106 years ago today, Burnley Football Club were ushered into a new era with the appointment of new secretary/manager John Haworth. Although he was the nephew of former England international George Haworth, John Haworth had no previous experience of professional football at the top level, either as a player or a coach. However his tenure over the following 14 years would encompass the first golden age at Turf Moor.
Haworth was born in Accrington in 1876 and was a full back in his playing days with Meadow Bank FC, but soon gave up competitive football, becoming the club’s secretary. He joined Accrington Stanley, then in the North East Lancashire Combination, as a committee man in 1897 and later became club secretary. Stanley won the Lancashire Combination in 1902-03 and again in 1905-06, and it was from this background that he came to Turf Moor in 1910.
At that time Burnley were a mediocre side which had languished in Division Two for a decade. Within a few weeks Haworth began to make his mark by suggesting the club change the colour of their shirts from green, which the new manager considered unlucky. The Burnley directors agreed and it was decided to change to the colours of the current Football League Champions, the claret and blue of Aston Villa.
Steady progress, rather than spectacular success, followed and, after a near miss in 1912, promotion back to the top flight was achieved in 1913, together with a run to the FA Cup semi-final.
The events surrounding the Clarets’ epic FA Cup triumph of 1914 have been well documented, and the following season, 1914-15, the final campaign before League football was suspended, was a magnificent one. Burnley, by now truly ‘the Clarets’ finished in fourth position, only three points from the title.
Better was to come in 1919-20 when Burnley were runners-up to West Brom as John Haworth and trainer Charlie Bates planned the club’s assault on the League Championship that they knew was within the team’s capabilities.
After a disappointing start, the 1920-21 season was a triumph for all concerned and the Football League Championship trophy, “the Lady” came to Turf Moor for the very first time.
During that campaign the Clarets set a new record with a magnificent unbeaten run of 30 league matches, with many of the players reaching their peak at the same time, superbly led by Tommy Boyle, Haworth’s lieutenant on the field. That record, 30 league matches unbeaten in the top flight of English football, during one season, stood for more than eighty years, until overtaken by the Arsenal “Invincibles” in 2003-04.
Undoubtedly the key to the success was the mastermind, John Haworth, who knew every player inside out and knew how to get the very best from each one.
Third position followed in 1921-22 but the halcyon days were coming to an end and a period of mediocrity was in store for Burnley Football Club.
Sadly John Haworth contracted pneumonia and he became the second successive Burnley manager to die in office, when he passed away in December 1924 aged just 48.
The contribution of John Haworth to Burnley Football Club’s success was a hugely significant one and he will never be forgotten. In 2014, as part of the club’s celebrations to mark the centenary of the 1914 FA Cup triumph, a granite headstone was erected at his grave in Accrington.