Fringe Socceroo Nathan Burns has no regrets over his difficult two-year stint in Korea but says he is delighted to be back in the A-League.
Burns signed with Wellington Phoenix last month on a two-year deal after leaving Incheon United.
The forward made just a handful of first-team appearances in the K-League after first battling a serious knee injury and then struggling for game time in the wake of coach Huh Jung-moo's sacking.
He spent part of last season on loan at Newcastle Jets and managed two goals in 12 appearances for the Hunter outfit.
Looking back, Burns says he doesn’t regret his move to Incheon after spending four years at AEK Athens.
“It’s a good league and it really pushed me," the 26-year-old said.
"Mentally I had to hang in there and obviously learn as much as I could.
“It was unfortunate that I wasn’t getting the game-time, but you can always take the good from the bad and appreciate the experience.
“I was injured for the first season - that nine months - so that was the first year gone. When I came back and tried to break into the team it was at a very awkward moment after pre-season, so I was playing catch up.
“Then basically I was on the loan period and it was all over after that.
"It’s just about getting momentum and I couldn’t find that after getting injured the first month that I was there - that’s football.”
A former Joey, Young Socceroo and Olyroo, Burns broke into the A-League with Adelaide United as an 18-year old in 2006.
The teenage sensation quickly made a name for himself in the competition and earned the first of seven Socceroo caps in 2007.
A year later he secured a move to Greece but his career stalled overseas.
Burns says he is thrilled to back in the A-League and working under coach Ernie Merrick.
“It’s good that I’ve got something steady for the next couple of years," he said of his move to the Kiwi club.
“It took a while to get out of my contract in Korea so I’m glad that it’s all sorted now.
“Ernie was very convincing when he spoke to me, the style of play he wants to play. Overall it was very attractive to come here. It was a no-brainer.”
The former Parramatta Eagles junior is unsure what position he will play but is confident the Phoenix has what it takes to make the play-offs.
“Personally, I always like to set up goals,” Burns said.
“Hopefully I can score as many as I can and, from a team perspective, we can get in the top six.
“I think we’ve got the squad this year to do it, but you never know with the A-League.
“I’m pretty confident that we’ve got some good signings. We’ve got a lot to work on but we’ve also got a long off-season so it’s pretty good.
“We’re going to try a few different formations and see which one sticks as the whole team comes together.
"I’m not sure if we’re going to play a number 10 or two sixes yet. We’ll probably try a few different formations and see which one works out over the next couple of months.”
Burns was impressed by the Socceroos’ performance at the World Cup and is targeting a return to the national team.
He added: “I was very proud, some of them are close mates of mine.
“Overall I thought they did us very proud.
"There’s a lot to work on, obviously, but we couldn’t have expected a better performance from the boys considering we’re going through a bit of transition stage at the moment."
Before he looks too far ahead, however, Burns said he needs to get some game time in his legs.
“Obviously everyone has the goal to play in the Asian Cup so that’s going to be a massive tournament," he said.
"But first and foremost it's about getting on the pitch, getting heaps of games, and the national team comes from there.”
The former youth international played under Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou in the U-17s and U-20s.
“He’s shown in the A-League he was the best and now he’s taken the Socceroos to a good level,” Burns said.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve played under him - I think he’s grown as a coach also. He’s taken his game to the next level and it’s good to see.”comments