Dave is once again looking back to happier times

Last updated : 11 April 2020 By Dave Thornley

Following promotion in 1973, the new season saw the Clarets finish sixth in the old first division, a placing which remains the high water-mark in my personal experience as a Burnley fan, despite the sterling efforts of Sean Dyche’s current squad. 

The final league table of that season would bear a strange look to contemporary eyes; Leeds were champions, followed by Liverpool; then Derby, Ipswich, Stoke and Burnley. In contrast, Chelsea escaped relegation by just one point, whilst Manchester United weren’t so fortunate. 

Burnley finished level on points with fifth placed Stoke and their goal difference was one better; but back then goal average was the deciding factor, and so it was the Potters who claimed the last UEFA Cup place. 

Near miss for Burnley in the Cup too; they were a better team than Newcastle and were miles ahead of the Magpies in the league when the two teams met in the semi-final at Hillsborough. But what Newcastle had which Burnley didn’t, was a top class, in-form striker. 

Malcolm Macdonald had garnered a deserved reputation as brash braggadocio; but unfortunately for Burnley on that March afternoon in Sheffield his deeds matched his words as he barged his way through the centre of Burnley’s defence, leaving poor Jim Thomson trailing in his wake, before slotting the ball into the corner of Alan Stevenson’s net. 

Macdonald scored a further goal and although Burnley huffed and puffed, they could not fashion a comeback and so Burnley were denied a trip to Wembley. 

Newcastle’s subsequently limp capitulation in the final against Liverpool remains a source of irritation, even after all these years. Burnley would have given Bill Shankly’s team a much tougher game. 

These disappointments should not however detract from what was otherwise an outstanding season for Burnley in which they played some wonderful flowing football, with Leighton James on the wing and Martin Dobson in midfield performing starring roles. 

Peter Noble was acquired at the start of the season as a valuable addition to the midfield, only to find that a season-long injury to Mick Docherty would oblige him play at right back for the whole season; a task which he discharged with aplomb. Players had to be versatile in those days. 

Two stand-out games spring to mind from that season, both against the eventual champions, Don Revie’s Leeds United. 

Leeds’ march to the title was achieved in the manner of an invading army; precise in its planning, relentless and brutal in its execution. There is no denying that Leeds possessed some wonderful players; but there was a cynical, even sinister edge to the way in which they went about their business. 

This provoked bad blood between Leeds and other clubs; Burnley being one such club. There was a long running feud between Bob Lord and his Leeds counterpart Manny Cussins; and similar antipathy between Revie and Clarets’ manager Jimmy Adamson. 

When the two clubs met in November 1973, almost thirty eight thousand fans crammed into a three sided Turf Moor {the Bob Lord stand was under construction) to watch what was then the top two teams in the league battle out a nil-nil draw. Leeds were masters of the away draw and Burnley couldn’t break down their defence. But the match did illustrate that Burnley could compete with the best and deserved their lofty position in the league. 

Fast forward to March and the return fixture at Elland Road; Leeds remained firmly on course to secure the championship and Yorkshire Television were producing a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Revie, following him through a week which began with a 1-0 defeat at Anfield, only their second of the season and hardly a disastrous result, and concluding with the home fixture against Burnley. 

The footage showed Revie compiling his famous dossiers on the opposition strengths and weaknesses; drilling his team in training sessions; supervising the games of bingo of which he was so fond and talking without embarrassment or irony about his ludicrous set of superstitions. 

The documentary then guided us to its climax, an anticipated victory over the Clarets. Burnley, however, had failed to read the script and promptly picked apart the Leeds defence with a performance which was as forceful as it was clinical; resulting in a 4-1 victory the highlight of which was Paul Fletcher’s spectacular overhead kick. Almost as enjoyable was seeing Revie’s grimace and slumping shoulders as the camera captured his reaction to the horror unfolding before him. 

For Burnley, though, the victory came with a large price tag; Norman “bite yer legs” Hunter’s brutal tackle on Frank Casper resulted in an injury from which he never properly recovered and hastened to a premature conclusion the playing career of one of Burnley’s most cherished strikers. 

Ever since that season there has been a unique sense of gratification in beating Leeds. It is a feeling that persists to this day and one which I know is felt by fans of other clubs. It is that, rather than the quality of the football and the winning of trophies, which has become the enduring legacy of Leeds under Don Revie. 

Revie would leave Leeds at the end of that season to embark on a disastrous tenure as England manager. 

For his part, Adamson would leave Burnley not long afterwards as the club began to slump and his relationship with Bob Lord deteriorated. He would later manage a Leeds team in steep decline, a situation which, given what had gone before, was never going to have a satisfactory outcome. 

But Adamson’s spell as Burnley manager saw him produce a bright, enterprising, skilful and successful team; one which could justifiably be considered one of the best in the land. His work, and that of his predecessor Harry Potts, set the standard which future Burnley managers, right the way up to Sean Dyche, would seek to emulate. 

Dave reminisces once again to beat these "Lockdown Blues", for my part the best goal I have ever seen watching the Clarets was Paul Fletcher's overhead kick at Elland Road. (TEC).