The Ben Burgess column

Ben Burgess
Ben Burgess
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BEN Burgess talks about intimidation, returning to old clubs and poor results in his latest column.


Some opposing players try anything to intimidate before and during games. We’ve all seen the clips of Roy Keane and Patrick Viera going at it in the tunnel. That sort of thing goes on more often than you might think, especially in the lower leagues.

At Hull City we were playing Boston United in League 2, and as we waited in the tunnel their goalkeeper was actually punching himself in the head. We weren’t really intimidated just a little bit confused. The most amusing is when a player shouts his head off in the tunnel phrases such as, “I’m going to smash whoever comes near me” or “Nobody can handle me”, while punching the wall. Then once the game starts he has no effect whatsoever on proceedings.

The pre-match handshake can be quite interesting as well. Not just because John Terry is snubbed every other week, but because some players will try and crush your hand. I know it’s really sad, but they obviously think you won’t play well if you have a sore hand. Stevenage did this to us when we played them at Notts County last season, and if anything it made us all try harder. We won 2-0.

When I played with Lloyd Owusu at Brentford, he would get himself really psyched up in the tunnel. He would say, “I’m too quick, I’m too strong, I’m too powerful.” I would be stood behind him thinking, “I’m a bit slow, my knee hurts and I hope I last the 90 minutes!”

Never go Back

With Blackpool playing Hull City tonight, it reminds me of the great reception I received from the Tigers faithful on my playing return there.

I loved my time in East Yorkshire and although I had six operations on my knee there, I have many fond memories of my time in black and amber. Last week Keith Southern also got a thoroughly deserved ovation from the Blackpool faithful, but it’s not always sweetness and light. We’ve seen Figo getting a pig’s head thrown at him after swapping Barcelona for Real Madrid. Sol Campbell’s reception from Spurs fans was never great after he moved across North London. Ashley Cole got money thrown at him from the Arsenal fans while in Chelsea colours (I wouldn’t mind that).

While I haven’t suffered quite the abuse those big players have, I have certainly provoked a response from certain fans (as you can expect) upon my return. Ironically the most hostile reception I used to get was from Oldham fans (I was only there six weeks, imagine if I’d signed permanently). Admittedly it wasn’t the most productive six weeks but when returning with Blackpool I felt the full fury. I was over at the far side of the pitch when one of their fans stood up and shouted, “Oi Burgess, you’re ugly, and slow. Why are you even bothering?”

How do you respond to that?

I just smiled and tried not to agree with him.

I can only imagine what my reception from Notts County fans would be like…in fact I think I know!

When two becomes one

Blackpool’s last two results have come as a bit of a shock. It was always going to be hard to replicate the performance against Boro and they fell a bit short of their normal high standards.

With regards to the Huddersfield game I thought the contrast in styles of the teams were vast. The first goals for both teams showed the difference in playing philosophies. Huddersfield’s opener came from a goal kick that was flicked on for Novak to score. Blackpool’s came from a sequence of 15 passes, and some excellent skill from Thomas Ince.

A lot of teams sacrifice one striker and load their midfield when they come up against the Seasiders, Middlesbrough did this and got battered. Huddersfield and Cardiff were brave and kept two men up front and that stopped Blackpool building from the back. It also gave them both a great outlet when they were under pressure.

From a striker’s point of view your role changes greatly with the switch from two to one up front. My early career was mostly in a two up front. There’s been some great examples of fantastic strike partnerships over the years, like Shearer and Sutton and Yorke and Cole. My best was with Danny Allsopp at Hull, we would know exactly where each other was and also our strengths and weakness. The hard part would be playing up front with someone who was not interested in striking up a relationship, and just did their own thing. I’ve certainly had a few of those.

Football has evolved a lot over the years and it’s rare that you see an out and out strike pair in the Premier League and abroad. Managers tend to play the Barcelona/Blackpool style of 4-3-3 with lots of rotation. When this is done correctly it quite literally is beautiful to watch. Gone are the days of get it wide and whip it in the box.

Playing in that formation under Ollie for one season was a football education for me and completely changed my outlook on how football should be played.

Lets just hope England catch on soon…