When I was a young boy I played football every day.
From the age of five I was out there, day in day out, every available daylight hour. Our home was opposite two football pitches. It was easy to get involved in a game. Get in the my kit, which was my everyday wear of short trousers and any old shirt. In those days, the early fifties, kids were not a walking advert for worldwide brands and beer companies.
I was out of the front door, in my ‘kit’, across a narrow road and onto the pitch. A choice of two pitches, a muddy one or a less than muddy one. It was simple, cracking. Me and my mates could play from ten in the morning till nine at night. All free, no hassle.
When I started school I was picked for the school team. We played on good pitches, bad pitches in and around Atherton, near Bolton. I recall one game in the middle of a bad winter. I was playing at left back, it was a game in which we dominated the game. I hardly broke into a sweat for the whole game. By the time the game finished I was so cold I came off the ground crying. I was about seven at the time. As soon as I stepped into the dressing room they gave me a cup of tea to warm me up. After that I did think about crying about the cold at the end of every game we played; even in the summer months.
So, when Burnley Football Club became one of the first English teams to play in Europe I followed their progress with interest because I knew from first hand experience what it was like to play in Godforsaken places where the temperature was minus 4.
All one ever hears in mainstream media today is how Manchester United did this in Europe and did that …. you would think that no other team has ever played in Europe.
I remember those games Burnley played in Europe. I don’t remember the details but I do remember those games being the first I was aware of where an English side played beyond our shores. I recall the name the competitions the Fairs Cup, and the European Cup; both now called The Europa League and the Champions League.
Burnley were managed by the legendary Harry Potts, ex player for Burnley and Everton, he had spent half a season at Shrewsbury before Burnley lured him back to become their manager in February 1958. He then steered the side to the top of the First Division (now Premiership) securing the title on the very last day of the 1959 -1960 season at Manchester City with goals from Brian Pilkington and Trevor Meredith. Burnley had been in contention all season but had never led the table until this last match was played out.
Wolverhampton Wanderers came second in the table beaten by only one point. That one point qualified Burnley for the European Cup.
Brian Pilkington scores the opening goal at Manchester City. Burnley won 2-1. They had never led the table until this last match was played out.
1960 – 61 European Cup
The first leg was played at Turf Moor on the 18 January 1961. The home side won 3 – 1. On the return leg in Germany, SV Hamburg took the honors with a 4 – 1 win on the 15 March. Harris scored the only goal for Burnley. The Clarets were out (5 – 4 on aggregate). Hamburg went out of the competition in the next round losing in a play off against Barcelona (a familiar tale there). The competition was eventually won by Benfica.
In 1955, ITV began broadcasting live matches from the newly formed European Cup. My parents only bought a TV set in ‘57 or ‘58 so I must have heard the Burnley games on BBC Radio.
One wonders how many Burnley fans made the long journey to Paris and Hamburg as cheap travel had not yet arrived in England.
What would a fiver get you back then? A flight from London to Helsinki cost £114 first class return and £80 economy; today that would set you back £289 economy and £820 business. Then the average house price in England was £2,530, a loaf of bread would set you back 5p and a season ticket to see Manchester United cost £8.50. I think people pay more for a loaf now and hell of a lot more for a ticket at the place not far from Burnley which is in Salford.
1966 – 67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
Burnley finished third in the First Division, 1965-66 season; that was good enough to earn a place in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (now known as the UEFA Europa League). Burnley marched on splendidly. In the first round they drew their away game against Stuttgart 1 – 1 and back at Turf Moor they won 2 – 0. In the second round encounter with Lausanne in Switzerland the Clarets lost 1 – 3 away but had a resounding 5 – 0 win at home. They dispatched Napoli in the third round 3 – 0 on aggregate with goals from Coates, Latcham and Lochhead.
Eintracht Frankfurt were the quarter final opponents.