of Newcastle today as Brighton visit St James’ Park for the televised late kick-off.
Burn, who hails from Blythe and is a lifelong Newcastle fan, had trials with United as a youngster and later had the opportunity to join the Magpies at the end of the 2010–11 season, but opted for Fulham instead.
Burn admits it was a boyhood dream to follow his all-time favourite player Alan Shearer and turn out at St James’ Park in the famous stripes but says he has no regrets on how his career has developed.
“I am a Newcastle fan and I’m excited it’s at St James’ Park,” said the 27-year-old. “When you are a young lad up there, you dream of playing for Newcastle, so obviously this is the next best thing.
“It will be a bit surreal and it will be a good one for the family and hopefully they will be supporting me not Newcastle. All my friends and family are Newcastle fans and have season tickets.
“They had the academy and the development centre, where the best local lads would go to. I was there for three or four years and then released and probably rightly so because I was pretty crap at the time. I was tall for my age back then,” said the 6ft 7” defender. “But everyone caught up to me and I didn’t really shoot-up again until I was 15 or 16. For a good four or five years I was pretty terrible to be honest. It took me a while to grow into my body.
“It hurt massively to be released. It was at Christmas, so it spoiled it for that year. It hurt for a long time and knocked us, but it is that adversity that makes you want to come back and do it again.”
Burn was soon back playing with youth football teams New Hartley and Blyth Town. At the age of 16, alongside his job at Asda, he played for Blyth Spartans and was spotted by a scout from Darlington and joined the then League Two side in 2009. After two seasons and 14 appearances, Fulham came calling but what seemed an easy decision became complicated when his beloved Newcastle made a late bid.
“I could have joined them. When I had my medical at Fulham, I got a call saying that Newcastle had matched it (the offer).
“But because I had been down at Fulham and met the manager (Mark Hughes) and they had pursued us for a long time, I thought, Newcastle just did it so that they didn’t look bad, because they have lost a local lad. So I was quite happy that I moved away.
“Not that my mates were a bad influence on us but I didn’t want to get to the point where I was getting dragged out and going for drinks and getting up to no good. At Fulham I could just concentrate on the football.”
After 61 outings for Fulham and loan spells at Yeovil and Birmingham, Burn signed for Wigan and from there on to Brighton. He was determined to establish himself in the Premier League, having spent last season back on loan to Wigan in the Championship. The defender has been one of Brighton’s best players so far this campaign and has adapted well to Graham Potter’s new formation on the left side of the defensive trio and even playing as wing back.
“I’m enjoying it,” Burn said. “I’m starting in the Premier League so you can’t really complain. I have played in many positions and it’s nice that the manager has confidence in me and that he thinks I can play left wing back or left back. It’s nice to know he is fully behind us. I have played under a lot of managers and I feel I have taken a lot from them. And I will from this manager as well.
“I knew when the new manager came in, I’d be in with a chance. I trained well and looked after myself so I knew that would make a good first impression and put me in the gaffer’s mind.
“(Shane) Duffy and (Lewis) Dunk have been playing for years and rightly so because they are a very solid partnership. To know I can get involved in a back three is pretty special.
“The manager said he is not going to play a player just because of his name. You put in the work during the week to play well at the weekend. If lads do that, they will play.”
If Burn does play today, it will certainly be an emotional occasion for the lad from Blythe who has grafted and dealt with his share of setbacks to finally get his opportunity in the Premier League. But would he dare celebrate at St James’ should he happen to get on the scoresheet?
“I would celebrate yes, 100 per cent.” Burn said without hesitation and a huge grin. “I played a couple of years ago for Wigan against Newcastle. I had a header and I should have scored but I was already celebrating in my head, doing the Shearer celebration. I don’t score many, so if I play Saturday and score, I’ll celebrate, don’t worry.”