Feature by Tony Scholes
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2011
Date and Place of Birth
15th October 1930 - Tottington
Transfers to and from Burnley
amateur/part time then pro - July 1952
retired - May 1961
First and Last Burnley Games
Aston Villa (a) - 10th April 1954
West Ham United (h) - 14th March 1959
Burnley Career Stats
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Others||Total|
Profile by Tony Scholes
When I first started going to watch Burnley we were in that great period of the early 1960s. That meant there were a number of very good players I just missed that my dad used to tell me about.
I know he liked Bill Holden, Les Shannon and Bobby Seith, and was a big fan of manager Alan Brown. And then he used to talk about this goalkeeper who I was, at the time, watching playing reserve team football.
The goalkeeper in question was Colin McDonald who I thought was the understudy to Adam Blacklaw. But in truth McDonald was trying to come back from an injury sustained playing in an inter-league game. He never made it back to the first team and the career of this goalkeeper was at an end.
In the early post war era the Tottington born McDonald's family were neighbours of Jack Marshall the former Blackburn manager who was a full back at Burnley at the time. Marshall had seen him play and was impressed enough to recommend him to Clarets boss Cliff Britton.
Britton was equally impressed and in the summer of 1948 McDonald joined Burnley as an amateur but it would be almost six years before he made his first team debut. Just a few months after signing amateur forms he was taken on as a part time professional whilst continuing his trade as a plumber.
He finally made his reserve team debut in May 1950 but was then lost to the club whilst serving his National Service. During that time he played for Headington United, later to become Oxford United, who were then in the Southern League. His presence forced them out of the FA Cup in the 1951/52 season after he was deemed to have played against Wycombe in the competition whilst ineligible.
He finally arrived back at Burnley at the end of that season and immediately signed as a full time professional. He became a regular in the reserves and finally in April 1954, at the age of 23, he made his first team debut at Aston Villa and conceded five goals.
Des Thompson was the goalkeeper to make way for him and Thompson wasn't to win his place back as McDonald became the regular number one. He broke a leg in December 1956 and that allowed his eventual successor Adam Blacklaw to come into the first team, but once fit McDonald was back.
Such was his form that it was only a matter of time before he was called up for England. He won a place in the Football League side that beat the Scottish League in March 1958 and in May he lined up for England for the first time in the Lenin Stadium in Moscow in a 1-1 draw against USSR.
It wasn't a bad line up either. England lined up: Colin McDonald, Don Howe, Tommy Banks, Eddie Clamp, Billy Wright, Bill Slater, Bryan Douglas, Bobby Robson, Derek Kevan, Johnny Haynes and Tom Finney. And at the opposite end of the pitch was the legendary Lev Yashin in goal for the Soviets.
He was in England's World Cup squad and played in all four games during the tournament in Sweden. His best performance was against the eventual winners Brazil as we held them to a 0-0 draw, and such was his form he was voted the best goalkeeper in the tournament.
He returned to Burnley and to a side that was only two years away from lifting the Football League Championship and going on to become only the third English side to compete in the European Cup. But for McDonald the end was far too close.
On Saturday 14th March 1959 he was in the Burnley side that beat West Ham 1-0 with a late goal from John Connelly. Little did anyone know that as the final whistle blew he had played his last game in the Burnley first team.
Three days later he was back on duty for the Football League in an inter-league game against the League of Ireland at Dalymount Park in Dublin. Sadly his leg was broken in that game although no one at the time could have known that it would signal the end of his career.
Things got even worse when complications set in and he was left in a terrible state when he contracted pneumonia. Thankfully he recovered from that and he did eventually return to Turf Moor and got as far as playing reserve team football whilst the first team were becoming England's number one.
He couldn't regain the fitness required however to get back in the side and at the end of the 1960/61 season he accepted the inevitable and retired from the game at the age of 30.
He did play again but in the Cheshire League for Altrincham, but that was in 1965 after he'd worked as a coach at Wycombe and then enjoyed a spell as chief scout at Bury. After Altrincham he became chief scout at Bolton and then returned to Bury, where he was manager for a short while, before coaching at both Oldham and Tranmere.
As you will see above in the stats, Colin McDonald played 201 games for Burnley, but would have played many more games but for that broken leg. He won eight England caps, all in 1958, but would surely have gone on to win many more and would probably have become our most capped England player.
How good was he? My simple answer to that is I don't know because other than a few reserve games I never saw him play. My dad told me that had he not got injured Gordon Banks would have had a lot fewer England caps, he thought McDonald was much the better of the two keepers and was without doubt one of his all time favourites.
It is the same with everyone you speak to who actually saw him play, from team mates to fans. They will all tell you he is the best goalkeeper they have ever seen play for Burnley. They will tell you that he rarely had to make spectacular saves because his positional sense was such that he was always in the right place.
We were blessed with a string of good goalkeepers at the time, so much so that we had to turn good goalkeepers away because they were so far down the pecking order. Colin McDonald, we are told, was without doubt the best of the lot.
It must have been difficult for him watching the Burnley team go on to all that success whilst he fought to try and get back into the game, and if it is any consolation to him there is no doubt he is still fondly remembered by those Burnley fans of that era.
On 20th November 2008 it was announced that he was donating the first of his eight England caps to Burnley Football Club. That means a part of Colin McDonald will always be at Turf Moor, and that's exactly how it should be.