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Back in September 1965, Burnley travelled to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle United in a First Division fixture. We come home with a disappointing result but with chairman Bob Lord and manager Harry Potts fuming at the way the home side had played.

We’d started the season well and led the table after eight games. Five wins, two draws and just the one defeat, that a 1-0 reverse at Everton, gave us 12 points, one more than all of Leeds, Stoke, West Brom and Sheffield United.

Newcastle, newly promoted from the Second Division, were down in 17th place with six points and had won just one of their four home games and that had come against Northampton, the team promoted with them.

But despite two Andy Lochhead goals, Burnley lost the game 3-2 and left chairman Bob Lord, in particular, a very angry man. He stormed out of his seat at the end of the game and said: “Newcastle are the roughest team we have played this season. Their tactics will win them nothing. They should be playing in a menagerie. We will have to take a team of elephants there next time.”

Gordon Harris showing the injuries he sustained
Gordon Harris showing the injuries he sustained

Keith McNee was covering the game for the Burnley Express and he said, in response to those who thought Lord’s words were sour grapes: “One can well understand the reason for his outburst and there is no doubt at all that he was voicing the feelings of Burnley players and supporters.

“Even from the heights of the press box on the roof of the stand, parts of this match were painful to watch. I shudder to think what it was like to play in. It was almost as if Newcastle had decided: ‘We’ll teach this lot to go to the top of the First Division. Victory at any price today!’

“Well Burnley learned their lesson well and truly. If this is what comes of being the league leaders they will probably be satisfied to stay NEAR the top in future and honestly, I wouldn’t blame them.”

Joe Harvey, the Newcastle manager, was, of course, having none of it. He claimed two of his players had suffered injuries and that it was a case of six and two threes. Burnley, however, had worse problems and we returned home with the following confirmed casualty list.

Gordon Harris – severe bruises to ankle, knee, thigh, back and shoulders
Willie Irvine – black eye and broken nose
John Talbut – bruised knee and calf
Alex Elder – damaged shin
Brian Miller – swollen ankle

Burnley took the unprecedented action of publishing photographs of the injuries. The board of directors studied them and sent them to the Football League for their observations. Manager Harry Potts emphasised that the main purpose of the pictures was to let the public see what some footballers had to put up with.

“The pictures show clearly that complaints about rough play made by us after the game were justified,” Potts said. “We didn’t exaggerate in the slightest,” and on the Harris injuries, he added: “He is black and blue, with stud marks from his legs to his shoulders, and his thigh is a terrible mess. I don’t want to cause a fuss, but this has happened and the public should know.”

Potts said supporters would be horrified to learn that Harris’s injuries were caused by one attempted tackle when he was in the act of trying to head the ball.

Who was right? Were Newcastle out of order or was it a case of six and two threes as suggested by Harvey?

One week later, Newcastle drew 1-1 at Chelsea who, then, were managed by Tommy Docherty. After the game, there were exactly the same complaints from the London Club. Docherty blasted: “Mr Lord was not exaggerating. They are a menagerie.”

Docherty went on to say that in four years as a manager he had never seen anything so bad in the way of fouls, provocation and weak refereeing, and that Newcastle’s methods would drive people away from football.

Harvey said: “There was nothing to get upset about. With players today there is a lot of grimacing and acting. What is seen from the stands and what happens on the field is a different story.”

Burnley and Chelsea both accused Newcastle and Harvey of treating it all too flippantly.

Burnley’s team at St. James’ Park was: Harry Thomson, John Angus, Alex Elder, Brian O’Neil, John Talbut, Brian Miller, Willie Morgan, Andy Lochhead, Willie Irvine, Gordon Harris, Arthur Bellamy. Sub: Len Kinsella (not used).

It’s interesting that, despite the apparent methods employed by Newcastle, we didn’t make a substitution. It’s also interesting that one week later we fielded the same eleven in a 2-0 home win against West Brom.

When Burnley next played at Newcastle we drew 1-1 with Harris giving us the lead. There were no elephants in a team that showed just three changes to the one from this game with Fred Smith, Sammy Todd and Ralph Coates replacing John Angus, John Talbut and Arthur Bellamy. We were again top of the league.

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