Last Sunday, on what was possibly the warmest day of the year, the Vintage Clarets hosted a 7s football tournament at Burnley Football Club’s positively tropical Gawthorpe training centre.
The Vintage Clarets were pipped at the post by Fu-Kenanks United in the final despite a last ditch equaliser by cult legend Roger Eli, writes Andy Devanney.
Fu-Kenanks were crowned champions by the narrowest of margins after finishing the group stage with the same points and goal difference as the veterans but with one more goal scored.
The ex-Clarets were captained by John Deary and included Eli, Liam Robinson, Peter Mumby, Gerry Harrison, Graham Lancashire, Nigel Smith, Phil Eastwood, Chris Scott and George Oghani, who didn’t look any older than he did in his playing days despite his 52 years.
It was arranged by Craig Hull as a prelude to the forthcoming 36th Annual Football Tournament to be held at Hammer Spielvereinigung 03/04 in Hamm, Germany over the weekend of May 17th to 20th.
He said: “The tournament went really well – but was little late starting – but it ran smoothly apart from when we ran out of footballs, but I hadn’t expected the shooting to be so bad on the day.”
There was definitely something peculiar about seeing Robinson climbing over fences to retrieve balls. Not something you normally see a professional footballer doing.
The other teams involved were Unison, who finished joint first but with inferior goal difference, Padiham, Read and the Bridge Bier Huis who sadly failed to score a single goal despite hitting the woodwork a few times, most notably with a ferocious Chris Barlow shot.
The player of the tournament was awarded to Unison’s John Harrison, which was more than deserved as he had been outstanding all afternoon.
Deary told NNN: “A fantastic day was had by all and it was nice to see supporters take time out to come and watch the Burnley Veterans.
“The standard of the teams was excellent and all players expressed how much they had enjoyed the day.”
The ex-pros showed that they still had it in them by winning three and drawing two in the group stage without conceding at all. They eventually had to pick the ball out of the net in the final but the game ended 1-1.
Scorer Eli told NNN: “Overall I thought the tournament was a resounding success, it was fantastic to see the competitive level of the players along with the fair play.”
“It was also good to mingle with the other teams who were Claret supporters when I played and talk about the old times and some of the successes that we had back then.”
“Our team was built up with players who had played for Burnley at various different times but one thing that we all had in common is the bond that Burnley FC used to endorse in creating a family atmosphere amongst the players all those years ago.”
Other ex-players on the score sheet were Eastwood, Mumby and Lancashire, who showed he hasn’t lost his killer instinct by sliding an effort under the Bridge Bier Huis stopper Gareth Maybury at the near post.
A further two tournaments later in the year, Hull told NNN.
He said: “The Vintage Clarets are proving that they are still popular with supporters and our aim is to keep the teams local to give supporters the chance to play against players they watched for years.”
“There are also going to be a few new faces, with Dean West, Ian Thomas-Moore and Andy Cooke wanting to get involved.”
Next stop for the team is Germany for the second year running.
Eli said: “We travel once again in just over six weeks to compete in a highly competitive veteran’s tournament and we’re hoping to start some European success once again for the Clarets.”
“All joking apart, this tournament brings former players back together who can share their life after football experiences and their time at Burnley FC and maybe compare who has the most painful arthritic condition in their back or knees.”
Deary added: “All the lads would like to thank all the teams for supporting us in what turned out to be a great day.”
The lads are still looking for sponsorship for their trip, so if you fancy helping them out get in touch with John Deary via twitter @LoafyDeary