Thinking Back To Better Times

Last updated : 21 March 2020 By Dave Thornley

During this period of enforced abstinence from live football, with no current matches to discuss, I thought that I might share with you some of my more memorable experiences, good and bad, of over half a century as a Claret, trusting that you will forgive the indulgence.

What better place to start, therefore, than at what was for me, the very beginning.

My love of the game was ignited in the summer of 1966, when England had won the World Cup with the West Ham trio of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters prominent in the victory.

So it was that when West Ham were due to visit Turf Moor the following December, weeks of patient and persistent nagging resulted in my Dad, my Grandad and myself taking our seats in the old Brunshaw Road stand.

I had been to football matches before, non-league games at Nelson FC; where the players were unknown, the opponents even less so, and the results of limited consequence. This, however, was a whole new level.

The tingle of excitement I felt still resonates to this day as the blond head of Bobby Moore emerged from the tunnel below me, ball tucked under his arm, imperious and aloof as he led out his Hammers team, including his two World Cup winning colleagues, resplendent in their classic away strip of sky blue with two Claret stripes across the chest.

The greatest defensive player of all time had in recent months repelled the likes of Pele, Eusabio and Seeler, but on that December afternoon he found the Clarets’ strike pair of Willie Irvine and Andy Lochhead too much to handle.

The dynamic Clarets' trio of Brian O’Neill, Willie Morgan and Gordon Harris prompted and harassed from midfield; all three legendary names at Turf Moor and were truly great players at any level.

Irvine scored twice for Burnley and missed the penalty that would have completed his hat-trick; “Elder wants to give over being so generous” was one sage comment from a chap seated near me; a comment I found mystifying until I subsequently discovered that skipper Alex Elder was the usual penalty taker.

Andy Lochhead and Brian O’Neill also scored for Burnley and Geoff Hurst netted twice for the Hammers, it was a wonderful, rip-roaring end-to-end encounter and an experience which would shape a large part of the remainder of my life.

Subsequent visits that season were less impressive; a 2-0 Boxing Day defeat by Stoke City, most of which I missed, because I was too small to see over the heads of the standing crowd; and a disappointing draw the following February against that season’s eventual champions, Manchester United, with their own venerated trio of Charlton, Law and Best.

None of that really mattered in the great scheme of things, because by now I was a lost cause, from that day in December 1966 I became a Claret and remain so to this day.

A nostagic reflection from Dave Thornley, to help beat the social distancing/self-isolating Claret and Blues. (TEC)