Hearts’ Bobby Burns combines football with Open University degree

A schoolboy competing with men, Bobby Burns’ first taste of a senior derby was an eye opener but the teenage Hearts full-back says it is the past month that has really been the making of him.

Hearts' Bobby Burns battles with Daryl Horgan of Hibs at Tynecastle. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

Since joining Hearts in the summer, after completing his A levels, the left-back has been staying in digs, alongside fellow aspiring Jambo Alex Petkov. While that aided the transition, with their host family cushioning them from some of life’s realities in their first spell away from home, the fact the pair have been left to their own devices in recent weeks has proved a valuable lesson.

“The couple, Maggie and Ronnie, have been really good hosts and helped me 
settle,” said Burns. “But they’ve been in Australia for the last month, so we’ve had to learn how to cook and clean, which has been interesting! I’m quite surprised we haven’t had food poisoning.

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“I think we’re both as bad as each other. We’ve got a lot better, just following recipes and there’s been a lot of chicken and pasta and chicken risotto. But we’ve had some disasters!

“At the start, I was pretty 
terrible. Maggie did a few tutorials just before she went to Australia, so I know the basics. How to do pasta, rice and spuds, but we’ve been cooking separately recently. We don’t trust each other!

“It’s been a really good learning curve, on and off the pitch, learning to live away and be independent. Just having to pay your own bills, your car, learning to cook. I’ve learned a lot from it. Hopefully I can take that life experience into next season.”

Aged 19, Burns’ life has already been educational. Instead of the academy route taken by many of his peers, he combined playing for Glenavon in his homeland with completing his schooling. Head boy, with the grades to go to university, he is instead studying for an Open University degree while playing 
professionally at Hearts.

After a few League Cup appearances, the Northern Irishman was loaned out to Livingston until January but made his first Premiership start for the Gorgie club in the derby against Hibs earlier this month.

Hailing it as the opportunity he had been waiting for, losing it was a blow. But Hearts have the chance of revenge tomorrow when Burns and his colleagues head to Leith for the final capital head-to-head of the season and having first experienced the raw intensity of a senior derby as a kid amongst men, he says he will not be intimidated.

“I hear the noise but, when I’m playing, I try to treat it as if I’m having a kick-about in the park and just enjoy it,” he said.

“At Glenavon, we played Portadown a few times. There were 2,000 or 3,000 people there and it was a great experience. It might not have been as big as the Edinburgh derby but at the time it felt like the biggest game in the world.

“Lurgan [where Glenavon play] and Portadown are right beside each other so there is always a bit of hostility. You have to avoid the flares and there is different abuse but I love all that.

“I made my debut when I was 15 and was playing more regularly when I was 16. It was mad, a bit of an eye opener going into a men’s dressing room but it was a really good. I learned the real side of football, the win-at-all-costs mentality. I’m thankful for that.”

Still at school at that time, it was the kind of lesson that couldn’t be taught in a classroom and one that is standing Burns in good stead.

“I was still at school until last May and it was nice, combining the two, because I felt like a bit of a superstar going into school the day after a game! I’d be on BBC News but then I was back with my mates,” he said.

“One of the things I struggled with when I first came over here was being in the football environment all the time. When I was back home, if football wasn’t going well or you were injured, you had school the next day. Everything was forgotten, you would take enjoyment from all your other different interests. But here it was tough if football wasn’t going well, because it was my whole focus. That’s why I’ve started doing an Open University degree. I also play a bit of golf, because it’s important to have something outside of football to take your mind off it.”