Legends on legends - Burnley
Mon 26 October 2020, 12:13|Tottenham Hotspur
Go back to the start of the 1960s, and Spurs and Burnley were enjoying a golden period.
Both teams won the title - Burnley in 1959/60, followed by our famous 'double' in 1960/61 - and finished in the top four four seasons on the trot. We had to overcome Burnley in the semi-finals of the FA Cup before clinching the double, and beat them again, this time in the final, as we defended the FA Cup in 1962 at Wembley.
Integral to Burnley's rise to the top, Jimmy McIlroy. One of Northern Ireland's greats, McIlroy was the inspiration of the team alongside another Burnley great, captain Jimmy Adamson.
Born in Lambeg, Northern Ireland, McIlroy joined Burnley from Glentoran in 1950, and gave 13 years to the Lancashire club, racking up 497 appearances and scoring 131 goals. Such an intelligent player with superb control and an eye for a pass, McIlroy was also a key man in Northern Ireland's run to the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, where he was joined by the likes of all-time Spurs great and double-winning captain Danny Blanchflower, United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, Peter McPartlin and Billy Bingham, who, as manager, would later take Northern Ireland - including Pat Jennings - to the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.
McIlroy moved to Stoke, where he played alongside Stanley Matthews, and later played at Oldham before a brief stint as Bolton manager. He moved back to Burnley, where he became a bricklayer and later a football writer for the local Burnley Express. He was awarded the MBE in 2011 and sadly passed away in 2018.
As a youngster in Newry, Pat remembers well the Northern Ireland team that shone on the world stage back in 1958 - he turned 13 during the tournament. "I can remember Jimmy McIlroy playing in the World Cup Finals in Sweden," said Pat, 590 appearances for Spurs, 119 caps for Northern Ireland.
"Another player from Newry, someone who lived just down the street from me, Peter McPartlin, he played at Villa, and he was in that squad as well, plus Harry Gregg, Danny Blanchflower. That’s when we all got to know those players.
"Jimmy McIlroy was at Burnley and they won the championship in 1960, we were third, and then we won it similarly in 1960/61, when we won the double (Burnley were fourth, and we beat them in the semi-finals of the FA Cup). I ended up playing two or three internationals with him, his last was against Albania in 1965.
"Jimmy was such a brilliant inside forward, fantastic on the ball. He’d go past players as if they weren’t there. I would say he was one of the greatest inside forwards in the game at the time.
"He was a player who could split open defences with his passing. He was integral at Burnley and, alongside Spurs, they were the best teams around at that time. He was also a lovely lad, really encouraging. Without a doubt, one of the best we’ve produced in Northern Ireland."
- Born in Lambeg, Northern Ireland, 25 October, 1931
- Started career at Glentoran, moved to Burnley in March, 1950
- 497 appearances at Burnley, 1950-1963
- Won the First Division title in 1959/60, FA Cup runners-up to Spurs in 1962
- 55 caps and 10 goals for Northern Ireland
- Helped Northern Ireland reach the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup
- Later played with Stanley Matthews at Stoke, ended his career at Oldham
- Awarded MBE in 2011, passed away in April, 2018
- Burnley have a stand named in his honour at Turf Moor