Instantly and understandably associated with joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley, Scott Burton has formed the on-field fulcrum of a group by now emphatically eligible to be termed the Promotion Pack. A bit like the Rat Pack but more North West than Nevada (and with double the carnage)…
The Warrington-born midfielder won a promotion at Ramsbottom United, and three more at Salford City before being given the captaincy as he climbed on board at Chester with the incoming gaffers last summer. Understandably then, to miss out on the National League North play-offs – by three points in the end – in what was a testing and at times energy-sappingly surreal season for the Blues, was an unwelcome break from the norm.
As if to hammer home the point that 2018/19 was a very definite anomaly, an ever-available and robust performer like Burton saw his season blighted by injury. As we head very tentatively towards 2019/20, there are details still to be ironed out as Chester transition to a hybrid model, but as he explains in this detailed interview, the will to get fully back in the groove and help the side put to bed last season’s shortcomings is pulsing through him.
Favourite team and player growing up
Manchester United fan. My favourite player, it’s a tough one, because I love Paul Scholes, but my idol was David Beckham; everyone looked up to Beckham, didn’t they? But being a centre-midfielder, I’ve always looked up to Paul Scholes, and having the chance to work with him (at Salford) was dream come true really.
Favourite game(s) you’ve played in and why?
I enjoyed when we got on telly in the FA Cup (for Salford), especially the Hartlepool game away. We got beat in extra-time but I think we could have been 3 or 4-0 up before the game finished. On a personal note, I had a really good game and I think Hartlepool came in for me straight after the game. They spoke to Jonno and Bern and I think they approached the right way, but it was too far to travel and stuff like that. I’d just had a little lad and I was happy where I was at the time, so I turned it down.
What are your feelings on it now, are you still happy with the decision?
It would have been nice to go and try playing in the Football League, but it wasn’t the right time for me. It was commuting back and forth all the time, or staying there, and I didn’t really want to commit to that. Plus, I’m a builder, so I have a lot of work here. I’m at that age now where, with Chester going hybrid this season, I’ve told them it doesn’t benefit me, because I work and stuff. I’m trying to get out of work on a Friday to do it but nothing’s been concrete yet, so I don’t know what’s happening (laughs).
A teammate/coach who taught you something new, or made you see the game in a different way, or gave great advice you’ve always remembered
Jonno and Bern, because I think when I was at the age of 19/20, I stopped playing football. I fell out of love with it, because I was at Crewe, I was at Blackpool when I was younger, and finishing school, going straight to football, coming home, going to bed and doing the same again, I kind of fell out of love with it. Then one of my mates mithered me to go and play for Runcorn Town, so I went down to play for them, and they were playing against Rammy, with Jonno and Bern. The way I signed for them two, it was weird really. We had a big argument on the pitch, with one of their players, I ended up elbowing one of them and busting his nose, and Jonno and Bern rang me up a week later and said ‘we love that, do you fancy coming to join us?’ I had a big argument with them then; I said ‘you don’t like me, I don’t like you, why would I want to play football for you?’ I turned them down and a year later they came in for me again and said ‘listen, you’re what we need.’ I said ‘no, no, I’m not coming down there with yous.’ I think the third year I ended up saying ‘go on, I’ll try it,’ and ended up getting promotion with Rammy that year. Them two, they know me inside out, they know what my strengths are, and they just said ‘work hard,’ and that’s the best advice Bern ever give me, ‘just work hard and everything takes care of itself,’ and that’s what I did.
Funniest teammate/coach/manager in your career (or give more than one example). There’s a few that very obviously spring to mind…
It’s definitely Jordan Hulme. I’ve played football with him for four years and he’s a crazy guy, Jordan. On coach journeys and stuff like that, when we play away and it’s three hours away, we start playing Edward Ciderhands. He’s a mad guy. Gary Stopforth, he’s a funny guy. Steven Howson, he’s another funny guy; on a night out you’ll have a good laugh with him. A lot of lads who’ve come through with us, it’s like we’re all the same type of lads, that’s why we’ve stayed together so long. We all know each other, we turn up on a Saturday, we work hard, but then we have a laugh after it. That’s what it’s all about for me.
Could you still have that same enjoyment last season, with generally doing quite well but having some struggles as well?
Yeah I know what you mean, because we’ve always been first, we’ve always been up there, and you’re relaxed because you know you’re going to get promotion and that’s what it’s like. At Chester, it was different, just because we were 7th, we were 8th, we were always up there, but it wasn’t as relaxed. At Salford, there was always pressure, but I felt going to Chester there was a lot more pressure, because obviously people bang on about budgets and ‘you can get who you want,’ but they still had to go and prove themselves. Injury let us down last year; we had six, seven, eight players out at a time. They weren’t injuries where he’s out for a week or two; it was six, seven, eight weeks. I think I played 14 games – it’s the first time in my football career I’ve ever been injured. It kind of killed me last year, so that’s another reason I wanna stay there this year and put things right for myself, because I’m not that type of player. I’ve played for years when I’ve had niggles and keep playing and playing and I get through it, but obviously I had the operation on my knee; I just couldn’t get through it. So I need to prove a lot of people wrong really.
A player you’ve played with whose ability alone deserved/deserves to be at a higher level. The one who springs to mind is Richie Allen, would that be fair?
Yeah Richie Allen. He’s played higher, he’s played at Fleetwood, so he has played at a very good level, but Richie Allen is a very, very good footballer – when he wants to be. That’s what Richie was like, he was just so laid-back and not arsed; he was late for training every day and late for games. A lot of people say it about Richie, but if he had the attitude he would have gone and played a lot, lot higher. Jordan Hulme, very good player, but he likes going on the piss every weekend. JJ (John Johnston), I think he’s got a good future, who’s at Altrincham now. He’s a cracking player; we said that when he came down to Salford, but it just didn’t work out, he was hit and miss. I think he’s picked his game up a bit now. Gary Stopforth, he’s another one; engine, but he likes to go out on the piss as well!
Hardest moment/experience as a player
I don’t think there’s been a time where I’ve really struggled, but at Salford, in my last season, I ended up getting two straight reds in two games. I ended up getting a seven-game ban, and my mum was ill at the time, and I spoke to Jonno and Bern, and Gary Neville chipped in, and they said ‘right, go away and have a week off.’ Obviously it was full-time so we trained every day, so they gave me a week off. I’d played every game until that, and then they were winning and I couldn’t get back in the team. I spoke to Jonno and Bern and I was like ‘listen, I might have to get paid up and go elsewhere, because I’m not the type of player who can come off the bench and impact a game.’ I’m the player who’s gonna start and shore things up. Every club I’ve been at, I’ve always played, I’ve never been on the bench, so kind of last year, for the last half of the season, I didn’t really play, because of two shit sendings-off. I kind of thought ‘I’m 30 years old, maybe it’s time to just walk away from football,’ but I stuck at it and obviously I got the move to Chester. I got my injury and I was thinking the same again. I spoke to my partner and I was like ‘should I just commit to work on a Saturday and walk away from football?’ But I’ve got too much energy for that at the minute, and I’m one of the oldest, but I’m one of the fittest. It’s just I got the injury and it kind of killed me last year, so that’s why I want to put the wrongs right this year.
What is a typical week like for you, in terms of routine? Obviously the club’s changing to the hybrid model, so what was it like last season?
Last season, it was part-time; on a Tuesday night, Thursday night and obviously games on Saturday. I work Monday to Friday, and the hybrid model this year I think it’s gonna be Monday morning, Tuesday night, Thursday night, Friday morning. I’ve told Jonno and Bern, I’ve been with them a long time and they know me, and I’ve said to them it doesn’t benefit me. Obviously they’ve said to me ‘we’ll sort the money out,’ but it’s not that; I’m 32 this year. I gave my job up once and went full-time at Salford, because I’ve always wanted to do it, I’ve always wanted to give it a go, but going full-time at Salford, I was like ‘is this really me?’ Maybe when I was younger, but I was 30 years old. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I was looking forward to getting back into work. I’ve got to speak to Jonno and Bern and see, because I’ve signed a two-year deal at Chester anyway. I’ve signed a part-time contract, so if I really wanted to, I could stay Tuesday/Thursday, but I’ll try to help Jonno and Bern and the lads by going in on a Friday as well. It just all comes down to my work letting me and stuff.
In terms of other interests, is there room for much else outside football, work, family?
I’ve been and bought a couple of houses the last couple of years, so I’m trying to get into that, for myself really. Me and my partner, we’ve got a couple of houses, we rent them out, and we’ve been and bought a new one now and put an extension on it. That’s kind of the way I’m steering after my football career; I wanna get into buying and selling really. It’s kind of taking over now really, that’s all I’ve done in the summer.
We have touched on it but what is the overriding feeling heading towards this next season, as we speak now? Is the desire to rectify last season and for you personally to have a proper run at it much greater than the possibility of stepping away?
Yeah I think obviously when I came from Salford and signed for Chester, I was a profile signing, if you like. I was one who all the fans were saying ‘yeah, get him in, he’s solid, he’s this, he’s that,’ and I don’t think anyone had a bad word against me. Then when I came in, I had a bit of a calf problem in pre-season, so I missed the first two or three games, and then obviously I ended up doing my meniscus in my knee. I was out for two months before they even sent me for a scan, and it was just like the fans who don’t know me were saying ‘yeah, he’s a crock,’ and I think Jonno ended up saying ‘listen, he’s played for six years and it’s the first injury he’s had.’ I wanna put their thoughts about me being an injured player to bed. They’ve took to Gary Stopforth very well, because he had a good season, and me and Gaz are very similar players. When me and Gaz were at Salford, we were class together, because we were full of beans, so I want to get back in there now. I think I played the last four games of the season and I got Man of the Match the last game, and people said they could see the potential. I started my pre-season three weeks ago, so I’m ready to go now.
Looking back, is there a funniest/most memorable/surreal thing you’ve seen at a game?
When I was at Rammy, we played against Lancaster away, I can’t remember what had gone on but I remember seeing Bern’s mum in with their fans and they were all going for her. So Bern’s jumped over, he’s in the crowd, then Jonno’s jumped in the crowd, and before we know it, all of us are in the crowd, wading in, trying to get her out. It’s absolutely lashing down, everyone’s slipping on their arse. At the end of the game we all just walked in the changing room like ‘what’s just gone on there?’ No one could believe it, but everyone was still raging, up for it! I think a week later, we didn’t have a game, and Jonno and Bern and a few of the lads went down to watch Lancaster and all just ended up in a big fight! Back in the day, Jonno and Bern were mad; they’ve calmed down now, because they’ve turned into high-profile non-league managers so they’ve got to!
Any change you think could be made to the game at this level?
Just in general one of the big things for me, as shown in the Champions League final, is the handball situation. Let’s forget about ‘it’s ball to hand,’ if the ball hits your hand it’s handball. None of this ‘the ball’s hit his chest and rolled down.’ If they’re gonna put a rule in there, stick to it.
Any myths/misconceptions, or a rumour you’ve heard about yourself in your career that wasn’t true
To be fair, I’ve been with Jonno and Bern that long that I’ve always been classed as one of Jonno and Bern’s lads, so when things come circling, there’s always rumours. It’s like when I left Salford, I went and met a few managers. I met Liam Watson at Southport, and to be fair, I shook his hand on a deal full-time. Jonno and Bern were trying to get me to sign for Chester, and I said to them ‘I think I’m moving on,’ and they just said ‘you’re coming with us and that’s it.’ I can’t remember who it was who tweeted ‘Scott Burton’s agreed to go to Southport,’ but everyone’s jumped on it and obviously I pulled out last minute, so they weren’t too happy. I had a year left on my contract and I’d went and met Phil Parkinson at Altrincham as well, and I said ‘I’d like to come and join you,’ then Salford said ‘yeah we want £15,000 for him.’ He said ‘listen, we can’t pay £15,000; if you can get out of your contract we’ll sign you on a two-year deal tomorrow.’ It’s because Southport had offered £15,000. They let me go to Chester on a free because of Jonno and Bern.
Does it mean more to you to stay local, be around family and be part of a good dressing room over these seasons to come, or is there still that burning desire to go and play in the National League, League Two?
I was gutted when we didn’t get play-offs this year because I want to go and play in the National League. That’s as high as I want to go, if I’m honest, because I don’t want to go and play in the Football League and give my job up again, because I’ve got a good job. You can go and play in the National League part-time and that’s what I want to do with Chester. I said to the fans when I signed, we’ll get the club back where they belong, because they’re too big of a club to be in this league. They’re a massive club, and I think they deserve to go and play higher, so that’s why I signed for Jonno and Bern. We’ve always had success wherever we went, so we came down here and said ‘let’s go and smash it.’ This year, we’ve got to go and win it, or go and win the play-offs; there’s no staying in the league this year.
Who’s the life and soul of the dressing room at Chester? Would it have been Steve Howson last season?
When it was coming towards the end of the season and looking like we weren’t gonna get play-offs, we said ‘right, go out and enjoy your football, it’s not happening now,’ and Ste Howson’d just be stood there naked, dancing about! He’ll turn the tunes on, we’re all clapping him, before you know it, he’s naked, jumping about. That’s what he’s about; he’d lift everyone, Ste. He was a belting lad to have around the changing room and I’m gutted he’s not there next year, and so are all the lads.
One singer/band/artist you’d sneak on to the team playlist? I know you’ve had the playlists the lads have done at Chester and the club’s tweeted, but have you ever run things with the music at any of your clubs?
I did a playlist at Chester, like you say, but I’ve never done it at Salford or Rammy. But the one artist that I’d put on is Bon Jovi, my favourite. I couldn’t even pick a song, because I love them all.
What have you enjoyed most about being at the club so far, and if anyone’s in doubt at all, why should people come down and support?
I think the club’s going in the right direction. We had like a middle-of-the-season friendly with Salford, and when I walked in, it just feels like a proper club. They’ve got the badge on the floor, they’ve got big changing rooms; it just felt like a proper football club, a proper Football League club. That’s where they need to be, they need to step up their game now, they need to invest money, they need to get the players in and they need to get back up the leagues. Hopefully we can get the fans back, because I’ve been watching past games from a few years ago, and they always had like a full house.
Finally, what has all this time in football taught you the most and has it changed you at all?
It’s taught me to go out there and prove people wrong. Working hard and proving people wrong, it’s got me where I am now.
Interview by @chris_brookes