The Burley story
FROM Old Trafford to Blundell Park – George Burley's Ipswich career started at the top and all but finished near the bottom.Burley's glorious association with Ipswich Town began in 1973 as a teenage right-back marking George Best at the home of Manchester United.
FROM Old Trafford to Blundell Park – George Burley's Ipswich career started at the top and all but finished near the bottom.
Burley's glorious association with Ipswich Town began in 1973 as a teenage right-back marking George Best at the home of Manchester United.
But it ended in front of less than 5,000 fans on a Tuesday night in Cleethorpes at the run-down home of Grimsby Town.
Just two years ago, Burley was Premiership manager of the year. But now his career lies in tatters after he was sacked with Ipswich languishing at the foot of Division One.
It seems like the end of a near-30 year love affair with Ipswich Town which began with the most daunting of debuts against Best.
Burley carried off his performance with a strength and stoicism that was to come to the fore many times during his association with the club.
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It was that strength which helped him overcome a serious knee injury which kept him out of the game for nine months.
And to get over the fact that the ligament damage he suffered in a fourth-round FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury led to him missing the UEFA Cup triumph in 1981.
Born in Cummock, Scotland in 1956, Burley was signed by Ipswich as a trainee in June 1973.
And he made that daunting debut just six months later as Bobby Robson spotted his obvious talent in the youth team.
Although he missed arguably the greatest night in Ipswich's history, he played in one of their greatest days.
Burley was an important part of the Town team which created one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup final history by toppling the mighty Arsenal at Wembley in 1978.
His form in the blue shirt of Ipswich led to 11 full caps in the blue shirt of Scotland and a place in the 1982 World Cup squad in Spain.
But after 500 starts for Town, including 11 goals, Burley left for Sunderland – where he was linked this week with the managerial vacancy.
Burley's Sunderland career never matched the stellar heights he achieved at Portman Road and he moved on, first to Gillingham and then back to Scottish football with Motherwell and Ayr United.
In summer 1994 the Scot was made player-manager at Colchester United, but it was a short-lived role – Ipswich had come calling again.
Burley was installed as manager at Portman Road by Christmas of the same year amid acrimony with near-neighbours Colchester.
In the early years of the marriage it seemed a match made in heaven with Burley guiding Ipswich to the Premiership within the five-year timespan set by chairman David Sheepshanks.
And then there was the greatest season since the Robson days – Ipswich finishing fifth and reclaiming their place in Europe.
But fixture congestion and mixed form from new big-name signings led to a dramatic slum last year with Ipswich being relegated last season.
And Burley's last moments from what had been a fantastic career with the club was an ignominious three-nil defeat by Grimsby.