Jimmy Adamson – February 1970 to January 1976
It was no surprise to anyone when Jimmy Adamson became manager of Burnley. He’d been in waiting for a number of years after retiring from the playing side and becoming a coach at the club. Even so, when the day arrived it was very much out of the blue. No one outside the club was expecting it, although there had been some negotiating going on that had led to the ousting of Harry Potts leaving the way clear for the former captain.
Adamson had been with Burnley since 1946 when he arrived as a young footballer from Ashington in Northumberland. He went on to play almost 500 games for the club. He became captain and led us to the Football League Championship under Potts’ stewardship. He was offered a manager’s job whilst still a player at Burnley, and that was the prestigious position of manager of England. He would have been England’s first ever full time manager but he turned down the opportunity, leaving the Football Association to instead appoint Ipswich boss Alf Ramsey. Adamson had gone to the 1962 World Cup in Chile as Walter Winterbottom’s assistant but that had been his only involvement with the national side and he was never called up to play for his country.
His six years in charge at Burnley got off to a very poor start. It picked up remarkably to turn us into one of the best sides in the country, and then came to an end during another torrid period.
After ending the 1969/70 season Adamson proclaimed, ahead of his first full season in charge, that Burnley would be the ‘Team of the Seventies’ but we were promptly relegated after twenty-four years in the top flight. An average season next time round in the Second Division was only rescued when we won the final six games of the season at a time when the supporters were demonstrating against the manager they never really wanted in the first place. Those wins set the scene for the 1972/73 season as Adamson took us back into the First Division when, remarkably, we were beaten only four times. Just two years after suffering relegation we were back in the top flight.
With new players expected, the only new signing was that of Peter Noble from Swindon. He was a forward at the time but played mainly at right-back in his first season for the injured Mick Docherty as Adamson steered us to an FA Cup semi-final, one probably best not remembered, and a sixth place finish in the league. We missed out on a UEFA Cup place only on goal difference after drawing the final game of the season.
Despite being forced to sell his captain Martin Dobson and then Geoff Nulty, things were looking even better in the following season. Burnley were very much title contenders but injuries in the final few weeks saw us fade away and by the following (1975/76) season we were struggling near the bottom of the league as Leighton James became the next player to be sold.
Before the New Year there were suggestions that all was not well between Bob Lord and Adamson, ironic given that it was these two who perhaps combined to force out Potts. An FA Cup defeat at Blackpool, which ended with regrettable dressing room scenes, gave the chairman the ammunition he needed. Lord had stoutly defended his manager outside Bloomfield Road four seasons earlier but following the cup exit he sacked Adamson bringing his association with Burnley to an end after 30 years.
He was offered the manager’s job at Sparta Rotterdam but turned it down and when he next took charge of a team it was back in his native North East at Sunderland. That was not too far short of a year after he’d left Burnley. He was there for almost two years before leaving to become boss at Leeds where he spent a further two years. He had little success at either club and after losing his job at Elland Road in November 1980 he retired from the game.
He continued to live in Burnley but for many years he showed no interest in the game or the club he served so well for so long. It was always thought that he’d never go to Turf Moor again but in January 2005 he arrived, with one of his former players Paul Fletcher, for an FA Cup tie against Liverpool, only to see the game unfortunately postponed. However, in January 2011, the Jimmy Adamson Lounge opened at Turf Moor. In the week prior to the opening it was reported that he wouldn’t be well enough to attend, but he did make it for the opening and to watch the game against QPR.
Just ahead of kick off Jimmy stepped out of the lounge and into the lower tier of the Jimmy McIlroy Stand. There was no announcement initially but as the crowd saw him so the applause started. I’m not sure what sort of reception he could have been expecting but it was a stunning and sustained one as Turf Moor rose as one for its former captain and manager.
It’s been said that one of the clashes between Lord and Adamson was that Lord wanted to build a stadium and Adamson wanted to build a team although there were very definitely other matters that brought their relationship to an end. He was an inventive coach and for a three year period his team played some wonderful and successful football. Player sales cost him and, after 30 years at the club, he made his inglorious exit having being sacked by Lord, the man who for so long had supported him.
Jimmy Adamson sadly passed away in November 2011 at the age of 82.Follow UpTheClarets:
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