We had Cool John Angus at right-back
The first verse of the terrace song in the early 1960s was We’ve got dear old Adam in the goal although I have to say that, at the time, Adam was a young goalkeeper. The second verse was about our right-back John Angus, always referred to as cool by the Burnley supporters.
It is of Angus I write, this brought about by a message board discussion last week about our ground, Turf Moor, in the 1960s. Photographs from John’s testimonial were posted which inevitably led to a discussion on him and it was mentioned that today, 2nd September, he is celebrating his 78th birthday.
Firstly, happy birthday John, one of my first Turf Moor heroes and still the best right-back I’ve ever seen pull on our claret and blue shirt.
He’d played over 100 league games for us before I ever saw him play in October 1960 on a day we beat Manchester United 5-3. I don’t need to look in any record books to list the team that day, it was: Adam Blacklaw, John Angus, Alex Elder, Walter Joyce, Jimmy Adamson, Brian Miller, John Connelly, Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson and Brian Pilkington.
Angus had debuted over four years before me. He came into the side for a home game against Everton in September 1956. It came fifty years ago tomorrow, just one day past his 18th birthday, and incredibly was only one week after his reserve team debut.
He’d been at Burnley for just over two years but it hadn’t been plain sailing. John, who didn’t enjoy travelling, and I’m told still doesn’t, was homesick for his native North East within no time of him arriving from Amble Boys Club having been recommended by Charlie Ferguson, our main scout in that region.
Someone persuaded him to return. I don’t know who but we owe him a great debt of gratitude because he became a major part of what is one of the most successful teams in the club’s history.
He had a good debut against Everton it was reported, marking their winger Tommy Eglington out of the game, and as Burnley built towards that 1959/60 championship, so Angus became the regular right-back, missing only one game in the title winning season.
It was special being part of Burnley Football Club at that time. In the next season he played in the European Cup and also made his England debut in May 1961. He played on the left against Austria in Vienna with his club team mate Brian Miller, a left-half, playing at right-half.
England lost the game 3-1 with the goal scored by Jimmy Greaves. The England team was: Ron Springett, Jimmy Armfield, John Angus, Brian Miller, Peter Swan, Ron Flowers, Bryan Douglas, Johnny Haynes, Gerry Hitchens, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton.
England manager Walter Winterbottom described his performance as one of the best debuts he’d ever seen but sadly there were no more call ups, much to the amazement of most football judges of the time. Maybe that was down to his reluctance to travel, only John will ever know.
He formed a wonderful partnership with Alex Elder at Burnley but there was one thing Elder could do better than Angus and that was score goals. John’s first for Burnley didn’t come until October 1964 against Arsenal. He was injured during the game and with no substitutes was moved to centre-forward; he scored both our goals in a 3-2 defeat. He scored in successive weeks in the following season against Fulham and Chelsea, but that was his final total. His last goal will hardly be remembered; that was the day Peter Osgood scored a special goal for Chelsea in a game they won 2-1.
He did have a fight for his place in the late 60s with Fred Smith coming through, but he won that fight and for his last two full seasons was a regular again. By then Burnley were no longer a force and the second of those seasons, 1970/71, saw us relegated.
His team mates from the 1959/60 season had all long gone by then. He was the final survivor by four years and he was still in the team when we kicked off in the Second Division in 1971/72. He played just the first two games before suffering an injury in the second of them against Luton at home. Each week it was reported that he was close to fitness but he had played his last Burnley game just before his 33rd birthday.
The record books show he played 439 league games for us, a joint post-war record he still holds with Jimmy McIlroy. Add the cup games and that total rises to 520.
He formally retired at the end of the 1971/72 season and the club soon announced there would be a testimonial game for him. He benefited from the fact that we’d just won a promotion but, even then, I don’t think he could have dared hope for an attendance of over 15,000.
Former team mates queued up to come and play on the night in one of two games. The youth team took on a team of veterans in a short game before the first team of the time beat a Millionaire XI of former Burnley players 4-3 in the main game. Peter Mellor had a bit of a nightmare in goal, otherwise we might have lost the game.
It was a superb night. Tom Finney was a guest player in the first game, the only time I saw him play, and two of my relatives went just to watch McIlroy; they hadn’t been inside Turf Moor since he was sold to Stoke.
Angus, no longer able to play a full game, was in the shortened game alongside seven more of the old title winning team. The other three all played in the main match.
What a night. Jimmy Mac turned back the clock and took the ball to the corner, not letting let anyone else have it. The crowd roared their approval as the great man showed us what we’d had a decade earlier. Top players such as Ralph Coates, Willie Irvine and Dave Thomas played against us in the main event.
But it was all about honouring Cool John Angus. He was the quiet man of the team, but he was hard in the tackle and very strong. He was such a good passer of the ball that he could quickly turn defence into attack and it must have been a dream for the likes of John Connelly and Willie Morgan to have played in front of him.
He wasn’t so good at taking penalties. His only effort flew over the top of the old Bee Hole End and apparently made Brunshaw Road.
John Angus was a special player, the finest I’ve ever seen in the number two shirt at Burnley by some distance but he hasn’t graced us with his presence much since he retired although he came close to attending a youth foundation dinner in 2010.
Jimmy Mac asked me who was coming and when I included Angus he said: “Bloody hell Tony, you’ve done well to get John.” Sadly, his reluctance to travel kicked in on the day and he didn’t make it. We had a shirt all ready too with ANGUS 2 on it. It was auctioned and he subsequently signed it.
Without a doubt a very special Burnley player and what days they were when we had Cool John Angus at right-back.Share this page :