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As Burnley moved into March 1950, a 0-0 home draw against Fulham moved us up to eighth in the First Division table in what was our third season in the top flight following the promotion in 1947.

However, it was considered that we weren’t scoring enough goals and, with the transfer deadline later that month, manager Frank Hill was on the lookout for a new centre-forward. Our target was an Irish player and club representatives, namely chairman Mr E. D. Kay and the manager, left Burnley for Belfast to watch the player in action. He was a player, it was reported, who was commanding wide attention in Ireland and one who had already been the subject of inquiry from Burnley.

jimmy mac 001Nothing came of it, and it was the same story following trips to Scotland and various parts of England. Both the chairman and the manager admitted that there was a need for a new forward and that they were doing their best, but the club would not be held to ransom.

Mr Kay said: “We would sign a big cheque today if we thought we had the chance of the right type of player who would give the forwards the punch we know the attack requires, but it would be useless signing someone no better than the players already on our books.”

The transfer window came and went with no additions but, in true Burnley tradition, we sold a player instead with Ian Wilson making the move to Leicester, a decision not popular with the supporters.

In fairness, we did come close to bringing in a player. We made an offer, a big one too, for 24-year-old Dennis Wilshaw, the Wolves centre-forward. Wilshaw went on to score 173 league goals in 380 games while also adding a further ten in twelve England appearances at full international level, but none were for Burnley. Hill said: “It was not a question of price. We were prepared to pay. We wanted Wilshaw, but when he refused to come, what could we do?”

In some cases we were unable to persuade any other clubs to part with their players and in others, including the lad from Belfast, they were no better than those we had.

If Hill and the board had failed to bring in a centre-forward, by the month’s end they had made a signing, a player who had caught their eye while watching that centre-forward. They returned to Belfast to see him star in Glentoran’s 4-1 win against Distillery and this time weren’t coming home without their man.

They went to his home and signed him, once he’d borrowed his sister’s bicycle to get home to meet the Burnley contingent. The Burnley Express reported that the new boy, an inside-forward, was just 18 years of age and was Glentoran’s best player in the game at Distillery. They added that he was 5ft 9ins tall and 11st in weight. They also confirmed that we’d paid the Irish League club a fee of £5,000.

His name was Jim McIlroy and he was at the start of what was to be a glittering Turf Moor career.

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