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In the autumn of 1950, Burnley had suffered a run of six consecutive Division One games without a win but that was all put right with an exhilarating performance at Turf Moor in mid October with Charlton Athletic beaten 5-1.

One week later, on the 21st, we were due at Roker Park for an away game against Sunderland with supporters expecting manager Frank HIll to name the same team, but that was not the case with us selling inside-forward Harry Potts to Everton in the week leading up to the game.

progs5051 sunderland away frontHarry had been a regular in the side throughout the post-war period and there was no doubt the supporters of the time knew he would take replacing. The big question was whether we would reshuffle the pack or make a signing; we did neither. Two days before the game, the club confirmed that his place would be taken by teenage rookie Jimmy McIlroy who would make his debut.

If he is successful, as we all hope he will be, he may be the answer,” it said in the Burnley Express. “It is asking a great deal of a youngster who needs experience. This is his first step towards gaining it.”

And so, this youngster, of whom many had high hopes, lined up for the first team at Roker Park in a game that ended 1-1 and one that would have been won with kinder administration, according to our local reports who commented that Burnley played well and Sunderland played hard with the Roker men being satisfied and the Clarets feeling that they had been robbed.

Official control of the game left much to be desired and far too many bruises were collected as unwanted and unwarranted souvenirs. The Sunderland defence was more robust than classy, and no quarter was asked or given by either side.

The Burnley inside-forwards, Billy Morris and McIlroy, came in for rough treatment. Young Jimmy’s debut could be described as a Baptism by the Boot, but Burnley’s spasms of attacking brilliance owed much to the trickery of the youthful Irishman and the thoughtful ball play of Morris.

McIlroy combined the craft of the veteran with the enthusiasm of the youngster. His passing was accurate, particularly his through ball and the diagonal pass; he thought fast, moved quickly with the genius of anticipation and helped to make the line go. His inclusion in the side was a bold move, but it was justified, and on this display the youngster can be classified as a discovery. He took more hard knocks than a boy has a right to expect on an initial experience in Division 1 football, and remained limping slightly but undeterred.

It was Morris who engineered our goal just ten minutes in for Bill Holden. It came from a sample of his artistry. He killed the ball, feinted one way, kidded John Mapson that he was about to shoot and slipped a short pass to his centre-forward HOLDEN who crashed it into the net first time.

Then came the poor administration with two particularly poor decisions. Holden went through, drew Mapson and dribbled round the sprawling goalkeeper. He was about to shoot into the empty net when Mapson grabbed his leg and pulled him down. The referee looked at his linesman, but no action was taken. The crowd laughed as well it might.

The second decision assumed even graver proportions. Sunderland centre-forward Davis never attempted to reach a ball into the penalty box. He bent forward so that Reg Attwell, standing immediately behind him, was forced into putting his hands on Davis’ back as he was jumping. A penalty was awarded with the indignant Attwell protesting.

Right-back Jack STELLING took the kick and scored off the underside of the bar for the equaliser which earned Sunderland their much undeserved point.

But, overall, it had been a good day for Burnley. It was a performance to enthuse everyone along with the excellent debut from McIlroy.

“More football of this vintage from the Clarets and the crowds will again be clamouring for admission to Turf Moor, but referees will have to protect the ball player from those who are more indiscriminate. The game is supposed to be football, not all-in wrestling,” wrote Sportsman in the Burnley Express.

The teams were;

Sunderland: John Mapson, Jack Stelling, Arthur Hudgell, Willie Watson, Billy Walsh, Arthur Wright, Len Duns, Tommy Wright, Dick Davis, Ivor Broadis, Tommy Reynolds.

Burnley: Jimmy Strong, Arthur Woodruff, Harold Mather, Reg Attwell, Tommy Cummings, George Bray, Roy Stephenson, Billy Morris, Bill Holden, Jimmy McIlroy, Jack Hays.

Referee: Mr F. B. Coultas (Hull).

Attendance: 38,983.

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