Scotland’s most expensive player was a surprise omission from Gordon Strachan’s squad for the crunch World Cup showdown with the Auld Enemy next week.
Strachan justified his decision to relegate the £13 million Red Bull Leipzig winger to the Under-20s in France because he ‘wanted to take the pressure off him.’ But instead of sulking after being left out, the four-times capped former Nottingham Forest youngster has vowed to use the prestigious tournament – which has been a breeding ground for stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane in the past – to show he’s ready for international football and he wants to lead by example after boss Scot Gemmill named him as skipper ahead of today’s opener with Czech Republic in Salon-de-Provence.
Burke said: “I’m not going to say I wasn’t gutted at first to be left out of the squad for the England game, but that’s part of football and you have to pick yourself up and go again. It’s not just the fact it’s a big game – it could have been any team. I would still have been gutted. It’s about being involved with the squad but I need to get over it.
“I spoke to Gordon Strachan on the phone and we talked about what he wants from me and trying to relieve me of some of the pressure. That is good in a way. He is the manager and makes the decisions and I accept that. But I won’t be downhearted about it and say I won’t show up again.
“I want to take this opportunity and be in the next squad. This is a great chance for me to get games, play football and enjoy myself. But I want the team to do well, I want us to win the tournament.
“We’re here to really go for it. It will be a very proud moment for me to be captain. To represent your country and wear the armband is a great feeling. I want to show everyone what I’m capable of and do my very best. I wanted to take part in the tournament and be captain because I want to lead the boys and get the best out of them. I’ve never really captained a side before but I feel ready. I’ve learned my trade a bit more so I can help the lads out.
“I’m still the same age as some of the boys and know them from Under-19 squads. They might look up to me a bit but they don’t treat me any different. It’s just that I’ve played for the full team and I suppose it’s an inspiration for them and I’m here to try and win matches. I am trying to be a leader as much as I can in training and hopefully in the matches and we’re looking to do well. This is a great tournament – just look at the list of big players who have played in it – and a great opportunity for all of us.”
Gemmill had no hesitation about giving the captain’s armband to Burke, who turned 20 in April.
He stated: “When you consider the level he’s playing at and the fact he’s been in the full squad for the past year and how much he has matured as a player and he’s been asked to come back down to this level to play...
“But from a coaching perspective we want Ollie to know how important a player he is for the team and how influential he can be for the team, not only with the ball, but in leading the players.
“I would have always predicted the reaction we’ve had from him where he immediately agreed to come and play. He left his home in Leipzig at 2am and caught two flights to get here. He was still happy to be here and get out and train.”