Taffy is back at the Turf

Last updated : 21 February 2003 By Tony Scholes

Although will say three he did in fact have four spells with the Clarets in total and both stated and ended his league career at Turf Moor.

As Burnley earned a replay with a draw at Fulham last Sunday the Taffy was celebrating his 50th birthday and it is now well over 30 years since he made his Burnley debut. That came in the relegation season of 1970/71 and a home game against Nottingham Forest. We won but he was to play just four games that season.

However he was brought into the side in the following season in Division Two after just a handful of games and scored both goals in a 2-0 win at Fulham, his first goals for the club. For the next five years he was a regular in the side as the Clarets stormed back into the First Division, came within a point of Europe and reached the FA Cup Semi-Final.

By the Autumn of 1975 it was his turn to go to balance the books and League Champions Derby signed him for around £330,000. From Derby he went to QPR and it was during his time there that Burnley Chairman Bob Lord said that if he could re-sign one player it would be James.

And so he did early in the 1978/79 season with the club now back in the 2nd Division. This time his stay was just under two years and as the Clarets faced the last match of the season before dropping into the 3rd Division for the first time Leighton James went home to Swansea and John Toshack’s revolution.

He was in sparkling form for Swansea as they took on the best of English football but two years later he was on his travels again, this time to Sunderland after being signed by fellow Welshman Alan Durban.

He returned to the North West in 1984 for a season with Bury and he was in familiar surroundings with Martin Dobson and Frank Casper in charge and the likes of Terry Pashley, Joe Jakub and Kevin Young as team mates.

But back to Wales and Newport County where he was acting manager for a short time before he accepted the call from Brian Miller to help out the beleaguered Clarets in 1986.

As Burnley plummeted to the basement and possible extinction Taffy did his best to rally the troops and turned in some excellent performances but was surprisingly released at the end of the season.

But he had returned before the start of the following season as youth team coach and then won a place back into the first team, even playing as a sweeper. He even got in a Wembley appearance as a sub in the Sherpa Van Final against Wolves.

When Frank Casper replaced Brian Miller as boss he took the coaching responsibilities from him and put him back into the first team and he played most of the second half of the 1988/89 season.

In the very last match he was substituted and we all knew as Shaun McGrory replaced him that his Burnley career was finally at an end. Without doubt the end of an era that had run for almost 19 years.

He played a total of 336 league games for the Clarets and scored 66 goals. He played 23 full internationals for Wales whilst a Claret and was a hero to many Burnley fans over a long period. There are certainly a lot of sons of Burnley fans now in their early 30s who are called Leighton.

He even played for both Burnley sides, Burnley and Lowerhouse, at cricket in the Lancashire League and was an accomplished batsman. And Burnley football fans will want to know that in 1988 he played a wonderful innings against East Lancashire at their Blackburn ground to see Burnley through to victory.

At times arrogant, at times self centred, but Leighton James was without doubt a star and a wonderful talent. His presence at Turf Moor at half time tomorrow deserves, in fact demands, the wonderful reception I am certain he will receive.

He is now manager of Llanelli for the second time and has managed a number of non-league clubs. In his career he played for seven different clubs but for me Taffy will always be a Claret.