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Burnley Football Club: Behind the Club

In this series, we profile one Premier League team each week, looking at some of the history, records and trivia associated with each club. This week we profile Burnley FC. Join us on a journey from 1882 to 2017 as we go, Behind the Club.

In May of 1882, Lancashire based Burnley Rovers Football Club switched from Rugby Union to football. They played their first fixture in October (an 8-0 defeat to Astley Bridge) and moved to Turf Moor in early 1883.

Initially playing in either green or blue and white, they first appeared in the FA Cup in 1885/86 and were among the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888.

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Burnley struggled for consistency for many years, winning the FA Cup in 1913/14 despite spending 14 of 27 seasons in the second tier before the League was suspended because of WWI.

Following the conclusion of the war, Burnley began where they left off, enjoying a spell at the top of the English game as they finished second in the first full season in 1919/20 before finishing as Champions of England for the first time in 1920/21. Their title winning campaign contained a 30-match unbeaten run, a record that lasted until the Invincibles of Arsenal in 2003/04.

Now playing in claret and blue, Burnley finished third the following season but steadily dropped and were relegated in 1930. The Clarets narrowly avoided another relegation in 1932, surviving by two points and remained in the second tier through to the League’s second suspension due to war in 1939.

In the first post-war season Burnley finished second and were promoted back to the top flight and enjoyed a run to the FA Cup final, where they were defeated 1-0 by Charlton Athletic after extra time.

Their good form did not stop there, as they finished third in their first season back in Division 1 and established themselves soon after. Manager Alan Brown is credited with creating the short corner and many other modern free kick routines while with Burnley in the mid-1950s, all of which were copied worldwide within months.

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Harry Potts replaced Brown as manager and driven largely by the midfield partnership of Jimmy Adamson and Jimmy McIlroy, the Clarets won their second League title in 1960. This brought the Lancashire club their first foray into the European Cup, where they beat French side Reims in the first round before being edged out 5-4 on aggregate by Hamburg in the quarter-finals.

Burnley continued to pioneer the footballing world in the 1960s. They were the first club in the world to build a training ground next to their stadium, in contrast to the rest of the world who mostly trained in their actual stadium. They also became the first club to have their manager decide transfer policy, a concept omnipresent in today’s game.

After McIlroy left for Stoke and Adamson retired, form declined. Though Adamson rejoined as manager (after reputedly turning down the England job some years before) in 1970, he couldn’t stop their march towards relegation in 1971.

Burney returned to the top flight just two seasons later and managed a sixth-place finish in their first season back but again struggled to establish themselves with a lower wage structure than many top-flight clubs at this point and were relegated again in 1976, with Adamson leaving the club again.

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This relegation began a disastrous slide down the Football League for Burnley, dropping to the fourth tier in 1985. They flirted with catastrophe before retaining their professional status on the final day of the 1986/87 season with a win over Leyton Orient.

The Clarets re-emerged in the 1990s, gaining two promotions in three seasons between 1991/92 and 1993/93. Following immediate relegation back to the third tier, they once again returned to the second tier in 2000.

Since then, Burnley have never dropped below 19th in what is now known as the Championship and in 2009, the Clarets won promotion to the Premier League for the first time, Wade Elliott scoring the only goal in the play-off final against Sheffield United to cement himself as a club legend.

Immediate relegation followed again, but shrewd managerial appointments and an excellent transfer policy ensured that Burnley retained the ability to challenge for Premier League football once again. They returned and were relegated again, but stuck with manager Sean Dyche, who led them to another promotion and their first ever survival since the inception of the Premier League.

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Burnley remain in the Premier League today and have performed admirably in 2017/18. The Clarets sit seventh in the Premier League table, with 49 points, and are on the charge to qualify for European football in 2018/19.  

Records and Trivia

The first hat-trick in league football was scored by Burnley player William Tait in 1888, in a 4-3 win over Bolton.

Burnley’s record signing is recent arrival Chris Wood. The Clarets shelled out £15 million to Leeds this summer to acquire the New Zealand striker’s services.

The player with the most appearances for Burnley is former goalkeeper Jerry Dawson, who made 569 appearances for the Clarets between 1907 and 1929.

Burnley currently lie 40th in the all-time Premier League table, lodged between Reading and Oldham Athletic.

Best Performances

Football League: Champions (Old Division One, 2), 1920/21, 1959/60

FA Cup: Champions, 1913/14

Football League Cup: Semi Final, 2008/09

Champions League/European Competition: Quarter Finals (European Cup), 1960/61.

Written by Sam Hanys.

Sam Hanys

A miserable Ipswich Town fan.

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