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The sad news has reached us this evening of the passing of former Claret Ian Britton at the age of 61 following a long and brave battle against cancer.

Britt, for whom Burnley was his last club, will always be remembered by Clarets for his goal on 9th May 1987. It gave us a 2-0 lead against Orient on the last day of the season and the eventual 2-1 win was enough to ensure we stayed in the Football League going into its centenary year.

I place that goal alongside those scored by Bert Freeman in the 1914 FA Cup Final, Trevor Meredith at Maine Road in 1960 to clinch the title, and Wade Elliott in the play-off final at Wembley in 2009, as the four most important goals in the history of the club.

ian britton goalYou can place them in whichever order you choose, but for me it is Britton’s goal at the top because of the dire consequences had we not won that game.

He was in his first of three seasons at Burnley, initially having arrived from Blackpool on loan, but we were to be his last Football League club.

The Dundee born Britton started his career at Chelsea where he went on to make over 260 league appearances in a decade, scoring 33 goals. He briefly returned to Scotland, playing for both Dundee United and Arbroath, before signing for Blackpool in 1983. He initially went to Bloomfield Road on loan but so impressive was he that manager Sam Ellis made the move permanent.

It was similar when he came to Burnley. He signed in time to line up on the opening day of that fateful 1986/87 season at Torquay with speculation that it would only be a loan deal owing to Burnley’s inability to find the funds to pay for him. Thankfully, that money was found.

I recall the first time I met him. I was working with a Scot at the time by the name of Pete Bracegirdle and he told me he’d been in the same school class as Britton, and asked me to pass on his regards. “Do you remember him?” I asked, to which Britt replied: “How can you ……. forget someone with a name like that.”

Prior to the Orient game he’d scored two goals for us. The first came in a defeat at Tranmere but the second was a vital goal in a 2-2 home draw against Torquay. I’m not sure many will recall that goal but they certainly will the next on the most emotional day I can ever recall as a Claret.

A year after his important goal against Orient he was lining up for us at Wembley in the Sherpa Van Trophy. So much had the club changed that he was one of only two players, the other being Ray Deakin, who had played in the Orient game and who was on the pitch at Wembley, other than Leighton James who who was a Wembley substitute.

Having scored that Orient goal, he went on to score ten goals for us in 108 league games and the last, like the first, was in a 2-1 defeat at Tranmere. This one was a superb finish on the very last occasion we played a game under Brian Miller’s management.

ian brittonAt the end of that 1988/89 season, at the age of 35, he retired from professional football but for some time was involved in local non-league football. He continued to live in the local area after his retirement and was a regular visitor to Turf Moor.

He once said that he’s never had to buy a pint in Burnley since scoring that goal, simply because supporters always wanted to buy one for him.

It was over two years ago that we learned he was suffering from prostate cancer and that it had also affected his bones. A the time he was still playing 5-a-side football but he had to give that up as well as his job at the Seedhill athletics track in Nelson.

Two years ago, at the Supporters Clubs Player of the Year Evening, Britton was presented with the special achievement award, given annually to someone who has made a positive contribution to our club. He received a long and sustained standing ovation as he came to collect the award.

Ian Britton was one of the good guys, of that there is no doubt. He’ll always be remembered at Turf Moor as such and, of course, for the goal that he scored approaching 29 years ago. Everyone with any interest in the Clarets will be forever grateful for the goal he scored that day.

It’s a very sad day for Burnley Football Club and all of us who care about it. My thoughts now are with Ian’s wife Eileen and his family.

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