Burnley had come through a tough early period in it's life, and had
flourished into a club that had won both major football trophies of
the time, but the storm clouds were forming, and with the steady
decline of the team on the pitch, a short fall of the finances in the
board room and the loss of their most successful manager in it's
short history, Burnley were heading in to uncertain times.
On 27th April 1925, Turf Moor hosted a memorial game for John Haworth,
between a Lancashire XI and a Yorkshire XI, this game trialled the FA's
new ruling, which was to define the off side rule up to this point in time,
players required opposition 3 players between them and the opponents
goal to be onside, but after the trial game, the Football Association
reduced it to 2.
A 0-10 drubbing by Aston Villa on the opening
game of the 1925-1926 season, established that
Burnley hadn't quite gotten to grips with the new
ruling. New manager Albert Pickles had a tough
job on his hands to stop Burnley sliding down the
league, and high profile sales of Burnley's top
players, including the sale of star man Bob Kelly to
Sunderland for a club record of £6,550, did not fill
the supporters with hope, but an inspired re-shuffle
and several new signings took Burnley to a 7-1 win
over Birmingham, with Louis Page scoring a record
6 goals, and although the club was bottom of the
league at Easter,they managed to stay up on goal
difference. Throughout the season though Burnley
had shipped 108 goals, and it appears that the
blamed rested mainly on elderly goalkeeper Jerry
Dawson's shoulders, he was dropped for a much younger George
The next season was a wholly different affair, the Clarets started well, with
strong wins over Newcastle United and rivals Blackburn, both with score
lines of 5-1. Burnley were having a mini revival, which continued into the
new year, as Burnley sat on top of the league, but a 1-2 reverse against
Sunderland in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge in front of 63,000, signaled a
decline in fortunes. Injuries and international call ups to England for Louise
Page, George Waterfield and Andy McCluggage, meant that Burnley's first
eleven never stayed consistent, but things were certainly looking up at Turf
The following season started with injuries to major players, especially to
goalkeeper George Sommerville, but the deputies that came in did well,
and in February 1928, Burnley were 6th, but suddenly a huge dip in form
saw the Clarets drop like a stone, and at the end of the season Burnley
were 19th, in a very tight First Division. George Beel and Louise Page
however were very successful, Beel scoring a club record 35 goals in 39
appearances, and Page chipped in with 22 in 41, but it again was the
defence that let the team down, Burnley shipped 98 goals that season.
This season also saw England, who contained Louise Page and Jack Hill
(who captained the side) of Burnley, play at Turf Moor for the first time,
32,089 turned up to see England beaten 1-2 by Wales, but it was a proud
day for the club, as Burnley director and Football League Chairman
Charles Sutcliffe was in charge of the England team that day.
1928-29 season started well, but Burnley's away form, and tendency to
concede vast numbers of goals conspired against the club. In a season
where Burnley sold England international Jack Hill to Newcastle United for
£8,000 and Jerry Dawson played his last game for the club, after 522
League appearances, Burnley again hung on to their First Division status
for another season mainly because of the prolific Beel, who yet again
scored over 30 goals.
The following season started well, but money was short at the club, and
with crowds reducing to well under 10,000 a game, Burnley were reduced
to selling it's star players. The Clarets seemingly had no luck, when they
bought defender and England International Sam Wadsworth for £2,000, he
was seriously injured 3 games after his debut, and first choice goalkeeper,
Billy Downs, was also badly injured, and never played for the club again.
Manager Albert Pickles went to the local press to appeal for more support
for the team, he stated that the club would have to sell it's top players to
survive, if supporters stayed away, days later, Jackie Bruton was sold to
Blackburn Rovers for £6,000. They also went on to sell Joe Devine for
£5,000 to Newcastle United. It appeared to be a very bleak time for the
Clarets, and Burnley were relegated on the last game of the season, even
though they beat Derby County 6-2.
Burnley's first season back in the Second Division started well enough, and
there was some hope that Burnley could bounce straight back, but as low
crowd attendances took it's toll, Burnley stated that they would listen to
offers for any of their players, and the season eventually petered out, with
Burnley in 8th place at the last.
1931-32 season was to be a poor season all
round, big name players like George Beel, who
had become the clubs all time leading goal
scorer with 187 league and cup goals in 337
games, was sold, as too was Louis Page. A
supporters club was formed to help garden
interest in the club, but increased unemployment
in the area, saw many people without the money
to go and watch football, and this only
exasperated Burnley's plight, and only a
desperate end to the season which included 2
wins and a draw, saved Burnley's league status.
In the close season, Albert Pickles left the club, and in his place, ex
England international and Liverpool player Tom Bromilow replaced him.
The season saw a poor started that dragged the club again into a
relegation fight, the only respite was an excellent FA Cup run to the
quarter finals, where 48,717 watched Burnley go down 0-1 to Manchester
City. This coupled with a steady back line, helped Burnley to a good run of
wins over the remained of the season, and although a 19th position wasn't
good enough, at least relegation which had been on the cards for most of
the season had been avoided.
Bromilow, wasted no time in re-arranging the team,
and but Christmas 1933-34, the team was
unrecognisable to the one he had inherited, and
Burnley enjoyed a season of mid-table mediocrity,
which made a pleasant change to the relegation
scraps of previous years.
The following season was only notable from another
FA Cup run, a quarter final 3-2 win over Birmingham
in front of 47,670 after being 0-1 down was the
highlight. A 0-3 defeat at the hands of favourites
Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final in front of
56,625 put pay to any dreams of FA Cup glory.
Another season of steady recovery had been negotiated.
Bromilow then left the club, and Billy Dougall came in, and Burnley
changed their strip to play in white shirts and black shorts. Charles
Sutcliffe, who was still a director at Burnley, as well as chairman of the
Football League at the age of 70 year old, had slowly become a hated and
vilified character of the game, often seen as an old man who was stuck in
he age of amateur football of the 1800's, his battle with the football pools
company epitomised this. It had been suggested that the Football league
patent it's fixture list and charge the footballs pools for it's use. Sutcliffe
dismissed the idea, as he had done with the BBC showing games on the
TV, as he did not want a link between gambling and football, this
accumulated in league fixtures only being announced on the day of the
game, but this backfired drastically as crowds plummeted.
Burnley's season was uneventful, and a low mid table position was gained
at the end of the season, but the club did start developing it's youth team
set up, with adverts for young players to sign up on amateur forms with the
club. A product of this very initiative brought in a young player at the age
of 15, called Tommy Lawton.
Lawton was still a amateur when he made his debut for Burnley, but it
wasn't long before he was scoring goals regularly for Burnley, in 1936-37
Lawton played in an FA Cup game against Tottenham Hotspur, where he
was pitted against England defender Arthur Lowe, within 30 seconds
Lawton had scored, and he went on to score a hat-trick in a 3-1 win. On
New Years Eve, Lawton was sold for £7,500 to Everton, which was a record
for a 17 year old. Burnley struggled to replace Lawton, but the money
helped the club through a very difficult period.
The next few seasons showed promise, and the youth policy took hold, and
Burnley although never really pushed for promotion, did pull away from the
bottom of the league which had plagued the team over the last 5 or 6
years. Meanwhile in 1937-38, Tommy Lawton lifted the league
championship with Everton.
In January 1939, Charles Sutcliffe sadly died, the man who had brought
not only Burnley but he entire Football League to where it was, had passed
away, although Sutcliffe had remained a stalwart to the traditions of the
game, and he may have become detached from the game in his later
years, his influence over all to the game, can still be felt today.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Football League
immediately called a halt to it fixtures, as the world once again took to the
fields of Northern Europe to fight.
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