Burnley Football Club are Champions of England
When Burnley kicked off the 1959/60 season in August I don’t think too many envisaged that a 2-1 win in the last game of the season against Manchester City at Maine Road would see us crowned champions.
The 1958/59 season had seen us finish in a very creditable seventh place in what was manager Mr Harry Potts’ first full season in charge. The new, 1959/60 season started with two wins, first at Leeds in blistering heat and then the first home game against on the following Tuesday night against Everton. Those results left Burnley top of the league, even if for just 24 hours, and incredibly we weren’t to top the league again until the night when we won the championship.
This story has been one of great football, some fantastic wins, none more so than the beating of Spurs at home at a time when they were top of the league, and some disappointments along the way, and we can’t forget the hammering at Wolves and the cup defeat at Blackburn.
It all ended in triumph and it has been superb looking back over the past nine months or so, through a drought, a General Election, some rather strange events and the court proceedings of sixty years ago, and so to Maine Road for the night of Monday, 2nd May 1960, when Burnley Football Club became Champions of England for a second time.
Thousands upon thousands of Burnley folk made their way to Manchester. Many who got into a packed Maine Road saw very little due to the huge crowd but they were there to witness one of the most remarkable occasions in the history of the club. So many others weren’t quite so fortunate and were left outside to listen for the news coming from within.
This was where, thirteen years earlier, we’d beaten Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final replay to reach Wembley Stadium for the first time, so a place already with happy memories.
Among the crowd was the Wolves manager Mr Stan Cullis. He was hoping for a Manchester City win or a draw that would mean his own team would be crowned champions for a third successive season and potentially double winners with their FA Cup final to come five days later.
If anyone thought this was going to be an easy night against one of the poorer teams in the division, they were disappointed. Burnley were forced to fight every inch of the way; the Light Blues could not have fought with more verve and energy.
Burnley had been criticised for the oft failing of taking matches too leisurely when they could only draw against Fulham but they could not be accused of any haphazard, easy going negligence in this match although the nervous start made by both teams was not helped in ball control or accurate passing by the uneven and grassless surface of the pitch.
City began to suffer more from the greatness of the occasion than did Burnley, if their irresponsible clearances were any criterion. They had nothing to lose except match bonus and they played as if they wanted that and Burnley’s as well if they could get it. They were fierce, but inaccurate with much of their work, while Burnley attempted to use the ball with some purpose.
However, Burnley received tremendous encouragement from a shock fourth minute goal. It came from the eighth throw-in (that in itself being an indication of the liveliness of the ball as against the subdued skill of the players). Alex Elder and Jimmy Robson pushed it on and Brian PILKINGTON cut in along near the bye-line, hit a low centre across the face of the goal. The ball appeared to touch goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, who had moved too near the post, and it finished inside the net by the far upright.
City hit back with a tremendous attack as if scarcely believing that they could suffer such an insult at such a time. They hammered the ball down the middle and out to the wings, but Burnley were watchful as well as jubilant, and were not inclined to be caught by the sudden change of direction or the individual dart through.
A free kick midway in the Burnley half brought a City equaliser. Denis Law (who looked in an offside position) missed connecting properly with the chip over the defence and the ball bounced to Joe HAYES, who gave Adam Blacklaw no chance.
Both Burnley wingmen were finding progress far from easy against the hard tackling and once Pilkington was brought down by a trio of light blue battlers. McIlroy, with strapping on his right thigh, veered and dodged and did his best to calm the hectic pace to one which could be moulded into some semblance of ordered skill, but what with the determined opposition of City he could find the skill if not the speed, but some of his evasive action was breathtaking and magnificent.
Trautmann made a blinding tip over the bar from Robson, who was destined to be robbed of a goal in the second half when the ‘keeper diverted an over-head kick which looked a scorer all the way.
Burnley scored their second goal following a heavy Dave Ewing foul on Ray Pointer. Tommy Cummings took the free kick, there was bobbing about on the mid-left and then Ken Branagan sliced the ball into his own area where lurked that little opportunist Trevor MEREDITH, right in the thick of the fray, poised and waiting and he smacked the ball into the net just inside the post.
It was during the second period of the game that Burnley really became on top. City still fought but the dominance of the Burnley half-back line told its own tale, despite some dazzling footwork from Law, the fair-haired Scottish genius with a remarkable change of pace.
City tried the long ball down the middle from Ewing and the wing-halves, but Cummings, who played a great game in conjunction with Jimmy Adamson and John Angus, either met the challenge with head or foot clearances or pushed it back to Blacklaw.
City were dangerous too, with the push to the wing and diagonal pass or the square ball which sped towards hurtling heads and bodies in the Burnley goal area. Then it was that Blacklaw rose to the occasion with some darting snatches just as the crowd were breaking into the goal roar, and it was Burnley’s turn to cheer as the ball was sent back into the City half, to give their defence something to be anxious about.
The crowd at the covered end began to chant “White ball! White ball! White ball!” over and over again, for it was extremely difficult to follow the flight at times under the peculiarity of the Maine Road lights. And the referee signalled a change, amid a mighty cheer which pleased both friend and foe. But soon the tenseness returned. Burnley hung on to that precious lead. City fought for the equaliser, the vital goal which would re-make a Wolverhampton Wanderers championship.
Time ticked on, 15 minutes to go. Burnley in danger from a Light Blues corner. Blacklaw turns another over the bar. McIlroy tries his own possession-keeping dodge near the corner flag. Then 10 minutes to go, another City corner, the attack broken and siege relieved by Brian Miller, Meredith and Pilkington. Then eight left and Burnley foiled by Trautmann. A minute later, a City injury, play stopped and Trautmann takes the chance to confer with two defenders.
Six minutes, a scoring opportunity for Law following a free-kick but he overruns the ball and Burnley breathe again. Five minutes, City still attacking and Blacklaw makes a brilliant intervention. Three anxious minutes left, a Burnley corner but City hit back again and once more Blacklaw saves the situation.
At last the final whistle blows and a vast cheer rolls round the packed ground. Claret and blue supporters, blue and white also, ignore the police and converge on the players. Burnley receive the congratulations of the City, who have given them such a tremendous tussle.
Burnley had become Champions of England with the team invited into the Maine Road boardroom for a celebratory glass of champagne before making a triumphant return that night into Burnley.
The teams were;
Manchester City: Bert Trautmann, Ken Branagan, Cliff Sear, Ken Barnes, Dave Ewing, Alan Oakes, Colin Barlow, George Hannah, Joe Hayes, Denis Law, Clive Colbridge.
Burnley: Adam Blacklaw, John Angus, Alex Elder, Jimmy Adamson, Tommy Cummings, Brian Miller, Trevor Meredith, Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson, Brian Pilkington.
Referee: Mr T. H. Gerrard (Preston).
Final League Table