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Third in the First Division as Christmas approached in 1973, Burnley fell to a 2-0 defeat against Manchester City who had started the game in fifteenth position.

Burnley supporters were used to players being sold and just a couple of days before this game, two more left when Brighton manager Brian Clough swooped to sign reserve team players, full back Harry Wilson and midfielder Ronnie Welch.

They went in a deal that brought a fee in the region of £60,000 for a deal that went through very quickly. The two players were only told about it after training. Both then spent half an hour with Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor before signing on the dotted line.

Welch said: “I’m still shocked by the whole deal. I didn’t have a clue that anything was in the air until lunchtime, but once I’d spoken to Brian Clough I had no doubts about signing. I’ve never been to Brighton, and to be quite honest I’m not really sure where it is. But it’s first team football and that’s the important thing.”

Wilson said of the move: “I always thought I could make it at Burnley, but with the present team doing so well, obviously I would have had to wait my chance. This was the opportunity of guaranteed first team football so I took it.”

Wilson went on to have the better career at Brighton, playing 130 league games for them before moving on to Preston, Darlington and Hartlepool while Welch played just 36 games before ending his career with some games with his home town club Chesterfield.

Meanwhile Burnley chairman Bob Lord was about to go into battle with the FA and their secretary Ted Croker following a proposal to allow Sunday football for the first time because of the energy crisis. “He’s done this off his own bat,” Lord blasted at Croker’s suggestion. “There isn’t support in the rest of the country for such a move.”

Lord continued: “We don’t want Sunday football in this country. It would cause a lot of upset and the idea of increasing the attendances at matches would be a failure. I could not be more sure of anything than I am about that. I shall do everything in my power to make sure that such a step is not taken.”

Croker’s view was: “If we could play on Sundays it would solve a lot of problems. I would like to see it applied permanently and I’m sure the majority of people want it. They play on Sundays in most other countries in the world and yet we are still bound by outmoded ideas.”

Harry Wilson and Ronnie Welch ready for the Brighton move

That was guaranteed a response from Lord and it got one. His reaction was: “Nothing we have ever copied from European football has ever done us any good. Just because they do it in Europe does not mean that we should follow suit. We may be in the Common Market but that doesn’t mean we should lose our individuality in football matter. Why should we give up our birthright?”

Meanwhile the game at Manchester City was played on a Saturday, kicking off at 2 p.m. It ended in defeat mainly because we failed to take our first half chances. For the first half hour or so of the game, we played some superb football but as the half time interval approached we had nothing to show for our clear superiority.

Again, as had been the case in the games against Norwich, we were blocked time again by an outstanding goalkeeping performance, this time Manchester City’s Keith MacRae who they had recently signed from Motherwell.

He made outstanding saves to keep out first a header and then a shot from Ray Hankin before producing the save of the day to keep out a point blank volley from Paul Fletcher. The only time we did beat him, again through Fletcher, Tommy Booth was there to clear off the line.

Precious little had been seen of the City attack but seven minutes before half time, the outstanding Colin Waldron made his one mistake, allowing Rodney Marsh to force his way past him on the goal line, allowing Marsh to cross for Colin BELL to head into goal.

Burnley were aggrieved because just a minute earlier, they had been denied the clearest of penalties by Swansea referee Tom Reynolds when Glyn Pardoe floored Fletcher.

The second half was much more difficult for us having fallen behind. Jimmy Adamson said after the game: “I could sense at half time that the players were psychologically shattered after playing so well and finding themselves a goal down.”

Undoubtedly, we couldn’t find any rhythm or fluency as City themselves started to play and Marsh in particular, with his bag of tricks, penned us back for long spells. This time it was Alan Stevenson keeping the score down but with twenty minutes remaining we were beaten when DOYLE scored their second with a powerful header from Mike Summerbee’s corner.

City even scored a third through Francis Lee, or thought they had, only for it to be ruled out for an infringement.

It wasn’t Burnley’s day and brought a fourth league defeat of the season.

The teams were;

Manchester City: Keith MacRae, Glyn Pardoe, Willie Donachie, Mike Doyle, Tommy Booth, Tony Towers, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, Rodney Marsh, Francis Lee, Dennis Leman, Sub not used: Frank Carrodus.

Burnley: Alan Stevenson, Peter Noble, Keith Newton, Martin Dobson, Colin Waldron, Geoff Nulty, Billy Ingham, Ray Hankin, Paul Fletcher, Doug Collins, Leighton James. Sub not used: Billy Rodaway.

Referee: Mr T. Reynolds (Swansea).

Attendance: 28,114.

There was a new name at the head of the scoring charts alongside Mick Channon, that of Sheffield United’s Alan Woodward who scored a hat trick against Channon’s team in a 4-2 win. Both had twelve goals, one ahead of Mick Jones who had scored eleven for Leeds.

Burnley remained in third place but now just two points clear of Derby and three points ahead of the next five in the table.

First Division Results

Saturday 22nd December 1973
Arsenal 1 Everton 0
Coventry 1 Leicester 2
Derby 2 Tottenham 0
Ipswich 3 Birmingham 0
Leeds 1 Norwich 0
Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0
Manchester City 2 Burnley 0
QPR 3 Newcastle 2
Sheffield United 4 Southampton 2
West Ham 0 Stoke 2
Wolves 2 Chelsea 0

Burnley Goalscorers (League)

5: Paul Fletcher
4: Ray Hankin
3: Frank Casper, Doug Collins, Martin Dobson, Geoff Nulty, Colin Waldron
2: Leighton James
1: Billy Ingham

Burnley Goalscorers (Cups)

7: Leighton James
6; Ray Hankin
5: Paul Fletcher, Peter Noble
3: Geoff Nulty
2: Colin Waldron
1: Doug Collins, Martin Dobson

First Division Leading Goalscorers

12: Mick Channon (Southampton), Alan Woodward (Sheffield United)
11: Mick Jones (Leeds)
10: Stan Bowles (QPR)
9: Tommy Baldwin (Chelsea)
8: Martin Chivers (Tottenham), Derek Dougan (Wolves), Malcolm MacDonald (Newcastle), Peter Osgood (Chelsea)
7: Billy Bremner (Leeds), Allan Clarke (Leeds), Roger Davies (Derby), David Johnson (Ipswich), Kevin Keegan (Liverpool), Mick Lambert (Ipswich), Frank Worthington (Leicester)

League Table

Pos Team pld w d l f a ga pts
 
1 Leeds 21 15 6 0 40 11 3.64 36
2 Liverpool 21 12 5 4 27 16 1.69 29
3 Burnley 20 10 6 4 27 19 1.42 26
4 Derby 21 9 6 6 24 20 1.20 24
5 Leicester 21 8 7 6 26 22 1.18 23
6 QPR 21 7 9 5 33 28 1.18 23
7 Everton 21 8 7 6 23 20 1.15 23
8 Ipswich 20 9 5 6 32 30 1.07 23
9 Southampton 21 8 7 6 28 29 0.97 23
10 Newcastle 20 9 4 7 30 24 1.25 22
11 Arsenal 22 8 6 8 26 28 0.93 22
12 Coventry 22 9 4 9 24 27 0.89 22
13 Sheffield United 20 7 6 7 27 25 1.08 20
14 Manchester City 20 8 4 8 23 22 1.05 20
15 Chelsea 20 7 4 9 32 28 1.14 18
16 Wolves 21 6 5 10 25 32 0.78 17
17 Tottenham 21 6 5 10 21 32 0.66 17
18 Stoke 20 5 6 9 27 26 1.04 16
19 Manchester United 20 4 6 10 17 25 0.68 14
20 Birmingham 20 4 5 11 21 37 0.57 13
21 Norwich 20 2 8 10 13 28 0.46 12
22 West Ham 21 2 7 12 18 35 0.51 11
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