Burnley historian discovers new oldest player

Lancashire Telegraph: Len Smelt Len Smelt

CLARETS historian Ray Simpson thought he Smelt a rat after a chance visit to Turf Moor by the relative of a Burnley legend.

Until recently, the club believed ex-goalkeeper Jerry Dawson to be its oldest-ever player after he turned out on Christmas Day, 1928, aged 40 years and 282 days.

But new information has been brought to light which proves interwar defender Len Smelt beats Dawson’s record by almost a year.

Grandson Steven Smelt told the club Len’s actual date of birth was December 7, 1883, which would have made him 41 years and 132 days old when he made his final appearance on April 18, 1925.

It has left the club’s archivists scrambling to re-write history after two previous books – Burnley: A Complete Record and The Clarets Chronicles – listed Smelt’s date of birth as December 10, 1885, and December 7, 1890, respectivelty.

Steven, from Canada, visited the town recently with his family, who enjoyed a tour of Turf Moor with Mr Simpson. Afterwards, Steven pointed out that the club’s records were innaccurate.

Mr Simpson said: “The irony is that I’ve suspected this for some time but you start disbelieving youself when you see stuff which contradicts what you think.

“I was researching the Championship side of 1921 and came across his obituary and the age it said he was when he died made me think.

“It was pure coincidence that his grandson was over from Canada and he dug out his birth and death certificates.

“The family are very proud of him and his Burnley connections and it’s quite an exciting time when you discover something like this.”

Right-back Smelt played 248 senior Clarets’ games. He died aged 49 in February 1933.

Post-war, defender Graham Alexander is the club’s oldest player, who made his final appearance in the 2010-11 season aged 39 years and 209 days.

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