Jack Hixon is special guest

Last updated : 15 February 2002 By Tony Scholes

At the last game it was Andy Wharton and just before Christmas we were delighted to see Billy Hamilton back at the Turf. At the end of November we had a fantastic turn out of former players to launch the club's latest video.

Tomorrow though the special guest is not an ex-Claret, in fact he never played professional football. Having said that his contribution to Burnley Football Club means he can stand up there with the best of them.

The special guest tomorrow is our North East scout Jack Hixon who has just celebrated his 81st birthday. Supporters are never really aware of the work that scouts carry out for their club and Jack Hixon certainly worked tirelessly for ours during a wonderful period. He was in charge of our scouting in the North East and over a period of time discovered more than a few players for Burnley.

Two of his Burnley finds went on to play for England. Firstly there was Ralph Coates and some time later Dave Thomas. Had he just found those two players alone he would have done a magnificent job but there are so many others you can add. There were Brian O'Neil, Dave Merrington, Les Latcham, Mick Buxton, Arthur Bellamy, John Murray and Ray Ternent.

Oh and yes there was Francis Stanley Ternent who may well have only played a handful of games for the Clarets but will probably in time to come be remembered before any of the others.

Surely anyone with such a talent for finding players must have been involved in the game at professional level. The answer is in fact no, Jack was employed as a clerk for British Rail based at Newcastle Central Station.

He started scouting over 50 years ago and it was through a friendship formed in the Royal Navy that he became involved in scouting and with the Clarets. That friendship was with ex-Claret Billy Elliott, in fact Jack was Billy's best man at his wedding.

He started to scout for the Clarets when Elliott joined us and eventually he was appointed head of scouting in the North East. When you realise that much of Burnley's talent came from that area during our heady days it is fair to say that Jack Hixon was one of the most important people involved with the club.

We were a constant embarrassment to the top two clubs in the region, Sunderland and Newcastle. As they floundered the Clarets went from strength to strength and on one occasion we played Newcastle in a reserve team game at St. James Park with 11 North Easterners in the side.

He wasn't just a scout though, he didn't just spot these players and then hand them over. In a recent TV documentary on him there was one thing that came through loud and clear and that was that all the players he discovered have huge respect for him and they all consider him as a friend.

Sadly he left Burnley at the end of the 1960s but his work continued for other clubs. He had a spell working with Southampton and during this period he found them a young centre-half called Steve Davis. Despite all his finds for the Clarets I think it is fair to say that probably his top discovery of all time was for Southampton and that was Alan Shearer.

There have been others too and it was Jack Hixon, during a spell at Sunderland, who found them a young striker called Michael Bridges. We may never find out just how good Bridges is because of the injuries he has suffered but many believe a fit Bridges would have been close to the top of the names for Sven Goran Eriksson's squad.

One player he discovered for the Clarets as mentioned above was one Francis Stanley Ternent and it is to Stan's credit that he has brought Jack back into the Turf Moor fold. Already we have Hixon players back at Turf Moor. Andrew Leeson has played a number of reserve team game as has Mark Rasmussen whilst Anthony Shandran has made one first team appearance.

I watched the recent TV documentary called "Hixon's Lads" probably for no other reason than there was going to be some Burnley FC stuff on it. I didn't expect it to be a particularly good programme. I sat glued for some 30 minutes to one of the most inspirational football programmes I have seen for some time. Jack's enthusiasm for football and for Burnley was there for all to see as was the huge respect that all these lads of his have for him.

Earlier this week at the reserve team game at Oldham we were discussing David Eyres with some Oldham fans and talking about the sort of receptions he has received at the Turf. Other ex-Clarets too have received these wonderful Turf Moor receptions, tomorrow Jack Hixon deserves one every bit as loud and sincere as any that have ever been heard on the Turf.