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Oliver McBurnie keen to take next step with Bradford City
9:22am Tuesday 24th June 2014 in Sport
EXCITEMENT will mingle with some trepidation when Oliver McBurnie reports for the start of pre-season training.
The 18-year-old striker dipped a toe in the water last term with nine outings for the senior side, so it is nothing new to be sweating it out at Woodhouse Grove with the established names around him.
But this time there will be no fall-back in the youth team. McBurnie is a fully-fledged first-team squad member.
"It's scary to think that I will never play for the youth team again," he said.
"Everyone's aim is to get into the first team, and I've been very fortunate to do that, but I loved every minute of playing for the youths.
"I only played 17 games but still got 29 goals and at least I scored in my final game, even though we lost the final."
McBurnie's double could not save City from a 4-2 defeat to Colchester in the Youth Alliance showpiece.
The U's scorers that night – Macauley Bonne and hat-trick hero Sammie Szmodics – also had League One experience under their belts.
McBurnie said: "When you've had the taste of the first team, like those two lads, and come back down to youth-team level, you almost need to make your point and prove yourself.
"You have to show yourself as well as the gaffer that you want to play at a higher level and that you are good enough to do that. It's like saying 'I don't want to come down and play for the youth team again'.
"But it all changes now. Next season I'll have to push my claims for the first team and there will be no fall-back games.
"If I hadn't been involved last year, I'd been able to go and play for the youth team. It was good to get that game time. But now I've really got to step up because that isn't there any more."
With Phil Parkinson looking to revamp the City squad, there are likely to be some younger faces around the dressing room.
But with the exception of fellow youth-team graduate Niall Heaton, who turns 18 tomorrow, McBurnie is still very much a baby of the bunch.
The teenager does feel a lot more relaxed in his surroundings after spending the bulk of his breakthrough campaign among far more experienced team-mates – but he won't be taking any liberties.
"I still feel like the junior but the lads have been really good with me and helped me settle in," said McBurnie.
"Of course I get shouted at for being the youngest and people telling me to make the teas and things like that on the way to the game but all the senior players will have gone through that when they were my age.
"I do feel they are more like my mates now, whereas before I was looking up in awe at them all.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot more comfortable around the dressing room and on the pitch. I'm getting closer to the younger ones who are more round my age but they are still four years older than me, so I steer clear of giving anyone a bit back just yet."
McBurnie may have negotiated the first rung of the ladder by signing his first proper professional contract but he is under no illusions of the steep climb ahead before he can regard himself as an outright first-team performer.
"Reading some of the statistics, it's a ridiculous low number that go from the youth team into the senior squad," he said.
"Even when people then get first-year pro deals, only so many of them go on to have a career in football. That's the main aim for me.
"When you first get your scholarship, you just think about playing football full time and getting paid for it. It's like a whole new world.
"But then you realise that it is such a massive step to get up to the first team.
"I've been really pleased that I've made that step in a way during last season. But I know there is still such a long way to go.
"When I first came on, I was trying to take everything in, now I want to get on and make as much of a positive effect as I can on the game – I just see myself as another player."
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