Sunday, 13 November 2011

John Burridge - Unsung Hero

Football journeymen, not so many around nowadays. Big wage packets and shorter careers, player's falling 'out of love' with football or getting into it for the wrong reasons in the first place?
A journeyman football went where the work was, for the love of the game not the glamour.

John Burridge was one such player, he signed for well over twenty clubs, over seven hundred and seventy appearances. He didn't play for every team he signed for but was always available as cover or for a spot of coaching, as long as football was involved he was there.

Born in Cumberland, helping out down the mines, baths limited to every two weeks, having your Dad throw buckets of piss out the window just as prospective football managers came to visit, it couldn't have been an easy upbringing. When he eventually signed for his local club Wokingham he had his nose broken in his debut, in his second game? Just a broken rib for his troubles.......

He made his highest number of appearances for Blackpool - his second club, where years later he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A long way from playing for them at Manchester United where he queued before the game to get the autographs of Best & Charlton before taking his place in goal against them.

Fast forward through a few clubs and it was during his time @ Crystal Palace that "Budgie" as he was nicknamed first wheeled out the somersaults and hand stands long before Nani or Grobbelaar, in fact it became part of his warm up on the pitch - something that had never been seen before at an English football ground, during one game he even sat on his own crossbar for a better view of the action up the other end. His rapport with the crowd pre-empted many of today's modern goal keepers or daft as a brush jokers who enjoyed banter with the supporters.
He was also the first 'keeper in this country to wear gloves (of the goalkeeping kind), imported from Germany Jennings & Shilton would soon be on the blower asking where they could get their hands on a pair...

At the age of forty three he still remains the oldest player to play in The Premiership, but he just couldn't keep away from the game, moving to Oman and into coaching he discovered Wigan 'keeper Ali Al Habsi and turned down the chance to take over the Iraq national team after Saddam Hussein's son offered him the job.

Recently having recovered from both a traffic accident and depression (something with the help of Kevin Keegan he'd battled and beaten once before) he was once again amongst the footballing world, this time as a pundit on Dubai television.

Wherever he played he influenced - be it on or off the pitch. Maybe if he had stayed at one club long enough or at a different time he might have played for England, but he certainly left a legacy that would be still felt today........

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