Belfast Telegraph

Burns keen to mark milestone in style

By Graham Luney

Aaron Burns can't wait to join the 200 club at Linfield and he now feels like one of the experienced heads at Windsor Park despite being only 23.

If selected against Coleraine this afternoon, Burns will hit the double century of appearances for the Blues and his Linfield career will come full circle as he made his debut at the Showgrounds.

Burns made his bow as a late substitute in a 4-1 win away to Coleraine on December 13, 2008 but he was as nervous as a kitten back then, admitting: "It meant a lot to me and you always want to take your chance."

Now he's a part of the fixtures and fittings at Windsor, an established first team performer with an eye for goal.

His first goal didn't arrive until a 4-0 home win against Newry on October 15, 2010 but his tally of 20 goals from midfield last season is an impressive statistic.

Despite being in his early twenties, Burns says he's surrounded by young legs in the dressing room and manager David Healy's faith in emerging talent has given the title chasers a very different look.

"I feel like one of the older boys because it's really surprising how young our team is," said Burns who is only beaten on the appearance list by Jamie Mulgrew (420).

"It's important I help guide some of the younger players. But guys like Paul Smyth, Matthew Clarke and Kirk Millar have been superb. We must have one of the youngest squads in the league.

"That augers well for the future as the young lads can only get better with experience. It's exciting to be part of such a set-up and even the lads who play in the heart of the defence are in their early twenties and could play on for another 10 years."

Burns, who has just signed a two-year contract extension from the end of this season, is confident the club can start pocketing the league's big prizes again under Healy.

"The top teams still have to play each other so things can change quickly and you've got to keep winning," he added. "I've no doubt we will be there or thereabouts but we have to put Crusaders under more pressure.

"I signed a contract extension because I believe in this squad and I believe we can win trophies. We are moving in the right direction and the gaffer has assembled a great squad."

Burns, who has netted 59 goals in 199 appearances, hopes to mark the 200 milestone in style by netting at Coleraine.

"Oran Kearney has a good squad and they will give us a tough game," he added.

"Sometimes their pitch is not great and it can be difficult but we know we need to win to stay in the title race. The defeat at Portadown was disappointing but we did have chances to win and the hurt will make us hungrier to put things right."

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