IT’S obvious speaking to Oliver Burke that he wants to leave the past behind and focus on the present and immediate future.
A few times during this interview he makes that clear.
The easy narrative would be the precociously talented teenager who hasn’t quite lived up to potential.
Another narrative is of a player who took risks in his career, looked beyond these shores to see what else was there for him and how he could develop.
Burke has played in Germany, Spain and his native Scotland. It’s not every 19-year-old who would have the bravery to move abroad to a completely different football culture and a new language.
RB Leipzig were like a fast-forward version of the football he had experienced in England at Nottingham Forest as they implemented the style of Ralf Rangnick, the current Manchester United manager who influenced Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
Burke spent one season in the Bundesliga before returning to West Brom, the £13million they paid meaning £25million had been spent on him in less than a year. He made 26 appearances in Germany but only five of them were starts in the league.
But he has no regrets about the move.
“Obviously it’s a massive move at such a young age. But I saw it as an opportunity, I saw it as an opportunity to play in a big league with a massive up-and-coming team,” Burke said.
“There was a lot of young talent there so it was a good chance to develop as a player and get that experience in the Bundesliga.
“I didn’t really see the money side of things, I just saw it as trying to develop as a player and me and my agent thought it was the right decision to make.
“Everyone says it’s a massive jump but I do believe the level in the Championship has increased dramatically. Everybody is a top player, everybody is fast these days. There’s obviously going to be a change within tactics and things like that, it’s different countries, different styles of football, different managers.
“I thought it was a good league to be in with great stadiums and crowds, and I enjoyed it while I was there. Some will say maybe I left a bit too early, if I’m honest.
“I tried to [learn German]. It’s very difficult to bond everything together because it was such a busy schedule when I first arrived. There were sometimes double training sessions so it was very difficult to fit German lessons in.”
Rangnick described Burke as “very powerful, very fast and physically strong. He’s good on the ball for a player of that size and that tempo.”
But when he’s reminded of those quotes from such an influential figure in the game he has no interest in basking in them.
He said: “It’s such a long time ago now and it’s very nice to hear those things about you but that’s the past, it’s time for me to get my career back up and running and get my mojo back.
“I’ve settled in really well. I’m really happy to be here and it’s a great bunch of boys as well, they’ve welcomed me in really nicely.”
Burke had played only six times for Sheffield United this season before moving to Millwall. Lions boss Gary Rowett said Burke is the type of player who needs to be given game-time even if he isn’t on top form.
Burke had no doubt that the move to south London to play for a manager with that idea for him was the right decision.
“I was looking forward to it, I was excited about the fact it was an opportunity for me to play football, that’s all I really care about at the minute,” Burke said. “And just enjoying myself again, I’ve been starved of football and I feel like I’ve sort of been wasted a little bit. I’m just looking forward to playing and showing what I can do.
“It’s important to get a good run of games and a manager that believes in you. It’s always important for any player.
“I’ve had a lack of game-time over the last few years and I think it’s really important for me and my confidence to get a run of games. You know what it’s like in football, sometimes it takes time to settle in with new team-mates. I’m still getting to know how they play.
“For any player, confidence, fitness on the back of playing regularly is always massive, it gives you the best opportunity to play your best football, doesn’t it?
“[Rowett] was a massive influence in me coming. He’s a fantastic manager and I think he can get the very best out of me.
“There was obviously previous interest in me from him at Millwall and previous clubs. It never came around and I didn’t look too deeply into it until recently.
“I think he believes in me and he knows what I can do from what he was saying. It’s just about doing it now, getting my head down and putting the work in.”
Burke had played at The Den before, getting an assist for Forest’s winner in a 2-1 victory in the League Cup in 2016. He is unbeaten there also with Millwall, after the 2-0 win over West Brom and 0-0 draw against Preston.
The Scotland international is looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere again in South Bermondsey ahead of the clash with Steve Morison’s Cardiff City.
“It was an amazing experience,” Burke said about his full Lions debut, the win over the Baggies. “The fans are fantastic and it was roaring, to be fair. It was against my old club as well so that was a great win and a great feeling.
“Hopefully there are many more of those moments to come. We put in a great performance and it just shows the quality within our team and what we can do.
“We’re really effective when we put it together.”
Image: Millwall FC