BOBBY BURNS hopes a summer switch to Barrow can ignite his international career after admitting the prospect of a truncated Championship campaign convinced him to quit Hearts.
It is a landmark year for Northern Ireland as they aim to seal qualification for next summer’s rearranged European Championships.
And Burns, 20, has revealed that new national team boss Ian Baraclough has already given his seal of approval to joining the newly-promoted SkyBet League Two side.
The former Glenavon kid boasts 10 caps for the country’s under-21 team, playing under Baraclough, and has been a part of the senior set-up, albeit without making his full debut.
Burns’ desire to make the step up is palpable and, even if it doesn’t happen in time for the Euros, he reckons shining for Barrow is his best bet to pull on the famous green jersey.
Burns said: “I did speak to Ian Baraclough before making the move and he was very positive about it.
“Northern Ireland have players doing very well in League One, the Championship and the Premier League, so I’d need to be doing very well in League Two – but if I was to have a very good year then you never know.
“I definitely feel like I’m in the picture and to play for Northern Ireland is my main aspiration over the next couple of years.
“And even if this move doesn’t get me in the team straight away, I feel like if Barrow can progress then it gives me a real chance going forward.
“I’ve done pretty well on the international front in recent years so I need to build momentum at club level now.”
And while acknowledging Barrow may not have the same stature of Hearts, Burns has dismissed the notion that he is taking a step down by linking up with David Dunn’s men.
He added: “Although I’m moving to a smaller club compared to the size of Hearts, going to League Two is a higher level than the Scottish Championship in my view, so I’ll see where that takes me. It’s a new shop window.”
Hearts’ shortened campaign was a massive factor in Burns’ decision to depart Tynecastle following just two years at the club.
He feared first-team opportunities would be limited next term with Aaron Hickey, Ben Garuccio, Aidy White and, at a push, Lewis Moore all able to play at left-back.
That battle for places will be heightened given the Jambos will play just 27 league games, with their Championship title charge starting on October 17.
Burns is adamant he can’t afford to allow his development to stall and the draw of a full, fiercely competitive calendar was too good to turn down.
He continued: “The season at Barrow starts in September, a month before Hearts’, and is a 46-game season.
“With it being a truncated season for Hearts, and them having such a big squad, it would have been really difficult for me to play as much as I’d like. I spoke to the manager [Robbie Neilson] about that and he was honest about the challenge that was there.
“I could have stayed and fought for a place but there is just so much uncertainty surrounding who will stay and go. I didn’t want to wait, find myself way down the pecking order and end up not playing.
“I need games and when Barrow came in and showed real enthusiasm to get me, it felt like the answer.”
While Burns did not make the impact he had hoped in Gorgie, making 10 appearances, he will be forever grateful for the formative, varied experiences afforded by his first foray into full-time football.
Among his outings in maroon, he played in a Scottish Cup final, and Edinburgh derby and cross swords with Rangers. He kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Celtic while on loan at Livingston and enjoyed an unforgettable stint with Newcastle Jets in Australia.
Burns said: “I grew up a lot over the last two years, whether that was adjusting to full-time football or daft things like learning to live on my own and do the cooking! I played in some massive games and experiences different clubs, shapes and management styles.
“To play in Australia was unbelievable, although it was tough to see Hearts struggle back in Scotland.
“I’ll always be grateful for the chance Hearts gave me. Hopefully, they get back to where they belong soon enough because everything is there for them to be a huge, successful club. The sky is the limit.”