The last time that I visited Turf Moor, home of EPL club Burnley FC. was way, way back on March 15th, 1961, with a car full of student friends. The occasion was the visit of HSV-Hamburg in the first leg of a European Cup quarter-final, after Burnley had won the old First division in 1960.
We had been to the earlier round, a 2-0 victory over Stade de Reims on November 16th 1960 and they had lost the return but advanced. UWE SEELER, a one club legend with HSV and West Germany, had been voted European Footballer of the Year in 1960 and they stayed at the modernistic and luxury Keirby Hotel in the town centre- which I passed on my walk to the stadium last night.
Fifty three years ago 46,237 fans packed into the ground, and it had rained buckets and the pitch was a quagmire. Burnley in claret and sky blue and the visitors win white with red shorts were caked with mud. BBC TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme described the noise from the home fans as 'FIT TO WAKEN THE DEAD'. The Clarets won 3-1 and Uwe didn't score, but the Germans won the second leg 4-1 and advanced, only to lose to Barcelona in the semi-final after a 2-2 aggregate and a 2-0 decider. Barca lost 3-2 in the final that year to Benfica at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern.
FAST FORWARD to Thursday November 13th 2014 and the Turf Moor pitch is pristine for the friendly England u21s v Portugal. The stadium has been totally redeveloped and I am sitting in the BOB LORD stand next to a local born fan called Graham who provided me with lots of Claret folk lore. The FA does well to take these matches around the country with seats starting at £5.00. I remember the HSV programme cost 6d in old money, less than 2p.
Bob Lord the former club chairman was a bit of a tyrant and often banned reporters and was one of the 'butcher,bakers and candlestick makers' that selected the England team. When the 'new' stand was completed, the joke was that the even newer stand on the other side would be called THE OTHER BOB LORD STAND, but it wasn't - it was named The James Hargreaves Stand. DANNY INGS was on the starting X1 for the Three Lions,coached by Gareth Southgate, who have already qualified for next summer's UEFA tournament in The Czech Republic. The local hero scored twice, one in each half in the 3-1 confidence boosting win, the first from a Tom Ince cross in the 6th minute and Carl Jenkinson made it 2-0 at the half.
It was the 11th straight win for the young Lions and the first loss in 15 for Portugal. Next up is an away friendly in Brest, France on Monday. England and Portugal will face each other in the opening match in the Czech Republic in June. The other 2 teams in Group B will be Italy and Sweden while Group A will feature The Czechs, Germany, Denmark and Serbia.
Sadly I had to leave early to walk into town and then a bus up a steep hill to catch the last train of the night from Burnley Manchester Road station, probably one of the nastiest looking ones on the British network.