Pat (91) is a true vintage Claret

Pat Fleming at home with his Clarets scarf
Pat Fleming at home with his Clarets scarf
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A vintage Claret who first went on the Turf to watch his beloved Burnley in the 1930s still climbs on a bus and journeys to watch his team at the grand old age of 91.

Mr Pat Fleming spoke to the Burnley Express about his magical memories of following Burnley Football Club through their rollercoaster history of league titles, near extinction and Premier League highs.

Great-grandfather Pat was a wide-eyed pupil at St Mary’s RC School in the 1930s when he first ventured onto the Turf, in the days when the club would open the gates to Turf Moor for the final 15 minutes of weekday matches.

Pat said: “There were no floodlights back in those days so a lot of games were played midweek during the day. They’d open the gates at 3-45pm, so I used to go on then with my pals.

“There were no proper stands or seating then. I can remember concrete steps and ashes on the ground. It was a great atmosphere.”

Pat, who left school to work at Bank Hall Pit when he was 14, served in the Burnley Home Guard during the war, and remembers mortar bombs being stored under the cricket field stand at Turf Moor.

“I remember opening the lid and pulling one of these bombs out when I was a young lad,” he recalled. “I could have blown the whole ground up if I hadn’t been careful.”

After many years down the pit, Pat went on to be a window cleaner and only stopped when he was 76 and one of his lads cut up his ladders to stop him going up.

FA Cup finals and trips to Wembley would follow for Pat who attended the 1947 and 1962 cup finals when Burnley were defeated twice, to Charlton Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur.

He added: “I never had much luck going to Wembley, I once saw England beaten by Scotland there too. In fact, my team always got beat whenever I went to Wembley.”

Thankfully Pat didn’t make the trip to Wembley in 2009 when Burnley defeated Sheffield United to gain their first crack at the Premier League and begin their remarkable journey, once again, to the dizzy heights of the English game.

“Some of my fondest memories are obviously winning the league in 1960 when Jimmy McIlroy was a great player. Peter Kippax was another great player. He played in the 47 cup final as an amateur.”

Sadly, Pat has now developed macular degeneration, which means his eyesight is failing. Thankfully, two fans who sit either side of him in the Bob Lord Stand give him his own personal commentary of the game.

Pat added: “I only know they’ve scored now when everyone jumps up! I still try to go on as much as possible though and catch the bus down from Queen’s Road.”

Pat makes the journey himself – his devoted wife of 70 years Eileen went on once with him but was “bored to tears”.

The devout Catholics, who attend St John the Baptist RC Church, have had their marriage blessed by no less than two Popes, the first time 70 years ago by Pius XII and again this year by the current Pope Francis.