CHRIS BURKE, the Kilmarnock winger, could hardly be accused of sleeping through the latter chapter of his career.

The 36-year-old has signed a year’s extension to commit to another season with the Rugby Park club but there has been nothing dozy about his determination to wring every last ounce he can out of his playing days.

Still, making sure that there has been plenty of time for bed has been key to ensuring the longevity of his professional career. 

“I make sure I am sleeping more than I used to,” said Burke. “That might mean one night I’m in my bed for 9pm so that I know I am fully rested and have enough energy as I look towards playing on a Saturday. Small things like just an extra half hour or 45 minute rest make a huge difference.”

If late nights are a thing of the past, it is the same when it comes to any junk food in his diet. While younger players might be relishing the re-opening of Nandos, Burke has been meticulous when it comes to fuelling his body to get the best out of it.

Gordon Strachan cited porridge and bananas as the reason for the twilight years of his career at Leeds and Burke has been heavy on the fruit and veg as he seeks to stay in optimum condition.

Crucially, though, has been the open-minded nature of his willingness to experiment to find what works best.

“I’ve changed a lot of things,” said Burke. “My diet is different. I make up my own shakes in the morning for breakfast with probably two portions of veg and one fruit and then my lunch tends to be a vegan or vegetarian option. I’ll maybe have a more normal dinner because I don’t want to cut protein and meat out entirely.

“I have always felt that small changes give you a big result. But, crucially, I think I have the same enthusiasm, the same passion and excitement for football now that I have ever had. I was lucky enough to work with Gordon Strachan when he was Scotland manager and he still had that fire and energy about him. You can imagine that would have been a big part of what sustained him as he played into his 40s with Leeds.

“Here at Kilmarnock I am indebted to Andy Millen too. He is a great support to all the players but he was another who played into his 40s with St Mirren and then had a stint at Queen’s Park after that. All my career I have heard more senior players tell me to look after myself and not quit too soon. When you are a kid it doesn’t really sink in but as I have got older I have thought much more deeply about it. Guys like Andy who knows what it takes to look after your body so that you can be playing at a later age offer invaluable advice.”

Dyer’s appointment has been welcomed in the Rugby Park dressing room with Burke itching to get going again to atone for last season’s eighth place finish as soon as football is back up and running.

“Everyone was delighted with Alex getting the contract,” said Burke. “He knows what it is likes to have success at the club, he knows what it is like to struggle, he knows the players, he knows what we need to bring in and he knows where he wants to go and the way he wants to play.

“I honestly feel that Kilmarnock are a club on the up. We all know how devastating the Covid-19 crisis has been but there is such strong camaraderie here that even in a global pandemic I still feel that we can come out of it with genuine intent to go and improve again.”

Training at Rugby Park has continued in small groups with no contact but Burke is optimistic that the impact of the Coronavirus can also instil a little independence in the playing squad.

“Players moan about everything; no water bottles, dirty boots, a missing pair of socks….now that we are washing our own kits and doing so much more for ourselves then you would like to think it has opened a few eyes to how pampered we are in normal circumstances,” he said. “I’d like to think that can go a long way when we do get back onto the park.

“I am the type of person who is always striving to do better than the last time. I never set myself targets such as goals or assists but rather it’s about improving on what I contributed to the team last season. This season I’m optimistic we can better that eighthplace finish and get ourselves back in the top six.”