When England goalkeepers meet
What a special day it was at Gawthorpe today when I was able to watch as one England goalkeeper from the 1950s met all our current goalkeepers along with Billy Mercer the coach.
Back in 1955, when Gawthorpe opened its doors for the first time, Colin McDonald was the Burnley goalkeeper. Today, along with his wife Anne, he returned to receive the Supporters’ Clubs’ Special Award for 2018 that he was unable to collect at the end of last season due to illness.
What can I say about McDonald? He was very much first choice for Burnley and had become so for England, starring in the 1958 World Cup when he was voted the best goalkeeper in the tournament. With Burnley just two years away from becoming champions of England, we could now boast the best goalkeeper in the world, but sadly that came to a shuddering end in March 1959 when he broke a leg just a few minutes from the end of an inter-league game in Dublin.
Things went worse when he contracted pneumonia but thankfully he recovered from that although was never able to recover sufficiently to play first team football again. He did continue in football for some years and managed Bury for a short time.
I never saw him play first team football but my dad always used to tell me he was the best, that Gordon Banks wouldn’t have won an England cap but for McDonald’s injury. Jimmy McIlroy told me quite simply that he was the finest goalkeeper he ever played with or against.
There was a surprise for him at the security entrance. David Tattersall, on duty today, was eagerly awaiting his visit. He himself had been a young goalkeeper at Bury and was actually scouted by today’s special visitor.
But from the moment he walked in to the building, it was an incredible experience. Waiting to welcome him was club captain and fellow goalkeeper Tom Heaton. It was just one of those moments you will always remember but there was more to come.
After a short tour of the building, Tom was joined by Nick Pope, Joe Hart, Anders Lindegaard, Adam Legzdins and Billy Mercer for the presentation, all of them eager to get a word with him and congratulate him.
A photo shoot outside followed before a return inside for lunch in the players’ lounge. Sean Dyche is away today but Ian Woan and Tony Loughlan were quick to join us to have a chat and welcome him, as were others.
Special moments never seem to last long enough but the memories do and today will live with me for a very long time, and not just me, much more importantly Colin and his wife thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It was brilliant to finally meet the goalkeeper my dad said was the best and the welcome he received said everything about our players and staff.