Date: 13th June 2010 at 11:36am
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Our ‘Back to the Future’ series looking back at the 1975-76 season continues with a review of our games against Birmingham City.

1975-76 and 2009-10, two seasons in the top flight separated by 33 years and both ending in tears and relegation; both seasons also having two managers trying to avoid the drop and both failing each time. There are certainly parallels between these two seasons but little did we know when first Jimmy Adamson and then Joe Brown attempted to keep the Clarets up in 1975-76 that after failing it would take another thirty three years to return.

All Clarets fans will be hoping that`s where the similarities end and that it won`t take another 33 years to return after being relegated at the end of 2009-10. We certainly do not want a repeat of the journey that saw us plummet down the tables and almost lose our League status saved only by the Orient Game victory on the 9th May 1987, a date now engrained in the minds of all Clarets fans.

After that near-miss we gradually clawed our way back with a few ups and downs along the way culminating of course in our May 2009 victory in the Championship Play-Offs Final at Wembley 22 years later. Sadly Owen Coyle did a runner in January 2010 to join Bolton and Brian Laws was unable to keep the lads up. At the time of writing, the Clarets await the kick-off of the 2010-11 season hoping to make an immediate return to the Premier League at their first attempt.

Yes there were certainly some similarities between the two seasons but there were also many differences. The footy world back then was certainly different both on and off the pitch as indeed was our culture in general. If you were not living in those times back in the seventies you have to imagine a world without PCs and mobile phones. Colour TVs were only just being established and even if you had one there were only three channels to watch on them BBC 1, BBC2 and ITV. If you said green issues, folk would think you were talking about grass or maybe Celtic! The term Political Correctness had not been invented and depending on your political colours you would have selected Harold Wilson, Ted Heath or Jeremy Thorpe as the correct political choice for your Prime Minister.

Back in 1975-76, the Prime Minister was Labour stalwart, Harold Wilson (above). He would resign though on the 5th April1976 to be replaced by James Callaghan (below).

Impressionist Mike Yarwood (below) was in his heyday with his own TV show taking off all the key political figures of the times notably Wilson, Heath, ‘Silly Billy` Healey, Michael Foot and Tony Benn. He would interview them all as Robin Day!!

Football was also a different world. We had four divisions named simply Division 1 to Division 4 with no sign of any sponsorship or clubs being run by foreign magnates. You had a starting eleven and one sub only. They were numbered simply 1-12 so no squad numbering system. The offside rule was simpler to describe to the wife although most men still struggled. Referees seemed to have a simpler rule book and to be honest were more consistent although they still got the same level of abuse.

The teams played in snow, fog and rain and very rarely were games postponed except in the severe winters when a pools panel deliberated. Men were men back then and players were not wrapped up in cotton wool. Tackles went flying and legs were broken and careers ended (speak to Frank Casper or Willie Irvine). If you won by the way you only got two points not the three you get today. The biggest difference though was the lack of fans segregation with both home and away fans mingling on the terraces where we were all allowed to actually stand-up without any overbearing stewards on the scene. Many pitch battles to take over the Longside were attempted on match day and the majority failed.

So there you have a flavour of the World of 1975-6, so let`s now return to it and continue our ‘Back to the Future` series as we recall how well we did against Birmingham City that season.

Birmingham City had been promoted to Division 1 in 1971-72 as runners up but to be honest had struggled for a few seasons in the bottom half of the table. It was no different in 1975-76 and they narrowly escaped relegation finishing in 19th spot and fourth from bottom.

The Blues had two managers in 1975 but by the time we played our first match against Brum at St Andrews in September 1975, the first of these Freddie Goodwin had just been sacked with Willie Bell now in the hot seat.

The match day programme contained a message from Brum chairman, C K Coombs which read:

“The Board of Directors of Birmingham City Football Club, after careful consideration, have decided that a change of management should take place. It was therefore agreed that Mr Freddie Goodwin should relinquish his appointment with immediate effect….blah blah…Mr. Wille Bell has assumed full responsibility for the playing staff and will be acting manager until a decision concerning a new appointment is made”- September 18th, !975 C.K. Coombs, Chairman.

Burnley gaffer, Jimmy Adamson would later state after the game that this turmoil had worked in Birmingham`s favour as it often does when a manager has just been sacked.

A former Scottish international, Bell (above) had been coach at St Andrews for five years under Freddie Goodwin. After a successful spell as caretaker manager he took over permanently during the 1975/76 season. After a promising start, the team struggled and only just stayed up at the end of his first season in charge. A mid-table position was achieved in 1976/77 but a poor start to the next campaign saw him lose his job. He went on to manage Lincoln City for a short time before leaving the UK to go and live in the States.

A struggling side they may have been but their team certainly had some household names in their side with some going on to greater things. Kenny Burns, Trevor Francis, Bob Hatton, Howard Kendall, Terry Hibbitt, Dave Latchford and Peter Withe all graced the team that season.

Utility player, Joe Gallagher (below) who would later play for the Clarets, was also in the side.

He had come through Birmingham`s youth system and was beginning to establish himself in the centre back position. He joined Wolverhampton Wanderers for a fee of £350,000 just before the start of the 1981-82 season. It was not a good move for him with Wolves being declared bankrupt in 1982 and he was released under acrimonious circumstances from his contract. He later joined West Ham playing out the remainder of the 1982-83 season for the Hammers.

In the summer of 1983 he came to Turf Moor but struggled to get into the side with his fitness a major concern. He found himself sent out on loan first to fourth division Halifax Town in 1983 and then the following year to non-league local side, Padiham!` He only managed eight first-team games in his first three years with the club but then in 1986-87 things changed!

He actually played a full season for the Clarets and started 41 League games playing a significant part in Burnley retaining their Football League status. Gallagher though retired at the end of the season at the relatively young age of 32 when his contract at Turf Moor expired in the summer.

A few non-league clubs in the Midlands later used his services in the 90s. He was manager for Coleshill Town and Atherstone United as well as player manager for Kings Heath.

Our first game against Birmingham in 1975-76 was a game we would soon want to forget. It was played at St Andrews on Saturday 20th September in front of a crowd of 25,830 fans and me and my dad were two of them. We got thumped 4-0 but worse for the Clarets was the fact that both Doug Collins and Ian Brennan would return home with broken legs adding to Burnley`s injury woes. Mick Docherty, Frank Casper and Paul Fletcher were already all out with injury by the time we played Brum so losing another two key players was beginning to sum up our season.

Doug Collins (above) broke his leg during the game and then Ian Brennan broke his in a road accident afterwards! Leighton James was also stretchered off from the field but thankfully his injury was not as bad as first feared.

Luck? We needed some big-time and we never got any during this fateful season.

Jimmy Adamson talking about the result and the loss of the players said:

“I am not a believer in excuses but like everyone else who was present I am entitled to our opinion about our last two defeats,

“At Birmingham, we were caught in the backlash of an emotional situation caused by the sacking of the home club`s manager,

“The final scoreline was not a true reflection on the play and the first goal changed the game. But in many ways we played better than the draw with Norwich” (See Back to the Future 7)

Little did Adamson know that he too would be sacked to be replaced by Joe Brown in the New Year with the Clarets now struggling in 20th spot and having just been knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackpool.

The return match took place at Turf Moor on Saturday 10th April 1976. By now with just four games to play we looked doomed to relegation but at least this time we got both points beating the Blues 1-0 thanks to a goal by Ray Hankin three minutes after half- time.

The team had certainly gone through some radical changes between September and April under the two different managers but sadly we could do nothing to prevent the drop. Just compare the two teams below though. How many times these days would you see such radical differences within the same season?

Birmingham Away September 1975

Stevenson, Brennan, Newton, Noble, Waldron, Thomson, Flynn, Hankin, Summerbee, Collins, James Sub: Ingham

Birmingham Home April 1976

Peyton, Scott, Pashley, Noble, Thomson, Rodaway, Morris, Flynn, Hankin, Fletcher, Summerbee Sub: Ingham

Back to the Future 9 up next and this time we will review the matches against Sheffield United.

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5 Replies to “Back to the Future 8-Brum Breaks Hearts & Legs”

  • Bloody weird, I went to this game and have no recollection of it despite the incidents! I think I must have erased it from my memory after going down 4-0 and seeing the injuries to Collins & James. Clearly not a good day out in Brum!

  • Interesting read tmp I never did take to Mike Yarwood but that was probably down to the fact that I was to young to know who he was impersonating.

  • Along with Monet, Manet and all that mob Mike Yarwood was one of the great impressionists of his time. Unfortunately, the rise of Maragaret Thatcher probably did for his career but I can remember him finishing his shows with a few trademark political impressions before segueing to a musical number with the line….’and this is me ! ‘

  • Went to both of those Birmingham games. The Sept (away) game sticks in my mind because I bought a Triumph Starfire C14 just before the game and rode it back to Hereford where I was living at the time. Also bumped ito Doug Collins about 10 years ago. He owned (maybe still does) a McDonalds franchise on the NSW south coast at Nowra.

  • Perhaps it is my age ( 44 and counting ) but I love these flashbacks and really do think they would make an excellent book if cobbled together. One of the ways I know football has changed since then is that I have actually met – i.e had a proper conversation with – five of the team that played away at Birmingham. Don’t think that would happen today.

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