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Quietly Making History

John Haworth

John Haworth and Burnley Football Club
Part Two: 1911-1915

In August 1911, the Burnley Express reported an "epidemic of football fever in the air" as the Clarets began their preparations for the 1911-12 season. The town had awoken to the fact that Burnley were at last making real progress in their quest to regain First Division status. The previous season had seen a better-than-average League campaign and a run to the last eight of the F.A. Cup. Biggest news of all was the arrival at Turf Moor of Bert Freeman, an England international striker only two seasons previously.

As a new stand on Brunshaw Road neared completion, a crowd of 4,000 turned up for the time-honoured Reds vs Greens trial game, and Burnley's biggest League crowd for years - 15,000 - graced the first home game, a 4-2 defeat of Leeds City. This impressive win came in addition to an opening day victory at Glossop, and two more home victories saw Burnley sit proudly on top of the Second Division.

Despite this promising start, John Haworth sought to further strengthen his team, signing a young winger, Willie Nesbitt, from Calderdale side Portsmouth Rovers only three weeks into the season. Nesbitt was one for the future, but his next signing needed no introduction. A 4-1 defeat at Hull City had momentarily stopped the Burnley bandwagon, and the manager moved decisively to strengthen the defence. In September 1911, still only four weeks into the season, he travelled with cheque book to Oakwell intent on the signature of Barnsley's much admired centre-half Tommy Boyle.

Barnsley, a struggling Second Division team with a great Cup pedigree, had refused many offers for Boyle in the past, including one from Burnley. Their local press had applauded the Barnsley directors for refusing to sell the club's star player, but 1911 had seen them finish second-bottom of the Football League, with finances suffering accordingly. In a last attempt to keep Boyle, the Barnsley directors had organised a testimonial for their player, despite his relative youth. However, Boyle had clearly decided the time was right to move on. The amount Barnsley received for Boyle is unclear - reports vary between �0 and �150 - but it represented Burnley's biggest investment in one player.

Tommy BoyleBoyle himself (pictured opposite) was both philosophical and diplomatic about the move. He certainly cashed in, receiving some �0 of the transfer fee and another �0 in lieu of his testimonial. Writing in Thomson's Weekly, he claimed to know nothing about the details of his transfer and insisted that he had not wanted to leave his home town club. To the Burnley public, he offered this familiar sounding mantra:

It has been known for a long time that I have had great admiration of Burnley and regard them as a future First Division club. Their breezy sporting style always appealed to me. And the warm-hearted Burnley lads and lasses who follow their team through thick and thin make many visiting teams envy the Turf Moorites of their supporters. I shall be as snug and comfortable in my new quarters as if I had been born in the hilly milly town.

In the same edition, a Thomson's journalist wrote the following, illustrating the impact of John Haworth's bold policy upon football followers not just in Burnley, but throughout the land:

Burnley evidently mean to have another try in the First Division. They have built a new stand and have got a fine team, the cost of which must be heavy. They are evidently relying greatly on the loyalty of the Burnley townspeople, and I hope the enterprise of the club will meet with the reward it deserves. I am struck by the fact that while certain First Division clubs have weak spots in their teams and cannot obtain new players - or won't - a club like Burnley can get men of the calibre of Freeman, Mountford and Boyle in a season, and build a stand into the bargain.

Boyle's impact was almost immediate. Burnley embarked on four straight League victories to once more gather momentum. Their unbeaten run was halted on December 6th by League leaders Derby County, who defeated the Clarets 2-0, but Burnley bounced back with a resounding 5-1 win at Leeds City. A 2-1 defeat of Wolves on December 23rd saw Bert Freeman score his twentieth goal of the season in only the nineteenth game, and he followed this with a hat-trick in a 4-0 defeat of Glossop a week later.

The New Year started disappointingly, with a poor 1-0 defeat at bottom club Gainsborough Trinity, defeat in the F.A. Cup at Fulham (1-2), and another 1-0 League defeat at Grimsby. These setbacks in the League coincided with the absence of Freeman, and when the striker returned the Clarets embarked on a run of eight wins and one draw that swept them majestically to the top of the League. In the midst of this run, Willie Nesbitt made his debut and inside-right Dick Lindley, enjoying his first prolonged run in the first team, emerged as an important source of goals and a vital cog in the team.

The struggle for the two promotion places had become a three-horse race between Burnley, Chelsea and Derby County. In a seemingly symbolic victory, the Clarets had gone to Stamford Bridge and defeated their rivals 2-0. F.A. Cup revenge was extracted from Fulham, with Bert Freeman scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 win. Only Derby County managed to hold Burnley, drawing 0-0 on March 16th in front of 30,000 spectators at Turf Moor.

Table, 31 March 1912At the end of March, with only five games remaining, Burnley were seven points clear of third-placed Derby, having played two games more. Confidence was high. The Clarets had won 3-0 at Bristol City without Freeman, who had been on England duty. Promotion was almost secure, and most of the national press assumed it to be a foregone conclusion. The Daily Telegraph wrote that: "Burnley seem assured of going up," whilst in the opinion of the Daily Express: "By their great victory at Bristol, Burnley practically assured themselves of a position in the First Division." Only the Daily Dispatch warned that the season had not yet brought its reward:

Burnley have drawn away clear in the race for promotion, but they must not think it is all over yet, for it is not an uncommon thing for horses to be caught and beaten on the post.

The Clarets had suffered a blow with the loss of Dick Lindley, injured in the 4-1 defeat of Stockport County on March 30th. The little inside-right had formed an intuitive understanding with Bert Freeman and together they constituted a prodigious scoring partnership despite Lindley being widely regarded as a ball player rather than a striker. But having come this far with superb team performances, surely Burnley wouldn't let Lindley's absence upset them? Unfortunately, that was exactly what happened. Although Burnley's run-in consisted of opponents in the middle and bottom parts of the table, four of the five games were away from home. A 0-0 draw at Blackpool on April 5th was acceptable, but then disaster struck with two defeats in three days at Birmingham (0-4) and Leicester (2-3).

With Chelsea and Derby both picking up maximum points in their respective run-ins, by the last day of the season the Clarets had to defeat Wolves at Molineux and hope that Chelsea would not win their game in hand against Barnsley. Final table, 1911-12Even here, events seemed to conspire against Burnley as Chelsea were allowed to play their game in hand the day after the Yorkshire club had sensationally won the F.A. Cup! Despite the return of Lindley, the Clarets lost 2-0 at Wolves, and Chelsea stole in at the death to claim the second promotion place with a final day win against Blackpool. Burnley had occupied a promotion place for most of the season, but had been pushed down to third at the very last.

Failure to be promoted was a bitter disappointment to everyone in the town, but John Haworth could still derive enormous satisfaction from what was only his second full season as manager. His signing of Freeman had been fully vindicated with the striker posting a return of 32 league goals from 33 starts and an England recall in the process. The manager had also succeeded in introducing a new generation of younger players, taking the courageous step of replacing the popular Benny Green with Dick Lindley. The youngster repaid that faith with a fine first season that brought 15 goals from 34 starts and many excellent displays of attacking play. Winger Willie Nesbitt and full-back David Taylor were two other youngsters who responded to a first team call-up with a string of impressive performances.

Perhaps most crucially of all, John Haworth had succeeded in capturing the imagination of the Burnley public by raising the profile of the club through imaginative and bold signings. From a financial point of view this was something of a gamble, but the manager had bought quality players who still had some years of playing ahead of them. They were investments rather than speculative risks. It was an astute and visionary policy - John Haworth was going to build a formidable side with a combination of home grown talent and high profile acquisitions.

Of course, the manager could not have done this without the backing of the directors, especially Chairman Windle, and all were warmly and genuinely congratulated by the Burnley Express:

The pity of it is that after one of the finest seasons in recent years, and after giving such a brilliant display, the cup has been rudely dashed from their lips just when they were on the point of tasting the sweets of victory. But the directors and the players are not the men we take them to be if they yield to despair. The local public have given them every possible support, and will, we believe, maintain that support with increased liberality if they will only try and deserve it. They have failed this season, but they have come so near to success that they would be lacking in courage and enterprise not to continue their efforts.

Season 1912-13

If Burnley's supporters had expected the team to carry on where they had left off the previous season, they were in for an initial let down. Despite being most people's favourites for promotion, if not for the Second Division title itself, Burnley had an inauspicious start. The side remained the largely the same. Eddie Mosscrop, a spindly but very fast forward, made his debut in the opening day 2-1 win at home to Glossop, and Mosscrop would vie for the No.7 shirt with Willie Nesbitt for the rest of the season.

Home form was fair, but the Clarets struggled away from Turf Moor. By the end of October, just eleven games into the season, Burnley had lost four of their five away games, including two decisive defeats at Birmingham (0-3) and Leeds (1-4). As worrying as this might have appeared, all at the club were aware of the impact of a series of unfortunate injuries upon the early season form. It was some time before John Haworth was able to field his strongest eleven.

A particularly troublesome position was right half-back. We might understand this role today as a right-sided central defender, though the half-backs used to play more of a midfield role and were a vital link to the front men. Another problem was the form of Burnley's most feared front man Bert Freeman, who had only managed four goals in his first thirteen games. Freeman had been fearsomely prolific in his first season, and was the key to the potency of the Burnley attack.

Those who suspected that the progress of the Clarets explicitly reflected the fortunes of Freeman in front of goal were proved to be spectacularly correct. Seeking another solution to his right half-back problem, John Haworth dropped Harry Swift and reinstated inside-left Teddy Hodgson for the home game against Fulham on November 16th. Suddenly it all clicked, and Burnley trounced the Londoners 5-0, with Freeman scoring a brace. This result proved to be the catalyst to a superb sequence of ten straight League victories between November 1912 and January 1913.

This run contained some memorable results: 4-1 at Barnsley, 2-0 at Wolves (sweet revenge for the defeat on the last day of the previous season) and victories at home against Bradford Park Avenue (5-1), Leicester (5-1), Blackpool (4-0) and Clapton Orient (5-0). During this period, Burnley also dispatched Leeds from the F.A. Cup and Bert Freeman scored fifteen goals, representing an emphatic return to form.

Not surprisingly, this run catapulted the Clarets to the top of the Second Division, but their unbeaten home record - and their run of victories - was brought to an unexpected halt by lowly Nottingham Forest, who came away from the Turf with an impressive 5-3 victory. Despite heading the Second Division, Burnley had put together their undefeated run on the back of an ever-changing defensive line-up, with the right half-back position still a problem. Leaking five goals at home merely emphasised the fact that attacking prowess could not always indemnify defensive uncertainty. Whether or not this result merely confirmed what John Haworth had suspected about some of his defenders, what happened next has gone down in folklore.

The week after the Forest game, Burnley faced non-league Gainsborough Trinity in the F.A. Cup. It was only the previous season that Gainsborough had been contemporaries of Burnley in the Second Division, and had actually beaten the Clarets 1-0 on New Year's Day. However, the Yorkshire team had eventually finished bottom of the Second Division and had been voted out of the League in favour of Lincoln City. Despite their demotion, Gainsborough had held on to their most prized players - goalkeeper Ronnie Sewell and half-back Cliff Jones.

As early as November, John Haworth had approached Gainsborough with a cheque for �0 for the services of Cliff Jones. In normal circumstances they would have sold, but the Gainsborough directors were banking on a decent Cup run to swell their coffers and to add value to their most saleable players. John Haworth was told that Jones would not be sold as long as they were in the Cup. This gamble paid off somewhat as Gainsborough defeated South Shields in the First Round proper and went in the bag for the Second Round draw.

Fatefully, Gainsborough drew Burnley at Turf Moor, and the directors of the non-league team could look forward to a reasonable sum from their share of the gate money, thus vindicating their decision not to sell their best players. They were also probably expecting Burnley to make another approach for Cliff Jones. Sure enough, with around fifteen minutes of the game remaining and with Burnley leading 4-1, the Turf Moor directors approached their Gainsborough counterparts and opened negotiations. However, instead of enquiring about just Cliff Jones, Burnley staggered the non-leaguers by offering �000 for Jones, goalkeeper Sewell and another half-back, Sam Gunton, all of whom had had splendid games that afternoon.

The Burnley directors were aware that representatives of three First Division clubs were at the Turf that afternoon to check out Sewell, and it transpired that one of them had instructions to offer the Gainsborough directors �000 for the goalkeeper alone. This explained the haste with which Burnley pursued the deal. By 6.20 p.m. the club had acquired all three players. This is how 'Sportsman' of the Burnley Express reported the deal:

Burnley have made history in many directions of late, but on Saturday evening the directors accomplished a coup which puts in the shade anything ever done either by them or any other club. They secured the whole of the defence of the team which had opposed Burnley in the Cup-tie. I know one of the Gainsborough officials held out against the wholesale transfer of what he regarded as practically the whole team, but despite this gentleman's protests, the deed was done after about an hour and a half's deliberations.

No doubt the handicapped state of the Burnley defence of late and the possible chance of losing the men if they did not act promptly caused the directors to secure the lot. The coup has been favourably commented upon by Burnley's supporters, who see in it a determination on the part of the directors to go for promotion and pot.

Cliff JonesAs if to emphasise the growing stature of the club, immediately after the Gainsborough cup-tie Tommy Boyle was informed that he had been selected to play for England against Ireland in Belfast on the Saturday week. Furthermore, some argued that Burnley should have contributed more to the squad. A commentator for the Sheffield Daily Telegraph wrote that:

Boyle gets a place that should have been his some time ago, and the greatest mistake of the selection is the exclusion of Freeman, who is the best centre at England's command, and whose claim to inclusion becomes all the greater now that Boyle has been recognised.

Thus it was that halfway through the 1912-13 season, Second Division Burnley were recognised as possessing not just two of the best players in England, but players who performed vital roles in any team of that day - the centre-forward and the centre-back. These two positions represented the backbone of the old 2-3-5 formation, and this was why it was widely argued that if Boyle played, then so should Freeman.

Sewell, Jones (above) and Gunton all made their debuts the following week at Bristol City, but the Clarets emerged with only a point after a 3-3 draw in a game that Burnley probably expected to win. The following Saturday saw the Clarets take to the pitch at Turf Moor without Tommy Boyle, who was on England duty in Belfast. Despite the absence of their defensive kingpin, Burnley still easily defeated Birmingham City 3-0 at Turf Moor, but this game was merely a prelude to what was due next: First Division Middlesborough at Turf Moor in the Third Round of the F.A. Cup. In front of nearly 28,000 spectators, a Bert Freeman brace helped Burnley to a 3-1 victory and a quarter-final appointment with League Champions Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

As manager of any Second Division club, working life probably has little better to offer than sitting at the top of the division, being able to call upon two England international players and having a huge Cup tie against local rivals to look forward to. That said, given the experience of the previous season, John Haworth and the board were all too aware of the potential pitfalls between this point and the end of the season. Indeed, early March saw Burnley wobble in the League, losing 1-0 at Huddersfield and only managing a 2-2 draw at home to Leeds.

Those dropped points, plus their Cup commitments, allowed promotion rivals Preston North End to take over the leadership of the Second Division. But on March 8th all that was momentarily forgotten as the Clarets took on Blackburn Rovers in front of over 47,000 fans at Ewood Park, with an estimated Burnley contingent of 20,000. To a man the Clarets were magnificent, defeating their First Division opponents 1-0 and going into the hat for the Cup semi-finals for the first time ever.

Beating Blackburn in 1913

Tommy Boyle heads the winner at Blackburn

John Haworth did not let this glorious Cup performance distract him from the main priority of promotion, and anotherTable, 12 March 1913League defeat with a poor performance to boot, this time at Grimsby, was the prelude to more decisive activity in the transfer market. Right half-back was the one position in which the manager had been unable to satisfactorily settle a player. Three half-backs in the squad - Swift, McLaren and Bellamy - had been handed the No.4 shirt at various times during the season, but none had been able to decisively claim the place as his own. In one swoop, the problem was solved with the purchase of George Halley from Bradford Park Avenue. So it was that on March 15th 1913, in the home fixture against Bury, the Burnley half-back line read "Halley, Boyle, Watson" for the very first time.

It was a crucial phase for the club, for third-placed Birmingham City lay only one point behind the Clarets. Questions were being asked about the effects of the Cup run on League form. The Daily Dispatch commented that:

...it is becoming all too plain that the East Lancashire club cannot look after two things successfully at the same time. They appear to be sacrificing their promotion prospects. The position is becoming serious in the extreme.

Of the forthcoming encounter with Bury, the Evening Chronicle wrote: "It is a match upon which a very great deal depends for the North-East Lancashire club." The Manchester Evening News warned that: "… the East Lancashire club cannot afford to make a slip."

Fortunately, the Clarets quelled the tension with a 3-1 defeat of Bury and followed this with a Good Friday win at Bloomfield Road against second-bottom Blackpool, Bert Freeman scoring in both games. The next League game was lost 4-2 at Fulham, but this fixture was significant as it marked the 100th consecutive appearance of Willie Watson, and the youngster would receive a special commemorative watch from the club in recognition of this record.

This was indeed a remarkable achievement in the robust game of the early 20th century. Injuries were frequent, whilst medical technology offered little sophistication to the broken-boned. It was a recognised truth that gifted lads like Willie Watson had to make the most of their talents while healthy. As much as senior players like Boyle and Freeman were lionised and hugely admired, they would never quite attain the affection of the Turf Moor faithful for Watson. For here was a lad who had turned up for a trial in the late summer of 1909 and had signed for a club struggling in the Second Division and only a shadow of the organisation that had subsequently developed under John Haworth and Chairman Windle. He was, in short, a Claret through and through.

The F.A. Cup semi-final draw had been unkind to Burnley, pairing them with Sunderland. The Rokerites were having a superb season and would go on to be crowned League Champions. A 0-0 struggle on March 29th at Bramhall Lane preceded a classic replay at St. Andrew's which saw Burnley lose 3-2. The Clarets' great Cup run had come to an honourable end, and with F.A. Cup success no longer a possibility the club prepared itself for one last effort to secure freedom from the ignominy of Second Division football.

Despite the worrying loss of Watson and Boyle through injury, both the players and management were clearly in no mood to let the prize slip this time. Three wins and a draw (at leaders Preston) in the next four games secured promotion with two games to spare, the decisive victory being a 3-2 win atFinal table, 1912-13 Leicester on April 19. This set the scene for a couple of promotion parties at Turf Moor as the team completed their fixtures. Not for the last time, the Clarets spoiled the celebrations somewhat, losing 1-0 to Barnsley, but Burnley bade farewell to the Second Division with a 3-2 defeat of Stockport on April 26, 1913. It would be 1930 before the Clarets lost their First Division status.

Promotion was greeted with euphoria in Burnley, and the club held a special celebratory dinner at which Willie Watson was presented with his watch. There was in fact another reason for bestowing honours on the half-back, for he had also been selected to play for England against Scotland, making him the third Burnley player that season to be called up for international duty. Full of gratitude, Watson stood up to thank all those who had helped him and made his achievements possible:

I am in a proud position in receiving this very beautiful present, and I thank those who have subscribed for it and those who have worked so grandly for it. I am sure it will last me my lifetime and I wish I could only play for Burnley as long as this watch will last. I am delighted that our team has this year gained what I think they have thoroughly deserved, and which they were so much disappointed in not getting last year. I think the team itself is one of the finest teams in the country, and that we have some of the finest directors, and that our supporters are some of the most loyal supporters that ever went to football matches. I only hope that we will be able to show to the people that we can do quite as well in the First Division as we have in the Second.

Burnley's MP, Tom Morrell, also gave an insightful speech, remarking that:

There are still misguided people, even in Burnley, who criticise football and say it is a poor sort of thing, that it is a waste of time and that it is demoralising to the people. I believe it is an immense advantage to any community to be able to be present at these great games in which every man and woman can take an interest. I am certain that there is no theatre in which they can see such a fine display of human skill, human courage and endurance as they may see in one and a half hours of first class football.

Chairman Windle stood up and reminded those present of the state of the club when he had joined the committee in 1903, offering a mild retort to Ernest Mangnall in the process:

I am glad we are back in the original fold. I remember that in the dark days when we once had a gate of �, the management lacked enthusiasm. Through correspondence in the Press on that very subject the committee was added to. From that date the foundations began to be made for this season's success. We replaced the old with the new, and did this all the time with a profit to the club. The purchase of Alex Leake started the financial success of Burnley Football Club. When we played Rawtenstall and Fishwick Rovers in 1883, the gates were a few pounds only. This season we have joined at gates of �003 against Blackburn and �256 against Sunderland.

It was a great blow to the directors missing promotion last season, and if we had failed again this season after fighting so hard, some of the directors would have been compelled in the interests of their health to make room for others to carry on the battle. I am pleased that this has not been necessary.

Tellingly, the report of the dinner does not mention a speech from John Haworth, yet he was the one who perhaps deserved the most credit, nurturing the talent of Dawson, Watson, Mosscrop and Lindley whilst strengthening the team in strategic areas with some masterful acquisitions. For the quiet man from Accrington, Burnley's promotion and the celebrations that followed were personal, and typically restrained, moments of triumph.

The promotion winning squad of 1913

John Haworth (back row, second left) with the promotion winning squad of 1913


Without question, the Burnley Football Club that returned to the First Division competition in September 1913 was almost unrecognisable from the one that had been relegated in 1900. In the promotion season alone, the club had spent �500 on transfers and had received �,500 through the turnstiles, �000 of which had come from the two F.A. Cup semi-finals against Sunderland. As if it wasn't clear already, this statistic emphasised the importance of good Cup runs on at least a fairly regular basis.

It was due to Burnley's endeavours in the Cup that the 1913-14 season would make history. If the club's supporters thought that the team would slice through First Division opposition, they were in for a disappointment. The League campaign of 1913-14 was easily the most modest of John Haworth's reign thus far, although the form of Derby and Preston ensured that the Clarets had no relegation worries.

The fact that Preston were relegated the season after winning the Second Division championship underlines the gap that existed even then between Second and First Division. Around this time, founder members Derby County and Bolton would gain promotion only to quickly lose their status, and newer Football League arrivals like Tottenham and Chelsea would also find the going hard after promotion to the First Division.

In this context, Burnley's first season back in the top flight after a lengthy absence was fairly typical. A poor opening included a 4-1 defeat at West Brom and a painful 2-1 loss to Blackburn Rovers at Turf Moor. The season was kick started with a four match unbeaten run that included a 6-1 hammering of Chelsea. The pattern for much of the League season first became evident around October. Successive home wins over Tottenham (3-1), Newcastle (1-0) and Aston Villa (4-0) were interspersed with two defeats and a draw away from Turf Moor. In an uncertain patch of form in the month preceding Christmas, the Clarets picked up only three points from six games, but managed to steady themselves with hard fought draws at Sunderland (1-1) and League Champions elect Blackburn Rovers (0-0).

The New Year saw Burnley hit a vein of winning form, just in time for the commencement of the F.A. Cup. They began an exciting second half of the season with an eye-opening 6-2 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on January 3rd. Non-league South Shields were comfortably dispatched in the First Round of the F.A. Cup the following week, and a Teddy Hodgson double at home to Bolton secured another League point in a 2-2 draw seven days later. Following another 0-0 shut out, this time at Stamford Bridge, Burnley faced their First Division contemporaries Derby County in the Second Round of the F.A. Cup. The Clarets, missing George Halley, had gone down 3-1 at Derby in the League the previous month, but with their revered half-back line fully restored and roared on by 30,000 at Turf Moor, Burnley went through 3-2 thanks in part to a superb Teddy Hodgson hat-trick.

Back in the League, Burnley scored an excellent 2-0 home win against a strong Oldham team, and followed this with a rare away victory on St. Valentines Day against Manchester United, with whom there was no love lost. With momentum clearly gathering, Burnley next faced Bolton at Turf Moor in the Third Round of the F.A. Cup. The teams had already met both times in the League, the result on each occasion being a draw. All the omens thus pointed to another close encounter, but in front of 32,734 spectators Burnley raised their game and ran out easy 3-0 winners.

In a comfortable mid-table position, Burnley's First Division status was assured. All concerned at the club desperately wanted to end the season with some silverware, and thus all attention was focused on the Cup. John Haworth had settled on his preferred Cup line-up: Dawson, Bamford, Taylor, Halley, Boyle, Watson, Nesbitt, Lindley, Freeman, Hodgson, and Mosscrop. This eleven had played in all three ties so far and lined up again at Roker Park on March 7th as Burnley took on Sunderland for a place in the semi-finals.

For the Clarets, it was yet another Cup encounter with a First Division rival, the third such tie in a row. As in the corresponding League tie on Boxing Day, Burnley held Sunderland to a draw. The replay on the Wednesday was another tough, tight battle. Perhaps underlining how they had progressed in terms of handling the big Cup occasion, the Clarets held their game together and avenged the previous season's semi-final defeat. Goals by Richard Lindley and Teddy Hodgson secured a 2-1 victory and sent the Turf Moor hordes home happy. After never having reached a Cup semi-final in their history, John Haworth's Burnley had reached their second in two seasons.

Ronnie SewellThey were joined in the semi-finals by Liverpool, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, all First Division clubs. Commentators were quick to point out that Burnley would have to defeat five First Division opponents in six rounds if they were to win the Cup, a feat never before achieved. Ironically, before the semi-finals were to be played Burnley faced both Liverpool and Aston Villa in the League, but in the Cup the Clarets were paired with Sheffield United. In the League, Liverpool were dispatched with some style at Turf Moor (5-2), but the Clarets lost 1-0 at Villa Park and also succumbed 3-1 at Newcastle. Although League results were now purely academic, Burnley had lost four of their last five League games and, more worryingly, had seen Jerry Dawson injured at St. James' Park.

Ronnie Sewell (left), a more than capable deputy who had been one of the "Trinity Triumvirate" to be signed the previous season from Gainsborough, stepped in for his first senior game since February, but Burnley took a chance on Dawson for the Cup semi-final the following week. However, the Cliviger man was not fully recovered and Burnley held on grimly for a 0-0 draw against a Sheffield United side that had already inflicted upon them a 1-0 home defeat in the League.

For the replay, Sewell was given his F.A. Cup debut for the Clarets and performed heroically as the Blades threw everything at Burnley. Not for the first time, the club's investment in quality defenders reaped inestimable dividends. In first half injury time, Sheffield's Gillespie looked to have opened the scoring with a thunderous effort, but Sewell produced a wonder save that merited its own paragraph in the subsequent Burnley Express editorial:

Near the closing stage of the first half on Wednesday, it looked certain that Gillespie’s magnificent drive would score. The shot, travelling at express speed, was going to Sewell’s right-hand side while the custodian was at the left. Just when everyone felt certain it was going through, Sewell made a magnificent leap and dive, and diverted the ball round the posts. Even then it took the spectators a second or two to realise that a save had been effected. A less agile or resourceful keeper would have been defeated, and the crowd cheered lustily for several minutes in acknowledgement of a feat that has seldom been equalled and never surpassed.

For all their efforts, Sheffield United could not break down the Burnley defence in which Tommy Boyle was magnificent. With just seventeen minutes remaining, Boyle capped a peerless display when he advanced downfield and hit a glorious, unstoppable long-range effort past the Sheffield keeper and into the far corner of the net. According to the Burnley Express, it was a goal that would be long remembered by all those present:

Boyle took three or four mighty strides then kicked with a force that even put his usual penalty shots in the shade. From the time the ball left the Burnley captain’s trusty right toe there was no shadow of doubt as to the result. It passed like lightening to the back of the net, which shivered and shook for several seconds as if it had been caught by a whirlwind. It was indeed a "goal in a thousand." The scene which followed was indescribable. All the Burnley players, save and except Sewell, of course, rushed up to their captain and literally hugged him, while the crowd cheered with stentorian force. How some of the Burnley spectators recovered their hats is a mystery.

Boyle's memorable goal broke the spirit of a hard, resilient Sheffield side, and Burnley played out the remaining time with some comfort. On the final whistle, Boyle and Sewell were chaired off the pitch by the travelling Clarets, and were hoisted aloft once more at Bank Top railway station when the triumphant team arrived home. As if to prove a point, Sheffield United trounced Burnley 5-0 at Bramhall Lane just three days later in the League, but everyone knew that the Clarets had won the tie that really mattered.

One side-effect of the Cup run was a backlog of League fixtures, and the Clarets faced a punishing April schedule of five League games in 14 days before the luxury of a week's rest preceding the Cup Final on the 25th. Ronnie Sewell kept his place until the fixture before the Final, away to Manchester City. At Maine Road, Jerry Dawson was given the chance to prove his fitness. Unfortunately, the Cliviger man struggled terribly as the team fell to a 4-1 defeat. This was certainly not the preparation John Haworth had been looking for.

The team retired to Lytham St. Annes to prepare for what was unquestionably the biggest game in the history of the club so far. Their opponents were Liverpool, surprise conquerors of Aston Villa in the other semi-final. One question remained unresolved - would Jerry Dawson recover his fitness in time for the Final? He was given every opportunity, but on the Friday morning Dawson informed John Haworth that he did not feel fully fit and did not want to jeopardise the team's chances of lifting the trophy. It was a selfless decision that inspired many column inches of praise in the nation's press, but mere words did little to anaesthetise Dawson's distress. He had signed for Burnley in 1907 and had played around 250 League and Cup games for the Clarets. After seven years of loyal service, he deserved more than anyone the glory of a Cup Final appearance.

The team of 1914

Who are you staring at?
The line-up that battled to the Cup Final of 1914.
From left: Halley, Watson, Lindley, Boyle, Bamford, Freeman, Taylor, Dawson, Nesbitt, Hodgson, Mosscrop.

Despite the absence of Dawson, Burnley went into the Final with confidence. Ronnie Sewell was a talented deputy and the other ten members of the team had played together in every round. Moreover, the Clarets had soundly defeated Liverpool 5-2 in a league encounter just six weeks previously. However, a league tie in front of 16,000 at Turf Moor is wholly different to an F.A. Cup Final in front of 73,000. In addition, at a late stage in the proceedings it was made public that King George V would be attending the game.

It was an indication of how important football had become to the subjects of the United Kingdom that the monarch saw fit to deign the occasion with his company. It was also a nigh perfect example of how a power elite can extract nourishing social legitimacy from organic movements nurtured outside the Establishment. His attendance was political - an important symbolic link with the lumpen - and became an act of invented tradition. The King's implicit approval was huge news within the game, and having had the opportunity to meet and play in front of the monarch, both teams were regarded as having had an enormous honour bestowed upon them. Commentators at the Final would argue that it was the presence of the beady eye of the monarch that tempered the usual aggression they had come to expect from the Cup Final. Reports abounded that challenges were tempered, almost courteous.

The first half was relatively incident free, and the quality of the play was not helped by a hard but watered (and therefore slippy) surface upon which the ball was difficult to control. It took Burnley's revered forward line fifty-nine minutes to make an impression, but when they did it was decisive. The lucky man assigned to cover the match for the Burnley Express saw it like this:

From a throw-in on the right, Nesbitt sent a cross to Hodgson, who cleverly headed the ball to Freeman, who, in a twinkling first-time shot, without any pulse-beating preliminaries, shot the ball into the far corner of the net. Campbell had not the ghost of a chance. For a spell, nobody knew exactly what had happened, but there were a few Burnleyites behind the goal, and they first gave the welcome news to the onlookers at a distance, for they, like the Liverpool defenders, were completely bewildered by the rapidity with which the feat was performed. It was a fine goal and no doubt, and merited the enthusiastic shouts from the Turfites assembled and the admiration of others.

It was the sort of predatory finish that the 15,000 Clarets in the crowd had come to expect. Unsurprisingly, the tempo of the game picked up considerably after the goal. Initially, Burnley had further chances to score, with Mosscrop hitting the angle of post and bar. As the final whistle beckoned, Liverpool laid siege to Burnley's goal, but this was a situation that the defence had proved adept at handling. In the four games that consisted the quarter-final and semi-final, Burnley had conceded just one goal, resisting the more consistent attacking lines of Sunderland and Sheffield United. Sure enough, despite a fair share of possession Liverpool found it hard to create clear chances, and when they did they found Ronnie Sewell in fine form.

The Burnley Express were in no doubt that the best team had won:

The Turfites won because they deserved; they won because they had a centre with judgement and ability to place the ball in the only position possible to obtain a score; and they won, not because they played their best game of the season, but because they played the better football on a very bad football day and under very unpromising and trying conditions. They have, too, confounded those critics who had thrown them over and given their preferences to the Anfielders. Besides all this, we have the welcome and valued testimony of Lord Kinnaird; one of the oldest, one of the shrewdest, and one of the ablest followers of the Association game, that the football shown was as clean and as good as any Final he has seen.

Burnley accordingly have every reason to be proud of their achievement. Sporting the Royal Arms by reason of having played - in 1886 - before the King’s elder brother, they have now the added honour of being the first Royal Cup winners. This season, indeed, they have broken all records - in membership, in League game receipts, in Cup-tie income, and, to crown all, in bringing the "Pot" to the banks of the Brun. Burnley are not only the first "Royal" Cup winners, but they are the first team to defeat five First Division clubs in the national competition; and when the calibre of those teams is taken into consideration, even Liverpudlians join in congratulating them upon achieving a distinction which has been as hardily won as it is nobly deserved.

The Clarets returned to Burnley on the Monday afternoon, and the town laid on a famous welcome for them. Huge crowds waited everywhere - at the railway station, along the route to the Town Hall and in Turf Moor itself. Incredibly, Burnley had to play their last league fixture in the early evening! Once the reception at the Town Hall (witnessed by a six year-old Bob Lord) was over, the players made their way to the ground where a full house of 40,000 greeted their heroes with a tumultuous roar. The game itself, against Bradford City, was a 2-2 draw, and the point lifted the Clarets from 14th to their final placing of 12th. The relegation of Preston, Second Division champions the season before, underlined that it had been a competent, professional season of consolidation for the Clarets.

The triumph at Crystal Palace was a defining moment in the history of our club, and gave good reason for all concerned to feel that it was a case of a job well done. However, resting upon well-earned laurels was the last thing on the minds of those at the Turf. For evidence of the ambition around the club at this point, read this extract from the Burnley Express:

Burnley have achieved another of their ambitions in two successive seasons. Last year they celebrated their return to the First Division; last Saturday they were hailed as the first "Royal" Cup winners; next season, according to Captain Boyle, who has led them "from victory until victory," they mean to make a bold attempt to succeed their near and dear neighbours of Blackburn as champions of the English League; and then, like Alexander the Great, they will probably look out for other worlds to conquer! For, be it known to all and sundry, that Burnley is now on the map.


The entreaty for the Clarets to conquer new worlds was prescient, as in May 1914 they set off for a tour of Austria and Hungary. Upon their arrival in Budapest, Burnley found that they were not the only British team in the city, as Glasgow Celtic were also recent arrivals. With indecent haste the Hungarian authorities produced a handsome trophy and asked Burnley if they would like to compete for the "Budapest Cup", a competition that consisted merely of a winner-takes-all game with Celtic. The Clarets agreed and the game was played on 21 May, but the intense heat proved too much for both sets of players and an anaemic 0-0 draw was played out in front of an unimpressed Hungarian crowd.

The tour was not without incident. In the first game against Hungarian opposition, winger Dick Lindley broke his left arm badly in a 1-3 defeat. Three days later a 2-0 victory against a select Hungarian amateur team brought a further catalogue of injuries – Boyle with a strained calf, Nesbitt with a twisted ankle and, bizarrely, David Taylor with a badly abrased nose!

Although the whole Budapest Cup concept perhaps should have stayed where it originated, both teams determined to see the competition to its conclusion and Burnley won the toss of a coin for the right to stage the replay. Thus on September 1, 1914, a Scottish team arrived on English soil to play for an Eastern European trophy. Celtic left the Turf with the silverware after a convincing performance realised a 2-1 victory in front of 9,000 spectators.

The close season saw the completion of further ground developments at Turf Moor. Terracing was added underneath the Brunshaw Road stand, giving the stand the familiar enclosure design that was common to many football grounds throughout the country. Additional improvements to various parts of the ground brought the overall bill to �,000, but such was the financial strength of the club under the John Haworth-Harry Windle partnership that the work had already been paid for by the time the last workman had finished sweeping up.

The season was one of mixed fortunes and the moral appropriateness of full-time football was seriously questioned by the outbreak of the First World War on the eve of the season. Some part-time Burnley players were called up into active service by the armed forces, and the Clarets participated in a programme of friendly games arranged in all Northern cities in aid of the National Relief Fund. As the football season progressed, the voices calling for the discontinuation of football grew louder. One letter in the Burnley Express suggested that the young men of Burnley were reluctant to volunteer as they were not prepared to miss seeing their team win the League!

The writer of this particular letter had a keen grasp of irony for nothing in Burnley's early season form suggested that they were about to add the League title to their F.A. Cup triumph. Results were patchy, this despite the prolific early season form of Bert Freeman. He scored ten goals in the first eleven league games, including his 100th Burnley goal (from just 133 games) in a 2-1 home defeat to Sheffield United on October 10.

The inconsistency of the Clarets was most clearly underlined when successive fixtures in November saw them thrash Bolton 5-0 at Turf Moor, but then suffer a 0-6 reversal at Ewood Park. The same month also saw all professional footballers undergo army drills as part of training, a clear indication that whatever government propaganda claimed, the war was not heading for a Yuletide conclusion.

1914 ended on a gloomy note as the Clarets picked up only three points from six games. Freeman’s goalscoring touch had deserted him, and John Haworth even tried playing his main striker on the wing in an attempt to rekindle some kind of form. Final table, 1914-15Although this experiment was deemed not to have been successful, the New Year saw Burnley finally discover the sort of League form that had been widely expected of them. Disappointingly, the Clarets’ reign as Cup holders ended in February at Burnden Park in the Third Round in front of nearly 43,000 fans, by far the largest crowd of the season. An extra time goal sank the Clarets after they had played well and missed numerous chances to seal the tie against a team whom they had crushed at Turf Moor earlier in the season.

In the League, home wins and away defeats were the pattern for most of February and March, but the run-in to Easter saw the Clarets at last fire on all cylinders. Sixteen points were amassed from the final nine games, including a hugely impressive 2-0 win at League Champions elect Everton, a vengeful 3-2 defeat of Blackburn Rovers at Turf Moor and a 2-1 defeat of Oldham in the penultimate round of fixtures that ruined the Latics' championship hopes. This late-season form saw the Clarets claim a final position of fourth in a table where only three points separated the top seven teams.

Bob KellyIt was, however, not a normal football season. Well before the League Championship trophy was held aloft at Goodison Park, it was clear that this was to be the last season of League football for some considerable time. Calls for the season to be halted midway through were resisted, as the authorities felt that football was a good distraction for the masses from the faltering war effort. However, increasing loss of life among service men turned popular opinion around.

Football clubs themselves were not immune to the effects of war. In February, Burnley received news that their young reserve player Lorrimer had been killed in action in Egypt, the first of four Clarets to lose their lives in the conflict. In May, George Halley became the first full-time Burnley professional to join the forces, signing up for the Royal Engineers. Given the folklore that surrounds the Halley-Boyle-Watson line-up, it comes as something of a surprise to note that the 1914-15 season saw Halley fall out of favour at Turf Moor. Only one League game during the entire season witnessed that famous half-back line in full, and incredibly this was for the ignominious defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.

On a brighter note, the season saw the emergence of Bob Kelly (left) as a first team regular. Kelly had been signed in November 1913, shortly after Burnley director Bob Bracewell had seen him play for his native St Helen’s Town in a Lancashire Combination fixture. Kelly had a formidable reputation even as a non-league player, and Burnley had to part with �5 to secure his services. By this time, Burnley had earned a reputation as big spenders in the transfer market, and this led to much speculation in the newspapers about the purchase of Kelly. So much so, that the secretary of St Helen’s was moved to write to a Manchester paper:

Will you kindly give the statement that Burnley paid �0 (or that such is suggested) our denial. The amount paid is not half this figure, although we have received a very satisfactory transfer fee.

Kelly failed to break into the Cup winning side, but some brilliant performances in the reserves prompted his promotion to the first team in November 1914, exactly a year after his transfer and just two days before his 20th birthday. He quickly established a rapport with fellow front men Hodgson and Freeman, and finished the 1914-15 season with 10 league goals from 27 appearances.

Kelly would go on to be the star attraction at a post-war Turf Moor where John Haworth would further cement his reputation by guiding Burnley to further major honours, but this was five long and dark years away. The ambitions of John Haworth and the Turf Moor board were put some considerable distance behind the backburner as Europe tore herself apart in a conflict unsurpassed before or since in its murderous intensity.

Phil Whalley
January 2001

Quietly Making History

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