Ben Burgess column - It’s official, I’m finished

Ledley King
Ledley King

In the first of the diaries of a retired footballer, former Blackpool striker Ben Burgess looks ahead to the future – and at hilarious days past on the Squires Gate training ground.

THERE have been some high profile retirements from the beautiful game lately.

There’s the sad news of Fabrice Muamba having to call it a day after his heart scare.

Then there is Spurs and England ace Ledley King moving on, but the biggest of all is... my retirement.

I know people who watched me play are saying they thought I retired years ago, but it is official now.

It’s quite ironic that Ledley retired when I did, as during the latter part of my career I’ve been compared to him a few times.

Not because of my defensive qualities or my vast sums of money, but because neither of us could train much.

We did both manage to produce world-class performances on a Saturday, though (well, I wheeled myself out).

While King has walked into a cushy ambassadorial role at Spurs (I’m still waiting for my offer, Mr Oyston), I’ve gone in a completely different direction.

From this month I’ll be going to university to train as a primary school teacher.

People ask me how I will handle standing in front of a class of hostile six-year-olds?

They forget I’ve been standing in front of hostile football fans every Saturday for the last 14 years.

Ollie’s a miracle worker

WHAT a fantastic start to the league season for the Seasiders.

It seems whatever happens in
pre-season at Blackpool, whether it’s a lack of signings, players leaving, poor form, or a new manager, it only serves to bring all the players and staff closer together and they have shown that on the pitch.

I think Ollie has a way of playing that teams in this division (and a few in the Premier) can’t stop.

Teams tend to change the way they play to counter them, which only serves to weaken themselves.

Despite nine points from three games, Holloway is still looking to improve the squad – a good sign.

He’s not getting carried away with the start – some managers would relax now but Ollie is striving to be even better.

It will be a shame if Matt Philips leaves, because he is a tremendous young player, but if he does go, then it’s just another example of an Ollie signing on the cheap that turns into a multi-million pound talent.

No wonder Karl Oyston loves him.

While Philips would be a big loss, Ollie’s been in this situation before with the departures of Charlie, Vaughany, DJ, Shaun Barker etc, and each time he has rebuilt the team.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the boys in action this evening when I do the commentary on Radio Lancashire.

Pool wannabes were a joke

WITH many clubs looking to strengthen and grab a bargain, there will be numerous players on trial around the country right now.

In my time I’ve seen the good and the awful, but two of the most ridiculous were in my time with the Seasiders.

The first was during Simon Grayson’s tenure. The “player” turned up to Squires Gate with a Geordie accent boasting his previous club was Spain’s Real Betis.

We were all impressed and looking forward to seeing his dazzling skills.

Unfortunately, his elaborate story began to unravel when he was faced with something that appeared alien to him...the ball.

In the crossing and finishing session, he couldn’t even reach the goalmouth when wrapping his ‘magic left foot’ around the ball.

We were in stitches and started asking him what was wrong?

He blamed the conditions at the training ground!

He looked genuinely surprised when Steve Thompson told him not to come back the next day.

In the changing room, we pressed him further on his time at Betis and especially playing with the great Joaquin. He responded by saying “he was a bit of an idiot and always out smoking and drinking”… genius!

During Ian Holloway’s first year, we went on a pre-season trip to Devon.

After a few days’ training, we suddenly had a new trialist.

I was sure I recognised him from somewhere.

Did he play for Coventry?

Was he at Plymouth last season?

No, I realised, he served me dinner last night.

It was our waiter who had asked Ollie for a trial the day before.

I think he may have embelished his footballing credentials.

He couldn’t kick the ball straight and wore the biggest studs on the hardest pitch ever, so could barely stand up.

Best of all was the banter from the boys. Every time he kicked it, someone would shout, “great service” or “good delivery” or other waiter-related gags.

Rest assured he was back serving Thommo his full English the next morning.