Date: 12th November 2011 at 1:46pm
Written by:

It has been a very sad week for all Clarets fans after hearing the news on Tuesday that one of our great legends, Jimmy Adamson had passed away at the age of 82. Jimmy was to become one of my teenage heroes of the 1970s after replacing the great Harry Potts and becoming the new club manager in February 1970. The 1970`s would be a rather turbulent period for the Clarets but despite a relegation or two there were also many highs and one in particular would be our promotion back to the top flight as Champions following a 1-1 draw against Preston at Deepdale in our last game of the 1972-73 season. I was there that day and it was a significant milestone for me as a Clarets fan! It was the first time, I had seen my club win anything and I remember being so overjoyed when the final whistle went. Of course, 38 years later the memory of some of the specific detail fades but with the help of the archives I will recall what happened that fantastic day later in this article. First though let`s talk about Jimmy and his fantastic career as a player, coach and manager at Turf Moor.

Jimmy Adamson signed for the Clarets in January 1947. He had been a miner in the North East and had joined Burnley from his local non-league football team, Ashington. Burnley was his first professional club and it would prove to be his only club with the great man hanging up his boots in 1964. It was certainly a different era back then! How many modern players do you know these days that spend their whole career as a player, in this case 17 years at one football club? What a career he had too! National Service with the R.A.F disrupted his early career. He did not make his debut for the club until February 1951 in a game against Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park. Back then of course, there was just one formation and the player took the numbered shirt for that position! None of the squad numbers or 4-4-2, 4-5-1 formations of today! There were eleven players and eleven numbers 1-11 with no substitutes. The one formation was basically 1-2-3-5 and there were quaint titles for positions like wing half and inside forward with no sign of any sweepers or attacking midfielders! That day, back in 1951 Jimmy proudly wore shirt Number 4 which classed him as a right half (one of today`s midfielders) and he helped his side earn a point in a 1-1 draw. Adamson would then go on to play in that position for the rest of that season, featuring in all the remaining league games. Indeed Adamson would make the right half position his own but could also play at left-half and in the centre half position and did so throughout his time as a player at Turf Moor.

He developed a superb partnership with inside forward Jimmy McIlroy and of course was a crucial force in helping Burnley become Division One League Champions at the end of the 1959-60 season. Adamson was an ever-present in the side as well as being the captain. The sixties were certainly Burnley`s era and in the 1960-61 season Jimmy almost led his side to a League and FA Cup double but sadly the club had to be content with being runners-up in both competitions. His inspirational talent though was finally recognised when he was named Footballer of the Year for 1961-62 becoming the only Burnley player to date to achieve the honour.

At the age of 28, Jimmy gained his full FA Coaching Badge and was then taken on as a staff coach at the newly developed Lilleshall Complex where he met and became a close friend of then England manager, Walter Winterbottom. Adamson went to the World Cup Finals in Chile in 1962 as a coach after being asked by Winterbottom to be his assistant and was even given the opportunity to become England manager after Winterbottom resigned! Amazingly he declined because he did want to move his family away from Burnley and felt he lacked the necessary experience. Sir Alf Ramsey got the job instead and the rest as they say is history!!

It is perhaps surprising too that Adamson never played for the England first team. He had to be content with just one solitary England B cap when he played against Scotland B at Easter Road, Edinburgh in March 1953.

Jimmy hung his boots up in 1964 after playing 476 times for Burnley to become sixth in our all-time appearance list to date. I suspect based on modern day football trends that he will remain 6th for time immemorial!

Born in 1954, I was a little too young to recall Jimmy`s playing days for the club and it was rather annoying in later life to realise I had just missed out on Burnley`s best era by a few years.

But now we embark on Jimmy`s coaching and managerial career; a time by then when ‘ickle old me was a regular fan and going to virtually all home games with my dear old dad as a season ticket holder.

It was the tradition back then for managers at Burnley FC to be home grown after coming through the coaching ranks and indeed many like Jimmy were also former players at the club. Adamson became Chief Coach in September 1964 and for a few years worked under Harry Potts becoming his natural successor.

In February 1970, Jimmy`s chance finally came when Harry Potts was promoted upstairs to become General Manager. At the end of the 1969-70 season, the Clarets had finished in 14th spot but despite that mid-table finish, Adamson was confident for the season ahead. In his programme notes for our first home game of the 1970-71 season, Jimmy proclaimed:

‘Burnley Football Club is on the threshold of a most exciting period in its history. The players are convinced, and so am I, that we will emerge as the team of the Seventies`

In the same article though we were reminded already of our bad luck with news that Martin Dobson had broken his right leg in the first pre-season game. Not only that but striker, Frank Casper was suffering badly from a stomach infection and our keeper, Peter Mellor had dislocated his left shoulder. Things would get worse though. Much worse!

That opening game was against Liverpool and we lost 2-1. We did not win our first league game until October when we beat Palace at home 2-1 but by then those words above were beginning to echo quite badly in Jimmy`s ears. It would only get worse with Burnley finishing second from bottom and being relegated to the second tier. You can only imagine the devastation this caused amongst Clarets fans. You have to remember that we had been a first division side since 1947 and had just come through the golden era of the 1960s. It was hard to take, really hard to take but the general consensus was one of positivity with most believing it was a temporary blip and that we would be soon back where we belonged! Adamson probably lived to regret those words for the rest of his life and certainly by the end of the 1970s we were on the slippery slide but there would still be some highs to cheer about before the decade was out, certainly with Jimmy Adamson still at the helm.

Promotion back to Division One did not happen immediately though and it would not be until 1973 two seasons later, that we got back to where we belonged. It would be a remarkable season too and by the end of it, six of our players, Alan Stevenson, Keith Newton, Colin Waldron, Jim Thomson, Frank Casper and Leighton James would have played in all 42 games whilst Martin Dobson missed just one game and Paul Fletcher two. In fact, these days we talk about depth of squad but back then just 17 players were needed to gain promotion. Remarkably too we lost only four games that season with four players all getting their goal tally into double-figures. Fletcher scored the most with 15 goals but the others reaching double figures were Dobson, Casper and James.

We were confirmed Champions of Division Two after drawing 1-1 away to Preston on the final day of the season.

This was a remarkable game. Preston needed a point to stay up and Burnley needed a point to become Division 2 champions! A draw is how it finished with some conspiracy-theorists wagging their fingers; most notably the QPR fans that had lost out with their team finishing runners-up`

Adamson would have none of this contrived result rubbish saying after the game:

‘Some people will say it`s a fix, but you only had to see the game to realise it was nothing of the kind. If we could have scored five we would have done`

I don`t remember the game being a fix either, it was hard fought between two Lancashire rivals but there was certainly nervous tension amongst both sets of fans and indeed both teams. The Clarets were already promoted come what may ahead of the clash and I remember the Preston fans sportingly applauding the Burnley team onto the pitch before kick-off. I am not sure they would do that today!

The match was played on Saturday 28th April in front of 21,550 fans with me and my dad being two of them.

The Burnley line-up that day was as follows:

Stevenson, Ingham, Newton, Dobson, Waldron, Thomson, Nulty, Casper, Fletcher, Collins, James

The nervous tension was clear for all to see and the first half was a pretty dire affair to be honest but it had a sting in the tail when Preston took the lead with just two minutes of the half remaining. Clarets fans though breathed a sigh of relief eight minutes into the second half when we got the equaliser. Colin Waldron became an instant hero and after that to be honest the rest of the game is a bit of a blur!

We held out though and with the clock ticking down you could see both sides trying everything they could to hold onto a point. They were certainly not going to risk anything now with so much at stake for both teams and who could blame them. I well remember the corner flag being a particular target towards the end, with Leighton James playing in and around it without daring to press forward in case he lost the ball and set up a Preston counter-attack. Preston though to be honest were happy to let it happen and see the game out! When the final whistle went, it was the most joyous day in my life and the first time I had ever been able to celebrate winning a trophy. It might have only been a Second Division Champions Trophy but boy it felt good after the misery of 1970-71!

The two seasons that followed back in Division One also had their highs. We finished in a highly-respectable 6th place in our first season back and reached the FA Cup semi-finals losing 2-0 to Newcastle United at Hillsborough. We also had the satisfaction of beating Champions, Leeds United 4-1 at Elland Road. Indeed that victory was in the game before the semi-final and had Norman ‘Bite Yer Legs` Hunter not crippled Frank Casper in a shocking off-the ball incident who knows what the outcome of the semi-final might have been! It affectively ended Casper`s footballing career though and he was never the same again.

The season after we did pretty well again, this time finishing in 10th spot but 1975-76 would prove to be a disaster not just for the club but also Jimmy Adamson. With the club in 20th spot by Christmas, Jimmy Adamson would resign after a 1-0 away defeat to Blackpool in the FA Cup third round on the 3rd January 1976 bringing to an end nearly 30 years at the club! His replacement, Joe Brown could not keep the club in the first division and we suffered our second relegation of the decade after finishing second from bottom. It would take another 33 years before we would taste top flight action again and in the meantime we had to endure a slide down to the fourth division and fight our way back from the depths of the ‘Orient Game` which had we not won would have seen this proud club lose its league status.

Jimmy went on to coach for a short time in Holland before returning to manage both Sunderland and Leeds United. Adamson left the game for good in 1980 but continued to live quietly for the rest of his life in Burnley becoming one of the town`s most popular adopted sons.

He was honoured by the club last January when it was decided to open a lounge in his name in the Jimmy McIlroy stand. It was actually enacted during Eddie Howe`s first game in charge against QPR and Clarets fans had the chance to greet the great man once again when he walked out onto the lower tier of the stand after cutting the ribbon. It was actually unexpected and unannounced but the fans response was spontaneous and he came out to rapturous applause befitting such a Burnley legend.

Jimmy was indeed a great man and a true Burnley legend. He inspired me as a fan during the seventies despite some of the lows and I am proud to say I was never one that shouted ‘Adamson Out` during the dark period that was 1972. Adamson gave me my best moment as a Clarets fan in 1973 and it is a memory that will never fade.

At this sad time, our thoughts are with Jimmy`s family and friends and everybody at Vital Burnley send their sincerest condolences. If you would like to pay your last respects his family have asked fans to line Harry Potts Way, before the funeral cortege leaves Turf Moor at 1.50pm this Monday. The cortege will then make its way to Burnley crematorium for 2.20pm for a private ceremony for family, friends and invited guests only.

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