Martin Dobson on Jimmy Adamson
This article goes back to 2013.
For the Jimmy Adamson book, I contacted Martin Dobson. I explained to him that one of the themes of the book was the relationship and the change in that relationship between three people – Harry Potts, Bob Lord and Jimmy Adamson. These three formed the foundations of the club for a long period. They worked together and their relationships were inseparable. Yet by the end Adamson could not bear to speak to either Lord or Potts, and by the very end, there was no contact between the Potts and the Lords.
It was Jimmy’s two years at Leeds United that finished off his last lingering interest in football. Stan Ternent who worked for Jimmy at Leeds in a coaching role summed up the Leeds experience as “a nightmare.” Jimmy was keen to sign Dobbo for Leeds. Everton offered him just one year on his contract, Dobbo understandably wanted more. Harry Potts was quick to step in and they met in Southport and Martin agreed to join Burnley for three years. Shortly after that Adamson asked him to join Leeds and offered him two years. Nothing had been signed at Burnley but Dobbo had given his word and a handshake that he would join them. He would not go back on that agreement. On arriving at Gawthorpe and seeing how different it was to Jimmy’s’ Team of the Seventies’ period, he wondered if he had done the right thing.
Adamson had a dreadful time at Leeds despite finishing fifth and winning a place in Europe in his first season. It was Leeds’ best season since Revie. Nevertheless, the knives were out for him at both director and supporter level. He made serious attempts to sign Kevin Keegan and Peter Withe as well as Dobbo. The directors would not sanction the wages needed to get Keegan and Withe to the club. But when he left, they sanctioned £900,000 on Peter Barnes.
A Leeds team including Keegan, Withe and Dobson: what a team that might have been, what a different story it might have been at Leeds United; but it was not to be. Jimmy left football altogether after Leeds, with a termination pay-off, and then a libel payment following newspaper articles.
From Martin Dobson:
For me it all boils down to……..from whose perspective you are looking from.
At any club the relationship between chairman and manager is of paramount importance. Usually, the chairman with the backing of the board of directors chooses the manager and therefore after making that decision wants it to work.
In so doing it must be given time.
Harry Potts had huge success as Burnley manager. Burnley won the 1st Division Championship in 1960 and were runners up in both the League and FA Cup in 1962. Who was his skipper at the time? Jimmy Adamson – recognised by many as one of the most gifted and influential players around at that time. Alongside Jimmy McIIroy in that Burnley FC midfield engine room they were a formidable combination.
So, Burnley were very fortunate to have strong individuals both on and off the field.
When Jimmy Adamson retired from an illustrious playing career, he was destined to become involved in coaching and management.
Why: Because of his knowledge, experience and his love of the game. He was an innovator, always looking to move the game forward and had bright exciting ideas about the future of the game.
But the basic beliefs always had to be adhered to. And it revolved around discipline. Early on in my time at the club we were told that we must abide by the laws of the game and show neither dissent nor retaliation. We were told we were ambassadors of Burnley Football Club and, as such, had a responsibility to future generations. Even after being given offside away from home we would be encouraged to bring the ball back and place it for the kick. Both Jimmy and Harry knew what they were doing. It was explained that these little incidents would help us. The away fans would respond. Applaud us. If you like somebody are you going to shout obscenities?
But it didn’t make us any less competitive, in fact, even more so. We had a winning mentality. When we played against the likes of Liverpool or Man Utd we were definitely up for it – controlled aggression, not there to lie down. We were there to play well and win. That has always been the philosophy at Burnley FC. We had to learn quickly or we’d be out of the side.
In my first year at the club, 1967-68, I was sub on a number of occasions. There was only one sub in those days so I sat with Harry in the dugout. Jimmy tended to watch the game from the director’s box. Harry changed on match days. He became all consuming in the game, shouting instructions and demanding more from every player. He was ‘hyper’, totally committed and sent the message to every player that he demanded the same passion and commitment. But at half time he was composed and informative.
During the week Harry and Jimmy were a perfect combination. Harry the enthusiast, smiling face always telling us even in the depths of winter when we came out to train at Gawthorpe…………… with snow on the ground and freezing conditions…………. how lucky we were to be involved in such a great game. “People are in factories and you boys are outside in the fresh air doing something you like… wonderful… just like Mont Blanc” And you know what? He was absolutely right. Jimmy would take the training and his coaching sessions were brilliant. Every day you would learn something new. How to be a better player… How to win games against the very best… how to be a team… how to look after each other… and how to be smart.
So, we had the best of both worlds: The enthusiasm, warmth, excitement of Harry and the brilliance of the master tactician who was Jimmy Adamson.
Geoff Nulty came to Burnley at the same time as me. And you know what; we still talk about those days and compare them with what we’d seen at our previous clubs Stoke and Bolton Wanderers. We were both given free transfers from those clubs and couldn’t believe our luck when we were signed by Burnley – 1st Division club. We had just stepped into a new world. The coaching was magnificent.
How could we fail to be better players? We were enjoying the experience, loving coming to work and gaining confidence in our own ability.
I always felt that the relationship between Jimmy Adamson and Harry Potts was perfect in the late 60’s. During that period as a young player I looked at the 1st team players Andy Lochhead, Willie Irvine, Sammy Todd, John Angus, Gordon Harris, Willie Morgan, Brian O’Neil, Arthur Bellamy, Adam Blacklaw and had doubts as to whether I could break through. But times change and Burnley has always been a club that gives opportunities to young players. A player always had to be sold each year to balance the books…… and usually because of the exceptional scouting system there was always someone else to take their place.
Jimmy Adamson’s ability as a coach was being recognised further afield. The FA brought him on board in 1962 as part of England’s coaching team for the World Cup in Chile and he was approached as a future England manager. So maybe there was a dilemma for Chairman Bob Lord. Jimmy turned that offer down………… he wanted to stay at Burnley showing his loyalty to the club. But he must have been on the radar for other clubs. Would they be interested in enticing him away to manage theirs?
And that’s something that must have been a huge worry for the chairman. Maybe he thought if this guy’s ambitious and Burnley don’t offer him the job he’ll go elsewhere.
Somewhere along the lines most outstanding coaches wish to make those big decisions themselves and stand and fall by them. When Jimmy was coach and Harry was manager the players didn’t see beyond the next game. They were very happy with the relationship, as I already mentioned. But maybe those two- Jimmy and Harry- did have disagreements in terms of selection or tactics…. systems of play. Ultimately the manager will pick the team but the coach is there every day and he sees all the individual performances; their improvements/ deficiencies. So, if a player is picked when the coach is right on top of the situation frustrations are bound to occur.
As the saying goes “nothing stays the same” and that is absolutely true.
So back to the 3 main characters: Jimmy is ambitious to take the helm whether it be at Burnley or somewhere else to test himself at the cutting edge and is confident in his ability. Bob Lord is conscious that if he doesn’t offer the job to him at some time then he will be snapped up by a rival club. Bob Lord is also aware of the magnificent service and success that Harry Potts has bought to the football club. I’m only surmising……..but it’s a big dilemma.
In any major role changing within a big organisation the only way to sort it out is through discussion. Sitting down with the individuals concerned and talking it through.
Did that happen?
I’ve no idea; probably not…
I say probably not, because after the changes were completed and Jimmy took the reins as team manager, Harry was given the title of General Manager. The players at the stage welcomed the news. Harry was still very much respected and Jimmy could then push forward with his vision for the next decade on the playing side. But was Harry’s job description made clear; it seemed like he became frustrated with what was expected from him.
Not being involved on the training pitch is a completely new experience and maybe Harry found it very difficult to adjust.
Once major changes have been made relationships change. As I said before, the chairman/ manager relationship has to be spot because difficult issues are bound to come about. In those situations, there must be a frank exchange of views and honest dialogue. So, Jimmy was then in Chairman Bob Lord’s company more often.
It has been stated that at the very end neither Jimmy or Harry or Bob Lord were speaking to each other. Why?
Jimmy told the media that Burnley would be the team of the 70’s when he took over. He didn’t say that rashly…………… that’s what he believed. He saw the quality in the squad of players. The youth team had just won the FA Youth Cup in 1968 and many exciting new young players were making a claim for first team recognition. Skipper of that side was Mick Docherty an energetic, enthusiastic player who would run through brick walls for the club and showed real determination and desire. Steve Kindon was lightning-quick, powerful and with his height and strength a formidable player, a real character as well and a handful for any defender, a former rugby schoolboy who came into the game at 16 years of age. Alan West was composed in possession, saw a pass and didn’t give the ball away cheaply.
And then there was Dave Thomas… wonderful footballer…. a prodigious talent. So gifted it was untrue. I was lucky to play with this lad both at Burnley and Everton and he was an excellent professional footballer. Intricate skills, exceptional balance and two footed. Could whip in crosses with pace, stand it up at the far post or go past defenders as they weren’t there; as an England Schoolboy International Dave could have gone anywhere in the league, to any of the top city clubs including Man Utd.
But he chose Burnley. Why? “Because, Dobbo, Harry Potts sold the club to me and my parents. It was that simple.”
Jimmy must have already assessed the current players. Peter Mellor was an up and coming goal keeper. Snapped up from non league he was an engaging individual, with a ready smile and a player eager to learn his trade. Centre backs Jim Thomson and Colin Waldron proved to be a formidable combination. Their relationship as a unit was exceptional. Waldo was fiercely competitive, a winning mentality and showed bravery and fighting spirit. He also had the nice habit of scoring important goals – none more so than when he creamed the equaliser in the championship winning game at Deepdale. Jimmy read the game so well and was good in the air. He was an unsung hero, a fine professional and a popular member of the side.
The class act was Frank Casper. Rocket shot, quick and sharp, great first touch and control and alongside Paul Fletcher they were lethal. Fletch worked tremendously hard to improve his game. His sessions on retaining possession with Jimmy at Gawthorpe went on for hours and hours. It enabled colleagues to get up in support. It showed his dedication and determination to succeed. And with this confidence he started to score regularly.
In midfield we had players who complemented each other. Alongside me was the work horse Geoff Nulty, solid, reliable, professional. A player you could always trust to give 100%. Work ethic was immense. Dougie Collins was a little gem of a player. Magic left foot. He could manipulate the ball; pop it off with loads of disguise.
Leighton James was a match winner. I’ve always got on well with Leighton. As a 17-year-old going head to head with the likes of Tommy Smith at Liverpool takes some guts. Giving the ball to Leighton you knew he could cause all sorts of damage to the opposition, a vital member of the side and an exceptionally talented player.
So, the tools were there for Jimmy. Unfortunately, it didn’t get off to a great start. Peter Jones, a very promising young full back who was on the fringes of the first team broke his leg. Peter Mellor dislocated his shoulder and I dislocated my ankle as well as breaking my leg in a pre season game at Middlesbrough.
The 1970-71 season ended in relegation.
But the chairman showed great faith in Jimmy Adamson. For 24 years the club had been in the top division, a change of manager and Burnley are relegated.
Calls from the terraces for Jimmy to be sacked were repeated the following season when Burnley finished in a mid table position in the 2nd Division. But what did Bob Lord do? He showed great faith in his manager. He backed him.
And in the 1972-3 season it all came together. Jimmy had tinkered with his side already bringing in an outstanding keeper Alan Stevenson and the experienced England International, former Everton player Keith Newton, on a free transfer. The jigsaw was complete and Burnley were crowned champions and back in the top division.
Next season 73/74 success followed success. With the introduction of the likes of Peter Noble who became a real stalwart for the club and youngsters Brian Flynn, Ray Hankin and Ian Brennan being slowly given first team opportunities the club finished just outside a European place and reached the semi final of the FA Cup –a magnificent achievement.
At the start of the next season 74-75 we’d played the opening games in August and I got a phone call on the Monday morning to report to Turf Moor instead of Gawthorpe. It came from Joe Brown, Jimmy’s assistant.
“What’s it about Joe?” I remember asking. But he didn’t tell me. On my arrival I was told to go to the chairman’s office. “Where’s that?” I’d been at the club 7 years and never once been there!! I walked in and there was Billy Bingham and Chris Hassall manager and secretary of Everton.
I sat down and quickly realised it was already a done deal. Nobody at Burnley informed me. Not Jimmy or the chairman. Of course, there were no agents around at that time but I was little confused to say the least. I signed within an hour. Everton were a big club and they wanted me.
The revolving door in the dressing room had finally come round to me. It was my turn to move on.
Subsequently I heard that Jimmy didn’t want me to go but I would have liked to have heard it from the man himself. Burnley had a new Stand to pay for and needed the money. So that’s when my involvement at Burnley FC in the 70’s ended.
Jimmy was still manager; Harry had left the club and Bob Lord was still the chairman.
Looking back these were three very strong characters, all very influential in the history of Burnley Football Club.
Everyone can speculate about what happened between them. Certainly, their relationships did change over the years. But isn’t that the same with most relationships? But one thing is for sure they all gave tremendous service to Burnley FC.
As far as I’m concerned Bob Lord backed both Harry Potts and Jimmy Adamson as managers. Both were very successful so he could look back at his stewardship and say he got the best out of both individuals.
Jimmy and Harry’s relationship was as good as anything around at the time when one was skipper and the other manager. Championships and Cup Finals verify that. It was compared in many quarters to that at Spurs with Bill Nicholson and Danny Blanchflower. When Harry was manager and Jimmy coach maybe it was only tolerable. But when Jimmy became manager maybe more thought could have gone into the ideal role which would have suited Harry in those subsequent years.
Hindsight is a great thing but the way football was changing with the big clubs getting richer and the town teams finding life very difficult whoever would have come in as manager would have found it very difficult to survive in the top division in the late 70’s.
As a player they were fantastic times and I will always appreciate the support and encouragement given to me by both Harry Potts and Jimmy Adamson. As far as Bob Lord was concerned, I had no involvement with him apart from when I returned to the club for a second period in 1979. I bear no resentment on my transfer to Everton which is a magnificent football club. Bills had to be paid and at that time only myself and Leighton James could command that sort of figure. Why me instead of Leighton?
Maybe he was better looking……….and younger!! Or that Bob thought Taffy would go for twice as much in 18 months’ time!Follow UpTheClarets:
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