Bramall Lane start for Adamson’s promoted Clarets
The Football League published the eagerly awaited fixtures for the 1973/74 season with the Clarets scheduled to play Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the opening game on Saturday, 25th August 1973.
Yes, Burnley’s return to the top flight of English football would get underway at what was still a three sided ground and where the last ever cricket match would take place, that between Yorkshire and Lancashire, earlier in the month. For the cricket fans reading, the Roses match was rain affected and ended less than three weeks before our visit. It ended in a tame draw. Yorkshire won the toss and batted but were bowled out for 99. Lancs scored just 111 in reply and by close of play on the third and final day, Yorkshire had reached 114/2 in their second innings.
The Sheffield United game was to be followed by two home games against Chelsea and Coventry and we’d been given a big Boxing Day home game against the previous season’s champions Liverpool.
The announcing of the fixtures was nothing like it is today with the date known well in advance and an embargo until 9 a.m. It was just a case of them suddenly appearing, unannounced, in the local press, and, on releasing them, the Burnley Express were also able to confirm our entry into another competition and a surprise addition alongside the pre-season programme when there would be another trophy at stake.
The players were due back for pre-season training on Thursday, 26th July, just over four weeks before the first league game and manager Jimmy Adamson revealed that we would play four pre-season games, all of them away from Turf Moor. The team were off to Cornwall with the first game on Saturday, 11th August at Penzance. Three days later it was into Devon for game number two at Torquay. Just 24 hours later, and after some amount of travelling, we were to play Kettering.
Then, and this news came right out of the blue, on Saturday, 18th August, we would be going to Maine Road to face Manchester City to compete for the FA Charity Shield. This curtain raiser was usually played by the League Champions and FA Cup Winners (Liverpool and Sunderland in 1973) but it was becoming a pattern that teams were turning down the invitation to take part. Both Liverpool and Sunderland did just that and so holders Manchester City were invited to host the game against Second Division champions Burnley.
Burnley also revealed that we’d been invited to compete in the Texaco Cup. We’d played in the competition three seasons previously but went out in the first round after we saw a 3-1 home victory turned over by Hearts at Tynecastle where the home side won the second leg 4-1.
On the transfer front, and with Peter Noble signed there were still hopes for further increases to the newly promoted squad but Adamson, somewhat contentedly, gave hints that he’d got the players he wanted for the assault on the First Division although he said things could change with two months to go before we reached Bramall Lane.
That news brought concern from supporters. Burnley were never over active in the transfer market although only two of the regular starting eleven in the promotion season had come through the youth system, they being Mick Docherty and Leighton James. It was considered that to have any chance of retaining our place back in the top flight there would need to be more new faces to add to Peter Noble whose signing had hardly captured the imagination. The league had made it more difficult too for clubs fighting against relegation with the number of clubs to go down increased from two to three.
There was absolutely no doubt that we needed to bring in more new players ahead of that game at Bramall Lane where our last league win had come as far back as October 1955 when goals from Albert Cheesebrough and Bobby Burke had given us a 2-1 win. Since that game, our only victory there had come in the sixth round of the FA Cup in 1962 when we won 1-0 with a Ray Pointer goal. Alongside that FA Cup win had come a League Cup defeat in 1966 and in the league we’d won just one point from seven games to follow that 1955 win. We were set to open the season at a ground that was very definitely not a good one for us.
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