Often Partisan

Where Are They Now? Part XII

I was thinking about the loan players we have had at Blues over the years; the ones who have been abject failures and the ones who have been successes. The focus for today’s article was one I’d deem a success; I was gutted that we weren’t able to sign him permanently and I often think his career never quite peaked as much as his talent suggested it should. The player I’m talking about is former Scotland international Mark Burchill.

Mark Burchill

Back in the autumn of 2000, Blues signed Scottish striker Mark Burchill on loan from Celtic. He came to us as a prodigious talent; a 20-year-old Scottish international who’d got the fastest ever hat trick in the UEFA Cup for Celtic against Luxembourgish side Jeunesse Esch a month prior to his signing. Yet he’d fallen down the pecking order at Celtic and his move south was to help him get some first team football.

The game that stood out for me was the 4-0 win over Stockport at St Andrews; Burchill got a brace and it did seem like every time Blues broke with the ball Burchill was likely to score. His pace terrified them and whilst his record of five goals in seventeen appearances doesn’t sound massively great, I thought Mark was brill. I wanted us to sign him. Alas, it was not to be – Trevor Francis bitterly complained of the Scot “moving the goalposts” in his demands and there were rumours of two players complaining about the potential wages Blues were offering Burchill.

Burchill finished that season on loan to Ipswich but he didn’t quite recapture his Blues form, scoring just one goal in seven outings, two of which were starts. However, it was enough to secure him a £600k move to Pompey and he started off well with them, scoring twice in his second game for the club against Grimsby. However he only made four more appearances that season before he a knee injury put him out for ten months. He came back into the team for the 2002/3 season, again starting in good form but as the season went on he fell down the pecking order and found himself back out on loan, this time back to Scotland with Dundee where he got to the Scottish Cup final.

The next two years were similar; loan spells at Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham but in a grand total of 12 league appearances across the three loan spells he only scored once – against Crewe for Rotherham. Injury put paid to his last loan spell and his return to Pompey saw him fifth choice striker.

Burchill eventually left Pompey in January 2005, leaving for his native Scotland and Hearts of Midlothian where he spent the remainder of that season, scoring four in twelve. He then moved on to Dunfermline where he got back onto the goal trail, scoring fifteen in his first season with the Pars. However, the next season saw Burchill fail to score in all twenty-four appearances he made as Dunfermline were relegated from the top flight. His third and final season at East End Park saw Burchill back scoring again, with fifteen goals, and despite languishing in the lower reaches of the table for much of the season, the Pars finished fifth in the second tier.

Mark then returned south of the border for a second spell with Rotherham United and spent a year with the League Two club, scoring five times. However, he left at the end of the season and decided to return to Scotland, where he signed for Jim Jeffries’ Kilmarnock side. However, Burchill injured his achilles tendon in a friendly and it was December before he got his first goal for the club.

At the end of the 2009/10 season, Mark moved on – this time for warmer climes and the beaches of Cyprus, signing for Enosis Neon Paralimni FC. Describing on twitter the standard of the league as comparable to that of Scotland, Burchill is enjoying the warm weather and technical ability of the Cypriot League. This season has seen him playing eight games in an un-natural left back slot – however, from reading his thoughts on Twitter he seems pretty happy out there and an integral part of his team.

I think it’s a shame he didn’t make more of his career; I always thought of him whilst he was at Blues as to be like a “Scottish Michael Owen” – small, nippy and a natural finisher. I honestly believe he could have been great for us if we’d have signed him – but of course, we’ll never know.

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