Non-League Day

Burn: Non-league gave me belief to reach the top

9 Oct 2019

Brighton defender says experience gained in lower divisions was vital preparation for making it in the Premier League

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Ahead of Non-League Day on Saturday 12 October, we spoke to Premier League players who once plied their trade in levels of the game beneath the top four divisions of the English football pyramid.

Dan Burn

Although his path to the Premier League was long and hard, Brighton & Hove Albion defender Burn would not have chosen it any other way.

Burn's career as a professional footballer got off to an inauspicious start as in his very first season he suffered relegation from the Football League with Darlington in 2009/10.

The experience of playing non-league football as a teenager, however, proved the making of him.

"It just makes you grow up quickly," says Burn, who made his senior debut aged 17. "It's a lot quicker paced, it's physical, and those were all things that I needed at the time to go on and play at a higher level.

Words of encouragement

"There were people there that were huge for my career and put me in position to go and really do it.

"The scout Les Wray took me there and Craig Liddle, the youth-team manager, developed me loads. I came in as an average footballer and he just kept pushing me to get better and take me to the next level.

"Mark Cooper was the one who gave me a good run in the team. Considering the position the club was in, to play me at the age I was, and probably the ability I had at the time, was brave for him." 

Experience counts

Asked if he has a word of advice for young Premier League players unsure about going on loan to non-league clubs, Burn, now 27 and having started all of Brighton's matches this season, is clear.

"It helped me so much, not particularly when I got to Fulham, but when I went out on loan to Yeovil, just knowing that I'd played against men before, rather than kids," he adds. 

"I'd advise any young lad do that, to go out and get real experience."

Show your support on Non-League Day

You can show support for the hundreds of semi-professional and amateur clubs around England by going to a match this weekend. 

To find your nearest non-league match, visit the nonleagueday.co.uk/map.

Also in this series

Part 1: Vardy: I rediscovered love of football in non-league
Part 2: Murray: Non-league has a pool of talent
Part 4: Pickford: Non-league matches made me a man
Part 5: Foster: Tiverton gave me the chance I needed
Part 6: Wilder: My non-league days still guide me now

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