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History Beckons At Wembley

24 August 2017

Clarets Historian Ray Simpson tells the story of the previously rare spectacle of league fixtures at the national stadium.

Club history will be made this coming weekend when the Clarets take part in a league fixture at Wembley Stadium for the very first time.

Some might argue that our two play-off finals of 1994 and 2009 constitute Football League matches, but of course these encounters were not within the normal scheduled league campaigns.

Sunday’s clash with Tottenham at Wembley - Spurs’ temporary home for the 2017-18 season - will evoke memories of the epic FA Cup final between the clubs in May 1962.

The Clarets were beaten 3-1 to complete what was referred to as “the double no club wanted” runners-up in both the First Division and the FA Cup.

Following Spurs’ meeting with Chelsea beneath the Wembley arch last Sunday, this weekend Burnley will take part in only the second Premier League match to take place at Wembley and just the fourth scheduled league fixture since the original stadium was opened in 1923.

It is almost 90 years since the only two Football League fixtures ever staged at the old Wembley took place. These were home matches for Clapton Orient, the previous name of Leyton Orient, who this season are plying their trade in the National League.

In the summer of 1930 Clapton, then playing in the Third Division South, left their ground at Millfields, their home since 1896 before their election to the Football League in 1905. The club relocated to a new home at Lea Bridge Stadium ready for the new 1930-31 season.

All went well until a match against Torquay United in November 1930, when the visitors, after a 4-0 defeat by the O’s, complained that wooden perimeter fencing was too close to the pitch. In stepped the FA and ordered that Lea Bridge Stadium be closed for alterations to be made.

Clapton Orient then went on to write their own page of history when the FA sanctioned the club’s short-term use of the Empire Stadium, Wembley for home matches.

On Saturday 22 November 1930, the O’s hosted Brentford in a Third Division South fixture beneath the Twin Towers, and a crowd of more than 10,000 saw a 3-0 victory for the temporary tenants.

Two weeks later a rather more modest attendance of fewer than 2,000 saw another home victory, 3-1 against Southend United. Two weeks after that Clapton were back at their own home ground, having played their part in football history.

Five decades later of course, they played a part in Burnley’s football history, although of a rather different kind. In May, 1987, by then called Orient, the club were Burnley’s opponents in that nerve-shredding Turf Moor encounter that the Clarets simply had to win to stand a chance of staying in the Football League.

We survived, just, and you could say we have come rather a long way since! 

Footnote: Pictured above is Clapton Orient’s historic first-ever Football League encounter at Wembley Stadium in 1930 against Brentford. The O’s are in white shirts with a red “V”, Brentford are in red and white stripes. Image kindly supplied by Neil Kaufman, Leyton Orient FC Historian.


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