Burnley Football Club was born on the 18th of May 1882, but the
clubs roots lie deeper than that. In the late 1870's rugby was played
in most parts of Burnley and it's surrounding area, but that slowly
started to change towards the end of the decade. In 1879, Padiham
became the first area of Burnley to switch codes to association
football, and from that moment all the way until late 1881, a number
of rugby teams switch codes, one of those teams was Burnley
Rovers who were playing at Calder Vale, other teams included
Burnley Wanderers, Burnley Trinity, Burnley Union Star, as well as
area's of Burnley's suburbs like Lowerhouse, Spring Hill and
On the 18th of May 1882, a group of
local business men and members of
Burnley Rovers committee met in the
Bull Hotel, which is now a department
store on St James St, and formally
changed codes to Association Football.
One of the main local business men
involved in the creation of Burnley FC,
was Charles Massey, who owned a large brewery in the town called
During Burnley's first season, they failed to make an impact
in the Lancashire Trophy, being beaten by Astley Bridge 0-8, but they
faired better in the Dr Dean Charity Cup, (now known as the Hospital Cup)
beating Burnley Ramblers 2-1 in the final. This trophy is widely regarded as
the oldest amateur knockout competition in the world, and is still played by
amateur sides today, with the final being held annually at Turf Moor.
In January 1883, Burnley were invited by the town's cricket club to ground
share at Turf Moor, who offered a pricely £65 to cover the expenses of the
move. Turf Moor is now the second oldest professional football ground in
By September 1883, the game was growing at a tremendous rate, and
competition to attract crowds grew, Burnley fielded 10 Scots in it's side, as
local players were overlooked and better players were sought from other
parts of the UK. This in turn brought it's problems, as clubs had to start
paying for players, and the game started to take it's first steps towards
professionalism. At this time, Padiham were seen as Burnley's local rivals,
and at times, games between the two sides, threatened to boil over.
During this time the FA Cup was a well established competition, and in
1883-84 season, Burnley refused to join the Football Association (FA), as
the London based FA refused to allow professional players to play in the
cup. During the same season Burnley successfully defended the Dr Dean
During 1884, Burnley called for a meeting of all clubs who had been
punished by the FA for fielding professional players, in all 36 clubs turned
up, and it was discussed, that they should form a break away association,
named the British Football Association, to challenge the supremacy of the
FA, especially over the short sightedness of the FA not to change to a
This pact finally forced the FA in 1885 to agree to allow clubs to pay
players, but set in place a number of restrictions, and still forced FA Cup
games to be amateur.
This lead to a power struggle, as all the football clubs battled to buy and
pay for the best players, at this time Burnley started to become a power to
be reckoned with in the local area, thanks to it's large fan base of a few
thousand supporters and the backing of Charles Massey.
Turf Moor, was also renovated, and was one of the best grounds in
Lancashire, which lad the FA to hold a representative game there between
a Lancashire XI and a North Wales XI.
Burnley finally joined the FA Cup in the 1885-86 season, but the
competition was still an amateur affair, and Burnley had to field a team of
reserves and locals, and were thrashed 0-11 by Darwin, which is still a club
In 1886 the Prince of Wales became the first member of the Royal Family to
visit a football ground, when he watched the first half of the Burnley v
Bolton game at Turf Moor. The Club were then awarded with a set of white
jerseys featuring a blue sash which commemorated the visit, the club also
took on the nickname the Royalits, the Royal shirts were first worn on 17
In March 1888, Jack Keenan, a locally born Burnley player, was selected to
play for England. The very next month, Burnley were invited to a meeting at
the Anderson Hotel, London, which was the brain child of an Aston Villa
committee man, William McGregor, who wanted to create a football league
based on the county cricket system, Burnley were originally omitted by
William McGregor, but were finally invited by representatives of Blackburn
Rovers and Bolton. This meeting founded the Football League.
The thousands of fans that attended games
at Burnley's Turf Moor did help promote the
club to a higher status within the game, well
above teams of better quality, but lacking
support, these fans help ensure Burnley of a
place in history.
The first game of the new football league, saw Burnley pitted against the
best team in the land, Preston North End, who were later immortalised as
the first invincibles, sadly Burnley lost their first game, 2-5.
Burnley's first season ended with a ninth league position finish, and within
the bottom 4 teams of the league, meaning they had to apply for
re-election. The Football League had been a complete success, and a
second tier of football, the Football Alliance had taken up the remaining
teams of the era, but the major prize was now the Football League.
Because of that, a number of clubs now wanted to join the Football League,
but a loop hole in the re-election process, allowed relegation threatened
clubs to vote for themselves, allowing those clubs to successfully secure
Other leagues also popped up, including the North East Lancashire
League, which provided Burnley Swifts, who were Burnley's reserve team at
the time, competition.
During the following season, Burnley did not fair any better, and a forced
increase of admission prices by the FA, made football to expensive for the
normal working man. These factors affected the clubs finances drastically,
and half way through the League's second season, Burnley were bottom.
The Clubs committee acted quickly, looking to Scotland to buy players, and
the tactic worked, as Burnley rose from the foot of the league by the end of
the season, but not far enough to avoid re-election for a second season
During those re-elections, Stoke were relegated and replaced by
Sunderland, this gave the committee the necessary reminder that Burnley
would have to work especially hard from now on, to avoid the same
situation happening at Turf Moor.
The 1889-90 season saw Burnley collect their first professional trophy,
when they won the Lancashire Cup, with a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.
Fortunes were finally turning for the club, as more results started to come
Burnley's way, including a 6-2 defeat of reigning league champions Preston
As the years drove on, the Football League increased in size, first to 14
teams in 1891 and then to 16 cubs in 1892, as well as a second division of
12 clubs, made up of mainly Football Alliance teams.
During the 1892-93 season, Burnley faired well in the league, but
continued to struggle in the FA Cup, but a 4-1 win over Accrington FC, won
the club the East Lancashire Charity Cup.
Burnley appointed Arthur Sutcliffe as team manager in 1893, and finally
during the 93-94 season they managed an assault on the top half of the
League, a perfect 10 wins out of 10 during December lifted Burnley into the
top 3, but the form could not be sustained over the full season, but a
respectable 5 position in the League showed Burnley had potential.
Burnley through the loss of notable first team players to bigger clubs, relied
on a crop of local talent, and although their league position sank, the gates
did not, even in the face of the harsh Burnley weather.
A change of management followed, with Harry Bradshaw replacing Arthur
Sutcliffe, but the end of the 1896-97 season ended with Burnley involved in
the "Relegation Play Offs", with the top two teams from the second division,
Notts County and Newton Heath (later to be Manchester United), as well as
the other bottom First Division side, Sunderland. Sadly Burnley did not do
enough, and after a 0-1 defeat by Notts County meant Burnley were
relegated for the first time.
Burnley's season in Division Two started well, and progressed into
Burnley's most successful to date, even their FA Cup form improved, and a
huge 20,500 crowd turned up for the Burnley V Everton, 3rd round FA Cup
tie, which Burnley lost.
The season ended with Burnley in the "Promotion Play Offs" and after
home and away wins against Blackburn Rovers, and an away draw against
Stoke, Burnley won promotion back to the First Division.
Burnley's former player and now director, Charles Sutcliffe, succeeded in
being elected to the League Management Committee, and one of his first
acts was to increase both leagues from 16 to 18, in doing so, he kept
Blackburn Rovers, who had been relegated, in the First Division. He also
scrapped the Play Off 's and replaced it with a simple 2 up 2 down system.
Burnley's first season back in
Division One, was a success
with Burnley finishing in 3rd
place, the clubs highest ever.
Ernest Mangnall then replaced
Harry Bradshaw at the helm at
Turf Moor, but the appointment
coincided with a poor season, and Burnley were relegated, it was during
this relegation that a huge embarrassment was suffered by the club, when
it emerged that goalkeeper, Jack Hillman was accused of trying to bribe the
players of Nottingham Forest, the team Burnley needed to beat on the last
game of the season to avoid relegation. He was found guilty of the offence
and was banned from football for a year.
Burnley's fall down the league continued,as they failed to gain promotion
on it's first attempt, and as the financial struggle of Second Division took it's
toll, and many Burnley first team players were sold, and cheap
replacements bought in to balance the books.
The 1902 -03 season ended with Burnley bottom of the Second Division. It
was the first time a founder member of the Football League had required to
be re-elected since the introduction of the Second Division.
Burnley managed to be re-elected at the expense of Doncaster Rovers,
who had finished five points better off that the Turfities.
In 1903 a new man was appointed to the board,
Harry Windle, to help revitalise the club, and he
started by replacing Mangnall with Spen
Whittaker, who at 32 years old became the
youngest manager in the Football League.
Burnley secured mid-table mediocrity for the next
few seasons, buying mostly local and young players,
but in the 1907-08 season, Burnley made two
changes that would have historical importance.
Firstly came the appointment of Jerry Dawson as
goalkeeper, then at 19 years old he had much to
learn, but he would go on to become a Burnley
Legend, and ex-England defender Alex Leake arrived, the 36 year old had
an immediate impression on those younger players at the club, and they
would later display the sort of cool and impressive ability of Leake.
In 1908-09 Burnley made it's first decent run in the FA Cup, reaching the
quarter finals against League Champions Manchester United. Along the
way was a 3-1 win at Turf Moor against Tottenham Hotspur, in front of
Burnley's biggest crowd to date, 25,000.
Burnley decided to build a new enclosure at Turf Moor for the game adding
around 5,000 to the capacity. Sadly Burnley lost 2-3, after the first game
had been abandoned because of snow, with Burnley winning 1-0 after 20
Burnley carried on it's slow progress under Spen Whittaker, who on April
15th 1910 was sent to register a new player, Henry Swift, with the FA.
Whilst on the train to London, Spen fell from the train carriage, sustaining
horrific and terrible injuries, which sadly lead to his death a day later.
After the untimely demise of Spen Whittaker, the Club appointed Accrington
Stanley Manager John Haworth as the new man in charge., and after a
female fan suggested that a change of colours would bring a change of
luck, the board took the colours of Aston Villa, who were at the time League
Champions, and so the 1910-11season started with Burnley playing in
Claret and Blue.
Under Haworth, Burnley continued their mid-table position, and once again
reached the quarter final of the FA Cup, and were drawn against Bradford
City, but even with over 7,000 travelling supporters, Burnley lost 0-1.
In 1910-11 Burnley bough Bert Freeman from Everton, the former England
international who held the pre-war record of 38 goals in a season (before
Dixie Dean scored 60). The club also invested heavily in Turf Moor, paying
over £5,000 for a new Brunshaw Road stand, which was to be completed
by the 1911-12 season.
They continued to build towards the future, the Burnley board financially
viable for the first time took to develop a side which could challenge for a
position in the First Division, and Barnsley's Tommy Boyle was purchased
for a club record £1,150.
Burnley's season went from strength to strength, and with 5 games left,
they were in one of the top two places and were 7 points clear of third
place, but a dreadful end of the season meant Burnley slipped out of the
top two on the last game of the season Although it was a bitter
disappointment, new signings Boyle and Freeman, who had scored 32 in
33 and received an England call up, had proved a success.
The following seasons started middling, but by Christmas, Burnley were top
of the League, but it was obvious that their defensive frailties could cost the
team promotion again, so the board acted when 15 minutes into a FA Cup
game against Gainsborough (with Burnley winning 4-1) Burnley offered
£2,000 for the entire Gainsborough defence, goalkeeper Ronnie Sewell
and half backs Cliff Jones and Sam Gunton.
Burnley continued to have a good season, and Tommy Boyle was selected
to play for England, and although Bert Freeman was not recalled, it
appeared that Burnley had a number of players better than their League
Burnley won through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup again, after a 3-1
win over First Division Middlesbrough at Turf Moor their next opponents
were Blackburn Rovers, the current League Champions and owners of Bob
Crompton, England Captain.
Burnley over came all the odds and beat Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park
1-0, in front of 47,000 fans of whom around 20,000 were Burnley fans.
Burnley were finally beaten by Sunderland in a replay 2-3, but it did not
damped the fires of promotion in Burnley, and they finally won their place
back in top flight football with a 3-2 win at Leicester. Finally after 13 years
of Second Division football, Burnley were back, and not for the last time.
Burnley's first season back in the First Division, saw the team maintain their
league status with a mid table finish., but it was to be the FA Cup that made
all the headlines in the 1913-14 season.
After advancing to the semi-final for the second time in two seasons, at the
expense of South Shields, Derby County and the team who had beaten
Burnley in the previous seasons semi-final Sunderland. Burnley played
Sheffield United at Anfield, when Jerry Dawson suffered an injury, and the
Clarets limped to a 0-0 draw, the replay at Goodison Park, saw reserve
goalkeeper Sewell replace Dawson, and his heroics and captain Boyle's
wonder goal gave Burnley a 1-0 win and their first ever FA Cup Final. Jerry
Dawson's injury kept him out of all but the last league game before the
final, but whilst playing against Manchester City, he aggravated the injury
and became a serious doubt for the FA Cup final.
The Friday before the final, Jerry Dawson conceded defeat against the
injury, and Sewell was informed that he would deputise. Burnley fans
travelled at great expense to the capital taking over 15,000 supporters to
Crystal Palace, where for the first time ever a reigning monarch was to
attend the FA Cup Final, when it was announced King George V would
watch the game between Burnley and Liverpool.
The final itself was an even affair, but the deadlock was broken by Burt
Freeman on 50 minutes and despite Liverpool pressing late on, Burnley's
defence held out. The trophy was handed to Tommy Boyle by King George
V, and Burnley returned to a heroes welcome, huge crowds accumulated
from the railway station and all along the route to the town hall.
The whole crowd went manic when Tommy Boyle appeared on he Town
Hall balcony to show off the famous trophy, but before the celebrations
could continue, Burnley had to play their last game of the season, at Turf
Moor against Bradford, and whilst the result was incidental over 40,000
turned up to cheer Burnley on.
The 1914-15 season was marked by the onset of the Great War, and
although the league and FA Cup continued, it was clear that football would
have to take a back seat during the remainder of the war. Everton won the
league, with Burnley finishing 3rd . The league was finally suspended on
July 3rd 1915, just at a time when Burnley were finally making a mark on
The Great War took it's toll on all lives, non more than the four Burnley
players who lost their lives in the defence of the country. Jonathan Brown,
Billy Pickering, reserve player Lorrimer and first team player Teddy
Hodgson all died in the conflict.
On 30 August 1919, the league re-commenced, with Burnley retaining a
large number of their pre-war team, a fact that would stand them in good
stead over the next few years. With a further increase of the First and
Second Divisions to 22 teams, all clubs ventured into the transfer market to
increase their squads, none less than Burnley who added 7 new faces to
Burnley's season started where they had left off at the beginning of the
war, with Burnley finishing 2nd, but it was also sad to see Bert Freeman
scoring his 115th and last goal for the club, as a new signing, Joe
Anderson started to show the form that displaced Freeman as Burnley's'
prolific hit man. The season also saw Bob Kelly represent England against
Scotland, where he scored two goals in a 5-4 win.
Burnley's 1920-21 season started badly,
with defeats against Bradford home and
away, and Huddersfield, which left Burnley
bottom, but a reshuffle of the team saw
fortunes change, a 30 game unbeaten
run followed, which remained a league
record until Arsenal surpassed it with
an unbeaten season in 2003-04, this
run included a 7-1 win over Aston Villa,
with 5 goals scored by Joe Anderson. A 0-3 defeat at Maine Road by
Manchester City ended the run, but the defeat could not stop Burnley from
claiming their first Championship Trophy with a 1-1 draw at Goodison
against Everton, 39 years after being formed and 33 after the league was
created, Burnley had finally claimed the prize they had lusted over.
The trophy was paraded around Turf Moor, in front of a full house at the
head of an Army marching band, and the crowd invaded the pitch at the
end of the game, cheering as Tommy Boyle was presented the trophy.
Sadly this great Burnley side had lost a large chuck of it's footlballing life,
by the Great War, and although the next season stated well, by November
the cracks had started to show and injuries where taking their toll.
Liverpool finally won the title, with a 2-1 win over Burnley, but the Clarets
still managed to attain third place. As the team aged, the results worsened,
and in the 1922-23 season Burnley finished 15th.
George Beel, a player who would in time become a Burnley Legend, arrived
at Burnley, as the Clarets started to rebuild,John Hill was brought in to
replace captain Tommy Boyle and Pete Bennie as right wing, but the squad
look threadbare and devoid of cover for the first eleven, as more members
of the team of 1921 retired from the game.
The 1923-24 season was full of relegation trouble, and only a 4-1 win over
Arsenal in late April secured Burnley's First Division status, but a good FA
Cup run, relived the supporters.
In November 1924, manager John Haworth
contracted pneumonia, and he later died in early
December of the same year. John Haworth who
had won both the league title and FA Cup with
Burnley, who had taken a poor second division
side to the very top of the English game had sadly
passed away. Burnley continued to fade, and
although they avoided relegation yet again, it was
clear the bubble had burst and Burnley had lost
it's most successful manager to date.
The season was only notable for another
excellent FA Cup run this time Burnley reached
the semi-final, but it would be the 3rd round game
against Huddersfield Town that would be
remembered, as a club record 54,775 attended
Turf Moor, to see Burnley win 1-0.