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On This Day: September 23

23 September 2015

Burnley 1-2 Sunderland

This was a clash between the master and the pupil, with the pupil coming out on top by doing just what he needed to do. The master was Burnley manager Harry Potts and the pupil was Sunderland boss Jimmy Adamson, who had, of course, been Potts’ captain during the glory years at Turf Moor.

Adamson had replaced Potts as Burnley manager but had later left Turf Moor in somewhat acrimonious circumstances. He had taken over at Sunderland in 1976, Potts returned to the Turf Moor helm in 1977, and here they were again in direct opposition.

Both men denied it was a grudge match, and indeed both meetings during the previous season, although bad tempered, had passed off relatively incident-free. However, on this day 37 years ago, there was an unpleasant undercurrent even before kick-off as rival fans were frisked by police. This fixture came only two weeks after the infamous “Battle of Turf Moor” against Celtic and the boys in blue were taking no chances.

From the first whistle it became apparent that there was real bad blood between the teams. Shuddering tackles flew in, particularly an early marker from Sunderland’s ex-Claret Mick Docherty on Leighton James.  Players began squaring up to each other and there was very little football played in the first half.

Then, in the final few minutes before the interval, referee Jenkins decided he had had enough, and sent off both Sunderland’s fullbacks Mick Henderson and Joe Bolton.

Against nine men the second half should have been a canter for the Clarets…….but it wasn’t, and not for the first time, or the last, Burnley contrived to drag defeat from the jaws of victory. On the hour a Sunderland head found the Burnley net, and nine minutes later it was 2-0 when a penalty was tucked away, following a foul by Jim Thomson.

A rocket from Tony Morley on 75 minutes was scant consolation, and what was left of the Sunderland team celebrated riotously in front of their fans at the end.

There are an amazing number of coincidences and connections surrounding this encounter, besides the Sunderland manager and former Burnley legend Jimmy Adamson, who still lived in Burnley and who had risen from his sick bed for the match.

His captain Mick Docherty was also a former Burnley star, who had skippered the Clarets’ youth team to the FA Youth Cup triumph of 1968. The man brought down for the penalty was a future Burnley player, Wayne Entwistle, and the man who scored both Sunderland goals, a Roker Park legend, was also a future Claret, Gary Rowell!

As it happens Adamson lost his job at Sunderland just a few weeks later, but the coincidences continued. His immediate replacement as caretaker-manager was another former Claret, David Merrington, and the man who followed Merrington? Yet another ex-Burnley player Billy Elliott.

Burnley team (235):
Alan Stevenson, Derek Scott, Billy Ingham, Peter Noble, Jim Thomson, Billy Rodaway,
Tony Morley, Brian Hall, Malcolm Smith, Steve Kindon, Leighton James.

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