In Focus: Dan the man Burn-ing bright to Magpies' delight
A 6ft 7in centre-back from Brighton might not have been the marquee signing mega-rich Newcastle were hoping for — but Dan Burn has been a rock for his boyhood club.
The towering Northumbrian has not put a foot wrong since joining the Magpies in January, helping Eddie Howe’s side shore up at the back and stroll towards Premier League safety.
But could there be even bigger things to come? He may be approaching 30 but, as a rare left-footed centre-half, an England call-up might not be out of the question.
Ahead of Newcastle’s trip to Tottenham, we focus on Magpies' man of the moment.
Although he made his Premier League debut in 2014 with Fulham, Burn did not become a top-flight regular until 2019.
That was his second season after signing for Brighton, having spent the first back on loan at Wigan.
In that sense, he is a late bloomer, having spent the intervening years in the second and third tiers with Yeovil, Birmingham and the Latics.
But he quickly made himself indispensable to the Seagulls, first under Chris Hughton and then Graham Potter, carving out a role at left-back despite being a centre-back by nature.
Head and shoulders above
The tallest outfield player in the Premier League at an imposing 6ft 7in, Burn was always going to be literally head and shoulders above his new team-mates.
And just seven appearances (630 minutes) into his Newcastle career, he has asserted himself as the colossus at the back which the Magpies were crying out for.
Burn is already Newcastle’s leader when it comes to headed clearances per 90 (4.14) and clearances per 90 (5.71).
The result? Newcastle have gone from conceding an average of two goals per game prior to Burn’s arrival, to just 0.71 in the games since.
His impact was immediate, with Gary Neville heaping praise on Burn after his debut against Aston Villa — a 1-0 win in February.
He said: "[Burn] was composed at the back and all of his work has been really good, particularly his headed clearances.
"I have not seen the Newcastle defence as organised as this for some time."
Newcastle were heavily linked with Lille prospect Sven Botman and Sevilla defender Diego Carlos before Burn’s arrival.
But those names have quickly been forgotten and Burn has evidently won over Magpies supporters after being named Newcastle's Player of the Month for March.
It’s been a whirlwind start to his Newcastle career for Burn, who was clearly delighted.
He said: "It's very special to win the award — and I have to thank my family for voting loads of times!
"It's been an amazing couple of months since I've been here, it could barely have gone better, and I'm glad that people have thought I've been playing well.
"Hopefully, I can carry that on towards the end of the season and keep the momentum going."
The left-footed factor
Not only has Burn beefed up Newcastle’s back line, he has also brought some invaluable balance.
And that ultimately comes by virtue of one attribute: the fact that he is left-footed.
Among coaches, left-footedness is a coveted characteristic in centre-backs as it provides more natural passing angles on both sides of defence.
For a side often under pressure, that can be a really useful tool to have — and Newcastle have continued to face a relatively high number of shots since Howe took over in November (13.2 per game).
For a while now, Gareth Southgate’s go-to option as a left-footed centre-back has been Tyrone Mings.
But the Aston Villa skipper’s selection continues to raise eyebrows.
These international matches perhaps came a little too soon for Burn to have worked his way firmly into Southgate’s thinking.
Burn ranks second among all English left-footed centre-backs in the Premier League for tackles won (0.87) per 90 this season while no one can eclipse him for interceptions (1.74).
Surely Southgate cannot ignore his red-hot form for long?