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On 1st April 1972, Burnley travelled to Bloomfield Road for a Second Division game against Blackpool at a time when any hopes of promotion at the first attempt looked all but over.

A poor run after the New Year had seen us win just three of eleven league games without a solitary point on the road and we travelled to the Fylde Coast some twelve points behind the two promotion places at a time when there were only two points for a win.

Jimmy Adamson is escorted to the coach on Bloomfield Road
Jimmy Adamson is escorted to the coach on Bloomfield Road

I was over eleven years into my time of watching Burnley and had never previously witnessed the crowd being against the manager. Harry Potts had been hugely popular but was shunted out of the way to allow Jimmy Adamson to take over, a decision that the supporters were far from happy with but it had been the result of a power struggle with Adamson having bought favour with chairman Bob Lord.

He immediately told us we would be the ‘Team of the Seventies’ and promptly, in his first full season in charge, took us down after 24 successive years in the top flight. The 1971/72 season saw me travelling to new grounds such as Brunton Park, Carlisle and Ashton Gate, Bristol City and their fans weren’t happy with the manager either with constant chants for his removal. His name was Alan DICKS.

We’d been reasonably placed for a while, with Adamson’s promise of an immediate return, but now we didn’t have any chance of going up with rumblings of discontent after a 1-1 home draw against Fulham in which Doug Collins (pictured) had scored our goal.

Adamson turned on the fans. He accused them of aiming their vitriol at Harry Wilson. This was our young full back and not the Gannex wearing, pipe smoking Labour party leader of the time.

Adamson blasted: “They can shout for my resignation as much as they like. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Just water off a duck’s back, but when they start roasting at a kid who has only just started in the game it makes me sick. I pulled Wilson off at half time to save him being crucified by the fans.”

I suppose he couldn’t have used a better word than crucified in Easter week but the fans retaliated with letters to the Burnley Express. One wrote: “The players at Burnley no longer have any faith in the management. This is evident every time I watch them play.”

Another wrote: “After reading Mr Adamson’s intolerable remarks about Turf Moor faithfuls I must make comments in return. I have watched Burnley since 1932 and the Fulham fixture was the worst I’ve seen in those forty years.”

Surely this was as bad as it would get, I thought, and an Easter Saturday in Blackpool was just the way to kick start things again. They’d come down with us and had just one more point.

If I had any confidence at all, it had been completely drained by half time. By then the score was Blackpool 4 Burnley 0. Alan Suddick had scored while Keith Dyson, who was to become a work colleague in the 1980s, helped himself to a hat trick.

No matter what Adamson might have said, the abuse was aimed in exactly the same direction as had been the case the week before – at the manager.

It might have got worse. Suddick missed a penalty at the start of the second half and by the final whistle we’d reduced their lead to 4-2 with two Frank Casper goals.

I’ve never seen anything quite like the scenes outside the ground as Burnley fans surrounded the team coach for some considerable time after the game. When Adamson surfaced, protected by several police officers, the level of abuse was staggering.

“Are you going to sack him?” one fan asked chairman Lord when he came out. Lord laughed in his face and then told him: “We don’t need fans like you,” clearly pointing the entire crowd.

Two days later it all happened again at Sunderland’s Roker Park. Amazingly we were 3-1 up with just 13 minutes to go but three minutes later we trailed 4-3 and that’s how it finished. The protest was only more subdued because of the smaller numbers.

Lord’s comments then took some believing. He blasted: “The current situation could mean a stay in the second division for a few seasons. It is not the fault of Jimmy Adamson that our youth policy has not, over the last five years, produced the players of the quality it should have done. As I have said before, not once but many times, Burnley FC started slipping up in the early sixties by not bringing through enough youths at the right time.

“I have already accepted full responsibility for this situation on behalf of the board at the time and of the club itself. There are other people to blame for it but that batch of people to blame does not include Jimmy Adamson.”

That left supporters fuming but it was almost like a magic wand being waved. We played again on the following night to complete the Easter schedule and beat Charlton 3-1 at home. It was the first of six remaining games and incredibly all six were won. We beat Watford 3-0, Millwall 2-0 and Preston 1-0, all at home, and won away games at Swindon 2-0 and Portsmouth 2-1. We finished 7th but remained ten points behind the second promotion team.

It was followed up by a Lancashire County Cup success, winning a replay 3-0 against Manchester United in the final, and then a young Burnley team travelled to the North East and won a youth tournament against Sheffield United, Sunderland, West Ham, Standard Liege, Offenbach Kickers and Dunkirk.

Had the clouds lifted? Certainly we were set for almost three years of fantastic football with the same manager at the helm. Blackpool had been forgotten. Some managers have taken criticism since at Burnley, none more so than Brian Laws, but all of them have escaped considerably easier than Adamson did on that 1st day of April in 1972.

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