INJURY will today deny Reece Burke a first return to Bolton Wanderers’ home of 21 years since the never-to-be-forgotten final day of last season.
The Hull City defender, on the bench last May as two goals in the final three minutes kept the Lancashire club up in dramatic fashion, has not recovered from the groin injury that brought an early curtailment to his involvement in Wednesday’s defeat at Bristol City.
Nevertheless, City heading to Bolton for a game between two struggling sides will stir memories of not only that stunning comeback against Nottingham Forest five or so months ago but also his two spells on loan under Trotters chief Phil Parkinson.
The first of those stints came at Bradford City in the 2015-16 campaign and the 22-year-old defender admits he owes former Hull manager Parkinson a lot.
“Phil is someone I have always got on well with,” said Burke to The Yorkshire Post. “I can’t thank him enough for helping me, right back from the Bradford days.
“We always got on well and he has always been honest. Even if I wasn’t starting, he would get me in the office and say why.
“Sometimes, it was because he wanted to play the experienced lads in the big games. I could see that and had to take it on the chin. But the more experience I got under Phil, the more it helped me.”
Burke, a £1.5m signing by Hull City last summer, has 13 appearances to his name with the East Riding club.
His performances have grown in maturity and he was a commanding presence at Ashton Gate before being forced out of the action just before the hour.
City were very much holding their own but Burke’s injury together with that of Jordy de Wijs, also forced off early, eventually came back to cost the Tigers as the hosts grabbed a dramatic stoppage-time winner.
Coming on the back of Preston North End pinching a point at the KCOM Stadium last weekend with an equally late goal, Hull make the trip along the M62 sitting second bottom of the table and badly in need of a lift.
With Ipswich Town, the only club below City in the table, sacking Paul Hurst this week there has inevitably been speculation about Nigel Adkins’s position.
“I do feel I have the owners’ backing,” said the 53-year-old yesterday. “I am aware of the pressures and I don’t waste energy thinking about things I can’t control.
“Our relationship is as good as you get between an owner and a manager.”
Hull’s travails mean Burke has finished on the winning side just twice since moving north in the summer.
Despite that, the Newham-born defender admits it is good to have finally laid down some roots after spending the past three seasons out on loan.
The first of those came here in Yorkshire at Valley Parade and Burke made a big impression, picking up the club’s Player of the Year trophy as City reached the play-off semi-finals.
He missed the semi-final encounters with Millwall through injury so could only watch in frustration as Parkinson’s near five-year reign at Bradford ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat.
It was undoubtedly a disappointing end to his season in the West Riding but the Tigers defender still looks back only fondly on his first stint in the county.
“Bradford was one of my best loans,” he said. “I was 18, turning 19, that season. It was my first loan and I had never played men’s football before.
“I ended up getting ‘Player of the Year’ and that was a big achievement for me. Thanks to Phil for giving me that chance.
“The following year, I went to Wigan and it didn’t go too well. It was in the Championship and I only played something like 10 games.
“I got injured and that killed me. But I still think it went well when I played – and then, fair play to Bolton and Phil, they brought me in on loan.”
Wanderers, newly promoted to the Championship, initially struggled and had just two points by the start of October.
“The lads were spot on,” added Burke, locked into another fight for survival this term with Hull. “We went nine games at the start without winning but no-one let their head go down.
“Middle of the season, we picked up but at the end we struggled again. For something like the last six games, all we needed was a win and a draw but we couldn’t get over the line.
“Maybe we felt we had already done it. The gaffer had to deal with so much, with the money situation and all that. That wasn’t easy for him.
“But the players he brought in gave the team a lot and he made it a very good season for Bolton because we managed to stay up.”