Proud to have bossed Town

GEORGE Burley and Ipswich were unable to sustain their initial success in the cut-throat world of the Premiership.

Nick Garnham

GEORGE Burley and Ipswich were unable to sustain their initial success in the cut-throat world of the Premiership.

The big-money signings of Italian goalkeeper Matteo Sereni and Nigerian winger Finidi George ahead of the 2001/02 campaign did not have the desired effect of consolidating the club's position among the country's elite. Although both produced some good individual performances, the team struggled in their second season in the top flight and Ipswich were relegated in May 2002.

After a disappointing start to life back in Division One Burley was sacked on October 11, 2002.

He reflected: “As a football manager you know that at some point you are going to leave. I am proud of the record I had at Ipswich - four play-offs, promotion and two years in Europe - I have so many happy memories, but you know you have to move on. I have no regrets at all.

“You are making decisions every day and you never get them all right. Even Bobby Robson and Alex Ferguson don't get them all right.

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“Maybe I could have done things differently and often you are wiser after the event, but you are judged on your record and you have to stand up and be counted and I am proud of my record.”

Burley's cause at Ipswich in that second season was not helped by the absence of Dale Roberts, his assistant, whose ill health saw him fighting an altogether different battle to the threat of relegation.

Burley reflected: “Dale was my best friend in the youth team at Ipswich and was one of those people you knew you could rely on. Unfortunately Dale passed away through cancer, which is a big blow to anybody. You can't put things in black and white, but Dale was a major part of me both as a player and backroom member of staff.”

After leaving Ipswich Burley was placed in interim charge of Derby County in 2003 while permanent manager John Gregory was suspended. He managed to prevent Derby from being relegated from the First Division just a season after dropping out of the Premiership.

He was then appointed manager after Gregory was sacked and the 2003/04 season was often a struggle, but the following season he transformed Derby into promotion contenders and they finished fourth before losing in the play-off semi-finals.

His relationship with Murdo Mackay, the club's director of football, and the club's board was strained and he resigned in June 2005.

Within days he was appointed manager of Hearts and a stunning start to the season saw them top of the Scottish Premier League. But after just 12 games in charge - nine wins, two draws and one defeat - Burley left by mutual consent after Vladimir Romanov, the major shareholder with whom Burley had an uneasy relationship, announced his bid to take private control of the club.

Burley took over as head coach at Southampton in December 2005 following the departure of Harry Redknapp, who left and rejoined Portsmouth.

His title was subsequently changed to “manager” following a change in control to the club and he guided Southampton to the Coca-Cola Championship play-offs in 2006/07 where they lost to former club Derby in a penalty shoot-out, with Derby going on to win the final.

Southampton were forced to sell some of their star players in the summer and it was no surprise that they were struggling this season, and some Saints fans were calling for Burley's head.

On January 23 Burley was announced as the new manager of Scotland, and to date has overseen one international match, a 1-1 draw against Croatia.

He said: “It was a great honour for me to be asked to manage my country. Scotland has got so many top-class managers and a reputation for producing some of the best of all time.

“It has been great so far. It is really different to being a club manager. You are not doing the every day things that a club manager does. It is different but really busy at certain times and quiet at other times.

“I have spent a lot of time watching games, going round the country looking at different players and trying to improve the squad.

“It is a big challenge. I took the job knowing the World Cup is coming up in South Africa in 2010. To be given the chance to try to take your country to the World Cup finals is something I will do to the best of my ability.”

As well as taking in matches both sides of the border - there are a lot of Scottish players based in England - Burley has been busy attending various functions on behalf of the Scottish FA as well as dealing with the media.

Burley, who is being assisted by former Ipswich Town team-mate Terry Butcher, said: “I have known Terry since my playing days. He has good experience of the Scottish scene as a player and manager over the past 20 years and it is great that he has joined up with me.”

Burley, who lived with his family in Holbrook while manager at Portman Road, now lives in London with wife Jill, who still owns a clothes shop in Ipswich. The couple are due to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in July.

They are looking to move to Edinburgh, where 22-year-old daughter Lisa is already working as a PA. Sons Andrew, 28, and Stuart, 26, who does sports promos for Sky TV, both work in London.

Burley still keeps in touch with several of his ex-Ipswich team-mates, including goalkeeper Paul Cooper, who is now based in Tenerife. He was last at Portman Road with former club Southampton in November 2007, when Ipswich won 2-0.