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I’ve been to many a Burnley game when our fans have, shall we say, been a bit on the negative side. I’ve heard supporters, on occasions, suggest they’d prefer it if we lost during times when things weren’t running as smoothly as they would have liked.

But here is a story when the home supporters actually did support the opposition, cheering them on to a victory against Burnley at Turf Moor, although it’s a few years ago and I don’t think there are too many now able to tell the tale.

Burnley in 1945
Burnley in 1945

The story goes back to Christmas 1945 with the country celebrating the first peace time festive period in seven years and, although the Football League was still almost eight months away from returning, there were end-of-war area leagues to enjoy and add interest for those keen on football.

They were bringing decent attendances too although no one was ever too sure who would be in the line up with clubs having to wait each week to see whether players could be released from duty from the Forces to allow them to play. That often meant guest players and one who regularly played for us was John Shreeve who went on to play for Charlton against us in the 1947 FA Cup Final.

On Christmas Day 1945 we had travelled to Sunderland and come back with a 1-1 draw; Ron Hornby scoring the Burnley goal, and 24 hours later we hosted the return fixture at Turf Moor with a bigger than average crowd of over 23,000 turning up on Boxing Day.

At the time, Burnley had adopted a pre-war strip of white shirts worn with black shorts with a white stripe down the seam. Sunderland, believing we would play in claret and blue, turned up with white shirts too rather than their regular red and white stripes because of a perceived clash of colours.

After a hasty conference, Burnley club officials dug out a somewhat tattered old style claret and blue kit for Sunderland to wear but that caused real confusion with some Burnley supporters who cheered on the claret and blues, particularly when they scored. Sunderland did so three times against Burnley’s two, our goals scored by Jackie Chew and Harry Jackson.

We have those confused Burnley supporters to thank. Maybe without them we would never have played in claret and blue again. Arguments raged after the match as those who knew the identity of the players attempted to enlighten the casual visitors and the reaction was such that the board of directors began to have certain thoughts before the start of the resumption of ‘proper’ football.

The chairman, Mr Tom Clegg, in particular pushed for a return to the claret and blue colours but he and his fellow directors doubted that the necessary clothing coupons would be available. He asked whether it would be possible to make an appeal to the public through the press and see if the old colours would evoke any response.

It was more in hope than expectation that Mr Clegg and his colleagues made a public appeal for any spare clothing coupons, but they were astonished at the response. Coupons arrived from all over the country just to prove that many of the exiles thought of their club in terms of claret and blue and the famous feats of earlier years.

They’d been worn since 1910 having replaced the previous kit of green and white. It is said that the club’s poor form was discussed at an annual meeting and a suggestion was made by a lady member to adopt the colours of a successful club. The colours of Aston Villa were adopted.

Had Sunderland not brought the wrong kit that day; had some Burnley supporters not been confused, we might never have played in claret and blue again.

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