Colin McDonald

The Hall of Fame Number 8 – Colin McDonald

Date of Birth:

15th October 1930


Place of Birth:

Tottington


Burnley debut:

Aston Villa (h)
10th April 1953



Other Clubs

none

Every football team needs a goalkeeper and this week we induct our first goalkeeper into the Hall of Fame – former England goalkeeper of the 1950s Colin McDonald.

We have a lot to thank former Blackburn manager Jack Marshall for, it was whilst he was playing for the Clarets that he recommended his neighbour’s son for a trial having seen him turn in some outstanding performances in goal.

Manager Cliff Britton was impressed and signed him as an amateur in 1948. He had just broken into the reserve team, after completing his apprenticeship as a plumber, when he was called up for National Service and during that time he played in goal for Oxford United (then Headington United) even getting them thrown out of the FA Cup by playing when he wasn’t eligible.

But back at Turf Moor as a full time professional in 1952 he had to wait almost another two years before he made his debut and like a number of Burnley goalkeepers since his first appearance was something of a disaster as he conceded five goals as we went down 5-1 to Aston Villa at Villa Park.

It didn’t set him back though and once in the side, as a replacement for Des Thompson, he was there to stay. He was impressing everyone with his assured displays with most often commenting that he never seemed to make great saves due to the fact that his positional sense was so good that he made it all look easy.

He was being tipped for international honours such were his performances for the Clarets who were now becoming one of the top sides in the country but just as the England selectors looked set to call him up he suffered a broken ankle in a game at Chelsea just before Christmas 1956. Youngster Adam Blacklaw deputised for him and did very well.

But fully recovered McDonald was back in the side although it was 1958, World Cup year, before he was finally recognised by the selectors and he was called up in March for a game with the Football League. He played as they beat the Scottish League 4-1 at Newcastle.

Two months later and he was in goal for England for the first time against the Soviet Union in a friendly international. He did well, so well in fact that despite that being his only cap he found himself England’s first choice in the World Cup in Sweden.

So well did he play that not only did he look set to become England’s goalkeeper for a very long time but he was also chosen as the best goalkeeper in the World Cup. He played in all four of England’s games in the competition as we disappointed with an early exit and turned in one magnificent performance against the Brazilians, who went on to win the competition, in a 0-0 draw.

Burnley Football Club were moving towards a great period in the club’s history, we were building a team that was to become the best in the country and having its top goalkeeper was without doubt a major bonus.

Colin McDonald was in top form in the season after the World Cup and more international honours came his way including three more full England caps. It was one such honour that was to end is football career.

It was another appearance for the Football League this time in Dublin against the League of Ireland when injury struck again when he broke his leg. The injury was a bad one and there were further complications and he contracted pneumonia. He almost lost his life but thankfully made a complete recovery.

Again Blacklaw deputised and in the following season it was Adam who was in goal as the Clarets went on to become Champions with McDonald playing in the reserves as he tried to come back. It wasn’t going well though and the following year he was forced to retire. That game in Dublin proved to be his last.

He’d missed out on a Championship and Europe and his retirement meant that he missed out on an FA Cup Final and what would have been considerably more England caps, he did in the end win just eight with incredibly half of them coming against the Soviet Union. Who knows he could well still have been in goal when England won the World Cup in 1966. I am certainly still to meet someone who saw McDonald play who did not think that he was a better keeper than even Gordon Banks.

He remained in the game for many years though as a coach, initially with non-league Wycombe Wanderers but then returning to the North West to work for Bolton, Bury, Oldham and Tranmere. He was manager at Bury for a short time.

He did make a playing comeback for a short time turning out for Altrincham in the Cheshire League.

But he will always wonder just what he might have achieved but for breaking his leg, he could be talked about today as England’s finest ever goalkeeper.

He returned to the Turf during the 2002/03 season to make the half time draw and after a nervous time taking questions in the Centre Spot he was overwhelmed at the reception he received when he strode out once more onto the Turf Moor pitch.

Burnley have over the years had some great goalkeepers and certainly Colin McDonald was one of them and probably the best of them. He is fully deserving of his place in the Hall of Fame.


Burnley Career Record

Season

League

FA Cup

League Cup

Others

Total

A

G

A

G

A

G

A

G

A

G

1953/54

5

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

5

-

1954/55

39

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

40

-

1955/56

42

-

6

-

-

-

-

-

48

-

1956/57

34

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1957/58

39

-

3

-

-

-

-

-

42

-

1958/59

27

-

5

-

-

-

-

-

32

-

.

Total

186

-

15

-

-

-

-

-

201

-


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