Arsenal 2-3 Burnley
On this day 53 years ago a young centre forward made his First Division debut in Burnley’s clash with Arsenal at Highbury in the penultimate fixture of the season.
Over the previous couple of years he had astonished and delighted the Turf Moor crowd with his sharpness in the penalty box and the sheer number of goals he had scored for the Clarets’ junior sides.
It was only a matter of time before he was promoted to the senior team and he was already a full Northern Ireland international when he pulled on a Burnley first team shirt for the first time.
The 19 year old was determined to seize the opportunity.
He had travelled down to London the day before the match with the first team, ostensibly to help trainer Ray Bennion with the kit, and he was the last to find out he was playing when it was confirmed that Andy Lochhead was unfit.
In the event the young man delivered an energetic, mature performance and in the best “Roy of the Rovers” tradition, scored Burnley’s first goal on 20 minutes with a powerful header from an Arthur Bellamy cross.
Although the Gunners were 2-1 in front by half-time, an Alex Elder penalty on the hour and a winner from Ian Towers 10 minutes from the end gave the Clarets the points.
The youngster kept his place for the final match of the campaign three days later against Birmingham City at Turf Moor.
Just to prove his polished display on his debut had been no flash in the pan he scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory.
Willie Irvine had arrived!
Burnley team (235):
Adam Blacklaw, John Angus Alex Elder, Jimmy Adamson, John Talbut, Brian Miller,
Willie Morgan, Arthur Bellamy, Willie Irvine, Gordon Harris, John Connelly.