Everton Amputee forward Liam Burbridge described scoring the goal that sealed the league title on the final day of the National EAFA Season as the pinnacle of his journey, a decade on from a road traffic accident and a turn of events which would change his life forever.
Burbridge is just two years into his association with Everton and amputee football, but has already experienced the deepest lows and the rollercoaster highs of the sport after his goal in the 1-0 win at Portsmouth clinched the league title and sealed the double following Everton’s FA Cup triumph against the same opposition just a month before; a far cry from Burbridge’s debut season which saw Everton fail to win a game.
In a season in which both Everton and Portsmouth have gone toe to toe with just goal difference separating the two sides heading into the final day, the Blues knew there was little margin for error. If the outcome was anything but a win, the Blues would have to settle for second spot.
With the stakes so high, naturally goalmouth action was few and far between until Everton broke from a Portsmouth set piece, with Burbridge himself finding space on the right to winger Rhyce Ramsden, who headed to the byline before cutting a cross back to Burbridge to bundle the ball home.
As expected, Burbridge paints a vivid picture of the deciding goal and the moment he and Everton had been building towards all season.
“Rhyce did all of the hard work getting us up the pitch!” admits Burbridge. “It came out to me on the halfway from a Portsmouth set piece. I found Rhyce in space and he got us up the other end of the pitch before I finished it off.
“I was really chuffed to get the winner but I was even happier for the whole team. It’s a moment we’ve been building towards for 18 months.
“Portsmouth were heavy favourites going into the game and we knew they would approach the game with a score to settle after we beat them in the FA Cup, so to do it against the odds makes it even more of a highlight.
“I haven’t been playing amputee football for that long” continues Burbridge “I played football all of my life until I lost my leg at age 20 but I didn’t find out about amputee football until I was 28. The first year, I felt like I spent it trying to figure how the game was played so I’ve relied on the experience around me in the squad to get me through. I’m still learning and I’ve still got a lot of goals to achieve but I’m ultimately really happy with my progress this year.”
Liam is a firm believer of turning a negative into a positive, having lost his left leg from the knee down in a motorcycle accident in 2013. He has since conquered numerous challenges and overcome various barriers but believes representing Everton and winning the double is his biggest achievement to date.
“This season has been the highlight of the past 10 years” he adds. “I’ve done a lot of different things and achieved a lot since the accident but this has definitely been the pinnacle of what I’ve achieved over the years.
“I’d like to think this is only just the beginning. Over the past 10 years I’ve tried lots of different activities and ticked a lot of boxes but I’ve always just moved on to the next. With amputee football, this is my focus now, I’ve fallen in love with the sport and I consider this as just the beginning.”
Liam’s path to amputee football is a story in itself. During lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, Liam, like many others during that period, took to social media to express himself, by posting videos of him playing football with his prosthetic leg with his son. One of Everton’s current crop, Jamie Oakey, stumbled across Liam's video before sending him a message asking Liam if he'd be interested in giving amputee football a go. Liam obliged, turned up at Everton's next training session, and before long, became a fully fledged member of the team.
“I can't thank Everton enough for the opportunities they’ve given me," added Liam. "I represent them with great pride. Without Everton I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in now, amputee football has changed my life.”