By Tony Leighton
Top of the table Gillingham's veteran striker Deon Burton is looking forward to Saturday's npower League 2 home game against Rochdale for a very special reason - and not a reason of a specifically football-based nature.
"It'll be nice to have someone older than me on the pitch," 35-year-old Burton told football-league.co.uk as he savoured the prospect of coming up against his 'old' friend and fellow striker Dele Adebola, who is 37 and counting.
"Dele was at Birmingham when I was at Derby," added the much-travelled striker, "so we've known each other for quite a few years now and it will be good to see him - and hopefully to take three points off his team."
Since their days with Derby and Birmingham respectively, Burton and Adebola have both moved around a fair amount. But the Rochdale player - at his sixth club since leaving Blues in 2002 - cannot match the travels of the Gills' summer signing.
Burton, who co-incidentally left Derby in 2002, is at his seventh club since then with his move to Priestfield following two years playing in Azerbaijan for a Gabala team managed by former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams.
There is a distinct lack of English players in the Azerbaijan Premier League, but Burton said: "I enjoyed playing over there. I signed for them after Tony Adams had sold the club to me and I felt it was the right time in my career to go abroad.
"The standard of play over there is about the same as League 1 in England, but there are some very good players who could play higher. It was a good experience and I'm glad that I did it, but earlier this year I felt it was time to come back home.
"I want to finish my career in England, but I'll be 36 next month and I thought that the older I got the harder it would become to get a foot back in the door of the English game. So I made my decision, and I'm very happy with the way it's working out."
It's working out very well indeed for Burton and for Gillingham, who are setting a frightening pace at the top of League 2 with 22 points from a possible 24 in an unbeaten eight-match start to the campaign under new manager Martin Allen.
The Gills will be expected to collect another three points at home to Rochdale, though Dale have had a resurgence in their away form - after failing to win on the road in 10 months, John Coleman's team have won their last two away games.
Burton said: "Every game we've had so far has been a battle and I'm expecting nothing different against Rochdale. But I can't recall ever being in a team that's started the season so well - and we'll be aiming to keep it going with another win."
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