Feature by Tony Scholes
Updated Thursday, 25th October 2012
Date and Place of Birth
18th July 1938 - St. HELENS
died 25th October 2012
Transfers to and from Burnley
from St HELENS TOWN - November 1956
to MANCHESTER UNITED - April 1964 (£56,000)
First and Last Burnley Games
LEEDS UNITED (a) - 11th March 1957
LIVERPOOL (h) - 14th April 1964
MANCHESTER UNITED, BLACKBURN ROVERS, BURY
Burnley Career Stats
|Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Others||Total|
Profile by Tony Scholes
He was twice a Football League Champion and now, this week, former Burnley winger John Connelly is also the proud owner of a World Cup Winners medal.
He was a title winner with Burnley in 1960 and then again with Manchester United five years later. He won twenty caps for England, and that World Cup medal came courtesy of the last of those England appearances.
Nelly's career in professional football started after he turned in a good performance for St. Helens Town in an away game at Barnoldswick. He was playing as an inside forward that day in front of a Burnley scout who had gone to watch another player.
We were impressed, and manager Alan Brown went to speak to the 18-year-old. In a television interview a few years ago with Brian Moore, Connelly said he'd sat in Brown's car to discuss the move and it was the first time he'd ever been in a car. That conversation led to him signing for Burnley in November 1956 at the start of what was to be a memorable career.
He may well have played in an inside forward berth that day but Connelly was a winger, preferably on the right but more than capable of playing on the left wing. Two footed and with some pace, he was able to go round the outside of his full back but also had a remarkable ability to cut inside and hit shots into the top corner.
On his arrival at Burnley the right wing position was contested by Billy Gray and Doug Newlands and so the young Connelly had a wait ahead of him. He did make his debut in that 1956/57 season, in a 1-1 draw at Leeds, replacing the injured Brian Pilkington.
He made two more appearances that season, again both on the left, and was in the side just three times in the following season, all of which were played in the inside forward positions.
The 1958/59 season started with Newlands on the right wing, but with the championship now less than two years away he won himself a place in the side eventually and played all but ten games that season, scoring a remarkable 12 goals.
A year later and that total of goals paled into insignificance. As Burnley became Champions of England our two forwards Ray Pointer and Jimmy Robson scored 19 and 18 goals respectively, Connelly was our leading scorer with 20 goals and in just 34 appearances.
And yet, it is one goal he didn't score that will always best be remembered. A knee injury forced him to miss seven of the last eight games of that season. John was in his hospital bed after surgery on the night the championship was won and it was his deputy Trevor Meredith who scored the winner. It was Meredith's third and most important goal during that run in.
Such was his form that season that he was called up by the England selectors and made his first appearance for his country in October 1959 in a Home International against Wales in Cardiff. Just eleven days later he scored his first England goal, this time in a friendly at Wembley against Sweden.
Meredith again deputised for him at the beginning of the 1960/61 season but once fully fit he was back in the side, tormenting full backs and scoring more goals. He added another 15 league goals with another five in cup competitions. Those five included his wonderful goal in Paris in the European Cup second leg tie against Reims.
There was no let up for Connelly over the next few seasons. He continued to get games for his country as he remained a regular in the Burnley side. He scored the vital equaliser in the 1962 FA Cup Semi-Final against Fulham at Villa Park, winning us a replay which we won with two Robson goals.
I'd said he was also able to play on the left wing and that's where he was moved for the 1963/64 season with the emergence of Willie Morgan who came into the side on the right. Unfortunately that 1963/64 season proved to be his last as a Burnley player and at the end of that season he signed for Manchester United in a £56,000 deal.
By then he'd taken his total of goals for Burnley into three figures, an incredible total even in football of that era for a winger. He'd also made ten England appearances, and that left him behind only Bob Kelly as the most capped England player at Burnley.
His move to Old Trafford was well timed. In his first season, on the right wing with George Best on the left, they lifted the title for the first time since it had been won by the Busby Babes in 1957.
His second season at Old Trafford was World Cup year and he was in Alf Ramsey's squad for the finals in England. He was an England regular now and he'd added another nine caps since joining United and was in the team for the opening game against Uruguay.
It ended 0-0, Connelly was left out of the side, and in fact never played for England again as Ramsey opted to play without wingers for the rest of his time as England manager.
Not only was his England career over but so was his Manchester United career. At the beginning of the 1966/67 season there were three clubs chasing him. Blackpool wanted him, as did Blackburn who had just been relegated. But so did Burnley and it looked odds on that he would make a return to Turf Moor.
Instead he opted for a move to Blackburn, and second division football. It wasn't a successful period for our local neighbours but John was a big success at Ewood Park in a four year spell. After Blackburn he signed for Bury and spent three years there before retiring from the game at the end of the 1972/73 season.
That was it for John Connelly in football. He left the game and opened a fish and chip shop in Brierfield appropriately named 'Connelly's Plaice'. He was there for a good number of years before retiring and a visit there was always good for your fish and chips and a natter about football and Burnley Football Club in particular.
John and his wife Sandra still live locally and John has certainly not forgotten his time at Burnley and he has recently been back in the spotlight. In May 2009 he was one of the Burnley Championship team to travel to Wembley to see the club once more reach the top flight with a play off win against Sheffield United.
That was followed on Wednesday 10th June 2009 with him receiving his World Cup Winners medal for beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Back in 1966 only the eleven players on the field (there were no substitutes in then) received medals. That's changed now and the whole squad get them. FIFA have allowed that to be applied retrospectively.
It's a more than well deserved honour for the now 70-year-old Connelly. As I wrote, a league title winner twice, a World Cup winner and twenty caps for England. He scored over 100 league and cup goals for Burnley and when you look back, for his four clubs, he made 570 league appearances scoring 181 goals.
John Connelly was in the first Burnley side I ever saw play. I've seen many, many wingers wear the claret and blue right up to the modern day with players such as Glen Little and Wade Elliott. Connelly, without a shadow of a doubt, stands up there with the best.
One little footnote: Back in 2007 John Motson went into raptures following an Andriy Shevchenko goal in a Chelsea FA Cup win against Spurs. I spoke to an old friend of mine about it and he replied: "John Connelly used to score goals like that every other week."
John Connelly sadly passed away on 25th October 2012 at the age of 74.