“It was like the old Burnley retirement home,” joked Chris McCann, recalling his introduction to life at Oldham Athletic.

When the midfielder returned from his three-and-a-half year stint in America’s Major League Soccer he was greeted by the familiar face of former Clarets team-mate Chris Eagles. A month later he was joined by midfield comrade David Jones.

Even manager Dino Maamria had Turf Moor connections, having once worked for the club’s community scheme.

What made it all the more surreal was that just a month beforehand, McCann had shared a dressing room with Wayne Rooney.

The season after winning the MLS Cup with Atlanta United in 2018 McCann signed for DC United, where he was joined by the England legend following his departure from Manchester United.

“That’s the beauty of the league, you can go from one team to the other and not play with anyone that’s really well known then the next month you can get thrust into a team with one of the biggest footballers in the world at one stage,” said the Irishman.

“It was a bit surreal sitting next to him, having conversations with him about normal things.

“He’s a down-to-earth kind of guy and a great person to go out and have a chat with off the field.

“He didn’t have any airs and graces, he never thought that he was better than anyone else. He was just a nice guy and we got on well.

“He was a great team-mate and captain, he led by example on many occasions and you could see why he was the best in the business for a long time.”

It was one of few real highlights for McCann in Washington though.

Having settled well in Atlanta the move to America’s capital city had not gone as smoothly off the field. So with his wife, Gaynor, expecting their second son, Noah, they decided to move back to England and the north west.

“To have played in the MLS and won it, it wasn’t all in vain. It was a good experience all round. But it was time to come back,” explained McCann.

“Gaynor came home in August and I came back from America last October when I finished at DC and started looking for a club.

“It was a funny time to come back to be honest because the season had started.

“The way it worked out a lot of the clubs had spent their budget, and I don’t think many people knew I was back.

"I kind of fell off the radar a bit so it was a bit difficult to get back into it.

“I went training with Grezza (Graham Alexander) at Salford City for a couple of weeks, and then Dino invited me to go and train with them for a couple of days.

“I actually played against Burnley in a friendly and it was the first time I’d been back to Gawthorpe since I left.

“It’s totally different now. It’s amazing!

“The club has come such a long way since I was there. They’ve even got a new bridge and not a rickety old one to walk over.

“It’s fantastic now with the facilities there. It’s brilliant.”

McCann considers the suggestion that what he achieved with the club, winning that first promotion to the Premier League in 2009, paved the way for all of it.

“It’s crazy. We went up and came back down and you wonder if it’s going to happen again,” he said.

“But credit to Sean Dyche and the staff, they’ve done a fantastic job.

"Having probably the smallest budget in the league, to do what they are doing and keep punching above their weight, getting into Europe and maybe getting there again.

“It’s crazy. We were a million miles off ever doing something like that.

“But in 10 years to have a team that’s established in the Premier League and challenging for a top six spot...it’s ludicrous to ever think that would have happened.

“But Burnley’s like a well oiled machine, there are no fancy players and the manager’s work ethic is a recipe for success.

“Teams don’t know how to play against a hard-working team and Sean has done that year-on-year and added a couple of good players into that team.”

He grows increasingly nostalgic.

“I took it for granted, playing there. Now I miss being there,” continued McCann, a rare product of the club’s youth system who made his senior debut in 2005 and left in 2013.

“I look back on it now and appreciate it a lot more.

“When I was in the moment and playing in it - and years after - I never really appreciated doing the job that I did or what we achieved in the club’s history.

“I look back now and think ‘that was amazing’. Especially the year we got promoted, when we’d been favourites to get relegated.

“The older I get I appreciate what we did.

“When we had the 10-year reunion that brought back a lot of memories. Getting to the League Cup semi final as well that year.

“It’s crazy to look back. It was an amazing time. It’s up there with one of the best years that I’ve had.

"Everything just seemed to click, we had a great bunch of lads and we loved coming into work every day. You were disappointed when you had a day off.

“If you are going to achieve things they are the type of groups you want to be in.”

McCann added: “I had some great years at Burnley and I love to go back now and again and watch a game.

"I’ve watched about three or four games this year. It’s good to go back. And my little lad Jakob loves them.

“My brother-in-law has got him a Burnley kit for his birthday with (striker Chris) Wood on the back.”

But while McCann is still playing Jakob will always be his number one fan.

“He got to see a lot of the games in America and that’s put him down the route of wanting to play football,” said the midfielder.

“We’ve got photographs and memories that he will have forever.

“But we are here now and we’re glad to be home.”