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The floodlights at Turf Moor were upgraded three years ago to bring them into line with the new regulations in the Premier League but it is only around sixty years ago that night games weren’t even possible at Burnley until we joined other clubs by moving into the modern era with the installation of our first ever floodlights.

progs5758 blackburnf home frontOurs were on throughout the game last Saturday and that seems to be a policy now although the effect of the current, modern lighting only becomes evident when we play night games or towards the end of afternoon games in the winter months.

It’s hard to believe now that back in the 1950s, afternoon kick offs had to be brought forward during those winter months, usually to 2:15 p.m., while midweek games kicked off at the same time, and that often included big FA Cup replays.

We weren’t at the front of the queue when it came to installing lights but the decision was made to go ahead in 1957 and as the end of the year approached, so did the big switch on. “It should be quite an inspiring spectacle,” Sportsman reported in the Burnley Express who explained that three of the new pylons would be 150 feet high with the fourth 165 feet because ground level was lower at the Bee Hole corner with Brunshaw Road.

The Express also added that it would allow occasional evening matches to be played while it would also enable a later kick off time for afternoon games fixtures, in turn, could bring higher attendances, and they confirmed that a secondary lighting system would be in place to allow spectators to make their way to their places on the ground and leave safely.

It was customary back then to have a big switch on at a specially arranged game and ours took place on 16th December 1957 when we invited our local rivals Blackburn Rovers to play the inaugural floodlight game at Turf Moor. This game was to kick off at 7:30 p.m. which would be a great help to the Blackburn people and, prior to the game, because of the excitement of it all, Rovers had asked for as much stand accommodation as possible.

A full rehearsal was held on the previous evening in the presence of Mr R. W. Lord (chairman), Mr R. Cook JP (vice-chairman) and other members of the board of directors. They expressed themselves as being highly satisfied although a few minor adjustments would have to be made.

It was such an important event that both Burnley and Blackburn agreed to play their full teams on this historic evening with Burnley fans excited that the club was coming into line with most of the big clubs in the country.

A 1960s league game under the lights This image has been used with permission from Burnley Civic Trust's Image Archive,
A 1960s league game under the lights
This image has been used with permission from Burnley Civic Trust’s Image Archive,

The Burnley Express commented ahead of the game: “Blackburn Rovers supporters, who are expected to form a commendable proportion of the gate, are more concerned with the maintaining of a reputation which is understandable. Their team has missed promotion narrowly in the past few seasons. They are still challenging for top place in Division 2, but they are still members of a lower league and it will be in the nature of a trial of strength as well as a meeting of local rivals.”

Unfortunately, we disappointed our supporters on the night with a poor performance on a pitch that had been turned into a skating rink which ended any hopes of an entertaining game. Our opponents were prepared to take more risks and won it 1-0. The only goal was scored when Bobby Seith handled an awkward centre from Ally MacLeod with Bryan Douglas scoring from the resultant penalty given by Burnley referee Mr R. P. Hartley.

The teams were;

Burnley: Colin McDonald, David Smith, Doug Winton, Bobby Seith, Jimmy Adamson, Les Shannon, Doug Newlands, Jimmy McIlroy, Alan Shackleton, Albert Cheesebrough, Brian Pilkington.

Blackburn: Harry Leyland, Ken Taylor, Bill Smith, Ronnie Clayton, Matt Woods, Mick McGrath, Bryan Douglas, Roy Stephenson, Tommy Briggs, Roy Vernon, Ally MacLeod.

Attendance: 16,575.

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