Champion returns as special guest

Last updated : 31 January 2003 By Tony Scholes

The special guest at Turf Moor this week is left winger Brian Pilkington who did all that in his career at Burnley and not only that but scored in the game that saw the Clarets lift the Championship at Maine Road.

Pilky had been at the Turf for nine years when the title was won, he joined in 1951 from his Leyland Motors where he was serving an apprenticeship. He was just 18 years-old but he didn’t have a long wait for his first team debut. It came in his second season and he stood in for Billy Elliott at White Hart Lane against Spurs.

He played just five games that season but the 1953/54 saw him become a regular right from the start of the season. Manager Frank Hill had sold Elliott to Sunderland confident that the little stocky winger would easily step into his shoes on the left wing. Pilky didn’t disappoint and at the age of 20 he established himself in the first team, it was a position he was not to relinquish for the rest of his Turf Moor career.

Like many Burnley players he won England recognition but like many Burnley players he was never able to pick up the number of caps he deserved. His first appearance in 1954, against Northern Ireland and Jimmy McIlroy in Belfast, proved also to be his last.

But Burnley were becoming one of the top sides in the country and Pilky was more than playing his part, and certainly on the last day of the 1959/60 season at Maine Road. Trevor Meredith, in for the injured John Connelly, scored the winning goal but it was Pilkington who had settled the nerves by putting us in front.

It was his ninth league goal in that fantastic season and I think it is fair to say the most important of the lot.

Gordon Harris was pushing for a place the following season but Pilkington still retained his place but suddenly in March of 1961 he was sold to Bolton Wanderers. Just as the club had deemed it good business to sell Billy Elliott eight years earlier they did with Pilky.

He had played exactly 300 league games for the Clarets and scored 67 goals with another 10 goals in 40 games in other competitions.

Ironically his last Burnley goals came in the European Cup, he scored two in the 3-1 home win against Hamburg. He had left the club by the time we reached Germany for the second leg where his replacement Harris scored.

After Bolton he moved on to Bury and Barrow (then in the Football League) before ending his career where it started with Leyland Motors.

For those supporters from the 50s and early 60s Pilky is remembered with much affection, he is one of a small number of Burnley players to have won a League Championship medal.

He now returns to the Turf just a few days before his 70th birthday, which he will celebrate on 10th February. He is assured a superb reception from the Turf Moor crowd and it will be fully deserved.