Ralph Coates

Last updated : 14 November 2011

The Hall of Fame Number 7 – Ralph Coates

Date of Birth:

26th April 1946


Place of Birth:

Hetton-le-Hole


Burnley debut:

Sheffield United (h)
19th December 1964



Other Clubs

Tottenham Hotspur
Orient

It is somewhat surprising, given Burnley’s success in recruiting in that area, that it has taken seven weeks to see our first North Easterner in the Hall of Fame. He was without doubt the most popular Claret at the end of the 1960s and today we induct Ralph Coates into our Hall of Fame.

Ralph was one of a whole host of youngsters to arrive at Turf Moor from that area of the country and was one of many sent to us by scout Jack Hixon. In fact he was serving his time as an apprentice fitter at a local colliery and his mother wasn’t too keen on him moving to Lancashire.

But she met Hixon, said she liked him and trusted him, and the short and rounded (Ralph’s own words) centre-forward arrived at Turf Moor from Hetton-le-Hole. Not as though he was the first to arrive from that particular area of Durham close to Sunderland, he shared his birthplace with then manager Harry Potts.

It was late 1961 when he first arrived at Turf Moor and the following year he signed on the dotted line as an apprentice. Despite his lack of height he soon found himself scoring goals regularly in the junior teams in his early days as a Claret and he clearly impressed the manager and coaches enough to earn himself a full time contract in 1963 just after his 17th birthday.

It wasn’t too easy winning a place in the Burnley side around that time and he had the likes of Pointer, Robson, Lochhead and Irvine ahead of him but after some sterling performances in the reserves he finally won himself a place in the first team just before Christmas 1964.

He came in against Sheffield United for the injured Andy Lochhead and played alongside Willie Irvine in a 3-1 win. He didn’t score in that game, Willie Irvine scored twice with Alex Elder also finding the net, but he did score his first goal later in the season in a 2-0 win at Leicester.

By the following season he was a regular but had moved position and was now on the left-wing, with Gordon Harris having moved into the inside-forward position. He took to his new position as if he had played there all his life and with Willie Morgan on the right wing there was no lack of good wing play at the Turf.

If he looked an unlikely forward then he certainly looked an unlikely winger but Ralph had both pace and stamina to go with his undoubted ability. He seemed to have this ability to run all day and would still be getting down the wing and getting crosses in right to the end of every game.

His performances over the next few seasons attracted the attention of other clubs but more importantly were attracting the attention of England manager Alf Ramsey and Ralph soon found himself in the England Under-23 team. He made his debut for his country at this level in 1967 and won a total of eight caps

He continued to star for Burnley, he was a part of the young team that won eight consecutive games in 1968, and was now in somewhat declining times the big crowd hero at Turf Moor. As the Clarets adopted a more modern 4-4-2 style formation Ralph occupied the left sided midfield position and revelled in the extra responsibilities.

Many respected judges were convinced he should be in the England team as Ramsey was building a squad for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico but it looked as though he would miss out as squads were chosen without him.

In the spring of 1970 he finally won a call up and the photograph with this article shows Ralph coming onto the Turf Moor pitch for a home game against Stoke just days after his call up. He went on to win his first cap against Northern Ireland.

He impressed and won a place in the squad of 28 that set off for South America and reports were coming back that he was in outstanding form. Sadly though he was one of six not to make the final cut and he returned home.

The following season was to be nothing short of a disaster as the Clarets were relegated after a poor season and returned to the 2nd Division after 24 years at the top level. We played our last match on 1st May at Wolves and already there was speculation that someone would have to be sold. It really could only be Ralph but the fans just hoped that we would see the summer through with him still a Claret.

We didn’t have to wait long for the news though, four days after that last game Spurs were playing at Stoke. They had made an offer for Ralph and it was accepted. He was taken down to Stoke to meet the Spurs boss Bill Nicholson and despite wanting to stay at Burnley he signed in a hotel car park sat in Jimmy Adamson’s car.

It was inevitable and we received £190,000 from Spurs for him and were facing 2nd Division football without our star player.

He had a good career with Spurs, took his England caps to four and scored the winning goal in a League Cup Final before ending his career with Orient. On the opening day of the 1979/80 season he scored both their goals in a 2-2 draw against us down at Brisbaine Road and later in the season returned to Turf Moor and a standing ovation when they beat us 2-1.

He’s still based in the South East and is still a Claret at heart. In 2000 he was a guest of the London Clarets when we played Palace at Selhurst Park and then last year returned to Burnley as special guest for the Worthington Cup tie against Spurs.

He looked no different than when he was playing for us, short and rounded although no longer sporting the Bobby Charlton style hair cut.

He received a wonderful, and richly deserved, reception from all four sides of the ground but as much as he enjoyed playing for Spurs I think he was more than pleased to see the Clarets go through.

I had the pleasure of talking to him before the game and he still talks about the Clarets with more than a little enthusiasm and of the great times he enjoyed when wearing the Claret & Blue. The days when he was here, there and every ******* where.

Welcome Ralph as you take your rightful 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

1964/65

7

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

7

1

1965/66

35

5

3

-

4

1

-

-

42

6

1966/67

33

2

2

-

3

-

7

3

45

5

1967/68

25(2)

6

1

-

2(2)

-

-

-

28(4)

6

1968/69

37

5

2

-

7

1

-

-

46

6

1969/70

39

5

3

1

5

-

-

-

47

6

1970/71

38

2

1

-

1

-

2

-

42

2

.

Total

214(2)

26

12

1

22(2)

2

9

3

257(4)

32


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