It’s been a steady start to the season for recently relegated Swansea City.
Graham Potter’s charges find themselves in seventh position in the Sky Bet Championship, at the time of writing, having won three games, drawn two and losing just the once.
One of the key players behind the Welsh side’s good start to the campaign has been 22-year-old striker Oli McBurnie, who has become the spearhead figure in Swansea’s attack.
However, it’s not always been plain sailing for the Leeds-born star, and McBurnie has had to bide his time at a number of clubs on loan, with varying degrees of success.
It was his loan stint at Barnsley last season however, that really kickstarted his career.
Under the tutelage of Paul Heckingbottom, McBurnie went on to score nine goals in 17 appearances, and ended up scooping the Tykes’ player of the season award.
It’s been a journey for him already, despite his tender age, but he now finds himself as a key cog in the setup at Swansea, and he’s delighted to be a part of the Potter revolution at the Liberty Stadium.
Speaking exclusively to Football League World Chief Editor Sam Rourke, McBurnie said: “As a footballer, you want to be playing first-team football every week and you want to be enjoying yourself, I want to repay the faith put in me by the gaffer, by playing and scoring goals”
After a number of managerial changes at Swansea over the last few seasons, it seems that Graham Potter is here to stay for the long-term, and although it’s early days, McBurnie admits it’s a pleasure working with him: “I’m really enjoying working under the manager, I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of the boys in saying he’s been nothing but positive since he’s come in”
“He’s brought a fresh new attitude to the club and I think it’s what was needed and you can see by the results and the performances on the pitch that we’re definitely improving under him”
“He’s vocal when he needs to be, i’ve been under managers in the past that have been vocal for the sake of being vocal, whereas when the gaffer needs to get his point across he will do in a positive fashion”
“He loves a discussion, he’s intelligent, he knows a lot about football and the wider world – his man-management is excellent, and for me, he’s been unbelievable”
McBurnie has made an impressive start to the season already, notching four goals in the league so far, and you get the feeling his goals will prove pivotal if the Swans are to launch a genuine assault on the top six.
Though after an excellent start goals-wise, McBurnie was quick to dismiss the idea of having a goals target in mind for the season, saying to Rourke: “I don’t really look to far into the future and set a goals target, it puts unnecessary pressure on yourself , I just turn up and play and try and score in every game that I play in, If I score then good, If I don’t, I don’t”
As aforementioned, it was his time at Yorkshire outfit Barnsley where we first started to see signs that McBurnie was capable of cutting the mustard in the English second tier, and the 22-year-old reveals his time at Oakwell was a key influence in his progression as a player, saying to Rourke: “I’ll always be grateful for Barnsley giving me an opportunity, I was at a stage in my career that I needed first-team games and I was in the squad one week, and out the next in the Premier League with Swansea”
“I could of had the easy life and stayed at Swansea and not played games in the Premier League, but for me it was important to go out and play football every week and be a mainstay in the team, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Barnsley and it’s just a shame how it ended,
“I’ll always keep an eye on their results, I can’t speak highly enough of the staff, players and fans at Barnsley”
McBurnie made his debut for Scotland back in March, in what turned out to be a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, and it seems that taste of international action has got him wanting more.
The forward faces tough competition for the starting striker role in Alex McLeish’s side, but that hasn’t put off McBurnie and his desire to wear the Scottish shirt once again, telling Rourke:
“I was able to break into the first-team at Swansea and I’ve got four caps for Scotland, it was the proudest moment of my career starting at Hampden for the first-time, as a kid I got brought up being Scottish, supporting Scotland, wearing Scotland shirts, so for me and my family, playing for your country is the pinnacle”
Of course, it is early days in McBurnie’s professional football career and he’s certainly on the right path to becoming a top player as he develops and matures, when asked about the future, McBurnie knew where he’d like to be, saying to Rourke:
“Every young player should have ambitions of playing at the highest level possible, I’ve played in the Premier League over the last couple of years and I’d love to end up playing in the Premier League”
Whether McBurnie ends up in the Premier League next season with Swansea City remains to be seen, but if he continues in the same vein, you get the impression he won’t be a second tier player for long.