Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Jimmy Adamson: The man who said "no" to England

Emdad Rahman: Sir Bobby Charlton described Jimmy Adamson as a "tall, slim, elegant player who to my astonishment never played for England." Adamson is Burnley's greatest ever player. He was born in Ashington, Northumberland and made 476 appearances for the Clarets ranking him sixth in the Clarets all-time appearance list.

As captain Adamson played every game as Harry Potts' Burnley became League Champions in 1959-60. The Turf Moor trio of the cultured Adamson, Irish schemer Jimmy McIlroy and England wing star John Connelly helped the Clarets to lift the Championship by one point on the last day of the season after a win over Manchester City.

The following season Adamson led Burnley as they locked horns with the cream of Europe. French champions Reims were sent home before England's champions lost to the Germans of Hamburg. The boys from Turf Moor almost completed a domestic double as they agonisingly finished second to promoted Ipswich Town in the race for the Championship and losing to Spurs in the FA Cup Final.

Adamson also skippered the team to the 1962 FA Cup Final which they lost to Tottenham Hotspur. The mercurial right half was also named Footballer of the Year in 1962.

When Walter Winterbottom retired, Adamson, who was his assistant at Chile 1963, turned down the most prestigious job in English football. The F.A then turned to the authoritarian Alf Ramsey, who himself, had taken unfashionable Ipswich Town straight from the Third Division South to the League championship. Later Adamson even joked that his decision had helped England win the World Cup after Sir Alf led the Three Lions to World Cup glory at Wembley in 1966.

In 1970 Adamson famously predicted Burnley to become a powerhouse of football - the 'Team of the Seventies', but a small club like Burnley had to sell to survive and this greatly impacted his vision. He was controversially given his marching orders in 1976 and took over at the helm of Sunderland before a further two tough years at Leeds United left him walking away from the game which he had contributed so much to.

Adamson enjoyed and excelled for almost three decades at Turf Moor but it was all cut short abruptly. Author Dave Thomas wrote in “Jimmy Adamson – The man who said ‘no’ to England,” that things began to go wrong at Burnley for Adamson in the year leading up to his dismissal, his decline accelerated after he left Sunderland and joined Leeds United. By the late 1980, he had simply had enough of the whole football business; of malicious fans, working under the shadow of Don Revie, unsupportive directors, and the sheer, never ending, day to demands of running a football club.

It all ended with the ignominy and stress of a libel action he took against Leeds United, some newspapers and his successor Allan Clarke.

Although Burnley chairman Bob Lord; described by Adamson as "the megalomaniac dictator that destroyed the club," is seen as the pantomime villain it is strange that no one looked at the sour relationship he had with Adamson from his perspective.

After Leeds, Adamson became a recluse and only returned to Burnley in 2011 to open a corporate suite named in his honour in the Jimmy McIlroy stand. By that time his health was in the decline and he had outlived his wife and both his daughters. His own mother had committed suicide more than half a century ago after he had taken her to Burnley to be near to him.

The elegant Jimmy Adamson remains a football great. In the golden seventies he fashioned a passing team that is still revered by football fans and the achievements of him and his team mates will never be repeated at Turf Moor - That is unless a modern day oligarch takes over the reins.

Dave Thomas writes an intriguing story. One full of unhappy memories, of hopes and broken dreams. The Burnley legend was a football enigma, alternately affable, brooding and off-hand. A supremely elegant player of the ‘50's and early ‘60's, a title winner and a revered coach, his poignant story is one of broken dreams, failed d ambitions and personal tragedy – a story of what might have been.


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