Scotland’s Oliver Burke shunned England’s bid to grab him

Leipzig�s midfielder Oliver Burke vies for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match of 1 FC Cologne vs RB Leipzig in Cologne, western Germany, on September 25, 2016. / AFP / PATRIK STOLLARZ / RESTRICTIONS: DURING MATCH TIME: DFL RULES TO LIMIT THE ONLINE USAGE TO 15 PICTURES PER MATCH AND FORBID IMAGE SEQUENCES TO SIMULATE VIDEO. == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE == FOR FURTHER QUERIES PLEASE CONTACT DFL DIRECTLY AT + 49 69 650050
        (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Leipzig�s midfielder Oliver Burke vies for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match of 1 FC Cologne vs RB Leipzig in Cologne, western Germany, on September 25, 2016. / AFP / PATRIK STOLLARZ / RESTRICTIONS: DURING MATCH TIME: DFL RULES TO LIMIT THE ONLINE USAGE TO 15 PICTURES PER MATCH AND FORBID IMAGE SEQUENCES TO SIMULATE VIDEO. == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE == FOR FURTHER QUERIES PLEASE CONTACT DFL DIRECTLY AT + 49 69 650050 (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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It seemed the warmest of 
well-wishes for the individual who now carries the tag of Scotland’s most expensive ever footballer.

Only three months on from a £13 million switch from Nottingham Forest to a RB Leipzig suddenly challenging Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga, the expectation from the club’s fans would have been for Oliver Burke to be immediately chuffed and tickled at their banner dedicated to him a fortnight ago emblazoned with the famous Scottish saying “lang may yer lum reek”.

The banner was for Oliver Burke and stated: "Lang may yer lum reek" but the winger confessed he didn't know what it meant.

The banner was for Oliver Burke and stated: "Lang may yer lum reek" but the winger confessed he didn't know what it meant.

And were he not a teenager who left his birthplace of Kirkcaldy at the age of four, no doubt the Melton Mowbray-raised youngster would have been.

“I did see it and it threw me off a bit,” Burke admitted this week. “I was looking at it thinking ‘is that German?’ and asked one of the boys who just said he had no idea what it meant. I hadn’t heard the phrase.”

Burke’s interest wasn’t sufficiently peaked to later investigate what was being said about him by a section of the club’s support. Indeed only this week when he was sitting in front of Scottish journalists at Scotland’s Mar Hall base was he enlightened to the Hogmanay favourite being essentially a “good health” greeting.

“Right, nice,” he said when informed of the origins. “It did bring a smile to my face when I saw it – but at first I was quite puzzled. But the support has been great. I have seen a few Scottish flags waving around in the crowd so I appreciate that a lot. Long may it continue.”

The affable Burke, articulate and self-assured, is as Scottish as haggis and neeps where it counts. That can be said because, in international football, he has no interest in getting a piece at any other door.

With an English mother, Sally – his father Fraser is Scottish – and all his schooling south of the Border, England could have been his country of choice. He was wanted by a nation that showed their superiority over their neighbours and rivals with a dismissive 3-0 win at Wembley on Friday night. A game in which he did not feature.

The rich potential Burke possesses that enticed newly promoted and Red Bull-bankrolled Leipzig to part with an eight-figure sum is now universally recognised.

His raw pace and battering-ram 
6ft 2in build make him the most potent variety of modern winger and, as he is currently being deployed at club level, a natural impact player from the bench. Burke, though somewhat reticent, revealed this week than even as recently as a couple of months ago, England were attempting to make him switch his allegiances. He implies that just before he made his competitive debut in the September draw with Lithuania there was a move behind the scenes to see him withdraw so as he wouldn’t earn the cap that has committed him to Scotland. This was always destined to fail, as he had previously been an under-19 cap for his place of birth.

“It was never going to happen. I mean Scotland have showed their love since I was young. It was never going to happen, I’m not like that as a person or a player. I stick with what I’ve started off with. There’s not much to be said about that really. I didn’t even think twice. I remember my agent ringing me as he knew about it for a while but even he knew I was never going to be that interested in going with them because to me that doesn’t feel right.

“It actually wasn’t an issue at all. I got a call and it was just for me to say no really. It’s as simple as that. There was a little bit of persuasion but, for me, it wasn’t something I really wanted to talk about.

“You train with Scotland and have done sessions with them and then all of a sudden you leave, I feel that is quite disrespectful in a way and I don’t feel I should do that. I’ve very happy here and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Sense and sensitivities frame the Burke way. He chose Leipzig over the host of English clubs chasing his signature because the Germans “showed a lot of love and care and attention”. “I noticed the difference with that and a lot of Premier League teams that wanted me. They would say they wanted me but I’d go on loan, and you don’t feel wanted then, do you? They want you because of who you are not how you are playing. With RB Leipzig, it all happened quite quickly, I didn’t really do too much research. I went and met the coaches, I flew over after the Leeds games, my last game, and as soon as I saw the facilities I instantly knew I could only become a better player by having the best staff around me.”

Burke believes assisting him in his German assimilation – wherein learning the language is proving “more difficult” than imagined – is having the best people at home. Which means moving his entire family to his new location.

“I am very close to my mum, she’s like my best mate, so obviously it was hard [leaving her initially]. I was living with my family, she was there every day, now she’s not, but I guess that’s just part of growing up. It’s young at 19 but you have to grow up at some point in your career.

“[But that is why] we’re moving into a nice home just outside of Leipzig with the family though, getting them over as soon as possible. That makes me stronger as a person and makes me play better. I’m very grateful to have the family I have, and for them to agree and move over… I didn’t force them by any means. I still have my brothers and sisters over there and I made sure they were happy with it as well.

“My family have done everything for me from when I was a young boy. Just even getting a little car for us to take me to training. They really did go out their way, and maybe a bit too much at times. At times at Forest, things were going a little bit rubbish but they stuck by me and I wanted to continue and thankfully it has got me where I am today and I can only repay them. It’s the least I could do for them.”

Germany may change Burke as a footballer, but being a multi-million-pound one who has drawn parallels with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo won’t as a person.

“I’m Oliver Burke, I’m not Gareth Bale, I’m not Ronaldo, I’m none of them, I’m just me and I’m just keeping being me. I’m still a human being, still a young boy and I don’t really think about [the price tag]. Obviously I still respect my elders and still respect everybody, I’m the same kid I was when I was a young boy. [Bale and Ronaldo,] they are my inspiration and obviously they have done amazing things but for the comparison side I think it’s a bit much to start off with. I’ve still got a long, long way to go, I’m still very young and there is a lot for me to do. I’m not the complete player at all, far from it. For me as a player now I don’t focus on being the next Bale or this, that or the other, that’s bizarre.”

It is bizarre to think Burke could earn a Bundesliga winners’ medal in his first season in Germany. His club may be hated at home for being perceived as nakedly seeking to buy success but Burke can only marvel at his adventure, with the club’s resources second to none and a management structure much envied owing to the input of coach Ralph Hassenhuttl and sporting director Ralf Rangnick.

“It’s very exciting. We have a lot of expectations on us now due to the position we’re in. But we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and not let the pressure get on us. It’s a great time and been a great move for me. We’re joint top with Bayern Munich and not a lot of people can say that.”

Wha’s like us, Burke might say.

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