So today my home town team, knowing of their imminent relegation from the top division in football to division 2 which is euphemistically named ‘The Championship’, secured a scintillating 0-0 draw with Stoke. But Burnley were once a truly great team! No not the first time I ever saw them when as a ten years old boy I watched
the best Burnley team to represent the town in modern day football emerge from the Turf Moor tunnel as Champions in 1960 when they beat Man City in the final game of the season
to prevent Wolves winning their third 1st division title in 3 years and almost won the coveted Double two years later.
No, it was the team back in 1921, (some of which had survived the First World War just before which they had beaten Liverpool in the FA Cup Final), that went on THE LONGEST RUN IN THE TOP DIVISION WITHOUT DEFEAT FOR 80 YEARS. A feat only overhauled recently by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, but they still have more than 70 years to run before they equal Burnley’s record of 80 years unequalled! But few people have mentioned the fact that Burnley not only did that phenomenal run, in a time when they would have not had the luxury travel that the modern players have, they were more likely to turn up in a charabanc (that’s an obsolete term for a ‘motor coach’ the likes of which super ceded the horse and cart). The team that stopped their run? Manchester City. Then Burnley went on to beat them a couple of games later. THAT WAS A TRULY GREAT SIDE. They did not however receive the accolades showered upon their recent copy cats The Arsenal, all the press could muster was ‘Burnley Beaten At Last’!
In fact tward the end of this 2014-15 season they got a new moniker ‘Burnleynil’.
Burnley have never been a fashionable club a fact that was exacerbated by a certain chairman known as the meanest dinosaur & butcher in town whose policy of turning the media away, particularly TV, in Burnley’s 1960’s revival to the top did massive and irreversible damage which persists to this day. And he was responsible for halving the club’s gates overnight by selling off the great Jim McIlroy!
To whom? To Stoke who were in the second division then and Jimmy helped bring them into the top division.
One massive example of prohibition going wildly counter to the intent of the prohibitor is my home town football club, Burnley and the reprehensible policy of the then chairman Bob Lord, who was also a big noise on the national FA. He thought that if he banned the TV cameras from Turf Moor more folk would visit the ground to see live matches on match days. He was wrong. At the time Burnley were one of the top two clubs with Spurs, a fact that remained the case for several years in the early 60’s Burnley were bigger than Man U and Liverpool then! Look what happened. TV cameras do the opposite to what Lord thought, they publicize a club and folk flock to see them. Lord, in another of his marvellous decisions, sold local hero Jimmy McIlroy, to lowly second division at that time Stoke and Burnley faded away after . Burnley dropped to the foot of Division 4 and nearly shot out of the league altogether whilst close rivals Man U & The Bill Shankly LiverPool went on to be European Champs.
Burnley’s gates never ever recovered and fancy that, their average gate is about 14,000. Compare that with Sunderland or Newcastle at c. 50K and you see what minnows the valiant representatives of Burnley town are. The sharks of the Prem certainly devoured them despite their taking down the likes of Man City and stealing a point at Stamford Bridge.(2014-15)
I have believed long time that there should be one of Jimmy McIlroy at Burnley. This is an open letter to fans of Jim McIlroy, Burnley boys and all the rest, and Stan Bowles who said in his autobio that his hero was Jimmy Mac! Many others, least myself because true greats must have seen him play, including Georgie Best because as a football fanatic in his youth he must have been taken to see Northern Ireland play in Belfast and Jimmy was the star of that team along with his friend, also arch rival at Spurs, Danny Blanchflower. In 1950 my dad named me after an Irish player who he admired, Peter Doherty. Doherty went on to manage the Irish side which Jim played in that got to the quarter final of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden then got kicked off the park by guess who? Germany.
Once you saw Jimmy play you had to be influenced! In the mid 1950s he scored a hat trick against Busby’s Manchester United. Why he never was called by Busby to play for Man. U I don’t know but it was probably because in those days the players had less say on their destiny and the chairman could dictate where they went, that’s why Jim ended up in Stoke. He never flit from his beloved Burnley and commuted to Stoke daily! The butcher had already got rid of one of the best players Bobby Seith in the champion-making team because Seith probably told the old fart what he thought of him, Seith went on to win the Scottish Championship with a Dundee team, that is no accident, good players win games.
Did you know that back in 1962 Jimmy was an icon, no not just in football, on the front cover of the first ever Sunday Times Mag! A photo of Jimmy is there in the centre with Jean Shrimpton posing a la Jim all around him. Not a lot of people know that. His movement was almost balletic and someone at the Times mag saw it and asked for the model to go into poses which reflect Jimmy. I think I prefer her beauty but his poise. His poise was genuine, hers was posed.
I have offered to do a sculpture of the best player Burnley had since the great 1920’s team, Tommy Boyle and all them lot. They have indicated an interest but that were a year ago and am getting on in years and soon I’ll be too very old to do it. So, come on you Clarets, give me the go-ahead and I shall get the sculpture ready for your next return to the top league again!
It seems there will be no shortage of money this year at Burnley. See report from Ajax and look forward to return to top flight and thrashing Van Gaal’s lot! According to this report Burnley get loads o money for tv appearances, not to mention the parachute monies.
This article and the drawings and sculptures shown in it are copyright (c) Pete Kennedy 17.5.2015
PK is forever grateful for the joy of seeing Jimmy McIlroy grace the field at Turf Moor, a true great alongside Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, Duncan Edwards, Kenny Dalglish, Stevie Gerrard and Jackie Milburn.
By the way Kenny Dalglish should receive a knighthood! (PK 2018)