Burnley hit the football world with a bombshell
Feature by Tony Scholes
Updated Friday, 11th March 2011
Fifty years ago today Burnley faced Chelsea in a First Division game at Turf Moor with the home club creating headlines throughout the football world the day before the game when manager Harry Potts announced the team.
Burnley, reigning league champions, were going into the game in fourth place in the table but any hopes of retaining the title were long gone with leaders Spurs already 17 points clear of us, and that in the days of two points for a win. We were even eight points behind Sheffield Wednesday who were in third place.
Our opponents Chelsea were a mere mid-table side in 14th place and manager Harry Potts was fully aware that we had two very big games coming up within the week. On the following Wednesday we were in Hamburg for the second leg of our European Cup quarter final and just one week on from this league game it was the FA Cup semi final against Spurs.
The bombshell on the Friday was the news that Potts had decided to rest ten of his regular first team with only Gordon Harris, new to the team following the sale of Brian Pilkington, remaining.
Jim Furnell was in goal in place of Adam Blacklaw. Full backs John Angus and Alex Elder were replaced by David Smith and Billy Marshall. The half back line read David Walker, Tommy Cummings and Jimmy Scott rather than Walter Joyce, Jimmy Adamson and Brian Miller.
The four changes to the forward line meant it read Trevor Meredith, Ian Lawson, Andy Lochhead, Ronnie Fenton and Gordon Harris and not John Connelly, Jimmy McIlroy, Ray Pointer, Jimmy Robson and Harris.
Immediately there were suggestions that Burnley could face sanctions from the Football League but League secretary Alan Hardacre said the League could only act if a rule was broken and not on something that might happen.
There has been precedents previously. Newcastle had been fined for doing similar ahead of big cup ties in 1924. Their fine was £750, Burnley's ultimately was 1,000 guineas.
Some Burnley supporters sympathised with the decision when the news was released but others went to the club to ask whether reserve team prices would be charged.
And so it was Burnley Reserves v Chelsea and what a game of football it proved to be in front of a crowd of over 19,000 with some attending out of loyalty and others from curiosity. They were, it was said, prepared to offer encouragement and support in the face of a possible massacre but found the reserves, marshalled by the experienced Cummings were more than a match for the Londoners.
There was more enthusiasm from the terraces than at many a normal first team match and this erupted into sustained cacophony of mass joy when HARRIS fired in a hot shot from the left wing in eight minutes to give Burnley the lead.
The spectators half expected Chelsea to do something about it, and GREAVES did so eight minutes later and equalised.
However, the Burnley team continued with unabated enthusiasm as if determined to show all and sundry that they were capable of taking the place of their seniors and again they triumphed on 20 minutes in a cunning move with LOCHHEAD netting from a left-wing centre.
Chelsea began to realise that if this was a joke it was not going to be appreciated by them and they developed a slightly worried look. They did have a spell of pressure with Smith kicking one shot off the goal line but then, unbelievably, Burnley's lead was increased to two goals when HARRIS obliged from Meredith with 10 minutes to go to the interval.
During half time it was assumed that whoever was in charge of the Chelsea team had taken the trouble to ask the players what they thought they were doing to be getting beaten by a set of reserves, and what would be said up and down the country.
They were keener in the tackle and that led to Venables and Fenton having words which were obviously not of mutual admiration and there were more such incidents.
Then came a three goal rush in a nine minute spell. TAMBLING added a touch of variety with a powerful standing shot to make the score 3-2, but Harris took a forward pass to rattle the Chelsea framework and LOCHHEAD got the rebound past Bonetti to restore the two goal home advantage.
The Londoners looked in desperate straits but TAMBLING restored their shattered confidence with a well taken and timely goal. Harris then missed when clean through for Burnley but in the last few minutes the home team did start to tire.
Chelsea took advantage and GREAVES came into the scheme of things with a typical flash of individual genius. He swerved round three defenders and cracked in an equaliser to the great disappointment of the home crowd who, naturally enough, had been hoping for a victory.
A 4-4 draw in the end but the Burnley reserves gave a memorable display. They were valiant substitutes for the recognised senior side and the home fans left realising that Burnley had a very bright future.
The teams were;
Burnley: Jim Furnell, David Smith, Billy Marshall, David Walker, Tommy Cummings, Jimmy Scott, Trevor Meredith, Ian Lawson, Andy Lochhead, Ronnie Fenton, Gordon Harris.
Chelsea: Peter Bonetti, John Sillet, Peter Sillet, Terry Venables, Bobby Evans, Sylvan Anderton, Peter Brabrook, Jimmy Greaves, Ron Tindall, Bobby Tambling, Mike Harrison.
Referee: Mr R. T. E. Langdale (Darlington).
The three action photographs show the first three goals scored by Harris, Lochhead and a second from Harris.