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‘I am passionate about this club’: Dan Burn’s Newcastle United homecoming has been 19 years in the making

NEWCASTLE: From stacking shelves in a supermarket and non-league football to gracing the turf at St. James’ Park in the famous black and white, Dan Burn’s road back to Newcastle United has been a long one.

Now the 29-year-old is determined to show he is the man to fix the Magpies’ defensive woes.

Northumberland-born Burn, a $17.5 million transfer deadline day signing from Brighton and Hove Albion, was released by his boyhood club at the age of 10 when he was a youngster at the Newcastle academy.

A much-traveled career then took him from Blyth Spartans and New Hartley to Darlington, then Fulham and, finally, the Premier League with the Seagulls.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is hoping the towering center-half can add steel and athleticism to what is the second-worst Premier League defense this season.

“It was tough. I think when you’re a kid you’re maybe a little naive and you think that when you get around the setup, you are going to play for Newcastle forever,” said Burn, discussing his release from Newcastle United almost two decades ago.

“It definitely knocked me. But, to be fair to Newcastle, I don’t think I was very good at the time. I’ll give them that,” he said.

“What it did do is make me want to prove people wrong. I have fed off things like that my whole career.”

It feels like a lifetime ago that Newcastle United were rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite. Well, it is for many.

The Magpies have qualified for Europe’s premier football competition, the Champions League, on three occasions, most recently in 2003.

Burn, a former NUFC season ticket holder, remembers those famous nights on Tyneside as if they were yesterday.

“I started playing football because I was watching Newcastle,” he said.

“I was a Junior Magpie (an NUFC kids club) from the age of 6, that’s when I got my first boots and then I remember the Champions League nights — Andy Griffin scoring against Juventus. The guy next to us put a bet on for Griffin to score that night — probably the only person ever to do that.”

Burn said: “The last game I went to was probably when we beat Sunderland 5-1, with Shola (Ameobi) scoring a few.”

He added: “It is hard when you start your own career, but I have always kept an eye on what Newcastle are doing — and it was always my biggest game of the season, coming here. It’s the team you support, it is very special.”

However, it was not an easy decision to leave Brighton, Burn’s home for the past three years, where he was a regular under Graham Potter and progressing with every season under the highly regarded coach.

But, as with many Geordies, that pull to return, no matter the circumstances, is often too strong to ignore.

Burn said: “Honestly, if it hadn’t been Newcastle, I would never have left. I loved my time there.”

He added: “We were doing well, I was playing regularly and I enjoyed playing under the manager and with that bunch of lads. But once I knew Newcastle were interested, I knew I wanted to be here. I have spoken to the manager (Howe), who talked of the project (long-term) but in the short-term we need to fight to keep this team in the division.”

Burn said that “it is hard for people who are not Newcastle fans or are Geordies to understand how much this means to the city. Hopefully, if I bring some of that passion off the pitch, on to it, I can make a positive impact.

“As a professional, you do that anyway. But being a fan — all my family and friends are fans, too — it makes you want to do even better for them. You know how much it means to them. I am passionate about this club and I want to do my best to help it.”

The NUFC project, under new majority owners the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, was another reason that persuaded Burn.

The owners spent an NUFC-record $121 million in the January transfer window — the largest sum outlaid by any side in Europe, which includes the fee for Burn, the highest the club has ever paid for a central defender.

“It is very exciting,” he said. “I think there is going to be a plan to develop all areas of the club, not just the playing squad.”

Burn added: “We’ve said for years all it would take is that input and the fans would feed off it. I knew if someone came in to change the club for the city and the fans they would get a good reaction. I think we have made some good signings, good, established Premier League players, who have played a lot of games — and I think that matters a lot.”

The defender said that he is excited at the prospect of pulling on the Newcastle strip.

“It is something I’ve not done since I was a kid. I never thought it would happen, it’s been a long road — and I’m just delighted to be here.”

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