Willie Morgan returns as special guest

Last updated : 03 December 2002 By Tony Scholes

Make no mistake Willie Morgan is up there with the best and most Burnley fans who saw him would have him in or close to their best ever Burnley team. From the minute he arrived it was clear we had an exceptional talent and he made his debut for the first team at the age of eighteen.

That debut was at Hillsborough in a 1-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday in April 1963. It was his only appearance that season but during the 1963/64 season he established himself as a first team regular, a position he was never to relinquish until he left the club.

Morgan was a winger who had great control of the ball, could beat opponents with ease and was a magnificent crosser of a ball. Many of the goals scored by Andy Lochhead and Willie Irvine were the result of Morgan crosses, so accurate was he that many of them just begged to be put into the net.

His performances for Burnley were getting rave reviews but he was approaching his 23rd birthday before he won his first Scotland cap against Northern Ireland in a Home International in Belfast. It was the only cap he won for his country whilst a Claret although he was to win twenty more whilst a Manchester United player.

By the end of the 1967/68 season he had played 183 league games for us and scored 19 goals but there were rumours during that summer that he was unsettled. In reality it was the club looking to cash in on its prized asset with the possibility that he could bring somewhere approaching £80,000.

It looked odds on that he would be joining Leeds, then pre barrow boy Venables and one of the best sides in the league. In fact they were just a year away from winning it. Bob Lord had other ideas though and was not prepared to sell him to Leeds and instead, against Morgan’s wishes, went to Manchester United for a staggering £117,000.

They had just won the European Cup but perhaps it wasn’t the best time to be joining them, the team was getting older and George Best was already going AWOL. Quite simply they were going into decline.

Over the next five years though he became a firm favourite at Old Trafford and with the departures for one reason or another of the likes of Charlton, Best and Crerand he was soon to become the star name, alongside Denis Law.

They suffered relegation in 1974 but Morgan remained and was the star as they returned at the first attempt but immediately left to return to Burnley. He left because of manager Tommy Docherty and his disagreements with him saw Morgan and Law take the manager to court.

His return to Burnley was heralded by the fans but it was to be short, sweet and unsuccessful. He signed on the same day as Manchester City’s Mike Summerbee but they both found themselves in a relegation battle.

When Jimmy Adamson left in January that was the end for Morgan and in March he moved on to Bolton Wanderers and he played there, even combining it with summer loan spells with Chicago Sting and Minnesota Kicks, until the summer of 1980 when he was 35.

That wasn’t the end though and he moved to Blackpool, signed by Alan Ball, for another two years before retiring. In total he played in 631 Football League games and scored 58 goals.

I’m not so sure he has ever returned to Turf Moor since his retirement for the game but later today he will be in the Foundation Bar before the game and will be on the pitch at half time making the Golden Gamble draw.

He will get a superb reception from all four sides of the ground, and there is no doubt it will be deserved. Willie Morgan was a great player for both clubs.