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Hendon Green & Gold 7 - James Burgess

Greensnet Editor
Thu 05 Jun 2014, 09:58

The latest in the series focuses on a Hendon legend of more recent vintage, James Burgess, whose brother Mark will be featured later.

In modern football, loyalty is almost a dirty word. Breaking the mould were the Burgess twins, Mark and James. On 2 February 2002, James came off the bench to replace Eugene Ofori in the dying moments of a 2–0 FA Trophy replay victory against Cambridge City at Clarence Park, St Albans. At right-back that afternoon was identical twin Mark and all three of James's appearances in that campaign came with Mark also in the team. One had to feel sorry for a rather bemused assistant referee at Hayes when the twins came off the substitutes' bench a minute apart at the end of a 5-1 Hendon victory in the Middlesex Senior Cup. And both played the full 90 minutes when Hendon's interest in the League Cup ended away to Aldershot Town. It turned out to be James's last appearance of the season.

The following season, James became a regular in Dave Anderson's team, amassing a total of 40 appearances - including the Middlesex Senior Cup final when he collected a winner's medal - but in 2003-04 it was Mark who played regularly while James played sporadically.

As well as being identical - more than one supporter has seen one of the twins come out of the dressing room a few seconds after the final whistle and wondered how they could have got changed so quickly. James confided in me that there was an easy way to tell them apart, provided you knew where to look - and the difference was easy to spot even if they were walking down the street together!

It is said that identical twins think alike and act alike - and the Burgess boys proved that argument in their style of play. Both were defenders or midfielders, tough tackling, no nonsense and ready, willing and able to help out team-mates in distress. This, unsurprisingly, got them into trouble with referees and they set an unwanted record when both saw red cards in a 2004-05 FA Cup tie at Stevenage, though one of the red cards was rescinded on appeal. Their combative nature made it difficult for the Hendon management team to have both players on the pitch at the same time, so Mark left during the 2005-06 season.

The twins' similarity went further than playing style, because the way they took penalties was also identical: a 40-yard sprint to the ball and a shot at full power. Feltham's goalkeeper in a 2003 penalty shoot-out screamed at the referee that James was taking two in a row, but the referee shouted "This one is 3, the last one was 2." Mark put his attempt in exactly the same spot, with the bamboozled goalkeeper paralysed with indecision and fear, given the speed of the ball.

Despite their ability from the penalty spot, neither twin was noted for their goalscoring prowess. Mark scored only once, in September 2005, but James had to wait even longer, until he was well past his 30th birthday. Although he wound up with a Hendon career total of three goals - aggregate yardage for the trio being approximately six - the first came in his 231st first-team outing, on 15 October 2008 against Harrow Borough at Northwood. For almost every fan there it was the most memorable of the match. James also scored Hendon's last goal of the League season, a stoppage time consolation at home to Carshalton Athletic. James's third and final goal came in the dying moments of another victory, 3-0 at home to Maidstone United, only this goal was not celebrated by every player - Craig Vargas was left as the only regular outfield player not to score, and Burgess had applied the coup de gras to his goalbound effort.

James proved to be a valuable servant to manager Gary McCann, playing in a variety of positions in all of his first six seasons. He made at least 22 appearances in every campaign from 2004-05 to 2010-11. In 2011-12, James was a peripheral figure and made only two appearances, both memorable. He was a substitute in the FA Cup fourth round qualifying at Luton Town and his final appearance in a green shirt - so far - was at AFC Wimbledon in the memorable 2-1 London Senior Cup semi-final victory over the then Football League newcomers. In 2013-14, James played for Northwood, where Mark is manager.

Born: 8 February 1977

Joined Hendon: 2001-02 season

Left Hendon: September 2012
Appearances: 324 (251 starts, 72 as substitute)
Goals: 3
Winners' medals: Middlesex Senior Cup 2002–03, 2003–04, London Senior Cup 2008–09, Supporters Player of the Year: 2009–10

(David Ballheimer)