10 Burnley Reads
By Dave Thomas
August 15 2017
For a ‘little’ club Burnley is well served by a number of authors, some of us retired, some still working, but all with one thing in common, six of us are amateur writers that do this for love not money.If we get our costs back we are happy. All of us just enjoy writing about a small club that has such a big history and has seen so many great players. Just four of the books listed were ghosted by professionals.
Here are ten books that feature players who have appeared for Burnley, the most recent being the Clarke Carlisle and the Jimmy Adamson books. All of them are still available either from eBay, Amazon, some bookshops or the Burnley club shop.
Five of them are ‘my’ books and for someone who has been a Burnley supporter for over 50 years, writing them and meeting old heroes has given an enormous pleasure. Two books not listed are those about the great Jimmy McIlroy. Sitting with Jimmy and listening to his stories kept me spellbound. On many occasions we met at the printer’s design studio and went through dozens of old pictures on the screen. He talked his way through all of them, kept us spellbound, and quietly a crowd would gather behind us to listen to the great man.
I used to watch Jimmy Mac play through 1959 to 1962, used to go to the games with my father. Who would have thought that this hero would 50 years later come and stay over in my house for a couple of weekends while we wrote the book and stand in my kitchen in his pyjamas early morning with a mug of tea in his hand; certainly not me all those years ago.
Tommy Boyle Broken Hero by Mike Smith published by Grosvenor House: When Tommy Boyle arrived at Burnley in 1911 a legend was born. Boyle was a warrior footballer, just 5’ 7” and hard as nails. Smith tells a story of achievement, drama and heartache. From Barnsley and a life down the pits, becoming a Barnsley footballer, then to Burnley and the World War that devastated the team he played in.
His career was illustrious with Cup Finals at both Barnsley and Burnley and a First Division title medal with Burnley. His Burnley team of 1920/21 is one of Burnley’s greats.
With a historian’s eye and detail Smith chronicles the following years of struggle, personal problems, drinking, and then a mental breakdown that saw him committed to a mental institution for the rest of his days.
This is a story of a footballer in a long-gone age. If it was a novel you’d think, yes, this is pure fiction. But it was never fiction. It was a brutally hard life and then had an awful ending.
There are very few books that deal with the very early years of football. This one does just that and modern footballers would do well to read it and then think how lucky they are.
Harry Potts Margaret’s Story by Dave Thomas published by Sportsbooks: Harry Potts was possibly Burnley’s best known and best loved manager. It’s also true that with his blonde hair and good looks as a player at Turf Moor in the late 1940s he was a sort of Beckhamesque figure amongst the cobbles.
On his death it was his wife Margaret’s dream to write his story. She met him in the snowbound winter of 1947 and they were married for 48 years and this is her book about him as player, manager and husband. It’s as much a love story as a football book. But it certainly tells how a town with a population of less than 100,000 came to sit on top of English football in the early 1960s. It was a wonderful time to be at Burnley Football Club with players such as Jimmy McIlroy and Jimmy Adamson. Harry and chairman Bob Lord were a formidable partnership.
It was a delight to work with Margaret and write the book. Her memory was phenomenal and she wrote reams of notes packed with detail. Her collection of pictures and memorabilia was huge. She was a stickler for detail. But she did not love her mother in law who thought that Harry could have done better than marry Margaret. It’s an essential part of the story and the conflict theme runs right through the narrative.
Margaret died a few years ago.
Jimmy Adamson: the Man Who Said No to England by Dave Thomas published by Pitch Publishing: the story of an enigma, a man that few people ever became close to and who revealed few of his innermost thoughts.
Adamson was a wonderful player, a marvellous coach, but a questionable manager who had just one brief period of glory with his team that almost became the ‘Team of the Seventies.’
This is a story of what might have been. He turned down the offer of the England job and it was then offered to Alf Ramsey so that Adamson always joked that’s how he helped England win the World Cup. This is the story of the relationship between Adamson, Bob Lord and Harry Potts, how they made Burnley such a great name, and then over the years fell out and never spoke to each other.
He might have restored to glory to Leeds United had his plans to sign Kevin Keegan from Hamburg been supported by the directors. Instead he went to Southampton and galvanised a club and city.
Adamson’s was a tough childhood in the north-east with teenage years down the pit and then all finally ending with the ignominy of his time at Leeds United. But in between there was a real and proper football story. At the time of writing the book he and his wife had passed away. The deaths of his two daughters were part of the tragedy of his story. Five grandchildren remain but their memories of him were hazy. This is a book therefore based on long and painstaking research.
Willie Irvine, Together Again, written with Dave Thomas, published by Sportsbooks: People often ask why this book is called Together Again. The simple answer – it re-united Willie with members of his family in Ireland, and a brother from whom he had become estranged.
Willie Irvine was a star goalscorer with Burnley in the glory days of the mid-60s. He still holds the post-war league goal-scoring records with 29 in 1966. His goals-per-game ratio was phenomenal. A Northern Ireland International he played alongside George Best and was destined for the very top and would have scored probably 200 goals for Burnley with his scoring rate. Then he broke a leg, the result of a horrendous tackle, and was never the same again. At the age of just 26 he began the drift down the leagues ending in the mud and ignominy of lowly Halifax Town.
This is a rags-to-riches story, followed by the collapse of his post-football business, a real suicide attempt where his quick-thinking wife saved his life, depression and then ultimate recovery. During that latter period he became a window cleaner, and then a stores-manager, and match-day host back at Burnley Football Club. Together again, you might say.
During the writing, meeting once a week for several months, a whole number of fascinating revelations emerged of things in his life of which he was unaware. His is a real and very human story.
Stan Ternent Stan the Man, written with Tony Livesey, published by John Blake: Stan Ternent is best remembered as manager of Burnley although he did play a few games before moving to Carlisle United. His book covers his playing and managerial career, written in Livesey’s characteristic tabloid style. Tony Livesey of course is now a prominent BBC TV front man.
Celebrated for achieving a series of promotions on shoestring budgets Burnley fans will be forever grateful for what he did for them, a promotion to the Championship in 2000 and then keeping them there. This book is a reflection of his compromising and outspoken attitudes. Some of the stories are outrageous and eye-raising and make for a book that is entertaining, laugh out loud, and hard to put down.
He coached and managed at some of the biggest clubs as well as the smallest. He worked with some of the biggest names. He has been a legend within football for years and been involved in more than a few punch-ups and confrontations.
During his years in the game he has been spat at, pelted with beer cans, assaulted with turds, locked in police cells, head-butted by his own centre-forward, sacked players on the radio, suspected of being the Yorkshire Ripper and worked with some of the biggest scoundrels in the game.
Nothing gave him more pride than being Burnley manager, a club he ruled with a dictatorial passion but many players still call him for advice and help. Nothing upset him more when he was not re-engaged at Burnley.
Peter Swan Swanny, Confessions of a Lower League Legend, published by John Blake: Written with Andrew Collomosse, this is the other end of the scale to the Gerrards and the Beckhams. Swanny was a guy who plied his trade at the little clubs, one of them being Burnley when Stan Ternent was there.
The style is tabloid, the writing punchy, reflecting a hard-man player who never turned aside from insults or conflict, be it with opponents or managers. His stays at some clubs were torrid; he was often in trouble with referees playing at the blunt ends of the game as a robust centre-half or a battering ram centre-forward. In his time he picked up 10 red cards and countless bookings.
His career began at Leeds United but he never made it to the top flight. But he went on to amass hundreds of games and dozens of stories along the way. He would be happy to call himself a journeyman pro, but at whatever level he played, he gave it his all, even though he might have been the previous night drinking the night away with a young Robbie Williams. One manager did actually tell him that if he’d got his head together and cut out the drink he could have played for England.
Peter Swann was a rollicking and rumbustious player. This is a rollicking and rumbustious book. He was a hard player who lived a hard life.
Paul Fletcher Magical a Life in Football (with Dave Thomas), Vertical Editions: A hero at Burnley FC Paul Fletcher was a centre-forward in what was labelled the ‘Team of the Seventies’. It was a claim that was short-lived but for three seasons it produced a brand of football that was quite special. He was one of the best headers of a football in the game.
His book is like the man himself, bright, breezy and bouncy, every day filled with an incurable optimism. It’s a book filled with humour and anecdotes of his time as a player, the end of his playing career and then the building up of a career still in football in the stadium design industry.
The title ‘Magical’ comes from the fact that he has had so many magical moments, such a wonderful life and a varied career, not bad for a lad from a council estate who left school at the age of 16. He eventually returned to Burnley as CEO when Burnley first reached the Prem, helped set up, and still works for, the University College of Football Business that has campuses at Burnley and Wembley.
He has lectured and spoken at stadium conferences all over the world and been an after-dinner speaker for many years. He has met prime ministers, archbishops, sporting legends and comedians. He received the MBE but still remains one of the friendliest people in football.
This is a rare football book; there is no gloom, there is such variety of experience, so many tales and such cheerfulness. And he even plays the ukulele.
Roger Eli Thanks for the Memories (with Dave Thomas), Vertical Editions: I always say that this book and the Paul Fletcher book should be read together. You won’t find a greater contrast in content and style. Roger was one of those pioneer black footballers of the early 90s and then Player of the Year at Burnley in ‘91/92. It was his one special season.
After several years of knockdowns he eventually tasted glory and this is a book about what lies at the heart of football, about how cruel football can be and how success can be so fleeting.
It isn’t about money and fame, gambling or alcoholism but it is the story of an injury-prone player with dreams but found football to be filled with difficulties and hurdles. It could almost be a manual on the pitfalls and obstacles any aspiring footballer can face.
This is life at the tough end, the lower-league end, involving racial abuse, hard-hearted and uncaring managers, and the pain of injury. It is a study of how the decisions that others make, have such an impact on our own lives. His story begins at Leeds United. It ends in China and then the mud of Scotland when he realised that it was all over.
His career was never magical but toughness as a player served him well after the game. As a player he had dodgy haircuts and sharp suits and was always the salesman with an eye for a deal. Today he is a very effective businessman and a cruel football story ends with success in the outside world.
Brian Jensen Beast with Hans Krabbe published by Dawber: Danish Brian Jensen was signed as goalkeeper by Stan Ternent because Burnley were skint. He was an unknown, but because of his size and stature was soon christened BEAST. Not until 2009 did his fame spread thanks to a promotion season and some marvellous displays culminating in a successful Wembley play-off.
This is one of my favourite football books. Somehow the authors seem to get inside Jensen’s head and write it in a very immediate ‘real’ fly-on-the-wall way. There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff, a lot of anguish and frustration. They trailed him and ‘lived’ with him for several weeks on and off through the season. As a result you get to know the guy and his daily grind with the feeling that you are living it with him. It’s as if they shadowed him with a hand held camera.
His breakthrough to fame came late in his career but he always yearned to play for his country. It still angers him that he was never selected even when his penalty saves, his one-on-one saves, and his season of achievement were at their peak.
There really are some unique insights into the daily life of a footballer, life in the Premier League seen from the inside, attitudes to sceptical managers, and theconstant battles to win back his place when other keepers are brought in.
Aged 38 he still plays for Crawley Town and in the first game of the new season kept yet another clean sheet.
Clarke Carlisle a Footballer’s Life, published by Simon and Schuster: This is a book written by someone who really didn’t know what lay next in his career. From the heady heights of the Premier and Wembley, then released by Burnley, he plied his trade in the basements at York City and Northampton. It makes for salutary reading as he battles with the huge drop in salary.
Written by Carlisle himself but knocked into shape by an editor, it makes the story personal, immediate and compelling. What comes across is the age old question that faces all fading footballers; just what the hell do I do next. He was 32 and on the football scrapheap and devastated to be shown the door at Turf Moor.
He writes whilst simultaneously playing at York City and Northampton Town, all the time mixing his experiences there with his reminiscences of the past; battles with depression and alcoholism. The tone is often confessional, sometimes brutal always honest. He makes it clear which people he respects and those that he doesn’t. At York and Northampton the day to day insights he provides show what struggle is all about but at the same time how rewarding it can be.
There is much in this book that shows what the life of a footballer can be like, the camaraderie, the reality, the pressures but above all the joy it can bring. At its end he is waiting on news of media opportunities. As all of us who watched the World Cup know, he found them.
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Also got Defiant to the end, Charles Buchan best of Burnley, Who saya football doesn't do Fairy Tales, Entertainment Heroes and Villains, Jimmy Mac the books, No Nay Never Anthology, No Nay Never volume 2, Russians Don't Land Here, It's Burnley Not Barcelona, Mud Sweat and Shears, Champions, Jimmy Hogan, Bob Lords book,
I have thorughly enjoyed all of them but I think Wiilie Irvines is just my favourite closely followed by Tommy Boyle and Margarets story.
On top of these I have quite a few of footballers autobiographies, wifey is always telling me to make some space along with my 2,000 programmes and get rid of em all. If I got rid of her there would be more than enough space around the place.
The Irvine book is a proper real story, lots of pathos, i had a few emails saying it had brought tears to a few eyes... ha ha must have been the spelling