When I went down to Gawthorpe last Saturday to watch the youth team game against Nottingham Forest, I wasn’t expecting the one photograph I took to create quite as much interest as it has.
The said photograph was showing the new media centre that has replaced the bungalow close to the entrance at our training ground. It’s not a new building but with the extensions and cladding it looks nothing like the bungalow that for many years was the home of Arthur Bellamy and his family. The reason for the photograph (as you can see); the club have named the building The Arthur Bellamy Media Centre.
It all started when former Claret Graham Lancashire nicked the photograph to use on Twitter. He is clearly delighted that the club have decided on this name. He was quickly joined by others who have worn the Claret & Blue.
Steve Davis tweeted: “A fitting tribute to Arthur, the original man for all seasons n Burnley through and through. It is also on the site of the old bungalow where he lived. Every day at Gawthorpe you were met by his barking labrador following you down the length of his garden, thankfully behind the fence.”
Andy Payton tweeted: “This should bring a smile to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Arthur, absolute Clarets Legend.”
Payts has got it spot on. I had the pleasure of knowing Arthur for a good number of years. Pleasure really is the best choice of word and, as Payts wrote, the new sign on the front of the building did bring a smile to my face. I’d been tipped off a while ago that the club were considering this and I am thrilled to bits that they’ve done it.
“Who’s Arthur Bellamy?” I was asked on Saturday just before kick off, admittedly this wasn’t from a Burnley supporter. Even so, I can understand younger supporters not being too aware of him. It’s approaching 46 years since he last kicked a ball for Burnley and it won’t be too far from twenty years since the day his coaching roles came to an end, roles that had seem him take charge of the youth team and, for almost three years, work as assistant manager to Brian Miller during the second half of the 1980s.
Arthur was from Blackhill in County Durham but came to Burnley in February 1958 for a trial with Burnley Football Club having been spotted by North East scout Jack Hixon. He arrived in Burnley in the very same week that Harry Potts returned to become manager.
The trial went well and Arthur was taken on, eventually landing himself a professional deal on his 17th birthday in April 1959. But such was the quality of player we had at the time, he had something of a wait before he made the first team. It came just 20 days before his 21st birthday. Burnley were searching for a replacement for the recently sold Jimmy McIlroy when he was named in the team that won 5-2 at Manchester City. Arthur announced his arrival with the fifth goal.
That was in March 1963 and he went on to make exactly 250 league and cup appearances for Burnley, the last of them coming close to home at Sunderland in April 1972 after which he was left out of the side. That summer he moved to Chesterfield where he ended his playing career.
There were some very impressive performances in those 250 Burnley appearances and I’m sure the two highlights would be his two hat tricks. The second of them was at home in a 6-1 win against Orient in his last season but the first was a bit special. It came in a 4-3 win at Everton on an afternoon where we led 4-1. Brian Miller scored the other in what was Everton’s first home defeat in over two years.
At Leicester in 1966 he was employed as a sweeper, the first time Burnley had opted to play with the extra man at the back. It didn’t work; we lost 5-1 and the idea was quickly scrapped. It wasn’t his toughest game though as a Claret, that came in late 1968 when, with Burnley leading 2-1, he scored an own goal that ultimately led to Swindon beating us in the semi-final replay and going on to win the League Cup.
He played for Chesterfield for four years before hanging up his boots and he then became a familiar figure back in Burnley, first as a milkman and then running the wooden hut chippy at Lane Head.
That was until 1979 when he answered a call from Potts to return as youth team coach and he spent the remainder of his working life back with Burnley Football Club. He stepped down from coaching at one point but then returned when he became Miller’s assistant before returning to the pitches to work during Frank Casper’s return as manager.
I’m not exactly sure when I first got to know him but it was likely in the 1980s when I lost count of the number of times I sat with him and George Bray talking football in some little room in the cricket field stand. Arthur’s wonderful sense of humour stood out.
There can’t be many who go from First Division footballer, to assistant manager and then to groundsman although I do recall that Billy Gray, who we sold to Nottingham Forest in 1957, went on to hold the position of groundsman at both Notts County and Forest.
He’d lived at Gawthorpe for a while when he told me that his wife Maureen was not in favour of living there. Years later he said she loved it so much it would be difficult getting her to move out.
Standing on the touchline with him at Gawthorpe on so many occasions, I learned so much about the game from him. He talked to me about some of the managers who’d been and gone and maybe it would surprise you which ones held his respect.
I know one manager who very definitely thought a lot about Arthur and that was Steve Cotterill. Back in 2007, Burnley FC Supporters Groups decided to present an annual special achievement award. Arthur was the first ever recipient of that award and Cotterill was delighted when I asked him if he would make the presentation on the night.
The Bellamy humour was never far away though. One Saturday morning he told me he’d been invited to Ewood to sit in a box on the previous Saturday, an invitation sent to him and Maureen from his old pal and Burnley team mate Mick Buxton.
It came to a head a couple of days before when Maureen asked if they were going. Arthur said something like: “I don’t think so. I don’t like going there and in any case, Buxton’s a boring old fart.” You just knew he and Buxton were good friends; he wouldn’t have said that about him otherwise.
Sadly, Arthur became ill and he wasn’t seen much on a Saturday morning at the youth games, but I do recall the last time I spoke to him. I’m going to do a bit of name dropping here but alongside us on the touchline were Jimmy Robson, Martin Dobson and Vince & Alison Overson. I had a really good chat with Arthur but it was clear everything wasn’t right; his speech was very slurred, although I felt reassured that he was not as ill as some had suggested. “He’s not so bad,” I said but, Alison reminded me: “He’s having a good day.”
In early 2014, I received an email from a mutual friend who told me he was in the hospice and on 22nd January came the sad news that he’d passed away at the age of 71. “A truly nice guy,” someone said of him that day on the message board. I don’t think I could have found better words.
When the youth foundation donated some funds to build a platform over the old brick dug outs for filming the youth games, the youth staff, led by the likes of Jeff Taylor, Andy Farrell, Terry Pashley and Overson, always jokingly referred to it as the Arthur Bellamy Stand. It’s gone now, knocked down during the fantastic work that’s been done at our training ground over the last couple of years.
Every single time I visit, I think of Arthur Bellamy and despite all the work that’s been done on it, making it look so different, I’ve always continued to refer to the new media center as Arthur’s Bungalow. I was thrilled to bits last week when I saw the signage. I suspect Arthur might have wondered what all the fuss was about but I bet he’d be damn proud that his football club thought so much about him.
What a brilliant gesture from Burnley Football Club.Follow UpTheClarets:
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