Bobby Burns: Glenavon FC

Billy Joe Burns

Glenavon v Glentoran 25th August 2017

Glentoran’s two centre backs I imagine will have been both mentally and physically exhausted at the end of this game after trying to keep on top of Glenavon’s young forward, Bobby Burns. I had watched his rocket of a goal against Ballymena the previous week and was looking forward to seeing him live. The best way to describe him is simply ‘livewire’.

For a seventeen-year-old he is fairly solidly built. Not tall, but this low centre of gravity is augmented by an electrifying acceleration which provides him with a high offensive potency around opposing penalty areas. His continuous and serial involvement in nearly all of Glenavon’s attacking moves says a lot about him, especially since Glenavon have in Andrew Mitchell perhaps one of the top three centre forwards in the Irish League. Mitchell’s left foot ensured Burns plays inside – right for the team.

It took a while for the match to get into any sort of pattern but in the opening stages he was being marked by James Ferrin and was receiving the ball in fairly stationary situations. This tended to suit the centre back better and it was when Burns started to do one touch and become less static that he started to cause damage. This was evident in his anticipation of possible mistakes and his awareness of his own speed to create opportunities. He was just unable to get a proper purchase on a less than adequate back pass that was presented. It was clear though that he was starting to unsettle the Glentoran defence and they became jittery especially when facing their own net.

It was clear that he is happy to play just on the shoulder of his marker and with a wet and greasy pitch, Mitchell’s size and hold up ability alongside Burns’ willingness to run the channels, it gave Glenavon plenty of forward ball opportunities. He and Mitchell were interchanging their markers and Burns in coming short for passes was linking well and was able to set up Hall for a shot.
Glenavon’s best move so far had Burns at the centre of it. Taking a fast ball at the edge of the penalty area he was able in one move to reverse pass it over his right shoulder onto Mitchell who drew a good save from Morris. Other things are evident about Burns – he needed no guidance from more senior players and he is full of self – assurance. For someone so young and newly into the team this was a notable feature. This was well illustrated in winning a 40-60 ball against Ferrin and knocking the centre back into touch with little ceremony. He generally was first to any loose ball and along with others enabled Glenavon to make Glentoran seem ponderous, as the away team were having to play at a pace that didn’t suit them.

The St. Malachy’s student also has an excellent left foot and is tasked with taking corners and some free kicks. He can put a good, dipping arc on balls that will stretch a goalkeeper or a defence. This can cause difficulty at the back post. He does not let mistakes affect his confidence and clearly is a player in the mirror of his manager who believes in expression and letting youngsters enjoy the game without fear. As the game went on Burns now was forcing Callum Birney into errors and the Glentoran back line simply were having to apply maximum concentration to keep a grip on Mitchell and Burns. He was narrowly wide with an overhead kick which had Morris scrambling.

He earned the wrath of the Glentoran support for not passing a dead ball back to Morris so he certainly is his own man. Glentoran had upped the ante in the second half and Burns increasingly became an excellent out ball with his ability to chase. There was a ten minute period where he won three consecutive free kicks in Glentoran’s half relieving pressure for his side. Again that excellent left foot forced goalkeeper Morris to concede a few corners. This hard running earned some buffeting for him as his speed has him colliding into bigger men at full tilt. Indeed Glenavon fans were calling for a penalty after Birney appeared to elbow him out of the way in a penalty box scramble.

His youthful enthusiasm was undimmed and he provided the base for a one-two with Adam Foley whose shot came back off the post. This was quickly followed by taking a heavy tackle from Knowles who received a booking for his trouble, but it was clear how much of a problem he was to Glentoran. His speed was enabling him to get across defenders and he was as keen to involve others as well as get a shot away himself. If he is not taking the free kick himself he will position himself at the ‘D’ of the penalty area as his speed and shot will catch anything accruing.
His last actions in the game were taking a flurry of corners which caused difficulty for the Glentoran defence and trying a backward header from a free kick. Glenavon have one very exciting player on their hands. Ignoring his own individual qualities he fits perfectly into Glenavon’s front line as a perfect foil for Andrew Mitchell. He reminds me of Kevin Phillips in his partnership with Niall Quinn at Sunderland. His presence is like a whirling dervish when he cuts loose in the penalty area but this is coupled with a keen football brain and a good technique. His ability to take in fast balls into the area and spin quickly either for himself or a teammate has immense possibilities. It was little surprise when the club announcer gave him Man of the Match. There will be plenty of Burns days as well as Burns nights ahead.