Newcastle's Dan Burn, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal in the Champions League

F*ck VAR – Big Dan Burn just sent PSG packing & completed the greatest career arc ever

Two minutes and forty-seven seconds is not a long time if it’s the answer to the question, how long is your commute to work? Ask (Big) Dan Burn against Paris Saint-Germain, though, and he’ll tell you that it was the longest wait of his life so far.

You’ve got to wonder what was going through Burn’s head as he waited for the VAR to decide his fate, like a man facing a heavy prison sentence awaiting the verdict of the judge and jury.

But Burn was facing no punishment. He had committed no crime — quite the opposite — he had just utterly dominated PSG’s Milan Škriniar in an aerial dual, like a great white shark with wings, to head home what looked like Newcastle’s second goal of the night, putting the Toon 2–0 up against the Parisians on St. James’ first Champions League night in twenty years.

Had he, though?

The doubts were threefold. First, it appears Gigi Donnarumma may have just pulled off one of the best triple saves in football history, after first denying an own goal from Manuel Ugarte, then a low, near-post strike from Bruno Guimarães.

But no, surely the ball was over the line. And one replay shows your instincts are spot on. Secondly, the Geordies mutter to each other under their breaths, was Bruno offside there…? We’re getting no replays on the telly — that must be what they’re checking. We wait.

We wait.

We keep waiting.

Finally, a replay, and Bruno Guimarães looks half a yard onside. There must be something else then.

There must be a third factor stopping the officials from allowing Burn to let out the loudest FUUUUUUCKEN HOWAYYYYY ever recorded. It’s Lascelles. It’s the captain who’s making a rare start, who has been exemplary so far. It’s hit Lascelles’ hand in the build-up.

We wait.

None of this will have been going through Burn’s head, though. He probably wasn’t even aware of what he was thinking — all that adrenaline and cortisol coursing around his very long veins — but, subconsciously, his brain must’ve been replaying the thirty-one years that led to this.

The first ten seconds are pure joy. Organic ecstasy. Then the realisation that there’s going to be a check. The doubt seeping through the cracks that have just opened to let the initial emotion pour out.

It’s then that (Big) Dan Burn must’ve travelled back in time to when he was (Little[ish]) Dan Burn. Released by Newcastle, the team he grew up supporting, aged 11 but persevering with his dream of becoming a pro footballer, turning out for the youth teams of New Hartley, Blyth Town, Blyth Spartans. There were no fancy academies or state-of-the-art training grounds for (Medium) Dan Burn. There was mud. There was loads of mud.

Thirty seconds into the VAR check to end all VAR checks, and Dan is sixteen years old, pushing trollies at his local ASDA. He’s probably watching Leo Messi tear up the Champions League, having been ushered into the Barcelona first team with Ronaldinho as his mentor.

It’s during his time at ASDA that a scout from Darlington spots (the Taller by the Day) Dan Burn playing for Blyth Spartans and signs him to a professional contract. League Two. Progress. He makes four appearances and Darlington are relegated to the Conference. However, after fifteen appearances in the Conference, Fulham have seen enough in (Quite Big Now) Dan Burn to snap him up.

We’re a minute into what palaeontologists will eventually name the VARsezoic Era. Burn’s mind is replaying his loan spells at Yeovil Town and Birmingham City, gobbling up valuable first team experience, while St. James’ anxiously waits.

A minute-and-a-half of VAR silence, Dan is watching grainy black-and-white mind footage of his Premier League breakthrough at Fulham, another relegation, released by Fulham, a move to Championship rivals Wigan, a further relegation.

Two minutes of VARgatory, Wigan have bounced back to the Championship, Dan’s impressed Premier League Brighton’s scouts, and he’s going to join them there after a season-long loan back to Wigan.

He’s been climbing up and down the top five leagues of English football like an expert pole dancer, but now he’s finally back in the Premier League. Burn becomes vital to a Brighton side that are improving year on year, playing at centre-back or left-back equally adeptly.

Two minutes and thirty seconds into the ultra VARathon at St. James’, and it’s deadline day of the January 2022 transfer window in Burn’s high-ceilinged mind palace. Newcastle’s new management likes the look of Big Dan Burn down at Brighton and reckon a versatile, hard-working, and technically underrated local boy is exactly what they need.

Burn signs and plays a vital part, as a seemingly unconventional left-back, in taking his boyhood club to their first cup final in decades, and their first Champions League qualification in twenty years.

Two minutes and forty-seven seconds. (Big) Dan Burn has cannoned a header over the goalline despite the near-miraculous efforts of (ever-so-slightly-less-Big-than-Big-Dan-Burn) Gigi Donnarumma.

The VAR has finally made up his mind and awarded the goal, and St. James’ Park erupts. Geordie lava spewing out all owa the place.

Big Dan Burn has forced his way back to where he was always supposed to be. He has forced Kylian Mbappé’s PSG into submission, and he has forced his way into the hearts and memories of every person who’s ever been within a 30-mile radius of Newcastle, forever.

By Andrew Martin

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