We continue our ‘Back to the Future’ series and this time review how well we did against League Champions, Derby County in the 1975-76 season.
The Clarets were relegated in 1975-76 and would embark on 33 years in the wilderness before returning to the top flight in 2009-10. We continue to look back at the disappointing season in the seventies and now take in the matches we played against Derby County.
This may sound surprising to younger Clarets fans but Derby County that season were playing as the Champions having won the title in 1974-75. They had of course been managed earlier in the seventies by the late charismatic and controversial manager, Brian Clough who clearly set the building blocks in place for greater things to come getting them promoted to the top flight in 1968. Dave Mackay though was now the gaffer in charge having replaced Cloughie after he left with second-in-command Peter Taylor in October 1973,
Mackay had been a tough Scottish international defender in his playing days being converted along the way from left back to sweeper. He had played for Hearts and Spurs before being signed by Brian Clough to play for Derby County in 1968. He ended his playing career with Swindon Town after taking a player-manager role but it would be only for a season. Mackay then briefly took charge of Nottingham Forest in 1972 before taking up the appointment as manager of close neighbours, Derby County following Clough`s controversial sacking.
He set about building on Clough`s success by making some shrewd signings in the transfer market, one of which broke Clarets fans hearts.
Leighton James started his career as a left winger with Burnley making his league debut in November 1970 against Nottingham Forest. The Welsh man soon became a firm favourite at Turf Moor and was nicknamed ‘Taffy` by the fans. Welsh international honours followed in 1971 and he would play 54 times for his country by the end of his career scoring 10 goals
At the start of 1975-76 James was still a Clarets player but by the end of it he would be playing for Dave Mackay`s team having signed for them in November 1975 for a club record fee of £310,000.
This was just one of many transfers in that era that upset Clarets fans. Chairman Bob Lord`s strategy was always to sell to survive and every idol we had at Turf Moor in those days went the same route eventually. Morgan, Coates, Thomas, Kindon, Dobson and many more all left leaving Clarets fans gutted so James leaving just added to our woes but at least by then we were getting used to the inevitability of it all. This time though it would appear James had wanted to leave rather than be forced to leave.
Our manager at the time, Jimmy Adamson tried to soften the blow after the James transfer in one of his programme notes under the title of ‘A decision in the club`s best interests` He wrote:
‘We did what was honestly considered was best for Burnley Football Club. That in a nutshell sums up our attitude to the transfer of Leighton James. No manager wants to transfer a good player, but there is a lot more to it than that. Leighton no longer had his heart in his job with us, we could not motivate him. And so when he handed us a written transfer request we had to be positive and decisive. Selling a player who is such a big name in the game does not however mean that our ambition has decreased. On the contrary, we have a burning desire to succeed as a club both on the field and off and I am confident that this basic fact will show up clearly to the public in the immediate future`
Those words will no doubt haunt Adamson for the rest of his life along with the more famous ‘Team of the Seventies` quote. The gaffer would lose his job in the same month he made those comments, the Clarets would be relegated at the end of the season and we would not return to the top flight for another 33 years!
It would only be ‘au revoir` and not` goodbye` to Burnley though for Leighton James who would return twice in his later career to play for the Clarets again. He left Derby to join Queens Park Rangers in 1977 and would return to Turf Moor in 1978. The Clarets relegation though to the third division saw James leave again in 1980 for Swansea City. He then had stints playing for Sunderland, Bury and Newport County before returning to Burnley in 1986 for a third spell. He was also a youth team coach at Turf Moor for a time but hung up his boots after being sacked from that position in 1989. After a spell as coach at Bradford City, James moved into non-league management and was gaffer at Gainsborough Trinity, Morecambe and Llanelli (2 spells with Garden Village in between)
He left football management in 2005 and moved into football punditry for BBC radio and television. In December 2009 James was appointed manager of Welsh Football League Division One side Aberaman Athletic.
However let`s now return to the 1975-76 season and the two games we played that season against Derby County. So how well did we do? Answer is not very well. They got the double over us that season beating us 3-0 at the Baseball Ground and then winning 2-1 at Turf Moor. Derby County as current Champions that season though were formidable opposition and they would finish in 4th spot behind Liverpool, QPR and Manchester United.
The game at the Baseball Ground was played in front of a crowd of 24026 fans on Saturday 6th September 1975.
Jimmy Adamson was still in charge and Leighton James would be in the side playing against his future club. The team that day was as follows:
Stevenson, Docherty, Newton, Noble, Waldron, Thomson, Morgan, Hankin, Summerbee, Collins, James Sub: Flynn (Did not Feature)
The Rams were 2-0 up after 20 minutes and they effectively made it game over one minute into the second half when they got their third goal. It was a poor game for the Clarets with Adamson admitting they didn`t play at all well. It was a defeat that left the Clarets in 14th spot with only one win so far all season. That win had been in the previous game at home to Middlesbrough and Clarets fans had been given some hope that the 4-1 tonking might have spurred the team onto to better things at the Baseball Ground. It was not to be!
The return match was played at Turf Moor on Saturday January 17th 1976 in front of 21088 fans. Adamson had just been sacked as manager and there was a new man at the helm writing his first programme notes. Joe Brown wanted to go down on record by saying that he was convinced we would avoid relegation. Oh dear another few prophetic words that would prove to be the complete opposite of events!
Derby County would now have our former star on board and it was pretty uncomfortable for all Clarets fans watching James square up against his former team mates. County though would also have some other household names in their squad including England defenders Roy McFarland and Colin Todd, Scottish midfielders, Bruce Rioch and Archie Gemmill and England international striker, Charlie George. George is better remembered for his time at Arsenal and had just been signed at the start of the 1975-76 season for £100,000.
The Clarets team that day lined-up as follows:
Peyton, Scott, Newton, Ingham, Waldron, Thomson, Bradshaw, Flynn, Kennerley, Fletcher, Noble Sub: Loggie (Did not Feature)
A goal by Fletcher after 47 minutes cancelled out Derby`s 22nd minute opener but with 4 minutes to go, Derby rammed home the winner to leave the Clarets still in a precarious position second from bottom. Things were looking bleak indeed and now the luck was deserting us in droves.
Oh well, Norwich at Turf Moor were next up in the sequence and we review our games against the Canaries that season in our next ‘Back to the Future ‘article.