Oliver Burke eager to use Celtic experience to re-establish himself with Scotland

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Oliver Burke has rebuilt his career since moving to Celtic Park on loan from West Bromwich Albion in January.

The 21-year-old winger has also reinvented himself as a central striker during that time and now he is convinced he can lead the line for Scotland in Kazakhstan and San Marino next week.

Oliver Burke is hoping to kickstart his Scotland career - after doing the same with Celtic. Picture: SNS Group

Oliver Burke is hoping to kickstart his Scotland career - after doing the same with Celtic. Picture: SNS Group

Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher had excelled in the Nations League victories over Israel and Albania in November but he, Steven Naismith and Leigh Griffiths are currently unavailable to manager Alex McLeish, pictured.

However, Burke, recalled to the squad for the first time in two years, believes he can be the focal point for Scotland’s attack in Astana and Serravalle after going from being ostracised in the Midlands to being lionised in Paradise.

“I’m more than happy to play there, especially now that I’ve been filling that role here at Celtic,” he claimed. “I’m more comfortable to play there for the national team because I’m now used to it.

“I’ll do my very best in training to show what I can do and, hopefully, that gives me the opportunity. I’m happy to be back in the fold.

“We want to keep the momentum going, especially when big competitions are coming and we need the right team with the right balance.

“It’s my first call-up for a while so I’m going to go and enjoy it, take in the experience and hope it’s successful. I’m really enjoying being a striker, although I’m still learning a lot as it’s all very new to me. It’s been really successful but it’s also important to have the flexibility to play in different positions.

“That means if something happens in a game you can swap and change. I think it’s gone really well playing as a striker and I’m aiming to keep learning my trade in that

position.”

With his parent club managerless following the dismissal of manager Darren Moore, Burke has no idea what the future may hold for him when his loan arrangement expires at the conclusion of this campaign, but he is grateful to Celtic for having given him a future again.

Necessity is the mother of invention and former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers responded to a striking crisis by deploying Burke through the middle upon his arrival in Glasgow and his four Premiership goals matches Alfredo Morales’ total for 2019.

“It’s been really successful for me, this loan deal. It’s got me back on track,” he said. “It’s sort of kick-started my career. I went from being starved of football and being almost the forgotten man. Now I’m really happy and I’m glad I chose such a great and big club with great people in it who have put their arms around me and given me confidence and belief in myself again.”

The transition has involved some counter-intuitive thinking by Burke.

“When you’re a winger you head for the corner flag so you can hit the byeline and cross it in,” he explained. “As a striker, you need to be more in that middle area, that’s what you’re there for.

“I used to run wide and create space there and now it needs to be shorter and sharper. It requires a quicker movement because there’s not much time to spare. I’m still learning.”

• Oliver Burke was speaking to promote Celtic Soccer Academy’s Easter Skills Schools in Clydebank and East Kilbride (1-5 April) and Giffnock (and Glasgow Green (8-12 April).