RECORD sale Oli McBurnie believes the hard knocks he suffered as a teenager at City have toughened him up to become a Premier League target man.

The Sheffield United striker will have banked the Bantams over £3 million by the time the rebooted Premier League season does finish to trigger further instalments of his deal.

City will get another £431,250 for the high-flying Blades staying up – money that will have been factored into the financial plans going forward as football tries to wade through the coronavirus crisis.

McBurnie is unrecognisable from the gangly 17-year-old that Phil Parkinson thrust into an injury-hit frontline for his debut against Rotherham on Boxing Day 2013.

But the Scotland international, who has won the sixth most headers in the top flight this season, reckons that tough upbringing helped forge him as a player.

“There were tough games, especially early on,” he told the T&A. “The way we played at Bradford, it was hard for a young kid to get into that team and fit in and excel.

“There were times when I was thinking, ‘jeez, what am I getting myself into here?’

“But I definitely think it helped me in terms of building myself mentally stronger and learning how to cope with adversity a little bit better.

“I don’t think I’d be the player that I am today if I hadn’t gone through those tough times and tough periods when I was at Bradford.”

McBurnie started twice in 15 league outings with City before Swansea spotted his potential with a £250,000 move to South Wales in 2015. He admitted those early games at Valley Parade were a shock to the system.

“We didn’t really have much of a reserve team at the time, either. It was the youth team playing in reserve games every now and again.

“I was playing under-18s where, with all due respect, it was quite easy and I didn’t have to try that much. Then I was going into first-team games against big, experienced men that had been playing football for years.

“It was being thrown in the deep end. It wasn’t very good for me at the time but, looking back now, I can appreciate the benefits.”

Sheffield United are back in training in the build-up to the Premier League’s planned restart next month. But players are limited to working in small groups to maintain social distancing.

McBurnie said: “Everyone is in different timeslots throughout the day. The first people are in about 8.30am and the last at 2pm.

“The stuff we’ve been doing at home has been quite rigorous. It’s so much harder doing it on your own.

“We’re in groups of three and four doing more running than anything, which isn’t my favourite thing to do.

“But seeing a few friendly faces and doing it with them gets you through that much easier.

“It’s a step closer to being back playing football. That’s where we want to be and the sooner it comes back, in my eyes, the better.”

McBurnie had won 137 Premier League headers before the season was suspended – one more than England’s Harry Maguire and six behind Virgil van Dijk from far fewer game minutes.

“I don’t think many Bradford fans would have expected that from my time there,” he added.

“I’ve had to adapt a lot in the way I play compared to last season at Swansea.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been up there in the stats last year in the Championship because of the different styles of football.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I realised quickly that I’d have to adapt to fit in with how Sheffield United want to play.

“I knew straight away I had to get into the gym a little bit and do more than I ever have done. It’s nice to be seeing the benefits of that side of it paying off.

“I’m 23 now and feel confident coming up against anyone in the air now at whatever level. However big and strong they are, I feel I’ve got enough experience going into any battle.

“That’s what I’ve learned from my peers and opposition right from the start when I was 17.”

McBurnie is inevitably drawing comparisons in the dressing room to James Hanson, who also left City for the Blades.

“The boys were saying that they can see the aerial stuff that was similar between me and him.

“I think he was a bit nastier than me. Hans was a bit more elbowy!”