Burnley Football Club is saddened to learn of the death of former player Ian Britton, aged 61.
Ian, who passed away after a long illness, will always hold a very special place in Clarets history as the scorer of the second and decisive goal in the victory against Orient in May 1987 that preserved League status for Burnley.
Britton’s senior playing career seemed to be drawing to a close when he joined a struggling Fourth Division Burnley side in 1986.
No-one could have imagined that within a year he would become the club’s saviour and an instant Turf Moor legend.
Ian’s professional career began with Chelsea, for who he made his League debut in December, 1972.
It was not until relegation to the Second Division in 1975 that he became a regular in the side, however, but once there he was in to stay, having one of his best seasons as promotion back to the top flight was secured in 1977.
His strengths were his workrate and enthusiasm; as with many smaller players, he was a busy bee on the pitch, a type invariably popular with supporters of any club.
After eleven years and over 250 appearances at Stamford Bridge, he returned to his home town to join Dundee United in 1982.
He was not a regular in his one season there, but made his contribution as United won the Scottish League championship for the only time in their history.
Following a short spell with Arbroath, he returned south of the border with Blackpool in 1983, and was ever-present as the Seasiders won promotion from the basement division in 1985.
A year later, he moved to Burnley, initially on loan but soon on a permanent deal.
His experience was one of the few positives in the side during the traumatic season of 1986/87, which ended with that fateful game against Orient.
Although Turf Moor gates had been at an all-time low, sometimes even under 2,000, the threat of oblivion reminded the Burnley public of what they stood to lose, and over 15,000 attended that final game, which took place in the full glare of national media publicity.
Neil Grewcock gave Burnley the lead shortly before half-time, then three minutes after the break Ian, all five feet five of him, rose to head the ball into the Orient net. For the remainder of the second half, Burnley fought a rearguard action, the nerves magnifying after Orient scored, but the Clarets held on for 2-1 and, thanks to results elsewhere, survival.
Ian Britton’s goal had effectively saved Burnley from becoming the first club to be relegated from the Football League, following the introduction that season of automatic promotion from the Conference.
Britton could never recapture that moment, but he went on to give Burnley two further years of good service, and, just a year after Orient played at Wembley, the Clarets were beaten 2-0 by Wolves in the final of the Sherpa Van Trophy, when a crowd of over 80,000 watched two Fourth Division sides with massive histories in English football.
Ian Britton was released in May 1989, but continued to live and work in the Burnley area, a place where he will always be remembered with deep affection and gratitude.