What happened to Oliver Burke?
Background photo: Elliot Brown, CC-by-SA-3.0
Oliver Burke was left out of the matchday squad while West Bromwich Albion enjoyed a 2-1 win over Ipswich Town on 23 November. The 21-year-old’s last first-team appearance for the Baggies was more than three weeks ago. His lack of playing time since his move to the Hawthorns raises questions about his long-term future.
Prior to his £15 million summer switch to West Brom in 2017, Burke helped RB Leipzig finish second in the Bundesliga. The Champions League was on offer had he remained at the Red Bull Arena. Instead, he joined Albion with the promise of more playing time. Instead, he struggles even more to earn minutes.
Tipped for greatness
In August 2016, Burke became history's most expensive Scottish player when Leipzig paid £13 million to procure his signature from Nottingham Forest. At the time, club sporting director Ralf Rangnick described Burke as “an outstanding talent with an awful lot of potential." Many media outlets tipped him to follow in Gareth Bale's footsteps. He failed to realise his potential.
Burke started only five of his 25 appearances across all competitions for Leipzig in 2016/17, racking up a paltry 617 minutes of playing time. The Scottish international found himself behind Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer who each made at least 30 Bundesliga starts alone. Given only cameos, it was difficult to prove his worth.
Ralph Hasenhüttl lacked faith in Burke, never affording him extended playing time. In his last six appearances for the club, Burke managed only 86 minutes. Determined to find more playing time elsewhere, his decision to join Albion backfired.
Upon his move from Leipzig to West Brom, Burke confessed his frustration.
It's been a problem, not getting much game-time. The more you play, the more confident you are. When I was at Leipzig, I was coming on for the last 10 or 20 minutes, and the game has kind of gone then. You don't get a feel for how you are as a player.
Convinced to join Albion by then-manager Tony Pulis, who allegedly watched Burke for some time, game time has continued to elude him in the West Midlands. Burke made only three appearances under Pulis before the manager’s departure.
The 21-year-old amassed two Premier League starts in his debut season and found himself an unused substitute on ten occasions. Burke was left out of the Premier League match squad nine times and would go on to suffer relegation in his first campaign at the club.
His second season is going worse than the first. The winger's five appearances in all competitions come after making nine matchday squads in Albion’s 18 league games.
The Scottish international's taken just one Championship outing since early August. He's racked up more playing time with the reserves, 319 minutes in the Premier League 2, than his 284 in the first-team.
Darren Moore has preferred Matt Phillips and Hal Robson-Kanu on the wing this season. He even signed Bakary Sako in October, creating further competition for a place in the team. If game time continues to elude Burke, he’ll need to consider another move. He's gone from claiming a runners-up medal Bundesliga to being unwanted at a newly-relegated side in the Championship.