Cup was first top triumph

WINNING the FA Cup is one of many memorable moments George Burley has enjoyed in his career as both a player and a manager.It is therefore difficult for him to choose what ranks as his best moment in the game.

Nick Garnham

WINNING the FA Cup is one of many memorable moments George Burley has enjoyed in his career as both a player and a manager.

It is therefore difficult for him to choose what ranks as his best moment in the game.

Burley, of course, missed the 1981 UEFA Cup triumph through injury, after he damaged his cruciate ligaments in an FA Cup tie at Shrewsbury in the January of that season.

He recovered to continue to be a reliable right back with Ipswich until he was sold to Sunderland in September 1985 for £50,000. He made 54 appearances for the Roker Park club before he switched to Gillingham in July 1988, where a further 48 appearances and two goals followed.

Burley, who won 11 caps for Scotland, moved back north of the border in 1989 to play for Motherwell before joining Ayr United as player-manager in 1991, succeeding Ally MacLeod and taking the club to the B&Q Centenary Cup final. He reached the final of the same competition, by then renamed the B&Q Challenge Cup, the following season but was dismissed in 1993 with the club's place in the First Division in serious jeopardy.

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A brief spell as a player at Falkirk was followed by a return to Motherwell as player-coach, but in June 1994 he was lured back to East Anglia as player-manager of Colchester United. Burley, who made five appearances and a further two as a substitute, was only in charge at Layer Road for 20 matches - eight of which they won - before he caused a furore among U's fans when he left the club on Christmas Eve 1994 to take over as manager of Ipswich.

Although relatively inexperienced Burley impressed the Ipswich directors with his vision for the club's future and although inevitable relegation followed at the end of the 1994/95 season, the Board's faith was justified as he led the club back to the Premiership in May 2000 after losing in the play-off semi-finals in each of the previous three seasons.

The club exceeded even the wildest dreams of their supporters by finishing fifth in their first season in the Premiership and qualifying for the UEFA Cup, and Burley's achievements were recognised when he was named the Carling Manager of the Year for 2000/01.

So 30 years on how does winning the FA Cup rank alongside his other achievements in the game? It's not a question Burley finds easy to answer bearing in mind the success he enjoyed with Ipswich as a manager.

“I was proud to play for my country and get to the World Cup finals in 1982 before going on to be a manager and taking Ipswich back to the Premiership. That day was an occasion I will never forget. We were so close for three or four years in the play-offs and so to take the club back to the Premiership was a tremendous feeling, as was winning the FA Cup, but the next season being in the Premiership was probably even better.

“The whole build-up to the FA Cup final over the four weeks after the semi-final was tremendous, but as a one-off game as a manager to go up to the Premiership was certainly special.

“I don't think anybody would have dreamt Ipswich would get back into Europe. That was a great achievement and being Manager of the Year in 2000/01 ahead of Gerard Houllier and Sir Alex Ferguson was the pinnacle of my managerial career so far.”

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