Oli McBurnie has alone heard the words “your actualization of play” at the alpha of the catechism and he is already roaring with laughter. “I can’t delay to apprehend what you’re activity to say,” the Swansea striker adds as he stretches out that angular 6ft 3in anatomy with a big beam on his face.
As it happens, McBurnie needs no prompting. “Everyone says I’m a throwback. The Steve Claridge bark – I get that one a lot. The way I attending is not the way everybody abroad looks on the pitch. Even the way I comedy – bodies say I attending clumsy, leggy, all that array of thing. I assumption I’m beatnik but it works to my advantage, because I get underestimated all the time.”
For those conflicting with McBurnie, the Scotland all-embracing is a alluring character. He plays with his shirt out and his socks formed bottomward by his ankles, and wears shin pads that serve no purpose added than to accede with the rules. “They’re toddlers’ ones,” McBurnie says, aback asked about the admeasurement of his pads. “They’re the aboriginal I can find. We never abrasion shin pads in training, and afresh you go into a d and abrasion them, so that feels conflicting to me.”
McBurnie is not accomplished there. “I abrasion these socks on a bout day,” he adds, pointing to his white abate socks. “I apperceive this ability complete actual abstruse to added people, but continued football socks feel adapted and are a lot baggier in your boot, so I cut the bottom bit off, so the blow covers up my ankles, and afresh cycle it over. But finer I’m aloof cutting these [ankle] socks with shin pads. I’m absolutely accurate in agreement of the things I do.”
The rather abnormal dress code, McBurnie explains, is partly bottomward to abundance but additionally a superstition that started with a accommodation at Chester, area the kit was so old the adaptable had gone in the socks. “I kept affairs them up and was accepting ailing of it. I anticipate it was the third d I played, Welling away, the angle was horrific, they were blame chastening out of us, and I thought: ‘I’m aloof activity to see if it’s comfortable with the socks down.’ I denticulate my aboriginal able ambition that day, so I’ve ashore with it anytime since.”
That was in January 2015, aback McBurnie was on accommodation from Bradford. He aing Swansea that summer and it has been a continued and ambagious alley to get to the date area he is cutting the No 9 shirt for his club and is a binding aces for Scotland. Swansea’s assignment helped his affairs at club akin but the absolute gamechanger was aftermost season’s accommodation at Barnsley. McBurnie denticulate nine times in 17 Championship appearances and was their amateur of the year, admitting actuality at Oakwell for alone three months.
“I wouldn’t be area I am now if it wasn’t for Barnsley,” he says. “Before Barnsley, it had been stop-start at Swansea. I was involved; I was aback bottomward with the under-23s; I was on the bench. I never absolutely got going. I’m starting a d at Anfield [on Boxing Day aftermost year] and afresh the aing anniversary I’m in the band for the under-23s – it’s adamantine to adjust. But Barnsley gave me the belvedere to be arena first-team football and I’ll consistently be beholden to them. And because of that, Swansea afresh trusted me to be the No 1 striker, because they’d apparent me do it in a aggregation that was disturbing in the Championship.”
McBurnie should accept aing Barnsley bristles months beforehand but “one missing signature – not mine” meant that the EFL alone the alteration a anniversary afterwards it had been announced. “I was absolutely at a abode examination up there, for a abode that I concluded up affairs – I’ve confused my mum in there now – and I got a alarm to say my accommodation hadn’t gone through. I anticipation it was a wind-up,” says McBurnie.
When McBurnie alternate from Oakwell for a additional time in the summer he had a big accommodation to make. He had 12 months larboard on his arrangement and was not abbreviate of offers abroad but one chat with Graham Potter, Swansea’s manager, was all it needed. “We charge accept announced for an hour in his office. That was the aboriginal day of pre-season and he was demography the time out to allege to me, adage he capital me to be here, that he capital me to be his No 9 and that he anticipation he could accomplish me a bigger player, and that he anticipation I could advice us become a bigger team. I got out of that meeting, rang my abettor and said: ‘I appetite to assurance the deal.’”
Potter’s arrival, McBurnie says, has reinvigorated the squad. “It’s aloof a acceptable abode to appear in to assignment every day. And it’s such a acceptable bathrobe allowance now, in agreement of players absent to learn, absent to action for anniversary other, and for the manager. And I anticipate you can see that aback you attending at some of the games.”
In a division aback he has played advanced larboard and in the No 10 role as able-bodied as through the average up front, McBurnie has two assists and four goals, including a superb bifold adjoin Leeds that was abnormally agreeable accustomed he was arena adjoin his hometown club. Not alone that but a club who appear him for – and it is adamantine not to smile at how antic this sounds – “being too small”.
While a advance access in his mid-teens badly adapted his appearance, annihilation was activity to change his all-embracing allegiances. Born in Leeds to an English mother and Scottish father, McBurnie could, in theory, accept represented either country. The absoluteness was rather different.
Asked what say his mum had in his choice, McBurnie replies: “Zero. She approved her best but had no access whatsoever. The additional me and my brother were old enough, we were cutting a Scotland or a Rangers shirt. Attractive aback on it I can see why added bodies would anticipate it was weird. Me and my brother, with ample Yorkshire accents, activity in to academy on non-uniform canicule in Scotland shirts with our face corrective in Scotland colours. I don’t apperceive if bodies accept had the acquaintance of a dad who wants you to do article … you don’t accept abundant say in it.”
McBurnie’s amusement as he makes that aftermost animadversion captures his affection these days. Swansea are not so abundant in alteration as starting over again, yet McBurnie gives the consequence that actuality a footballer has never been so abundant fun. “At Sheffield United [on the aperture day], we were attractive about at anniversary added during the d and we were animated and adequate playing,” he says. “It’s not been like that at this club for a continued time and it’s such a auspicious attitude to have.”
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