Burnley Football Club had the great pleasure of recently welcoming to Turf Moor a former player who first donned the famous Claret and Blue shirt more than 75 years ago.
Earle Wilkinson, who is 92 years young, was born in Foulridge in July 1921, and joined Burnley in 1938 as a 17-year old colt, as the young players were called in those days.
He played his first game for the Clarets on 12 November 1938, representing the "A" team (third team) in a 2-1 win away to Liverpool "A" in the West Lancashire League. Earle, playing mainly as a right half back, made 17 appearances that season and scored four goals.
He signed as a professional in March 1939 and, at the end of his first campaign as a Claret, collected a winners medal as Burnley won the West Lancashire League Championship.
Earle’s team mates during that successful campaign included a number of player who went on to play in League football for the Clarets, Harold Mather, Jack Spencer, Harold Spencer and George Knight, as well as a certain Harry Potts!
Sadly, Earle was never to play above third team level in peacetime and he didn't have much chance to continue his football career further because of the outbreak of War just as the 1939-40 season was getting under way.
His final games for Burnley were during the North Regional wartime league in season 1940-41, when he played in three first team matches in October 1940, scoring two goals.
Earle, like so many of his contemporaries, joined the Armed Forces served at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire, later moving to RAF training bases in Lincolnshire.
Earle in 1941
After the war Earle moved back to East Lancashire where he completed his apprenticeship as a joiner. Unfortunately he was unable to take up his professional football career again, although he continued to play as an amateur to a high standard.