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Burnley’s 1981/82 season had opened with six defeats and just one win in the opening eight games, leaving us in the relegation places in the first ever season when three points were awarded for a win, but a win at Portsmouth and a home draw against Exeter along with off field matters had given supporters hope of a brighter future.

In A week of massive change at Burnley we saw how October had begun to change things at Burnley on and off the field. Ahead of the Portsmouth and Exeter games had come news of Bob Lord selling his shares and between the two games John Jackson was appointed as the new chairman with admission prices reduced immediately.

The next period of the season saw a steady, rather than spectacular, improvement which was followed by the death of Lord prior to the weather taking over as 1981 came to an end.

As we prepared for our next game at Deepdale against fellow strugglers Preston, it emerged that director Jack Eglin was part of the consortium that had bought the bulk of Lord’s shares and would become the club’s finance director, while Jackson confirmed that manager Brian Miller and his assistant Frank Casper would be given a free hand to do things their way, something that he admitted would bring about a significant change in the Turf Moor approach. Miller responded by assuring supporters that young teenage midfielder Trevor Steven would not be sold as he continued to try to generate money to allow him to strengthen the squad.

A 1-1 draw at Preston meant a third game without defeat. This game could not, in any way, shape or form, be described as a classic. It was as boring a game as you were likely to see with the two goals coming close together in the second half. It was North End who went in front but four minutes later a Billy Hamilton right wing cross broke to Andy Wharton who drove the perfect shot into the net from just inside the penalty box.

Billy Hamilton gives us the lead against Fulham

Billy Hamilton gives us the lead against Fulham

Four of the next five also ended the same with one point from draws with a narrow 1-0 win against Chester squeezed between them. But the first of that group of games should really have ended in a win. Promotion chasing Fulham were the visitors to Turf Moor and we were 2-0 up within 18 minutes with goals from strike pair Billy Hamilton and Steve Taylor. That lead was held right up to half time but Fulham scored two second half goals to earn a point.

Miller was far from happy about the second half performance. “It was an attitude problem rather than one of fitness,” he said, adding: “The players did no use their brains. I am very, very disappointed. Up to half time we looked to be walking the game and the midfield had the freedom of the park. We should have dictated the game to gain a comfortable win.”

A 0-0 draw followed at Brentford but then came a 1-0 home win against Chester who were next to bottom in the table. Tommy Cassidy scored the only goal a quarter of an hour from time and how good the league table looked at the final whistle. Good did I say? Better should have been the correct description. The win had taken us out of the relegation places for the first time. Preston, Plymouth, Chester and Wimbledon were the four below us. We’d now played six games without defeat, albeit four of them draws, and supporters were beginning to think that it might not be a relegation battle after all. There was hope that we could push ourselves into mid-table even by the end of the season.

The two home games with Jackson as chairman had ended in 3-3 and 2-2 draws prior to that win against Chester, and another 2-2 draw followed when bottom of the league Wimbledon came and took a point when everyone was expecting a win.

There was big news ahead of the game when Miller made his first move of the season into the transfer market with the loan capture of Preston striker Paul McGee. The Republic of Ireland international, out of favour at Preston, arrived for two months.

In the days before the internet and the likes, Miller had to rush off to Football League headquarters at Lytham to register the signing in time for him to play but his words were a hammer blow for Taylor. “Paul McGee is a player who we believe will get goals and is the type we need to play up front alongside Billy Hamilton,” he said. He also thanked North End boss Tommy Docherty for his co-operation but said it was too early to consider whether we would plan to make the move a permanent one.

One day later, and with McGee in the side, everything looked to be going well when Hamilton gave us the lead against the bottom club. But it all went wrong again in the second half. Wimbledon equalised early and then, with nine minutes remaining, they took the lead. We’d have lost this one but for Big Vince Overson losing his patience. Straight from the kick off he moved forward into space in the opposition half and received the ball between 35 and 40 yards from goal from where, in sheer frustration, he let fly with a shot that never lifted more than a couple of feet off the ground. But it left Dave Beasant without a chance of keeping it out and another point was earned.

8182 bob lord deadReading away followed when a stunning Steven goal, his first Burnley goal, earned us another point. That meant eight games without defeat. We were still out of the bottom four but only just and all the four below us were one win away from overtaking us. We needed to start winning and that’s just what we did, but there was one more draw to follow when Runcorn came to Turf Moor in the FA Cup.

More positive off the field news surfaced either side of the cup tie with the new chairman firstly confirming that local footballers would again be given the opportunity to play on Turf Moor. Local amateur and schools cup finals had been blocked previously but Jackson revealed that they would again be made welcome.

Runcorn earned a home replay with a 0-0 draw at the Turf but two goals from McGee got him off the mark and earned us a 2nd round tie at Bury.

Just a day later, the old Centre Spot was packed to see the launch of a Supporters Club. Lord had refused to recognise such organisations other than the London Clarets who, he said, were too far away to cause problems. He was the only director not there with the supporters told he wasn’t well enough to attend. The new chairman did ask those present if they could encourage the less than savoury chanting that he’d heard the night before at Runcorn. I’m not sure whether it was tongue in cheek, but it did relate to his wife Marilyn being encouraged to get them out as she walked past the Burnley fans on her way to the directors’ box.

November ended with an away win at Bristol City. We left it late but no one could deny we deserved the points. Peter Higgs, covering the game for the Burnley Express, was so pleased with the ninety minutes, that he wrote: “What a great day out we had on Saturday! It was like Christmas Day and the annual works outing all rolled into one. “

Kevin Young gave us an early lead in the game but, despite being the better side, we found ourselves behind early in the second half only for McGee to score twice in the last 13 minutes to win it for us, the second of them from the penalty spot. Burnley had turned in their best performance of the season and Higgs ended with: “I just wish you all could have been there to see it. It was smashing.”

A week later we came from behind to beat Oxford at home 2-1 with goals from Hamilton and Cassidy. We were still only three points clear of the drop zone but had moved up to 18th in the table with the unbeaten league run now stretching to ten games.

But the football was about to be put on the back burner for a while. Although this game was played on 5th December, it was our last league action of 1981 with just a Football League Group game against Watford played three days later.

Our FA Cup tie at Bury was called off because of a frozen pitch on the 12th and the day after that the snow came and basically shut us down for over a month in a winter that was worse than anything we’ve had since.

However, and more importantly, on the morning of that Watford game, news broke that Bob Lord had passed away. As tributes poured in, a minute’s silence was impeccably observed before the 2-0 win against Watford and the top men in football attended his funeral along with every member of the Burnley Football Club staff. Whatever your thoughts on him, there is no doubt that he presided over one of the greatest periods in the club’s history and he was very much a key man in setting up the training ground at Gawthorpe. Stubborn as a mule, ignorant with people, of that no doubt, and sadly he’d overstayed his welcome in the latter years when the club commenced the downward spiral that continued right down to the bottom of the Fourth Division.

Widow Hilda and daughter Barbara lead the mourners at the funeral

Widow Hilda and daughter Barbara lead the mourners at the funeral

By this time he was certainly no friend of the local press and the Burnley Express ran a front page story on his deal with the club over land at Lowerhouse that would net his family more than £40,000. It was the end of a boardroom wrangle and was agreed after Lord threatened to sue the club.

The Lancashire Evening Telegraph featured some of his better known quotes including these:

“We are not having a supporters’ club at Burnley. They cause a lot of problems because the people who run them want the football club power.”

We drew Oldham in the FA Cup in 1974 during the three day week when Saturday was a working day in Burnley an Oldham. They suggested playing it on the Sunday but Lord’s response was: “If the chairman of Oldham Athletic Football Club really thinks Burnley are going to play an FA Cup match on a Sunday he can just go to the toilet.”

“A lot of people think daft people are daft. A lot of folk have made a big mistake if they thought I was daft.”

“A lot of people think football is just a game. They would get a shock if they were involved in it. Do you know, I’ve even had assassination threats? I’ve had a number of threatening phone calls and the police took them so seriously they often gave me a bodyguard of plain clothes officers in London.”

When manager of Crystal Palace, Malcolm Allison invited model Fiona Richmond to have a look round and both joined the players in the communal bath. Lord said: “Anyone who has some love for the game must be concerned and wondering what is going on when Malcolm Allison, the Crystal Palace manager, allows a model to go into a club bath naked with naked male footballers. He allowed photographs to be taken. It is reprehensible.”

I’d never known anything other than having Bob Lord at the helm until this time and there was no doubt that Burnley Football Club would change forever.

The club called for the help of supporters to clear snow from the pitch and stands in the hope of getting a game on. I can’t imagine that would have ever happened with Lord in charge.

Things were going well on the pitch, but could they continue when football resumed in the New Year?

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