He may not be firing just yet since his return to the Wellington Phoenix, but the drive inside Nathan Burns is raging as strong as ever.
Talking to Goal after a team flight to Auckland had been delayed, the situation is a pretty apt metaphor for a talented player looking to soar once more after a bumpy period.
After a securing a move to Japan on the back of a stellar 2014/15 season with the Nix, Burns enjoyed a relatively successful stint with FC Tokyo before falling into a limbo of sorts with Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Held back by injury, Burns would never grace the field for the J-League club in a professional game as Hiroshima opted to stick with a stable squad as they battled against relegation.
As the lack of game time started to take a toll on the 29-year-old, he set his sights on a return to the A-League with Wellington welcoming back the 2014/15 Johnny Warren medalist with open arms.
While the homecoming hasn’t been quite the fairytale either the club or player were hoping for, with Phoenix currently last and Burns without a goal, the attacker is clearly just happy to be back playing again.
“It’s taken some time to get my fitness back,” Burns told Goal.
“But I’m loving being out there.
“Greeny (caretaker coach Chris Greenacre) has got the team enjoying their football again.
“Hopefully with a good pre-season under our belts we can improve moving forward.
“Our fitness hasn’t really been there. The last ten minutes of games have really been costing us.”
Now into his second stint with the New Zealand club, Burns stressed how impressed he his with how everything runs at the Phoenix and praised their ability to work independently, quite separate from other clubs in the A-League.
Though Burns’ time in Japan ended with him watching on from the sidelines, he was able to develop a real appreciation for a league he believes Australia should be looking to model itself on.
“The J-League is fantastic,” he said.
“Even J-League 2 is just so competitive.
“The depth there is amazing. Hopefully Australia can be like that one day.”
With his former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou currently in charge of J-League outfit Yokohama F.Marinos, Burns is backing him to succeed and is keeping a close eye on the 52-year-old.
Burns incidentally scored his first Socceroos goal under Postecoglou and relished the time he got to play for him in the green and gold.
“Ange has had a tough start (with Yokohama) playing six of his first seven games away from home, but I think he’ll do well,” Burns said.
“His attacking philosophy will be interesting to see in action there.
“I had Ange as a coach at under-17 level so to play under him again for the Socceroos felt like a return to those days.
“He’s a coach that really believes in his philosophy and shields his players from any criticism that comes along with that.”
While the 2018 World Cup looks out of his reach with new coach Bert van Marwijk at the helm, Burns’ desire to return to the national team is as strong as ever.
“That’s the goal,” he said.
“Anything is possible in football.
"I’ve just got to keep putting in the work and see what happens.”