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'We Are The Champions'

60 years on we remember a landmark day in the Clarets' history

2 May 2020

Sixty years ago today – 2nd May 1960 – Burnley were crowned champions of England.

The Clarets secured the First Division title for only the second time in their history and after a 39-year wait were once again top of the pile.

It was an epic triumph moulded by visionary manager Harry Potts with a special group of players remembered, quite rightly, as club legends.

Harry Potts.jpg

Harry Potts played for and managed Burnley over three spells as a club icon

And the success was secured in the most dramatic fashion, by winning the final league game of the season - delayed from FA Cup quarter-final day in March - to hold off great rivals Tottenham Hotspur and deny Wolverhampton Wanderers a hat-trick of league titles.

Spurs and Wolves had both won their final matches of the campaign two days previously, while Burnley were held to a 0-0 draw by Fulham at Turf Moor, meaning Potts’ men had won just one of their last four games.

“Earlier in the season we had won a lot of games by a lot of goals. We changed our tactics and it didn’t suit us, so we struggled a little bit,” admitted defender Alex Elder.

But when it mattered most the Clarets delivered again – holding their nerve to go and beat Manchester City 2-1 in their must-win game on the Monday evening to go back above Wolves to top the published table for the first time that season and take the title by a single point.

Adam Blacklaw save.jpg

Adam Blacklaw played 383 games for Burnley as one of the Clarets' finest goalkeepers

“Going to Maine Road was a daunting prospect and we just hoped against hope we would survive,” recalled Elder – just turned 19 and one of the heroes of the hour as the Clarets’ back line held out in front of an inspired and inspirational Adam Blacklaw.

“I think our goalkeeper – Adam Blacklaw – had one of the best games of his whole career that night.

“He won us the game really. I don’t think we were thinking we were going to come away from anything from Maine Road, but, as I say, we did.

“They really hammered us somewhat and it was unbelievable.”

Blacklaw was beaten once as Joe Hayes cancelled out an early goal from Brian Pilkington.

But the Scot’s performance and those of the 10 white-shirted players in front of him ensured that a 31st-minute goal from Trevor Meredith – playing in place of injured star winger John Connelly – would be enough to make Burnley champions and realise their dream.

Alex Elder dressing room.jpg

Alex Elder was of only two players in Burnley's title-winning team not to start their careers at Turf Moor, starting out, like his hero Jimmy McIlroy, at Glentoran

“It never really entered our heads I don’t think. We went out to try to play football in every game,” added Elder, who had made his debut against Tom Finney’s Preston the previous September and then started every game bar one as a team-mate of his idol and fellow Northern Irishman Jimmy McIlroy in the team of champions.

“We took every game as it came. That was the way Harry Potts had us set up and that was his philosophy – don’t worry about things in the future, just play the game we’re going to play.

“The only thing I can really remember was we were under the cosh a lot.

“I think Denis Law hit the post twice and Adam saved a couple of brilliant shots from him. We were very fortunate to get away with it.”

Modest to the last, Elder recalls little of the post-match celebrations once the players had left the pitch, having been engulfed by many from a crowd of over 65,000.

“They were standing wherever they could get. It was an amazing night. It was a little bit special,” said the left-back, who would play 330 games for Burnley in an eight-year spell at Turf Moor.

Trevor Meredith goal.jpg

Trevor Meredith scored only eight times for Burnley but can lay claim to one of the most important goals in the club's history

“I think we were shell-shocked. The realisation hadn’t just set in that we had done it. The chairman and the manager were very happy, but it’s just a blur.”

By all accounts, City popped open a bottle of champagne in the Maine Road board room for the Burnley team before they headed back across Lancashire for an impromptu salute of a side that would stay among the elite of English football for a few more years without being able to add to their silverware.

“It was one of those nights you remember and then we came back to the town hall and I think the whole of Burnley was out to see us coming back. There was claret and blue all over the place, which was nice,” recounted Elder, now 79 and living in southern Spain.

“I think we’re talking about our lockdown ending this weekend so I might be able to have a far-away drink with some friends here,” he added.

“I still regard Burnley as my team. It was special. We had a great run for a little-town club. To finish first, fourth, second and third in consecutive seasons was just an amazing thing. And to get to Wembley, as well in ’62, and I still think we were robbed – even today! We had great days.”

And none better than this day 60 years ago.

 

Watch the full interview with Alex on the video above and from kick-off time this evening we will be going back to one of the Clarets’ finest hours in a social media rerun of the decisive match.


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