Blayney’s Burns still becoming accustomed to life in struggling Phoenix outfit

BATTLING: Blayney product and Wellington striker Nathan Burns gets brought down in last weekend's 4-1 loss to Western Sydney. Photo: AAP/CRAIG GOLDING
BATTLING: Blayney product and Wellington striker Nathan Burns gets brought down in last weekend's 4-1 loss to Western Sydney. Photo: AAP/CRAIG GOLDING

Blayney’s Nathan Burns isn’t accustomed to life on the bottom – well, he wasn’t until recently anyway.

The 29-year-old has spent the majority of his 12-year professional career in sides that have been at the top come the pointy end of the league, but that all changed in a difficult campaign with Japanese J1 club Sanfrecce Hiroshima last year.

Not only did the club only avoid relegation by a solitary point, but Burns was forced to watch the bulk of the season from the sideline, playing very little.

He’s picked up plenty of playing time since joining the Wellington Phoenix for the 2017-18 Hyundai A League season, but Burns is yet to score in his 10 appearances and the club is rooted to the bottom of the table.

Compare that to his first stint with the Phoenix in 2014-15, when the club briefly topped the standings and Burns won the Johnny Warren Medal for player of the year.

”Yeah, (it’s) a different challenge,” Burns told New Zealand media on Tuesday.

"My whole career, I've always been in a top team.

“Before I came here, with Hiroshima, there were in the relegation zone, now Wellington down the bottom. So it's been a different year-and-a-half for me, but I've learnt a lot.

My whole career, I've always been in a top team. (It's) a different challenge.

Nathan Burns

"I'm adapting to this situation as well. You've got to work harder for the team, rather than individually."

That’s a fair part of the reason Burns hasn’t been able to recapture his goal-scoring form from 2014-15.

When he arrived in Wellington, the Phoenix were rolling pretty defensively, which meant Burns was forced to receive the ball a lot deeper than usual. 

For a striker who prefers it on his toes inside the box, that structure takes time to adapt to.

He did look good in last weekend’s 4-1 loss to Western Sydney though, with interim coach Chris Greenacre running him up front with Roy Krishna as part of a two-pronged striking duo.

"I had a few shots, Roy had a few, and in games previous to that I wasn't getting close to the goal being so deep defending. I felt very comfortable, it's just a matter of getting used to that intensity,” Burns said.

Wellington took it to the Wanderers in the first half but fell away in the second, as you’d expect Burns put that down a lack of fitness. Or, rather, a lack of fitness needed for a pressing style of play.

"At the back end of the season I think the boys' fitness was dropping off and we weren't playing with that intensity in other games,” he explained.

"If we can get to that level where we can pick our times to press for the full 90 then we can cause some problems."

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