Burning his way to the top

Striker Nathan Burns is quickly building a good reputation for himself...

The Qantas Young Socceroos take there first big leap into the world that is Asian football, when they play China on Monday in their first match at the AFC Youth Championships, being held in India. Most likely leading the attack against the Chinese will be country NSW striker Nathan Burns, who has quickly built a reputation for himself in recent months.

That reputation has been built on some outstanding performances for Adelaide United in the current season of the Hyundai A-League, where he scored three goals, created two goals and has simply been outstanding in Adelaide-s recent run of good form.

He is the talk of the Hyundai A-League and stands as one of the key players in Ange Postecoglou-s Qantas Young Socceroos that be looking to qualify for the 2007 FIFA World Youth Championships.

It-s not going to be an easy task though, with China Australia-s first up opponent and early group favourite. Australia, who are literally the new kids on the block, are quickly finding out they are getting no favours from the AFC and have to do it tough and work hard to become recognised as a regional power at this level.

But back to Burns and the quietly spoken country lad from the small town of Blayney in western NSW, has also had to do it tough to get where he has today.

Like many kids in small country towns, sport related activities becomes a major source of entertainment and for Burns, it was a soccer ball, rather than the preferred rugby league ball of most kids, that took Burns fancy. While he played both at school, his was a natural liking for the round ball and his talent was soon obvious for those in the region.

After starring for Country NSW at the National Talent Identification Championships as a 13-year-old, he was asked to move to Sydney and play with renowned Westfield Sports High.

That was one of the toughest, yet in some ways easiest decisions, of his life to date and is thankful that he had the courage to go through with it.

“The hardest thing was leaving my family at 14 and moving to Sydney,” Burns said prior to the teams departure for India. “Being billeted by a different family, that was a big culture shock for me, leaving the bush for the big smoke, but I am grateful that I got the opportunity when I was so young.”

There is no doubt that decision and what he has achieved since has played a major role in his success at Adelaide, mainly because he had to mature quicker than most of his teammates, who still had family support 24 hours a day.

“It was definitely a benefit for me,” Burns said, when asked if perhaps he has matured very quickly.

“I think that-s one of the main things, even when I went down to Canberra (to the Australian Institute of Sport), I was already living away from home for two years, so I used to it.”

After two years at the AIS, where he has honed his skills along with many of his Qantas Young Socceroos teammates, Burns was noticed by Adelaide United coach John Kosmina and moved quickly to get the young striker down to Adelaide, before the lure of overseas trials was thrust upon him.

The rest they say is history, albeit this is a very short history and as we know things can happen in football that can change fortunes very quickly, as Nathan has found to his benefit.

“I don-t think anyone expected me to come in so early,” Burns says of his quicker than expected opportunity with Adelaide. “I was hoping to get some game time at the end of the year through injury and suspension, but am I grateful that it has come earlier than expected.

“I was given the opportunity by Kossie. He has the belief that I can play, so that gives me the confidence to play and I have taken my opportunity due to injuries and suspensions.”

What has impressed most about Burns start to his Hyundai A-League career is how easily he adapted to the level of play, especially when you consider that at the AIS is all about working on technique and not the competition side of things.

“The main thing you have to step up to is at the end of the day you have to get the three points and you don-t tend to learn that at the institute-s because you don-t play enough games in tournament and competitions,” he adds.

“The league is pretty quick and I got used to it reasonably well. In training you get used the speed and tempo of the play, but I suppose when you get out there it-s a different story and you just go with it.”

Burns also says having players with the experience that Adelaide has in its squad, has also been a great benefit for him personally and been a major part of his early success.

“They (Adelaide senior players) have been the main reason for my success so far. They give me confidence; they look out for me and I learn a lot from players like Carl Veart, who has been there a long time, Qu and Fernando, who have been places and also Ross (Aloisi) is a good help being captain.”

However Burns main thoughts are now on helping get the Qantas Young Socceroos through to next year-s World Championships next year in Canada.

“I am pretty confident we can come close to winning it (the AFC Youth Championships),” he says with a lot of confidence. “Because we have been together a long time, we-ve had a good patch of form in the last couple of months, we haven-t lost many games; I think it-s one in our last eight games, so we are pretty confident going into it and we have got good depth and getting players from overseas has helped as well.

“Our main goal is to qualify for the World Cup, but after we qualify, hopefully we want to win the whole tournament.”

No doubt Burns form in the Hyundai A-League will give him a front running for one the striker-s spots in the team, which this current crop seems to be blessed with some of the best in years. His AIS and Adelaide teammate, Bruce Djite, who is the leading goalscorer of the current squad, Brondby (Denmark) and former Queensland Roar forward David Williams and current Roar player Dario Vidosic, make it an interesting choice for Postecoglou, ahead of Monday-s game.

“Bruce and I have played a lot of football together and know each other-s games off-by-heart and it helps that we are both at Adelaide and that will benefit the Young Socceroos if we are playing together,” he said of his close bond he has with American-born Djite.

Burns hopes that these Championships will also open the door for many of his national team teammates and will get noticed by other coaches in the Hyundai A-League and signed up, before they head overseas.

“We (the Qantas Young Socceroos) are all at pretty much a good level,” he says. “It just shows that if you believe in yourself then you can play and it should show other coaches that young players can do well in the Hyundai A-League, they just need a chance and hopefully after this tournament, a couple of other players get scouted and get the chance like I have.”