A new adventure had been signed up by Christian. He was sold on the idea of restoring one of Belgium's famous old clubs when he heard about the plans for promotion. He could not have imagined this.

Union Saint-Gilloise, back in the top division for the first time in 48 years, are top of the Belgian table with two games of the regular season to play. The club has not had a title since 1935.

It is an unexpected experience for the former central defender. A man who has played just one game in the Championship after a career in English football is hoping to play in the European Championship.

Christian Burgess of Union Saint-Gilloise
Image: Christian Burgess of Union Saint-Gilloise is congratulated by his team-mates

At 30 years of age, this might be my last chance to play in Europe, but the aim now is to win the league. I have enjoyed every moment of it.

The Union player is speaking from inside a small bedroom at the training ground. When he was kept away from his family and friends during the Pandemic, he had a hard time embracing his new life, but he has embraced it.

He likes the anonymity. I was in a big football city for five years. It is the most important part of the city. Although I loved it, coming to Antwerp and being obscure has been quite a nice change.

Whenever I have a couple of days off, I will visit different cities, some interesting corners, and small villages. The national park in the south is called the Ardennes. It is a beautiful area to hike in.

He will go and explore with his friend's dog. There are castles to see. I enjoy nature.

It was something that attracted me to Belgium, learning a language, and experiencing this continental cafe culture, just a different way of living over here. Why not? I thought it was a great opportunity to live and work abroad.

You need to be a certain type of person and have certain circumstances. You have to be willing to adapt to a different culture, a different challenge, get out of your comfort zone with the language barrier, and just be open to exploring something new.

He acknowledges that few would be likely to replicate the experience he has had on the pitch, but he would recommend the move to anyone. One of the stories of the European season is what is happening now after promotion.

It would be difficult to break into the top four. You start to believe when you play against other teams. We are the favorites even now. People expect us to fall away.

Personal highlights include going to Antwerp and beating them in front of their own fans, while defeating Anderlecht home and away. He has reinvented himself in a slightly different role.

In Belgium, where he is playing in the middle of a back three, he is more of a sweeper, looking to organize the team's young defence. He has been a revelation.

Union Saint-Gilloise players celebrate. The club is back in the top division in Belgium and lead the way at the top of the table.
Image: Burgess has helped Union Saint-Gilloise to the top of the table

I have had to adapt to a different formation. The ball is on the floor a lot more over here. It requires a different skill-set for some people. When I was younger, I tried to pass the ball and break lines. It is enjoyable.

It has not been easy, but he has taken on that responsibility. I bark orders in English or French depending on who it is, but when it gets to real panic mode the English comes out.

Siebe Van der Heyden, his defensive partner, was recently called up to the Belgium national team for the first time. Dante Vanzeir is a Union star. It shows the extraordinary rise of the group.

Dante Vanzeir of Union Saint-Gilloise
Image: Dante Vanzeir of Union Saint-Gilloise has been called up by Belgium

He was from the Dutch second division. When Dante played for Belgium, we were thrilled. It's a bit of a dream. Genk is the leader of the league. He is strong and sharp.

His partner in the strike force, Deniz Undav, was sent back to Union. He is the top scorer in Belgium. He recently scored a couple of really banging goals and has looked like the real deal lately.

 Deniz Undav of Union St-Gilloise in action with the ball during the Jupiler Pro League match between Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Cercle Brugge KSV at Joseph Marien stadium on December 18, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium
Image: Deniz Undav of Union Saint-Gilloise is the top scorer in Belgium's top division

How long can this group stay together? It will be interesting to see what happens to the team in the summer. We can achieve something special, but will it be broken up? Who knows?

For another day, that is a thought. The last game of the season for Union will be at home to Beerschot, they are five points clear of second place. That will be a special day at the stadium.

The old ground has an art Deco facade. It is in a park. The scenery is amazing when you get the right lighting. It is a unique place to play in.

It is a coliseum. The area acts as an echo chamber and creates a great atmosphere. People come from all over Europe. Union is unique and is on their list. Union feels like it's the right place to be right now.

For Friday night games, the entire area is shut down. It is like a huge party with beer and street vendors. The fan culture here is very strange. People are having a good time. There is never any trouble when they drink.

You will get people who are not huge football fans who are here to support the team. It can feel like death and life in England. We have lost games and been cheered off the field.

Players of the newly-promoted Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise celebrate
Image: Players of the newly-promoted Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise celebrating

They celebrate every win the same as we have won the league. It is odd. The first game I remember was in the second division. The boys were celebrating after the squad photo was taken. I was confused. This isn't anything. We could get demoted.

It was crazy. The halfway championship was celebrated. It's a big thing that they call it the autumn champion. You don't get anything for it. I think it will be the same if we become regular champions. We will have a photo and some celebrations.

Union won't win the title even if they top the table after 34 games. They will play the other three teams home and away to decide the champion in the four-team playoffs.

It has been a good season so far, but now is the time that can really make or break it. They are going to be big games.

The country is behind the promoted side.

People who don't support Union are excited about Union and want to talk about the title race. They are all excited if they support one of the big teams. It is a big story.

The challenge is to give the ending that the story deserves.

There will be a lot of attention on the playoffs. It will be like six cup finals with big games and big crowds. It is exciting. I hope the best games are yet to come.

I enjoy living here and playing for the club. Coming out of my comfort zone has made me a more rounded person. It would be a reason to stay if the title was won.

There are plans to grow, a new stadium, a new training ground, and I would love to live there. I would love to stay here for another couple of years and leave a mark, but you never know in football. The manager is going to stay.

Who knows if Barcelona will come in for me?

You never know.

The man is smiling. He has been taught to chase his dreams.