Interview with ESPN Soccer Pundit, Craig Burley

Published: May 05, 2014 08:59am EDT
By Jason Bardwell, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated May 05, 2014 @ 08:59am EDT


Craig Burley was born in Ayr, Scotland and signed for Chelsea, a then struggling side, in 1989. He made his first team debut on the big stage in 1991, was there for the start of the Premier League and would go on to play over 100 games for the North London club before returning to Scotland, and Glasgow Celtic in 1997.
Craig represented Scotland on many occasions and I am delighted he has agreed to answer a few of my questions.


JB: So, I mentioned that you played for Chelsea for many years in the 1990's, but it was different expectations so far as League position went for Chelsea in the 1990's wasn’t it?

CB: Yes first avoiding relegation in early 1990 was the first goal as was saving Stamford Bridge as it was dilapidated.


JB: You were there, with Chelsea, when the first twenty two teams kicked off the inaugural Premier League season. Fast forward twenty years and it is a massive business but was the feeling when the League kicked off that it would grow to this, or at least had the potential too?

CB: Never noticed any difference when the PL was formed initially but as the money started to grow we thought there would be a ceiling, which of course there is not.


JB: Actually I think your debut in that season was against Tottenham. Having also played for Celtic which were the better derby games? 

CB: I enjoyed all London derbies and Scotland v England, but the pressure on an Old Firm (Rangers and Celtic) game is immense.


JB: Under Glenn Hoddle you were quite a regular feature of the Chelsea side. Then he was appointed England National Manager and in came Ruud Guillet and you were sold soon after. Was that his, yours or a mutual decision?

CB: Yes we reached the FA cup final under Glen Hoddle in 1994 and they were good times. I played with Ruud for a year before he became manager. Safe to say he was less popular as manager. I was sold to Celtic for £2.5 million after I turned down a new 4 year contract at Chelsea. Happy days though.


JB: What do you think of the current Chelsea side? Obviously they have what it takes to win the Premier League season and, despite Jose Mourinho claiming otherwise, I think they are still in a good position right now. 

CB: The current side is in transition once more with the old guard either gone or about to go. Without the owners money the continuous rebuilding of Chelsea could not happen. The club has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and not all for the better.  


JB: Despite being sold by Chelsea, the following year must have been very good. Starting for Celtic and representing your Country in the World Cup. First game up, Brazil, and you are starting. Representing your country in a major tournament against a major powerhouse, doesn’t get any better than that does it?

CB: Yes I had a very successful time at Celtic. We won the league title for the first time in 10 years and stopped Rangers setting a new record of 10 in a row, immense pressure.
We also won the league cup and I was voted both Celtic and Scottish footballer of the year 1998 ahead of some top class players.
I was a regular with Scotland by now and the World Cup in France will live long in the memory. Let's just say it was eventful but I have no regrets.


JB: You did score a World Cup goal in the second game, a draw against Norway, and was sent off in the final game of the Group. What was the mood of the squad after the final whistle of the final group game, disappointment at the elimination, pride at the Brazil performance or a mixture? 

CB: No we felt we saved our worst performance for the last game against Morocco and of course I was red carded in the 2nd half. After two strong performances against Brazil and Norway it all ended very flat.
Scotland have not graced a major championship since then.


JB: Sixteen years on and we have the Brazil World Cup coming up. Who do you think will lift the trophy at the end and what countries do you think we have to look out for? 

CB: Brazil on home soil for me. Belgium/Chile from the less fancied nations may surprise.


JB: The USA have been doing quite well of late in World Cups with getting out of the Group stage. Back in 1950 the USMNT caused an upset by beating England 1-0, do you think Klinsmann’s boys can pull off another miracle in a Brazilian World Cup?

CB: I think the US will find it tough. A couple of areas of their team look suspect to me and some players are struggling for game time. Of course the World Cup can throw up the unexpected but I don't share the optimism of some of my ESPN colleagues.


JB: To the future of American soccer. What are your thoughts about the set up in the USA with regard to getting a very big, very keen soccer playing youth base to continue into the big leagues, whether that be MLS or Europe?   

CB: From what I've seen so far the game has both grown and improved so the trend is upwards. Whilst salary caps can be good for prudent business I think it will hamper a speedier growth of quality and talent gracing MLS. That been said I'm very impressed with the interest in Soccer in general at a schooling level and having moved my family that's pleasing from a personal view point.


I would like to thank Craig for taking the time to answer my questions and look forward to a great Premiership end and then a fantastic World Cup.

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