Harry Potts

The Hall of Fame Number 13 – Harry Potts

Date of Birth:

22nd October 1920


Place of Birth:

Hetton le Hole


Burnley debut:

Coventry City (h)
31st August 1946


Other Clubs

Everton

The Hall of Fame is now thirteen weeks old and the former Turf Moor legend who has featured right from the start can now take his rightful place there as the latest induction.

The banner above shows Burnley’s FA Cup winning goal of 1914 scored by Bert Freeman and alongside the Club’s most successful manager in modern day football Harry Potts. Harry will always be remembered for his success as a manager but it should not be forgotten that he was also a playing member of a very successful team some years earlier.

Like many of his era he lost so much of his playing career because of the Second World War and in fact at the age of 18 was being tipped for a first team place back in 1939 just as war broke out having arrived at Turf Moor a couple of years earlier after a successful trial.

During war time he did make appearances as a guest for Fulham, Bury and his native Sunderland although he served with the RAF in India. He was back in Burnley though for the start of the first league season after the war ended and made his league debut in the very first match against Coventry.

He played inside-left and was top scorer as the Clarets won promotion to the top division – it was to be after his first period as manager had ended before that was relinquished – and reached the FA Cup Final.

Besides his goals he was also able to help out with the defending and going forward he had the happy knack of going down in the penalty box to win penalty kicks.

Potts continued to play well and in two of the first three seasons in Division One he was again top scorer as Burnley established themselves in that top division but his time at Turf Moor was to come to an end the following season when he handed in a transfer request.

His time at Burnley was at an end when former Burnley manager Cliff Britton paid a record fee of £20,000 to take him to Goodison although it was not to be a successful time and Everton were relegated and Potts was never a regular in the side after that.

His playing career was over in 1956 but his desire to stay in the game saw him move to Wolves as a coach and a year later he was appointed manager of Shrewsbury Town. His time at Gay Meadow was cut short though when on 21st February 1958 he left to return to Turf Moor as manager.

He was blessed with an excellent squad of players but even Harry could never have imagined just how things would go in the next four years. The good form continued under his management and we had 6th and 7th place finishes in 1957/58 and 1958/59 seasons. A year later Harry was to achieve what very few managers in the game ever achieve, he would lead his side, his BURNLEY side to the Championship of the Football League.

He had signed just one player, a young full-back from Glentoran by the name of Alex Elder and added to that excellent squad Harry Potts’ Burnley team became the top team in the country.

He led us into the European Cup and stood no nonsense from the continentals, running onto the pitch in Paris to sort out the Reims players when they were stealing yards. A year later and he took us to the FA Cup Final and was within a week of winning the much coveted double.

Changes in football were making it more difficult for clubs like Burnley but Harry and his staff had such an ability to bring youngsters through that we survived as other Lancashire clubs dropped down the leagues and we retained out First Division status against all odds, even winning another year in European football in the mid-sixties.

When the end came it was sudden and somewhat badly timed, straight after a stunning 5-0 home win against Nottingham Forest. Jimmy Adamson his captain and then coach stepped up with Harry becoming the club’s first General Manager.

With Harry no longer involved we were relegated and in 1972 he decided to leave his post and looked set to retire from football at the age of 51. Just months later he was back as Blackpool manager with his first game ironically against Burnley at Bloomfield Road a game the Clarets won 2-1.

He was there until 1976 and in the summer of that year returned to Burnley as Chief Scout working for new manager Joe Brown. Just months later Brown was sacked and Harry Potts was again manager of Burnley Football Club with the side now in Division Two.

This time he was unable to bring about any real improvements, although we did win the Anglo Scottish Cup, and in the Autumn of 1979 and with us bottom of the 2nd Division he was replaced by another of his Championship team Brian Miller.

Harry’s days in professional football were over but he was involved with Colne Dynamoes for a time as a scout before illness brought that to an end. That illness saw Harry sadly pass away in January 1996 at the age of 75 and the town mourned his loss.

The Longside Stand should have always carried his name, he passed away when it was being built and any decent board of directors would have immediately have bestowed that upon him. We had to wait though until 2001 when the road outside Turf Moor was fittingly renamed ‘Harry Potts Way’.

I was fortunate to have been in his company on occasions and they are times I shall always remember and treasure. Harry was a gentleman in every sense of the word and his love of football and Burnley FC in particular shone through.

But don’t take my word for it and the last words should be left to two former Clarets, two who have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. These are the tributes they paid him on the day of the opening of Harry Potts Way.

From Jimmy McIlroy: The record books prove Harry Potts was the Clarets’ most successful manager. In my book he tops the list of the nicest people I met in football – which ranks way above any honours won on the field.

From Willie Irvine: Harry Potts was a truly wonderful person who was loved by all who played for him. In my time at the club he was respected for his manner and his achievements and was looked upon as a father figure throughout the Club from ground staff boys through to the first team. I am indebted to him that he gave me my chance in professional football at this wonderful Club and I will never forget him. I sincerely believe he should have been given the Freedom of Burnley but I am delighted that he has finally been acknowledged with the naming of Harry Potts Way.


Burnley Career Record

Season

League

FA Cup

League Cup

Others

Total

A

G

A

G

A

G

A

G

A

G

1946/47

40

15

9

2

-

-

-

-

49

17

1947/48

38

14

1

-

-

-

-

-

39

14

1948/49

36

7

3

-

-

-

-

-

39

7

1949/50

42

11

3

1

-

-

-

-

45

12

1950/51

9

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

9

-

.

Total

165

47

16

3

-

-

-

-

181

50


Return to Hall of Fame