ALEX ELDER 

Date and Place of Birth

25th April 1941 - Lisburn

 

Transfers to and from Burnley

from Glentoran - January 1959

to Stoke City - August 1967 (£50,000)

 

First and Last Burnley Games

Preston North End (a) - 15th September 1959

 

Everton (h) - 13th May 1967

 

Other Clubs

Glentoran

----------------------------------------

Stoke City

 

 

Burnley Career Stats

 

Season League FA Cup League Cup Others Total
                     
  apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls
1959/60 34 - 8 - - - - - 42 -
1960/61 36 - 7 - 5 - 5 - 53 -
1961/62 41 - 8 1 - - - - 49 1
1962/63 41 1 3 1 - - - - 44 2
1963/64 19 1 5 - - - - - 24 1
1964/65 34 4 5 - - - - - 39 4
1965/66 39 6 3 - 4 - - - 46 6
1966/67 27 3 - - 2 - 4 - 33 3
                     
Total 271 15 39 2 11 - 9 - 330 17

 

Profile by Tony Scholes

 

When manager Harry Potts made a rare dip into the transfer market in January 1959 no one could have known that he was signing the last piece of what would become Burnley's Championship jigsaw some sixteen months later.

Only one other member of the team that lifted the trophy had been signed from another club, Northern Ireland international Jimmy McIlroy, and it was to that same club Glentoran that Potts paid £5,000 to sign a seventeen year old left back by the name of Alex Elder.

David Smith was playing left back at the time and his place wasn't under any threat from the new capture who found his place in the club's 'A' team once he'd settled down in town. However, by the end of that season he'd won his place in the reserves and good judges were suggesting we'd got another decent looking player from the Belfast club.

Smith suffered a broken leg, not for the first time in his career, and by now Tommy Cummings had the number three shirt. That was until we came up against Preston at Deepdale in September 1959.

Wing half Bobby Seith reported in with a poisoned foot and a reshuffle saw Cummings move to centre half and the young Elder played at left back. The debut, on paper, couldn't have been more difficult, as he lined up against Preston's brilliant Tom Finney.

He played him well, although it was Finney who scored the only goal of the game, and so well that there was to be no return for Smith when fit with Elder very much there to stay. Big, strong, quick, a good passer of the ball, he had just about every attribute for a full back and he was very much a modern full back in that he loved to get forward as well as defend. His storming runs up the pitch became a trademark.

He added a new dimension to our play down that left hand side and what a first year as a first team footballer it was for him. Such were his performances that he was called up by Northern Ireland at both under-23 and B level, winning one cap at both.

The reason why he was restricted to one cap at each level became apparent in April 1960 when he stepped up to the full side and made his debut against Wales at the Racecourse Ground at Wrexham.

He'd had a tough opponent for his Burnley debut in Finney and it didn't come any easier when he lined up for his country and found himself up against Tottenham winger Cliff Jones. It proved a difficult game for Elder but he was to go on and play no less than forty times for Northern Ireland with all but six of those caps won whilst he was a Burnley player.

A month after that international debut and he was in the team that lifted the Championship at Maine Road. From the day of his debut he'd missed just one game, against Nottingham Forest, and that to allow him to make that international debut at Wrexham.

He'd formed a great full back partnership with John Angus. They had such contrasting styles but they were, without doubt, the best full back partnership in English football. Elder went from strength to strength, playing in the European Cup and in the next season when the club almost won the double but fell at the last hurdle in both competitions during the last week of the season.

It was during that eventually disappointing season that he just about lifted the roof off Turf Moor when he finally scored his first Burnley goal. There were twenty minutes remaining in an FA Cup tie against QPR. We led 3-0 (we went on to win the game 6-1) when Elder hit a shot from outside the box at the cricket field end that flew into the corner. He'd come so close to scoring on a number of occasions and it was greeted with delight both on the terraces and by his team mates who surrounded him.

The first set back in his career came in the summer of 1963 when he broke a leg ahead of the new season. He appeared on the team picture for that season with his leg in plaster. Walter Joyce and Mick Buxton stepped in but the injury didn't keep him out for too long and he returned to the side five days before Christmas.

Ahead of the 1965/66 season he replaced Brian Miller as club captain and almost led Burnley to another championship in his first season as skipper. It became a three horse race with Liverpool (the eventual winners) and Leeds.

That season we won as many points as we did when we lifted the trophy in 1960 but it just wasn't to be. Our last two home games that season were against Liverpool and Leeds. We beat Liverpool 2-0 with goals from Willie Irvine and Ralph Coates but memorably for Elder we were beaten 1-0 by Leeds.

'Memorable for Elder' because he scored the only goal of the game with a bizarre own goal from the left back position. He looked to play it back to Adam Blacklaw but hadn't realised the goalkeeper had moved towards him. The ball just sailed past Blacklaw and into the net.

He once said people always wanted to talk to him about the 'own goal'. Maybe it is because he made so few mistakes those that he did make stood out.

He led us into Europe and into the Fairs Cup but that 1966/67 season was to be his last at Burnley. Former captain Jimmy Adamson had become coach and Elder felt his face didn't fit with him. He opted for a move and signed for Stoke City for £50,000 after 330 appearances for the Clarets.

He suffered an injury right at the start of his Stoke career which hampered him throughout his time there, but he still went on to play six years in the Potteries making another 80 appearances. Another injury brought it to an end and after a short time with Leek Town he hung up his boots.

He now lives on the Costa Almeria in Spain but always speaks with great affection of his time in Burnley.

Alex Elder is a very unassuming man and if you got the opportunity to ask him about the great days he would always tell you that he was very fortunate to play in a great team. What he will never tell you was that he was there on merit, that he was one of the great players the like of which we've never seen since at Burnley.