Another Fletcher winner in what was a sad week personally
A week earlier, Burnley had beaten Nottingham Forest 1-0 at home with a Paul Fletcher goal and it was the same score and the same goalscorer when we travelled to Sunderland on this day in 1972 with the Clarets increasing their advantage at the top of the Second Division.
This was a week of sightings in the sky and strange ghostly goings on at the site of a former colliery and there was me thinking Burnley folk had always been level headed. Let’s start with the appearance of UFOs in the sky, seen initially by a Mrs Lister who lived in Wycoller Avenue. She told the Burnley Express: “I saw a strange light in the sky. It split in two and then disappeared. Five minutes later it came back, however, for a while, then disintegrated into the dusk.” Mrs Lister wasn’t the only one to see it as the police were inundated with reports from other residents. What could it be? Was Burnley to expect some visitors from outer space? The answer was very definitely no. A man in the Cog Lane area of the town had some old red distress flares he wanted to get rid of so took them into his garden and set them off and that’s what Mrs Lister and the others had seen.
But what about the ghost at the old Bank Hall Colliery, the area just recently announced to be set for a massive new leisure area and parkland. There had always been rumours that the site was haunted by ‘Red Eyes’ the miner and Mrs Collinge whose home on Browhead Road overlooked the old colliery was convinced she’d seen him. Mrs Collinge confirmed that, along with her husband and one of her daughters, she’d seen the ghost who used to haunt the pit which had closed just over a year earlier. “We saw a miner walking in the grounds of Bank Hall pit, complete with pit helmet and lamp, which was lit,” she said. “I think it was the ghost who had come up from the pit. I’ve heard that it’s quite well known among miners that one part of the pit in particular is haunted. A ghost would come and sit beside you then disappear.” The National Coal Board still owned the site and were forced into an investigation. They confirmed that Mrs Collinge had seen the night watchman on his rounds.
For one Burnley lady there was some more good news. Mrs Dyson of Berry Street, whose son Eddie had suffered injuries in an accident, had a week earlier been able to speak to him in a South African hospital. This week she learned from MP Dan Jones, who had received a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that he had now been discharged. The letter said: “We have had the good news that he has improved considerably and has been released from hospital on the understanding that his firm will keep an eye on him, arrange his accommodation and let him start light duties again.” Mrs Dyson couldn’t contain her excitement and said she was now, once again, looking forward to Christmas after suffering ill health through worrying about her son.
The week also saw some good news for one Burnley building but sad news for another. The good news was for Towneley Lodge, the gatehouse at the entrance to the park on Todmorden Road. There had been a similar lodge on the other side of the arch but that had been demolished a few years earlier and the second lodge looked set to suffer the same fate. Thankfully the local authority had second thoughts and gave it a reprieve. The authority instead recommended that it should be put up for sale but with the undertaking that any new owner must restore the building while keeping the exterior in its original condition. It was a must that it kept its historic identity.
However, for one Burnley pub, and one of the best known pubs in English football, it was a final farewell. The Cricketers on Anne Street had stood alone for some time after the rest of the street had been demolished, but its time had come. Well known for hosting Her Majesties Press Corp, it had a farewell party to remember with local and national football journalists descending on the street corner pub just a stone’s throw from the players’ entrance at Turf Moor. Brian Miller and Jimmy Holland represented the club as presentations were made to popular host Terry Mulrooney. Ron Kennedy made the presentation on behalf of the local journalists and a second presentation on behalf of the national press was given to Mr Mulrooney by the Daily Mirror’s John Bean.
Burnley were preparing for a trip to Sunderland but it was a game with a difference a week earlier for two local teams after the referee called the game off. The Burnley Amateur Combination game between Deerplay Moor and Padiham St. John’s was to be played at Deerplay Moor’s home ground at Whitworth but unfortunately referee Roy Butterfield, son of Burnley FC Commercial Manager Jack Butterfield, declared the pitch unfit and called it off. Neither of the teams agreed with him so, once Butterfield had gone, they started a friendly game with the visiting manager taking the whistle. With the score at 1-1 and just over half an hour gone, with no problems, the police came and ended the game after they’d been alerted by the groundsman. Mr Butterfield stood by his decision and the league confirmed that the game would have to be replayed.
For the game at Sunderland, Burnley were again unchanged, welcoming back both Alan Stevenson and Leighton James after they’d faced each other in an under-23 international. Stevo came out on top. He had a very impressive debut in a 3-0 win with the highlight being an outstanding save to deny club mate James. Jimmy Adamson had been to that game and was unable to comment ahead of the game on Wearside which would be the first for a new Sunderland manager. They’d sacked Alan Brown, a former Burnley player and manager, that week and replaced him with Carlisle boss Bob Stokoe who had come face to face with Burnley on the opening day of the season. “I made no secret of the fact before the season began that I thought Burnley would win promotion. Nothing has happened since then to make me change my mind,” Stokoe said on the Friday. “So you can imagine my feelings about tomorrow’s match. I could not have wished for a harder game to start with, but the enthusiasm here is tremendous. Everyone feels that the club is in a false position and that we must soon start to turn the corner. It would be great to begin on Saturday.”
My Saturday started from Sheffield, taking the journey to Wearside by train. I was meeting my mate Daz Angeli at the ground. He was travelling from Nottingham. Now people who knew me then, and indeed people who know me now, know that punctuality is not one of my finest qualities. Daz was different. Having agreed to meet at 1:30 I knew he’d be there by about 1:15 while you could expect me, probably around 1:45. Daz didn’t show on time, in fact he didn’t show at all. I’d no idea why but waited and waited while the rest of my mates who had arrived by coach from Burnley went for a pint. This, of course, was in the days before mobile phones and I was baffled. It was only when I got back to Sheffield that night that I picked up a message from a mate back in Burnley. I had to phone him and when I did he then told me that Daz had been involved in a car accident during the week. He didn’t recover from the injuries sustained in that accident and four days after the Sunderland game he lost his life at the age of 19. I’d been travelling to away games with him for some time and stood on the Longside with him for home games. What I now write about the Sunderland game I’d wish to dedicate to the memory of my mate Daz. I know one of his younger brothers Shaun used to post on the message board. I believe he now lives in Cyprus but if he reads this then I can assure him that his big brother has never been forgotten.
Burnley recorded a third successive 1-0 win at Roker. Following the shock home defeat to Orient this meant six points out of six from away games at Brighton and Sunderland, sandwiching the home win against Forest.
It was the fourth away win of the season, a season in which we were still unbeaten on the road, and this one ranked high alongside the others. We may have played better football in the wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton but that was never going to happen this time as a recharged Sunderland never gave us an inch as they fought for every ball in front of their new manager.
This was undoubtedly a performance that had ‘promotion’ written all over it and in the end it was the extra composure shown by the Clarets that saw them fully merit this latest win. We never lost our cool, we were never ruffled and despite all the fight from Sunderland it was a game where Alan Stevenson didn’t have too much to deal with.
The game was played at a furious pace with the action shifting from one end of the pitch to the other and when Sunderland did get forward they found our defence in top form, none more so than Colin Waldron, a player who would go on to play for Sunderland a few years later. He was at his imperious best, winning headers and making great interceptions, and, twice, he came to the rescue with brilliant last ditch tackles when Sunderland forwards broke clear.
It wasn’t just defensively either. Waldron produced probably the attacking highlight of a goalless first half when he controlled the ball from a corner, side-stepped a defender and was unlucky to see his goal bound left foot shot take a deflection off home defender Dick Malone. We had other opportunities. Frank Casper shot over, and Jim Montgomery, who was to become a part of Sunderland folklore later in the season, saved from Paul Fletcher.
Overall we hadn’t created too much in the first half, but things changed after the break when we started to turn on the style. Montgomery again saved from Fletcher, and from Leighton James. Dave Watson cleared off the line after Fletcher looked to have scored from a Mick Docherty cross. The pressure came to nothing and Sunderland then went on to have their best spell of the game. The home crowd sensed a goal and the Roker Roar lifted some decibels. They were right, a goal was on its way. Doug Collins went past two men on the left hand side of the box and then crossed with his right foot, a rare event. Geoff Nulty nodded the ball down for FLETCHER who swept the ball home past the despairing dive of Montgomery. It was a cool finish too from Fletcher. He was in outstanding goalscoring form to add to the sheer workload he got through up front alongside the talented Casper who, at the time, just couldn’t buy a goal.
Inevitably Sunderland pushed on but there was never any real threat and we saw the game out without too much difficulty. The league leaders had won again and had taken the number of wins into double figures and after the game the two managers had their say.
Adamson: “I thought that over the whole 90 minutes we deserved to win, but I was not happy with our first half performance. The defence kept us in the match during that time. After half time the midfield men came more into the match and we began to string our passes together. We were always in command after the interval and, I thought, we looked likely to score at any time.
“Colin Waldron was magnificent. I can’t remember him playing as well as that all season. Keith Newton also had a tremendous match. The defence in general was very solid and stopped their forwards getting through at Alan Stevenson. Paul Fletcher took his goal very well indeed. He has been working hard at this aspect of his game and I’m pleased to see it paying off. The important thing is he is now scoring regularly and not just in batches.”
Stokoe: “I am not disappointed for myself, only for the players, who ran until they dropped, and the fans, who turned out in force to support us. I would have been happy with a goalless draw. But it’s nice to have got Burnley out of the way. They have to be the best side in the division, their record proves it. Things have gone Jimmy Adamson’s way this season. I think he’s got nine ever presents in the team and today they were unchanged for the ninth game in a row. They know each others play and they know how to pace a game. I can’t see anything to stop them going up.”
The teams were;
Sunderland: Jim Montgomery, Dick Malone, Keith Coleman, Mike Horswill, Dave Watson, Ian Porterfield, Bobby Kerr, Billy Hughes, John Lathan (John Tones 75), Brian Chambers, Dennis Tueart.
Burnley: Alan Stevenson, Mick Docherty, Keith Newton, Martin Dobson, Colin Waldron, Jim Thomson, Geoff Nulty, Frank Casper, Paul Fletcher, Doug Collins, Leighton James. Sub not used: Billy Ingham.
Referee: Mr R. E. Raby (Leeds).
The win increased Burnley’s lead at the top of the league to three points thanks to Oxford holding QPR to a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road. Blackpool beat Portsmouth to remain third but Aston Villa, winners against Hull, moved above Preston into fourth place after they could only draw at Huddersfield.
Second Division Results
Saturday 2nd December 1972
Aston Villa 2 Hull 0
Blackpool 3 Portsmouth 1
Brighton 0 Middlesbrough 2
Carlisle 1 Bristol City 2
Huddersfield 0 Preston 0
Nottingham Forest 2 Orient 1
QPR 0 Oxford 0
Sheffield Wednesday 2 Millwall 2
Sunderland 0 Burnley 1
10: Paul Fletcher
8: Leighton James
6: Martin Dobson
4: Dave Thomas
3: Frank Casper
2: Colin Waldron
1: Doug Collins