A Tribute to Billy Elliott


Truth is I don't know too much about him, other than what my father told me about him and Jimmy Mac when we talked about who he would have in his best ever BFC team.

He was born in Bradford and played for Park Avenue before coming to Burnley for something around £25,000. To be sent off for an offence in those days (late 40s and 50s) you really did have commit something akin to murder, yet Elliott was sent off in one game, the only player to be sent off for Burnley in something like a 20 year period, for looking threateningly at a player. Burnley folk talked about it for weeks.

My father insisted he was the hardest player he had ever seen. And my father saw Andy Lochhead as well so that tells you something. And Elliott wasn't a centre forward or a centre half he was a winger; that was the notable thing.

There's this myth that Mike Summerbee was the first winger to dish it out a bit and send full backs over the touchline. Not true: It was Billy Elliott who decided that the tradition of full backs terrorising wingers should be reversed. This he duly did with remarkable effect.

Legend has it that his tussles with PNE full back Willie Cunningham were the battles to end all battles. Cunningham wasn't that big but was made of just bone and muscle. He was the prototype Incredible Hulk. When they met in one particular game my father told me people closed their eyes when they ran towards each other for a 50/50 ball and when they met the ground shook and the stands trembled. My father informed me, with a faraway look in his eyes, As if the nostalgia was all to much, that such was the ferocity of these challenges that Finney the captain did something quite unprecedented for those days and moved Cunningham to the other side. Elliott 1 Cunningham 0, as it were.

Jimmy Mac recalled one game when they were team mates and it was a time when it was a particularly small forward line, so very high crosses were not much use. Elliott having softened up his marker with a few hefty challenges would then have the better of him for most of the game and ping cross after cross over. But these were lowish crosses at just about head height.

Fine so far then, but Jimmy Mac said that when they were just at head height and the ball was like concrete in those days, or when wet weighed a ton, and the laces left a nice imprint on your forehead, who the hell ever wanted to head them when they came across at the speed Elliott pinged them at. These weren't anything gentle or considerate; they came across like a rocket.

So, Jimmy Mac said. There was one game when these crosses kept coming over and there was this understandable reluctance to head them. Elliot became thoroughly fed up of thus and at last lost his patience.

He glowered at the midget forward line and spoke with a look of menacing intent on his face. "Which one of you f*ckers keeps f*cking ducking?" he called over. "I'm wasting my f*cking time here."

He was sold to Sunderland but I am unable to tell you if he had better luck there with his crosses. He won five England caps, was an absolute hero to Burnley fans who saw him play, and then had various spells in coaching and management. There were a few occasions at the end of his career when he then played full-back. In so doing tradition returned. For now, it was the full back kicking the winger.