Interview: Oliver Burke on being left out by Scotland, feeling the pressure at Celtic and his loan move to Spain

Having delivered a winning start for Steve Clarke as Scotland manager with an 89th-minute winner against Cyprus in June, Oliver Burke admits he felt ‘hurt’ by his omission from the next squad gathering in September.

Oliver Burke during a Scotland media session at the Oriam.
Oliver Burke during a Scotland media session at the Oriam.

The forward doesn’t claim to have been harshly treated by Clarke, pictured, however, and recognises that his lack of game time with West Bromwich Albion at the start of this season left him with no real cause for complaint.

Missing out on the Hampden double-header against Russia and Belgium prompted Burke to reapply himself to securing more regular football at club level, something he is now enjoying in Spanish football following his season-long loan move to Alaves.

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The 22-year-old now hopes to make the most of his Scotland recall this week by adding to his tally of eight caps and one goal in the Euro 2020 Group I qualifiers against Russia in Moscow tomorrow and San Marino at Hampden on Sunday.

“The main reason I wasn’t in the last squad was because I hadn’t been playing football at West Brom,” said Burke.

“I totally respect and understand that. A player who isn’t playing football isn’t ready for the international team. Now I am very happy to be playing for Alaves and happy to be back in the Scotland set-up.

“I would say it hurt to be left out last time, because previously I had scored in the Cyprus game and I felt it was really going well for me in the international set up. But these things happen, other players were playing and they deserved to be in over you, because they were playing more minutes.

“It wasn’t something that massively hurt but it made me think ‘Right, I need to play football now, because I need to be able to help the team now’.

“Every game you play, you want to go in and give everything you have got, prove a point and make sure you are in the manager’s thoughts for the next camp. If you aren’t playing, it is difficult.”

Burke’s unorthodox career path has taken a fresh twist with his switch to La Liga. It’s a change of environment relished by the player who previously played in the Bundesliga for RB Leipzig and has commanded almost £30 million in transfer fees so far.

Alaves are fourth bottom of the table, a point above the relegation zone with just two wins from their first eight matches, but Burke has settled in quickly on and off the pitch at the Basque Country- based club.

“I’m really enjoying it so far and I feel really comfortable there,” he added. “The team is good and have made me feel really welcome and I’m playing football which is the main thing.

“It was sort of a last minute move at the end of the summer transfer window. There were some other options but this one popped out and was of the most interest really.

“Alaves were very keen on me and I was very keen for another adventure. It doesn’t really faze me moving to another country. Because I’ve already done it in Germany, it’s a lot easier.

“I want to enjoy it because you only live one life so why not live it to the extreme and do everything you can? The main focus was to go over there and get game time. That has happened and everything is going well.”

Burke is undertaking Spanish lessons three times a week but also has the help of several English-speaking team-mates, including his fellow former Celtic loanee, Swedish 
international striker John
 Guidetti, pictured.

Under contract to West Brom until 2022, Burke is uncertain what his future holds beyond the end of the season.

For now, he is embracing a lifestyle which he says is in sharp contrast to the one he experienced during his spell at Celtic in the second half of last season when he scored four goals in 19 appearances.

“It’s nowhere near the same,” he smiled. “The pressures at Celtic are sky high, while the pressure at Alaves is almost none.

“It’s a smaller place and the fanbase isn’t as huge. You can walk down the street and not get pestered the way 
you would sometimes do in Glasgow.

“I loved my time at Celtic and made some friends for life. But it is just a different culture and a different fanbase.

“Would I stay at Alaves longer? I just have to see how it goes, if it is going really well for me and I am playing, then I will be wanting to stay and progress.

“You never know where you are going to end up in football – clearly!

“It can change very quickly as I’ve discovered. It is unfortunate I haven’t been able to get the game time I wanted at West Brom but I need to 
stay focused, progress, and try not to think about it too