Belfast Telegraph

My brains are more in my head than my feet: Northern Ireland's Bobby Burns studying for degree

By Gareth Hanna

Bobby Burns is just getting started in his full-time football career but he's already looking beyond his playing days.

The former Glenavon man has been recalled from his brief loan spell at Livingston as he looks to kick-start his career at parent club Hearts.

That, he says, will involve plenty of graft to break into the Edinburgh side's line-up. He didn't make the match-day squad for Sunday's 1-0 Scottish Cup success against Livingston but boss Craig Levein is hopeful he can forge his way into the panel during the second half of the campaign.

While he has that to worry about, level-headed Burns will also be continuing a part-time Open University degree in maths and business management.

It signals presence of mind not every teenager can boast - but that's of little surprise given that Burns was the St Malachy's Head Boy before his switch to Scotland and bagged two A*s as well as an A in his A level results.

“My school grades were alright, yeah,” he told the Scotsman. “If I wasn’t playing football now I would probably be at university doing maths or business or something. Maybe something to do with accountancy, although maybe that’s a bit too boring. I really enjoyed school back home. I only left last year when I was 18."

Burns had by that stage amassed over 50 senior appearances for the Lurgan Blues and Knockbreda (during a loan spell), having turned down a move across the water after his GCSEs.

“A lot of people from Northern Ireland come over here at 16 and don’t get much of an education and end up being homesick," he said. "So it was great for me to mature a bit more and also learn my trade over there. I have played 75 men’s games now.

“It never came down to football or a degree. Once I have finished playing I can always go back to that. Once I got my grades my view was to give football everything I have and see where it takes me. Then, if I get to 28 or whatever, I can just go back to university again. It might be a bit grim with my brothers all working but it’ll be alright."

It will take Burns six years to complete his part-time degree. Having earned his first senior call-up for Northern Ireland last year, he's hoping he'll be a fully-fledged international star by then but he's much too smart to believe such a path is inevitable.

“Most of the other boys are playing Fortnite after training so (the degree course) is a bit more worthwhile," he said. "It doesn’t take much of my time. The football is my priority so it only takes me a couple of hours a week. We normally get a Wednesday off so that’s when I sit down and look at it.

“Very few people earn enough money during their football career to retire off it these days. So it’s good to have a back-up plan. I have a three-year contract here but you never know when you might finish, even with an injury. So my brains are probably more in my head than my feet.”

And that's saying something. He football ability is well known across the Irish League and after impressing during his eight Premiership games at Livingston, don't be surprised to see the 19-year-old excel in his latest test back at Tynecastle.

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