Dan Burn announced this morning that yesterday’s win over Bolton Wanderers was his last game in a Fulham shirt. The club and the player had been engaged in preliminary talks over the possibility of extending his contract earlier in the year, but after five years at Craven Cottage, the central defender will move on in a search of a new challenge. The likable 23 year-old has taken a fair bit of a flak from some of Fulham’s more vocal social media followers, but I would prefer to remember him by the two excellent performances that turned out to be his last showings in a white shirt.
Plenty of surprise was expressed when Slavisa Jokanovic shuffled his pack to include Burn and Shaun Hutchinson at the heart of his defence when Fulham travelled to Ipswich a couple of weeks ago. The duo were the pairing that was usurped by the arrival of Richard Stearman and Tim Ream late in the August transfer window and have struggled for game time since but put in a composed and mature defensive performance against a side pushing for the play-offs and were cruelly denied a clean sheet by an injury-time strike that happened to be Town’s first on target.
It perhaps wasn’t as big of a shock when Jokanovic made four changes following the horror show at Griffin Park for this weekend’s visit of Bolton. The Trotters might have already been relegated but they posed plenty of attacking threat in the contrasting form of the experienced and imposing Emile Heskey and the pacier, diminutive and talented Zach Clough. Burn produced one excellent last-ditch tackle to prevent the latter escaping and marshalled the former effectively as well as finding time to strike the post with a rasping drive after a rare foray forward, which even he acknowledged with a chuckle on his way back down the pitch.
Burn’s passion for the club shined through whenever you spoke to him – he was fiercely determined to do well and recognised he was in a privileged position as a footballer – and I got the impression he wanted to repay Fulham’s faith in him. Not that there was a shortage of suitors for his services when the Whites swooped to sign him from Darlington, with whom he won the FA Trophy, for around £350,000 in spring 2011. Indeed, Burn picked Fulham over his boyhood club Newcastle United, believing he could develop better at the Motspur Park academy and eventually flourish in the first team.
The 6ft 7in defender will, of course, always be remembered for heading away most of Manchester United’s 81 crosses on that extraordinary afternoon at Old Trafford when Fulham somewhere escaped with a 2-2 draw. There’s also the small matter of him scoring in the League One play-off final against Brentford at Wembley ensuring Yeovil reached the Championship for the first time in their history during a successful loan spell on the south coast. But perhaps the moment I’ll most fondly recall was the unexpected and glorious headed equaliser that snatched a point at Rotherham in October 2014 from an injury-time corner. At that stage, given Fulham’s dreadful start to the season, points were precious.
Burn had his detractors but he never shirked a challenge and performed well as part of a back three in the early weeks of Jokanovic’s reign, especially in the easy win at Loftus Road. A move to Sheffield United has long been rumoured and, should he end up at Bramall Lane, I’m sure he could become a firm favourite with the Blades fans. Jokanovic is looking to reshape his squad for a serious dart at promotion and whilst Burn no longer figures in those plans, he should leave the Cottage with the best wishes of the Fulham faithful.