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Millwall Goalkeeper Coach Tony Burns Interview

Sells Team

Tony Burns, the current Goalkeeper coach at Millwall FC. Tony began his professional football career with Arsenal FC, before moving to Brighton, Charlton, crystal Palace and Brentford before finishing his career at Plymouth.     

Tony. Thank you for sparing the time to talk to Sells Goalkeeping Academy. Tony has had an illustrious career as a professional footballer and now as Goalkeeper coach at Millwall FC.

1.    Tony, how and when did you first start playing in goal.

[A] I started playing in goals when I was 9 or 10.

2    You served your apprenticeship at Arsenal, working your way through the     ranks, eventually earning your first team place. Can you tell us a little bit about how you found this.

[A] I actually served my apprenticeship with Tunbridge Wells and when I was 18 I had trials with Man Utd and Everton and then went to have trials with Arsenal.

On my first day at Arsenal I trained with the first team and they offered me a contract, but I knew they needed a Youth Team keeper and I was 18 so I lied about my age on my contract and then changed my date of birth on my passport.  Not something I would condone but I was desperate to make it as a professional.

After 9 games with the Youth Team I was called up to first team where I played about 40 games.

3    You have been successful in your career in both playing as well as coaching.     Can you tell us a bit about your career?

[A} I'd say I had quite a varied career.

From Arsenal I went to Brighton for £10,000 which was lot of money back then.  From Brighton I went Charlton and from Charlton I went to South Africa.

After three years in South Africa I went to Crystal Palace and stayed there for five years.  Then at the age of 34/35 I went to Memphis Tennesse.

I then moved into coaching and have coached and managed at non-league level and professionally.

4    You were part of the successful team at Millwall when they reached the FA     cup final in 2004. From a coaches point of view can you tell us how that experience was.

[A] The FA Cup was amazing for us as a club, as a team and as coaches.  Working with Wisey (Dennis Wise) was massive he really sorted all the lads out and brought us together as a team, everything just clicked.

Unfortunately on the day we didn't have the full first team out but everyone worked so hard for each other.  Although we lost it was a great day – one I'll never forget.

5    We have previously interviewed the previous chairman and coach in Theo     Paphitis and Ray Wilkins. We have invited the two of them to attend an academy and participate in a coaching session. Could we get you to participate in a training session.

[A]I'd absolutely love to but it would have to be on the same session as Theo and Ray.

6    It was you that spotted Andy Marshall and brought him to Millwall. How did you discover Andy?

[A]I was watching Ipswich reserves with Ray Wilkins and it was a horrible rainy day but I only needed 5 minutes of watching 'Marshy' in goals and I said to Ray we've got to sign this kid.  And we did.

7    Tell us a little bit about Tony Burns the person.

•    What do you do when you are not training?

[A] Enjoy life with my family and grandchildren

•    What type of music are you into?

[A] Frank Sinatra

•     Favourite Film?

[A] Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

•    Career funny moment, either playing a game or at training?

[A] It was the week of Millwall's FA Cup Final and Wisey went up to Marshy and said “Marshy we need to talk, I'm afraid its not good news, you're not playing in the Final.  I'm going to play Burnsy (Tony Burns) instead”.  The look on Marshy's face, well I'll never forget it.  Wisey just burst out laughing and walked off.

•    Career Highlight?

[A]For me now, every training session and matchdays.  I just love everything about football.

•    Career Low point?

[A]I don't have any, I always look at things positively and I teach all my 'keepers that.

8    Tony, you have had spells in management at non-league level, as well as joint caretaker manager at Millwall. How did you find these experiences?

[A] The biggest difference is that in non-league football players let you down last minute due to work and other commitments.  That's very difficult to manage and then go out and win.  That just doesn't happen with professional football as training and playing is their full-time job.

9.     Can you give us all an insight into how goalkeeping has changed from when you played, to how it is now, now that you are a coach?

[A]The biggest difference still is that in my day we could pick up a backpass.  Now 'keepers are like a sweeper behind the defenders and they have to be as good with their feet as the players.

Goalkeeper coaching is very technical these days and this type of coaching and goalkeeper training is very important.

And of course gloves play a massive part in the game now.  When I played we didn't wear gloves but with how the game and footballs have advanced 'keepers need technically advanced gloves.

10.    Tony, can you tell us the benefits of having professional coaching for
grass roots keepers, as Sells Goalkeeping Academy has set up?

[A]The benefits are massive and speak for themselves.  We've got a lot of great young 'keepers coming through now.

Professional, technical goalkeeper coaching should have been around 25 years ago. I'm sure with Sells Goalkeeping Academy now coaching grass roots level 'keepers we are going to see even more great 'keepers coming through the ranks in the future.

In the past no one wanted to play in goals, now loads of kids want to play in goals.

11.     As a goalkeeper coach you have worked with many high profile 'keepers.  Can you tell us who some of these are?

[A] Andy Mashall, Kasey Keller, Nigel Spink and Tony Warner.  These guys are all great professionals.

12.    Tony, are you still known as the Silver Fox?

[A] Tell Marshy that's a bit naughty and to behave himself!

    Yes I am still known as the Silver Fox but this summer I'm going to dye my hair jet black and go for the Elvis Presley look.

Tony Burns, thank you for your time talking to Sells Goalkeeping Academy. We look forward to working with you in the future.