Burnley Football Club said an emotional farewell to one of its favourite sons as Turf Moor hosted the funeral of Jimmy McIlroy – the Clarets’ greatest ever player.
Family, friends, former playing colleagues and representatives of the wider footballing fraternity paid their respects at a service to celebrate Jimmy’s life held at the stadium.
And supporters lined Harry Potts Way to say their own farewell to one of the greats as the funeral cortege carrying Jimmy’s body arrived from the family home in Burnley before departing later for the town’s cemetery.
Former players Jimmy Robson (left) and Ray Ternent with Sandra Connelly, widow of ex-Claret John.
It was a fitting send-off for a player who graced Turf Moor for 13 years after arriving from his native Northern Ireland – for whom he won 55 international caps in – 1950.
Playing 497 times for the Clarets and scoring 131 goals, McIlroy, who died last week at the age of 86, led a golden generation in tandem with club captain Jimmy Adamson and legendary manager Harry Potts.
Jimmy Robson, a team-mate of McIlroy from Burnley’s 1960 League Championship-winning squad, led a gathering of ex-Clarets among the congregation, which also included representatives from the Irish Football Association, former clubs Glentoran and Oldham Athletic, north-west rivals Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United and Manchester City and the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Former player and manager Stan Ternent arriving at the funeral with journalist and lifelong Burnley fan Alastair Campbell
Current Burnley manager Sean Dyche, chairman Mike Garlick, vice-chairman Barry Kilby and Clarets directors, along with members of the media, also attended a service which paid a fitting tribute to one of British football’s outstanding players, who was made an MBE for services to the game and to charity in 2011 – the same year he was named Burnley’s club president.
“Everything about it was what you expect from Burnley Football Club and honoured a great man and a legend, of course,” said Martin Dobson (below), one of the Clarets’ finest players to follow in the footsteps of McIlroy.
“The team of the 1960s, I was so lucky to come on the back of that and learn from so many top professional footballers.
“It changed my life and, like Jimmy coming over here from Ireland, it changed his life.
“I didn’t see Jimmy play too many times, but I remember Jimmy Adamson, who I had total respect for as well, and who was the engine room of the midfield with Jimmy Mac, saying Jimmy was the greatest player he had seen in his lifetime.
“That stands out as a wonderful saying from another great man.”
Ex-Clarets midfielder Brian Flynn
Former Clarets captain Dobson, who also played 497 times for the club in two different spells between 1967 and 1983, added: “He was somebody you recognised as being at the top of his profession and somebody you’d like to emulate.
“You’re never going to get to that standard, unfortunately, but it’s something to aim for, for any player that came in.
“Jimmy set the bar very high and everybody at Burnley got the benefit of it.”
Former players Andy Lochhead (above) and Colin Waldron (below)
Former Burnley striker and Jimmy McIlroy's Northern Ireland team-mate Willie Irvine (right, above) and ex-Manchester City legend and Clarets forward Mike Summerbee (below)