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John Burridge – The Greatest Goalkeeper The World Has Never Seen

Hard to Budge from between the posts

Image via Sporting-heroes.net
Image via Sporting-heroes.net

When you talk of players that play the game for the sheer love of it then John Burridge stands out like a well-lit beacon. Not many have laced on a boot more times or worn more goalkeeping kits than the goalkeeping legend known simply as “Budgie”. He would need an entire wing of his house dedicated to displaying the countless shirts collected over the nearly 30 year playing career.

The self-confessed hyperactive “bee in a bottle” football addict, Burridge has fought many demons that control a mind and body that has an insatiable need to wear the boots and gloves for all of time. Most footballers look forward to the day when they can finally hang up the boots and move to the next chapter of their life beyond the soggy, cold and dank pitches, not John Burridge. He is drawn to the game like a moth to a large fluorescent light bulb.

Burridge began his career in 1969, the year when Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Lunar module made history by landing on the surface of the moon. Burridge’s first steps were hardly synonymous with that mission, but his own football journey to the moon and back took off in gusto after moving to Blackpool from his local Cumbrian club Workington. He enjoyed a long and successful stint with “The Seasiders” and managed to lift his first trophy, the now defunct Anglo-Italian Cup.  The Blackpool club and their loyal fans recognised his commitment years later by inducting Burridge into the “Hall of Fame” along with five other players from each decade.

His club resume reads more like a League ladder rather than a list of teams played for. Most records require a solitary screen whereas Burridge commands the reader to scroll down and down deeper than a submarine mission to the bottom of the Atlantic.  To briefly summarise, he played in 771 games in both the English and Scottish leagues and countless many more at non-league level. He played in no less than 15 football league sides, which is a record yet to be broken by any player. In total he played with 29 clubs in a career, eventually winding up after a brief stint as a player/manager with Blyth Spartans AFC in 1997.

Burridge wore his heart on his countless jersey sleeves and is one of the true characters of the game. His on field antics brought an entertainment and humor to football that is rarely seen in the “modern” cutthroat world of the giant football leagues of today. He has been credited as bringing the celebratory somersault to the pitch and was once caught wearing a Superman costume beneath his Wolves goalkeeping kit. Although fiercely competitive the fun side of the sport seldom left his demeanor as he crossed the white line into the sixteen-yard box he called home.

 He was so brutally honest in his assessment of what the game meant to him in an interview he gave back in 2011 with Michael Walker in Dubai where he now resides and works.

 “Ninety-nine percent of players do it [Football] for the money. They pack it in at 29, 30 now, because they don’t love it.” “I love football. I’ve got no interest in golf or horses, no other interests. My life was football, training for football. All my life was built around football. When it ends, nothing. What else is there to live for… seriously?”

 It’s hard to question his passion for the game, especially when you dig a little deeper into his tough coal mining town upbringing.  It is obvious that football began as an escape but transformed into a new beginning and an obsession that still remains today.

 John “Budgie” Burridge may have long retired from the game and it is his Twitter handle profile that best describes the true journeyman of football.

 @TheBudgieTweets “The greatest goalkeeper the world has never seen – I should still be playing”

Before you leave, watch John Burridge in action as he warms up before a game!