Burns hails Hughes tributes

Wellington Phoenix hat-trick hero Nathan Burns has revealed his link to Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes who was tragically killed last week.

Burns played cricket with Hughes when the two attended nearby catholic schools in Australia.

“He scored most of the runs and we just stood down the other end. It was good that the A-League got involved and we got to have the minute’s silence before the game and the clapping at 63 minutes.”

A twice-taken penalty gave Burns the first hat-trick in the Phoenix’s 194-game life and propelled his side to an emphatic 5-1 win over Melbourne City. The Australian striker – who now has seven goals this season – says he was well aware history was in the offing.

“Yeah I did know that. They told me when I scored two against Newcastle earlier in the season and I said afterwards that we had plenty of time this season to score one because our attacking play means we’ll score plenty of goals.”

Burns could have been forgiven some nervous moments after clinically dispatching the 85th minute penalty, only to have it ruled out for encroachment in the penalty area by team-mate Roly Bonevacia. But his second attempt was as assured as his first.

“Yeah, why not? Same spot.  Gave me more time to think about the celebrations”, grinned Burns afterwards.

After just three goals in the last four matches, coach Ernie Merrick was pleased his message about improvement on attack had hit home during the week.

“I’m confident we’ve got a side that can score goals. We’ve got the strikers and midfielders to do it.  During the week I said final-third football was where we had to improve and we showed we can do it tonight.”

Despite a sluggish start, Merrick was pleased with the tweaks his side made during the first half.

“I just thought we weren’t playing through McGlinchey enough. Once we opened up and started playing through him, I thought he was outstanding and provided the service for Roy and Nathan up front. All of a sudden it started clicking and we got better and better the longer the game went.

That’s the quality of the football we can play and that is the standard we’ve set. Let’s see if we can keep it up.”

Merrick also lauded Burns’ efforts and endorsed his inclusion in the Socceroos squad.

“I think today he wrote himself in. I reckon he’ll be in the Asian Cup squad the way things are going.

Burns himself was more reserved, preferring to let his performances – and goals – do the talking.

“You never know in football. Sometimes when you think you’ll be selected, you’re not and other times you don’t think you get in and you do. The most important thing is to focus on what I’m doing here.”