Puskas Award: Matty Burrows can strike gold for himself, his club and the entire Irish League
Football remains a team game but we can all share a little pride and satisfaction as Matty Burrows savours a moment he will treasure for the rest of his life.
Burrows says he would gladly hand back the Ballon d'Or Puskas Award tonight if he could guarantee Glentoran’s financial future this week.
The striker’s fairytale trip to Zurich for the Fifa Goal of the Year bash is the stuff of boyhood dreams for a Bangor man who honed his skills in the colours of St Andrews, Holywood Boys, 1st Bangor and Dundela before hitting the big time with Glentoran.
It’s a story which has catapulted the profile of the Irish League into a new stratosphere and brought light relief to a Glentoran support who fear the club they cherish are about to go under.
A wealthy benefactor is waiting in the wings ready to rescue the debt-ridden club but only if he gets the changes he wants at the club’s EGM on Wednesday.
Such issues will be at the very back of Burrows’ mind when he rubs shoulders with the likes of Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and Giovanni Van Bronkhorst tonight.
But the 25-year-old is holding out for a double celebration — he wants to be the toast of world football and he wants Glentoran to fight another day.
“Glentoran Football Club means so much to so many people and, If I’m lucky enough to win this very special award, I would be happy to trade it in if the club could win its survival fight,” said Burrows.
“I firmly believe that we will be OK and the Irish League needs Glentoran. Anything else is unthinkable.”
Anyone who knows Burrows knows he’s a man of few words.
He’s more at home in front of goal with the ball at his feet than making polite conversation with Barcelona trio Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
Don’t expect him to do a ‘Gwyneth Paltrow’ and weep if he’s crowned the winner of the best goal scored in world football in 2010. But his 15-yard back-heeled volley against Portadown in November has earned Burrows his day in the sun and no-one will ever take this memory away from him.
First class travel, five-star accommodation, red carpet treatment; he’s at the footballing oscars and, if he can persuade Messi that he can fit into Glentoran’s new wage structure, then the trip could be even more productive.
Other rivals for the prize include former Chelsea star Arjen Robben and Arsenal's Samir Nasri but the four million viewers who watched Burrows’ goal on YouTube believe there can only be one winner.
“I cannot believe I am going to be amongst the best players in the world,” said Burrows. “What a start to 2011 — I think I’m still dreaming and I’m going as one of the favourites. ESPN and Sky Sports gave me their vote and I have to be in with a chance.
“I can win it but if I do I don’t know how I will react or what I will say. I think I will retire there and then — it’s not going to get any better than that.
“I’ll never forget this whole experience and I intend to enjoy it. Ever since I was a young boy I just wanted to play football and I was a big Rangers and Man United fan. I looked at the Brazilian Ronaldo and, when he was in his prime, he was brilliant to watch.
“Now Messi and Iniesta are among two of my current favourite players and I’m hoping to meet them tonight. If I can sell Glentoran to them at the party, you never know!
“Johnny Black tells me he miss-hit the cross but it came in at a good height and I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve tried it many times in training and in matches — I might do it again!”
Fans voted for their favourite goal on the Fifa website and even Linfield supporters forgot about ancient rivalries to keep Burrows in the running for the prestigious prize named after Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas.
“Linus Hallenius of Sweden's Hammarby scored a wonderful goal and he has to have a big chance but I prefer mine,” added Burrows.
Glentoran fans will be cheering Burrows on tonight but the club had to fight to net the striker.
“Several Irish League clubs, including Ballymena United, were interested in Matty when he was at Dundela,” said Glens chief scout Billy Spence.
“But myself and Walter Windrum had a good chat with him and his dad, John, and he was persuaded that there was a future for him at Glentoran.
“He’s a real goal-scoring machine, a box man and he reminds me of Sammy Pavis, an out and out poacher. I was about to leave the Oval that night along with Jim Weatherup when Matty scored and it is the best goal I’ve seen and I’ve been at the Glens for 32 years.”