Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Lafferty, Jones and Duff cement the 'Burnley factor'

Burnley may not be the most fashionable of English clubs yet it has a close affiliation with Northern Ireland, especially Glentoran since the late Eighties.

That affinity exists today with three of our current internationals at Turf Moor - Kyle Lafferty, Steve Jones and Michael Duff.

The alliance was inaugurated before the turn of the century when Glentoran goalkeeper Ezekiel Johnston joined them in the 1894/95 season.

They say all goalkeepers have a touch of eccentricity about them and Ezekiel certainly had it in full measure.

If he considered the team was not playing well he would swap his jersey for an outfield shirt and move into the attack to show them how it should be done!

The late Bob Lord, Burnley chairman, was of course, the club guru and he enjoyed repeatedly visiting Northern Ireland and indeed arranged for a leading ophthalmic specialist to carry out a series of operations at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Ulster to him was like a second home.

And the legendary Harry Potts also had close links and a scouting system which was the envy of many other clubs.

Tommy 'Ching' Morrison was capped seven times by Ireland in the late Eighties after a spell with Glasgow Celtic.

A supreme ball artist he was given the label Ching by fans who rated him the equal of a Chinese acrobat who performed fantastic skills in the local theatres.

One of Burnley's heroes in the late Twenties was Andy McCluggage, who captained Ireland to that 7-0 win over Wales in February 1930 at Celtic Park where Joe Bambrick scored six goals, still a British record, McCluggage snatching the other.

And another Ulsterman who made a decisive impact at Burnley was Billy Emerson, capped 11 times and who hit the headlines as a member of that illustrious Glentoran half back line - George Ferritt, Johnny Scraggs and Billy Emerson.

Tommy Willigan, a right-back missed out on being part of history when he moved to Burnley a short time before the 1927/28 Willowfield - Queen's Ireland Irish Cup final and replay in which Willowfield triumphed 1-0.

By common consent Burnley's greatest Irish acquisition was Jimmy McIlroy who joined them in March 1950; made 437 appearances, scored 114 goals, collected 55 international caps and established him as one of the top inside forwards of all time in British football.

His value today would be astronomical.

Yet another Oval export was Alex Elder who at the age of 18 moved to Burnley in 1959, on occasions captained Northern Ireland and with McIlroy played in three 1962 FA Cup final, Burnley losing 3-1 to Danny Blanchflower's Tottenham Hotspur.

And Sammy Todd, a rookie at the Oval also linked up with Burnley in the Sixties making 116 appearances and a central figure in the glory era was centre-forward Willie Irvine who, capped 23 times and who still holds Burnley's post-war League scoring record with 26 goals.

He broke a leg, was never the same again, drifting at the age of 26 into the lower leagues.

His autobiography is a gripping one in which he recalls the horror of his suicide attempt when depression gripped him following the collapse of a business and how during his recovery he became a window cleaner. Happily, life is good for him again.

Billy Hamilton and Tommy Cassidy, ex-Glentoran manager, two Northern Ireland 1982 World Cup heroes were Burnley favourites.

And that applies also to Terry Cochrane, Northern Ireland's first £100,000 player, Billy Wilson, Mark Caughey, who had a loan spell with them.

Glen Little, an Englishman, was a cult figure at the Oval before his transfer to Burnley while some Burnley players have made the journey to East Belfast - Paul Dixon, a Derry-born centre-half and Ian Duerden who made a few appearances a decade ago.

A documentary on Belfast to Burnley featuring the Turf Moor club's Irish connection, produced by John Flack and presented by Ruth Gorman will be shown on Sky TV Sport during December.

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