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More than once I’ve seen posts on the message board from proud dads who have taken their sons or daughters to the Turf for the first ever time. Today is the 15th October 2020 and this is a story about one Burnley supporting dad who gave his son that first experience no less than sixty years ago today.

The front page story in that day’s Burnley Express (it was published then on a Saturday) was of rising crime figures in the town. Already 1960 had equalled the numbers for 1959 and that was for figures up to the end of September only with three months remaining. No less than 926 crimes had been committed in the town but the disturbing figure was that out of 435 proceeded against 231 of them were juveniles. When Chief Constable Leonard Massey gave these figures to the Burnley Watch Committee there were many questions asked, one of which was “Is lack of parental control responsible?”

United are able to clear the ball after this Burnley attack

In the same week, one set of parents, namely Wilfred and Doreen Blackstock, had been up in court for neglect of their seven children with both of them sent to prison while in the Fulledge area of town another couple, Eddie and Marion Scholes, had got somewhat confused regarding the football fixtures. Marion was off out for the afternoon so Eddie would have to take eldest son Tony to the football. That wasn’t a problem, it was a reserve game and Tony was already going to reserve games, a sort of apprenticeship children had to serve back then.

Where Marion was going is unclear. Maybe she was off to see the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra who were doing a three hour stint at the Nelson Imp with tickets at 6/-. There again it could have been the Odeon for ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ starring Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn or even the Palace which was showing Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier in ‘All The Young Men’. I suspect it probably wasn’t any of those options but then came the problem. It was a first team game and so young Tony was to get his first ever Football League game.

I was so excited. A week earlier I’d watched the reserves beat Everton 2-0 with goals from Ian Towers and Trevor Meredith. The team that day was weakened with reserve teamers Billy Marshall, Tommy Cummings and Gordon Harris called up for the first team game at Blackburn because Alex Elder, Brian Miller and Jimmy McIlroy had all been called up for the Northern Ireland v England game in Belfast. The team I’d watched was: Colin McDonald, Dave Smith, Mick Buxton, David Walker, John Talbut, Jimmy Scott, Trevor Meredith, Billy White, Ian Lawson, Ronnie Fenton, Ian Towers.

Now I was going to watch the first team play against Manchester United, going to watch players I’d never actually seen play before. Players such as McIlroy and Ray Pointer who my dad had talked about so much. The Burnley Express was billing it as a big match. They reckoned that Burnley v Manchester United games were often classics. They reported that Manchester United had played a friendly game against Real Madrid in the week and lost 3-2 and such was their performance in that game it should add another five to six thousand to the attendance. That was exciting.

And so we made our way, along with the little wooden buffet my mum kept in the kitchen. That was to put on the terracing for me to stand on to get a better view from my dad’s favourite position on the Bee Hole End where he stood with my uncle and granddad. I could say I remember it all as if it were yesterday. Yes, I remember the result. I can rhyme off our line up and I can name the goalscorers without looking it up, but that was about it until I read up on it for this article.

It had, as the Burnley Express promised, been a classic and on the following Wednesday their reporter Don Smith wrote: “Many are the football fixtures which can be referred to as ‘just another match’. Teams come to Turf Moor season by season and only those spectators who make the game their hobby, or their business, can recall anything about the results, and then they may find their memory plays tricks. The engagements to be remembered are few and far between and if there is more than one a year then the customers are very fortunate.

I saw Jimmy McIlroy score this goal to complete the scoring

“Very often it depends on the calibre of the opposition as well as the final score. By tradition some clubs give that added spice of rivalry which lends a further sense of keenness to the event. Their visit is eagerly anticipated because the ardent enthusiast knows that it will be a match worth seeing. Manchester United have that reputation. Some of the best entertainment in post-war seasons has been provided at Turf Moor when Burnley have met the ‘famous’ Reds. In casual retrospect I can remember only one match that could be described as ‘ordinary’.”

It proved to be something of a feisty encounter and it looked in the early stages as if the football was to be sacrificed for a mild form of assault and battery. Bobby Charlton and Albert Quixall looked unhappy with their roles as wide men and Charlton in particular was not too keen about tangling with John Angus. Ray POINTER opened the scoring on ten minutes when he ran on to a through pass from Brian Miller, but United were level on 29 minutes when Alex Elder headed a diagonal centre to the feet of Quixall whose cross was met by Dennis VIOLETT to score.

Three minutes later John CONNELLY restored Burnley’s lead after Brian Pilkington had outpaced Maurice Setters and on 37 minutes it was 3-1 when Walter JOYCE headed home his first ever league goal after excellent build up from McIlroy. VIOLETT got his second four minutes before half time after Jimmy Adamson had failed to trap the ball and the teams went in at half time with Burnley leading 3-2.

Five minutes into the second half CONNELLY joined Violett in getting a second but this one came under the heading of curious. He smacked in a long range swerving special that was punched clear by Harry Gregg but the linesman immediately signalled that the ball had crossed the line. Gregg was flabbergasted and when he recovered his astonishment (and having posed for photographs) he made a journey upfield to the centre circle to protest. The referee was having none of it and the score was 4-2.

VIOLETT completed his hat trick on 82 minutes after Adam Blacklaw had punched the ball out, but Burnley had the final say with MCILROY scoring his first goal of the season with four minutes remaining, settling the victory after Pointer’s breakthrough. So, it all ended 5-3 to Burnley and one young supporter rushed home to tell his mum all about it.

The teams were;

Burnley: Adam Blacklaw, John Angus, Alex Elder, Walter Joyce, Jimmy Adamson, Brian Miller, John Connelly, Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson, Brian Pilkington.

Manchester United: Harry Gregg, Maurice Setters, Tony Dunne, Nobby Stiles, Bill Foulkes, Jimmy Nicholson, Albert Quixall, Johnny Giles, Dennis Violett, Mark Pearson, Bobby Charlton.

Referee: Mr J. H. Hemingway (South Kirkby).

Attendance: 32,011.

The result meant Burnley had scored five in successive home games having beaten Fulham 5-0 two weeks earlier. At Blackburn in the previous game we’d won 4-1 and a week later we won 6-2 at Chelsea. No less than 20 goals in 4 games.

As for my enjoyment. Quite simply I was hooked. I went to the next three home games in the league but then my dad wouldn’t let me go to the Everton game on Boxing Day because he said the Everton fans were too rough. I wasn’t surprised, they committed an heinous crime in the local sweet shop by stealing a full jar of sarsaparilla tablets.

Since then, until March this year, I’ve missed eight home games – four through illness, two for a school holiday, one because of a break down (car, not nervous) and one because I was trying to play cricket. In truth I’ve loved it, still do and look forward to the day when I can return. Watching Burnley frustrates the hell out of me at times but that’s part of being a football fan.

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