Leeds United Forum - Kenny Burns Versus Me! (1983)
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Kenny Burns Versus Me! (1983)
02 December 2016 12:14 Post ID: #374316
Thomas Christiansen
Kenny Burns Versus Me!


Between 1979-1981 i was following Leeds United home & away quite often. My first ever match was a 3-0 home win over Wolves in 1978 at age 13. My paper rounds & pocket money earned me a hefty £3.50p a week! It was 50p in the Boys Pen, 30p for a match programme & then 40p bus fares to take part in this new adventure when i first started going. I became hooked on debut & fell in love with the club right there & then. My hobbies were collecting autographs, programmes, football mags & completing my panini football card albums. I’d collect autographs of anyone i recognised at the club & would be there after every game, even night matches when i had school the next day. I got first team, reserves, juniors, directors, coaches, managers, commentators & away players to fill my books & just loved meeting & my heroes. Brian Greenhoff was always brilliant to me. Once he invited me & a pal to join him on Fullerton Park after his team training. I was at the ground during the 6 week summer school holidays & we took turns shooting at John Lukic, who had also stayed behind. Brian once told me ”Always work on your game & enjoy learning” I’ve never forgotten those words & they served me well over the years. That was me all over back then though – football crazy & football mad. Mind you, i still am today!

After the 1981/82 season i stopped going to matches. I’d just left high school, LUFC were relegated & hooliganism was common at Elland Road & away. I encountered a few racist incidents before & things showed no signs of ending. Getting on & off the P2 Special bus had become a chore. I got abuse from far right supporters inside & out of the stadium & was spat on y our own fans at times. All this was because of my skin colour. Even at those tender years, i didn’t understand the mentality that some supporters had. It had become too much, as the ER atmosphere felt toxic. I wasn’t enjoying going anymore, so aged 17 & unemployed, i looked to join a local football team as a forward to help occupy time.

Midway through the 1982/83 season i heard a club called Western Juniors in Harehills were looking for new players. I headed to their New Eagle pub base & met manager Peter ‘Joby’ Job. That afternoon i trained on Shaftsbury fields & signed for them later. I ended my half season playing for 2 of their 3 teams. On Saturdays i had Senior ‘A’ Division football in the Red Triangle League, while Sunday afternoons offered U18s competition in the Leeds Minor League. I made 26 appearances, scoring 18 goals & we lost 1-0 to Farsley Celtic in the U18s League Final at Yorkshire Amateur’s Bracken Edge ground.

For the 1983/84 pre-season build up Western organised 5 friendlies in the baking hot July & August months. The games were to help bonding & fitness levels, with all 5 away. First v Scarborough Town we lost 2-1 at the McCain Stadium, then a 2-1 win at Beeston St Anthonys, before going down 5-1 to Oldham Signs on the Fearnville Astroturf.

Our last 2 games were versus Leeds United youth & reserve teams on Fullerton Park, Elland Road. Our U18s would play first & a week later it was the seniors turn. Building up to the games, LUFC coach Peter Gunby attended our training to help run sessions. Peter was a friend of our manager & put us through our paces with technical work, stretches, sprints & small sided games. My body ached for days after! Painful stuff, but very enjoyable & worthwhile. Those sessions were my first proper taste of professional football coaching, as before my daily practice was on the local park after school or in free time after doing my homework. My street team football also aided development. Going around Leeds to compete against school mates teams. Otherwise it was 5-a-side tournaments with pals in a team we called Seacroft Albion or kickabouts at the youth club. I really enjoyed those Peter Gunby sessions & felt the benefits of them over the long season.

On arrival at Elland Road Peter Gunby welcomed us. He lead us past reception & into the away team changing rooms. This was a surreal experience for our lads, but especially me, having been an avid follower of the Whites. From paying to watch on the terraces & kicking about with pals on the street, now i’m kitting up at my hometown & supported club. I sat there taking it in & thinking of the famous names who’d been here before me.

The youth team match ended 4-0 to Leeds & the gulf between us was massive. They were so much quicker in mind it was untrue. Fitter & with high quality technique. I was disappointed not to even have a shot on goal though. Measuring myself afterwards, i knew there was much to learn if i had hopes of playing at higher levels later! They were absolute class & we never stood a chance.

Before the reserves game i took time out & process things. As i did, i looked around at my surroundings before our team talk. I saw photos, posters & written notes on a club information board just across from me. There was a team sheet there & on closer inspection, saw it was the LUFC line up for todays match. Dennis Irwin, Gary Hamson, Kenny Burns, Scott Sellars, Roger Eli, Peter Swan & Terry Phelan starting. These names i knew well as the nerdy match programme reading, statistic gathering fan over the years. Most of these guys had given me thier autograph & now i was battling it out against them! While warming, i glanced over to the LUFC side line. Eddie Gray, Billy Bremner & Arthur Graham were running things for them.

Ex-Nottingham Forest player Kenny Burns was the one i came up against the most. Him being a central defender & me a striker meant we might cross each other a few times over the 90. I struggled to get even close though. When going up for headers, he was head, shoulders & hips above me. On the ground he was 3 steps ahead! I did manage to evade him at times, but it was a real uphill battle for the most part.. Burns is a two time Champions League winner & has represented Scotland in a World Cup Final.

Having lost so heavily in the youth match, our manager came again in hope of a better performance this time. During the second half there were a few flashpoints on the sidelines. Then a few of our lads began got upset over how the game was being played out. The big issue was that our supporters & staff felt the referee was giving them every free kick. In fact, he was giving them everything! Some began getting onto the referee using choice words. ”You’re wrapping them in cotton wool ref” was a cry i heard. The game soon became an exhibition too. After a strong challenge, one of lads scuffled with a Leeds player & the ref stopped things to book him. This caused more complaints off the pitch. Then as i ran into position, i heard Burns shout ”Right lads, let’s take the p**s for 10 minutes” Not nice, but anyone watching knew they could if they wanted to. His words just made things worse though. Eddie, Arthur & King Billy on the LUFC bench & seeing this stuff. Moments later the ball came towards me in the air. I was about to try & flick it on, but next thing i’m on the ground, clutching my shoulder. I anticipated Burns coming from behind, but thought he just wanted another easy header. Instead, he flew in feet up & made deliberate contact in my back with his studs up. There was total uproar & the referee again stopped the game. Kenny hadn’t finished yet though. He spat towards me as i lay prone on the ground. Worse still, he only recieved a yellow card, even though i was told the ref had seen exactly he did. My back was cut & i left the field for the final minutes of our 6-0 humiliation.

As i walked off back down the Fullerton Park steps, i was approached by 3 old men i recognised as club directors. Jack Marjason, Rayner Barker & Brian Woodward walked me back inside & took me to a first aid room. They put ice packs on my injury & were very appologetic. But Kenny Burns clearly didn’t care. Looking back i now realise what a serious & embarrassing incident this was for the club & those watching. Burns had a poor attitude that day, to the point he did that. The directors were obviously embarrassed too & this was a way of saying sorry; by making sure i was ok. I might tell others what happend & It may even get out to the media. I barely spoke about it afterwards though. Being a fan, at the time i felt whatever would be, would be. I just loved football & wasn’t about to go telling tales about the team i supported. Nor did i want the press at my door. Anyway, i have a nice war wound on my shoulder & i lived to tell the tale!





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11 January 2017 11:27 Post ID: #375424 - in reply to #374316
Gary Sprake
Glad you got that off your chest, lad....
Laughed a lot at the implications of this.....
"As i walked off back down the Fullerton Park steps, i was approached by 3 old men i recognised as club directors. Jack Marjason, Rayner Barker & Brian Woodward walked me back inside & took me to a first aid room!!!!!!!!!".......
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