Burnley FA Cup Youth winners to reunite for 50-year anniversary
Former Clarets full back Peter Jones hasn't had the Â pleasure of England international Dave Thomas' acquaintance in almost half-a-century, despite being close friends with the winger during their time at Turf Moor.
But the pair will be reunited next month, at the club which spawned their professional careers, as Burnley holds the 50th anniversary celebrations for the one and only time they won the FA Youth Cup.
Both players were heavily involved in that momentous occasion in the club’s history as they came through nine games to lift the trophy.
“I was a full time professional at Burnley so I played in every game,” said Jones, who scored in the semi-final of the competition. “It was fantastic, the best thing that happened in my life at the time.
“It was a wonderful feeling and it’s nice that we’re getting this opportunity to meet up again because we haven’t seen each other for a long time.
“We beat Everton, United and City. It was absolutely brilliant. It’s going to be emotional because it has pushed us all back together and all those memories will come flooding back.
“It will be nice to reminisce about that success. It’s the only time Burnley have ever won the competition so it must be quite an achievement. I remember the atmosphere was electric in the final at Turf Moor.”
The Clarets, then managed by Joe Brown, whose spell as first team boss in 1976 was sandwiched by Jimmy Adamson and a second stint for Harry Potts, saw off both Manchester City and Manchester United en route to lifting the trophy in 1968.
Following the 7-0 thumping of Yorkshire Amateurs, Steve Kindon went on to score a brace against City in the third round in what was his debut in the competition.
Burnley forced a replay against United in the fourth round courtesy of a goalless draw at Old Trafford but they secured a quarter-final tie against Sheffield United with a 2-1 win against the Red Devils at Turf Moor.
Another triumph paved the way for a two-legged semi-final against Everton and, once again, it was a goalless draw in the away fixture at Goodison Park which handed the Clarets the advantage.
And they capitalised, edging an exhilarating five-goal thriller at Turf Moor to reach the showpiece against Coventry City.
Brown’s side lost for the first time in the competition when going down 2-1 to the Sky Blues at Highfield Road.
However, they turned it around on home soil to create history as David Hartley – missing through injury for the first installment – netted a brace in a 2-0 victory, making it 3-2 on aggregate.
Jones, 68, now a wagon driver at Express Freight Solutions, a haulage firm based in Burnley, hasn’t spoken to Thomas since his move to Swansea City in 1971. And their careers took a completely different path.
While Jones plumbed the lower echelons of the Football League with the Swans, his former room-mate went on to make more than 100 appearances for the Clarets in the top flight, finishing his tenure in the second tier.
Jones retired at the age of 26 while Thomas, who made a then record move to QPR, was called up to represent the Three Lions, making his bow against Czechoslovakia on October 30th, 1974.
These days, however, Thomas, who also had spells with Everton, Wolves, Vancouver Whitecaps, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth, requires the use of a white cane and a guide dog, named Hannah, to get about.
He is one of two million Britons living with sight loss having been diagnosed with glaucoma, a disease which attacks peripheral vision and could progress to leave him totally unsighted.
It was a condition which first affected Thomas 17 years ago, and it inspired Jones to help in the fundraising efforts towards the Guide Dogs Association.
Jones, who has taken part in more than 50 of Burnley’s Park Run events, recently negotiated the Darwen Heritage Half Marathon, alongside friend Julie Bithell (58), in a time of 2:58:47.
“I was really big friends with Dave,” he said. “I always stayed in digs with him back then. I’m really looking forward to being reunited with him when this anniversary meal comes along.
“I’ve just taken up running and I’ve been raising money towards the Guide Dogs Association. I’ve only been training for 12 weeks and Julie has been a big part of it. My head still thinks I’m 30 but my body feels it afterwards. I’m going to carry on doing it now.
“I’ve never done one before so I’m flabbergasted. I’ve been running three times a week, even through the snow, and I’ve loved it.
“I haven’t seen Dave for about 48 years so that’s been a huge incentive. He was the man that inspired me to do this and I was determined to do something before the reunion.”
Tickets for the event on Friday, May 11th, in the James Hargreaves Executive Suite, are priced at Â£19.68, a table of 10 is Â£175 and a sponsorship package is Â£400. Proceeds are for the Guide Dogs Association.
Representatives from QPR and Everton are also attending, two of the England international’s former clubs.