In 2003 David Burrows and his family decided on a new life in France. The name may be familiar to you if you are a football fan because David played for some of the top English Premier League clubs, including Liverpool and Everton. He was part of the last Liverpool team to win the top-flight league title, in 1990, before the revamp of English football saw the introduction of the Premier League. A little-known football fact is that he still holds the record for the second fastest goal in Merseyside derby history, just 48 seconds from kick-off, for Liverpool against Everton, on 31st August 1991, second only to Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish, who signed the 19-year-old left back from West Bromwich Albion, in 1989.
So why and how did a died-in-the- wool Black Country lad up sticks and create a new life for himself and his family.
Having a ball in the Dordogne
`Bugsy` as he is nicknamed, explains. “We spent a lot of family holidays in France, I was coming to the end of my career and had a few injuries and there was a lot about football I didn`t like so we thought, why not make a new life.”
David was in a fortunate position financially, after a career in professional football totalling more than 400 games. A career which saw him win the Football League, the FA Cup and two FA Charity Shields.
He says, “I had my pension from football as well as other business interests so I didn`t have to worry about that side of things and looking after the family.”
David’s wife Jackie admits “It was probably me more than David who wanted the move to France. When he signed for Sheffield Wednesday it was the first time he ever had to commute to work as we usually moved to the new area when he changed clubs. Neither of us liked the travelling aspect.”
So the family packed up and headed for a new life in France. A beautiful 17th century farmhouse of yellow Dordogne stone, typical of the area, became home for the couple and their three children, David, Sophie and Alexandra. David never harboured any plans to coach or manage in England and that didn`t change when they relocated. But in order to enjoy their new life to the full `Bugsy` was determined to keep fit.
“I wanted to integrate into the community and I had already decided a good way of doing that would be to go along to the local football club and learn more. I just wanted to train and keep fit”.
But the local team, Olympique Coux et Bigaroque had other ideas and after a while he was invited to train them. The following season, with, as David puts it, “professional organisation, training and a few new, good, players, we won the championship of the Dordogne.”
Making a new life in the Dordogne
Meanwhile the family settled well and fortunately there werent too many obstacles to the acclimatisation process. Jackie says “I think most people who start a new life abroad encounter situations that lead them to think `what are we doing here`, but we had no such problems. David had his football, the children were at school and through meeting up with and talking to local parents it helped immensely in us settling in to the local community.”
The process was helped by the continual work schedule they had to carry out on their farmhouse because, unlike many ex-pats who move to France, David and Jackie put something back into the community, a tangible contribution to the local economy, as Jackie explained.
“Rather than use English tradesmen we made a point of employing local, French artisans, and that helped the immersion into the area. If we needed help or an opinion there was always someone we could turn to or someone who knew someone.”
To those who have not changed their lives in the way the Burrows family have there is a common misconception that long days are spent in the sun, on the terrace, sipping a glass of wine, or several, and winding down the `clock of life. Although they had a solid financial background on which to build their new life in France Jackie and David were practical.
“We were financially ok but it wasn`t bullet-proof” says Jackie. “We bought two properties to rent out and that takes up so much of our time. I spend something like 20 hours a week on everything from bookings to change-overs while David takes care of the maintenance.”
“We find that a lot of the people who rent our properties come back year after year” says David “Many become friends so it has many benefits as well as being a source of income.”
“We put everything into trying to integrate into the community. That is crucial for anyone moving to a new country, a new culture. Football obviously helped but it was only one part of settling in.”
David has now called time on his playing career in France, hanging up his boots on medical advice as the ravages of playing the game for four decades took its toll, but still plays the occasional game. And for Monsieur and Madame Burrows it`s not the perennial verre du vin sur le terrace in the heart of the Dordogne. It`s their new life and they have absolutely no regrets.
David, the couple`s son, works as an ambulance driver, Sophie works in Bordeaux in Import and Export and Alex is at 6th Form College. David and Jackie are united in their evaluation of that life changing decision made 13 years ago.
“Moving here to France is the best decision we have ever made. The children love it and we love it. The people are so generous, in every respect. Life has been, and is, wonderful. C`est magnifique”.
Brian Beard is a writer, broadcaster and author of several books, including The Breedon Book of Premiership Records and Three Lions. He was ghost writer for George Best and is the longest serving football reporter for Sky Sports.