The history of Burnley FC was formed in 1882 when it changed from Burnley Rovers Rugby Club to Burnley Football Club. They were a founder member of the Football League in 1888.
Following other sports clubs in the area that had switched to football, Burnley Rovers members voted at the Bull Hotel in Burnley on 18 May 1882 to change from rugby to association football. At the time, the committee decided to give the town’s name a psychological advantage over many other local clubs.
Burnley FC defeated local side Burnley Wanderers by a score of 4–0 on 10 August in their first ever recorded game as an association football team. Their first home ground was Calder Vale, and they wore a blue-white kit.
Astley Bridge defeated the club 8–0 in the Lancashire Cup in October 1882, the club’s first competitive game.
The Burnley Cricket Club invited them to join them, and Turf Moor has been the club’s home ever since. In 1886 Turf Moor was the first football ground to be visited by a member of the Royal Family when Prince Albert came and watched the first half of Burnley’s game against Bolton Wanderers.
Burnley FC Early Success
Since 1888 Burnley FC has won every significant honor except the League Cup. Their first major trophy was in the 1897-98 season when they were Second Division Champions.
In 1914 Burnley, also known as ‘The Clarets’ played Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Crystal Palace and won 1-0 in front of a crowd of 72,778, including King George V.
The winning goal was scored from a terrific volley by Bert Freeman in the 58th minute and was dubbed ‘A goal fit for a King.’
After World War I
After the war, the history of Burnley FC continued to make its mark on English football, and in the 1920-21 season, they went 30 games unbeaten and went on to win the First Division Title for the first time in their history.
Burnley is the smallest town to have a team in the top flight for more than a season. In 1899-1900 Glossop took their place in the First Division for just one season, and in 1974-75 Carlisle did the same.
It wasn’t until after the Second World War that Burnley was to taste success again.
They spent a decade in the Second Division but were again promoted to the First Division in the first season after the war.
Burnley FC Reaching The FA Cup In 1947
In 1947 Burnley FC again reached the final of the FA Cup but lost 1-0 to Charlton Athletic.
The 24 years up to 1970-71 was the brightest period in Burnley’s history.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Burnley Football Club produced excellent teams on a shoestring budget under the Chairmanship of the legendary Bob Lord.
Burnley relied mainly on a superb youth policy that produced good young players, many of who were from the North East, such as Alan Brown and Harry Potts, teammates in the 1947 FA Cup Final; they both went on to manage Burnley.
Harry Potts took charge after Alan Brown moved to Sunderland, leading Burnley to the First Division Championship on the last day of the 1959-60 season.
Two seasons later, in 1961-62, the Clarets almost completed the double, but devastatingly, they ended the season runners-up to Ipswich Town in the First Division and lost again in the FA Cup Final.
This time was going down 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur.
Playing In Europe
In the 1960s, the Clarets enjoyed two European campaigns.
Burnley FC beat French side Rheims in the first round of the European Cup in 1960. In the second round, they went out to the German champions Hamburg.
Burnley achieved a place in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (now known as the UEFA cup) after finishing third in the league in 1965-66.
The Clarts beat Stuttgart and Lausanne in the early rounds and surprised many people by beating Naples in the 3rd round.
Burnley drew away at Eintracht Frankfurt in the Quarter Finals but was beaten 2-1 at home.
Towards the end of the 1960s, Burnley began to struggle and was eventually relegated in 1970-71.
They returned to the First Division in 1972-73 after two seasons in the second and spent another three seasons in the top flight before relegating again.
Only four years later, more history of Burnley FC was made as the team was relegated to the third division for the first time in their history.
Burnley FC In The Lower Leagues
In 1981-82 Burnley won the Third Division championship, after which they enjoyed just one season in Division 2, also reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in the same year.
By 1985, Burnley had slumped to the Fourth Division, less than ten years after playing in the top flight.
In their second season in the Fourth division, automatic relegation to the Vauxhall Conference was introduced.
Burnley came far too close to the drop and was saved from non-league football on the last day of the season when almost 16,000 fans turned up to watch Burnley beat Leyton Orient 2-1, which meant Lincoln City was the first team to be relegated to the Conference.
Burnley FC Are Off To Wembley
Burnley’s fortunes revived slightly; the following season, they reached Wembley in the final of the Sherpa Van Trophy.
A crowd of over 75,000 turned up to see Wolverhampton Wanderers win 2-1.
In 1990-91 Burnley reached the fourth division playoffs, and the following season in 1991-92, the new manager Jimmy Mullen took Burnley to the Fourth Division Championship, making Burnley the second club (after Wolves) to have won all four divisions.
1992-93 saw Burnley FC consolidate in the Second division finishing comfortably in mid-table.
Burnley’s stay in Division two wasn’t to be a long one, as, at the end of the 1993-94 season, the Clarets needed a draw at York to ensure 6th place and a playoff berth.
Marlon Beresford and ten defenders went to York and came home with the required 0-0 draw that put Burnley through to meet Plymouth Argyle in the playoffs.
Having won only a handful of games all season away from home, many people could be forgiven for thinking that Burnley’s chances were gone when they failed to come up with the goods in the first leg at Turf Moor.
To expect a win away from home against 3rd placed Plymouth Argyle seemed too much to hope for, but two goals from Super Johnny Francis helped Burnley to come back from 1-0 down, and the Clarets won the match 3-1.
History Of Burnley FC Playoff Final
Burnley went on to play Stockport County at Wembley in the Playoff Final. The crowd on the day was around 43,000, with only 7,000 of those from Stockport.
The sight of all those Burnley fans at the tunnel end must have been intimidating for the Stockport players, but if they felt it, they certainly didn’t show it as they took the lead from a poorly defended free-kick after only minutes of the start of the game.
Burnley FC didn’t even have a shot before David Eyres scored Burnley’s equalizer. Stockport had two players sent off, and Gary Parkinson scored the winning goal, taking Burnley into the First Division for the first time in 12 years.
Back In The Top Flight
Burnley’s opening game was against Middlesborough, and it was Boro’s first match under Brian Robson.
A Marlon Beresford miss-kick gifted John Hendrie the first goal in their 2-0 win, and that kind of luck stayed with the Clarets all season.
The Clarets put together a 14-game unbeaten run before Christmas and looked comfortably mid-table, but their form took a nose dive, and they went about as many games without a win in the New Year.
The Clarets made a habit of conceding last-minute winners and equalizers and eventually were relegated back to the Second Division.
Season 1995-96 saw a lot of changes at Turf Moor. Unfortunately, Burnley’s form didn’t but record signing Kurt Nogan did start to settle in and score some goals.
End Of The Longside
He finished the season as the top scorer with 20. On 16th September 1995, Burnley played their last game in front of the Longside against Hull City.
The famous old terrace was demolished as part of a £6.5 million redevelopment program to turn Turf Moor into an all-seater stadium with over 21,000 seats.
In the autumn, the bookmakers rated the Clarets amongst the favorites to go up, and they were up in the play-off places in the early months of the season.
Once again, their form slumped, and after a run of poor results, Jimmy Mullin decided to quit the manager’s post.
Adrian Heath was brought in as his successor, and the fans’ first choice helped to steer Burnley FC clear of relegation, the Clarets finishing a disappointing 17th.
The new manager brought in John Ward as his assistant manager, and they tried to improve the team’s morale.
Inchy tried to bring some belief back into the squad, and Burnley’s pre-season preparations included a tour of Ireland where they didn’t concede a single goal.
After the third league game, Burnley got maximum points and was top of the table. They lost the following three games, and a pattern developed to continue throughout the season.
Burnley FC could not maintain an unbeaten run of more than a handful of games and lost to teams they should have easily beaten.
Burnley’s inconsistency is best illustrated by the fact that they took more points from playing against the teams who finished in the top six than those who finished in the bottom six.
Burnley FC Giving Youth A Chance
1996-97 saw one tradition from Burnley’s past revived: bringing players through from the youth team.
Adrian Heath gave Chris Brass, Paul Smith, and Paul Weller extended runs in the first team, and they all developed into valuable assets for the club.
Heath also brought Andy Cooke into the squad, and after playing barely half the season, he finished as Burnley’s second highest goalscorer behind Paul Barnes.
Cookey’s progress allowed Inchy to sell Kurt Nogan to Lancashire rivals Preston for a knock-down price of £150,000 rather than let the out-of-form striker leave for free under the Bosman ruling.
Chris Waddle As New Manager
In the summer, Adrian Heath left to become Howard Kendall’s assistant at Everton, and after only a few weeks, Chris Waddle was appointed as Burnley’s manager.
Unfortunately, Emperor Waddle turned out to be naked. It soon became apparent that our rookie manager was not just inexperienced but also arrogant and prone to blame everyone but himself.
When Waddle lost it and turned on the supporters after a rare home win against Northampton (November 1997), it was obvious that he didn’t have what it takes to be a football manager.
Nevertheless, the club limped under Waddle before resigning shortly after to embark upon a career of cameo roles with lower division clubs and appearing on TV.
Burnley FC Massive Debts
From January 1998, Burnley FC became embroiled in a serious take-over battle. It began when the club revealed that they were heavily in debt.
The cost of the new stands, our recent lack of success, and giving Waddle more to spend than we could afford had crippled the club.
While Ray Ingleby, a Lancashire man grown rich in America, made an offer, the club announced Peter Shackleton, a man about whom little was known, as their take-over bidder of choice.
As Ingleby sniped from America and bought up every spare share, Shackleton could neither prove he had access to any real money nor name his alleged backers.
Nevertheless, the club persisted with his mythical bid and, as each deadline was passed unmet, found more time to give him.
By this stage, Stan Ternent had been poached from Bury, where he had won them two promotions, to become our new manager.
It was a popular choice. Stan knew there was no money to spend and downsized the mid-table expectations.
It was only a few years since we were in the First Division, but it seemed like another country. Ternent wheeled and dealt in free transfer signings, picking up some bargains and donkeys.
Nevertheless, it seemed to work. Burnley FC bumped along, putting out some very inexperienced teams full of teenagers who would generally hope to be getting in the reserves at best.
Burnley beat Colchester 4-0 away and took a point from our trip to Man City. And then the wheels fell off. Heavy defeats at Preston, Bournemouth, and Fulham, combined with an indifferent home form that was only a shadow of the ‘Fortress Turf Moor’ days, conspired to keep us near the bottom.
At around this time, surprisingly, the Shackleton / Ingleby take-over battle was finally resolved with the emergence of Barry Kilby as our new Chairman.
Kilby, who founded the local European print company and was an unsuccessful Burnley youth player, invested over £3 million of his money to buy out a couple of directors and clear some debt.
Instantly, Stan Ternent was able to buy players. He lashed out a new club record of £750,000 on the return of the prodigal son, Steve Davis, and another quarter of a million on Micky Mellon.
Form picked up, and the club enjoyed some good results away from home, where they beat Bristol Rovers 4-3 and won 2-1 at Millwall.
Against Gillingham and Manchester City, the club lost 5-0 and 6-0 successively. The team was in a state of crisis.
As all called for Ternent’s head, Kilby considered the options and decided that the club couldn’t afford to keep changing managers. So Ternent’s job was assured.
The Clarets lost the next game, but only 1-0; that was the last game they lost that season.
An eleven-match unbeaten run, including a 4-1 win at Stoke City and a 1-0 defeat of champions Fulham, ensured our survival with some room to spare.
Ternent celebrated by releasing twelve players, including some of his signings, and set about bringing in new faces.
Meanwhile, Kilby continued to put the club on a sound financial footing. A rights issue raised further funds.
Burnley FC Financially Solid
The first General Manager, Andrew Watson, was brought in from Everton. In 1999, the club revealed a big shake-up in commercial staff.
Shaken by the revelation that the club shop was barely making a profit, Burnley set out to market ourselves better and increase commercial sponsorship.
Meetings between the Board and supporters clubs, unimaginable even a year before, were now the order of the day.
When the club announced that henceforth, the stand on the site of the Borehole Lane End would be known as the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, they cemented a vastly improved relationship between the club and supporters. Optimism was once again an option at Burnley FC.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!