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Former Burnley ace Morgan still has the magic
WHEN Willie Morgan swept back into Turf Moor on Thursday night, with him came a sense of the 1960s and 70s glamour that accompanied his glittering career.
Self-confidence, together with no shortage of ability, helped Morgan emerge from a poverty-stricken mining village in Scotland and end up rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pele, Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer.
That air of confidence remains with him today as, complete with the shoulder-length hair that serves as a throwback to the glory days, he recalls how even taking the number seven jersey from George Best when he arrived at Manchester United was nothing special.
“Why?” he asks. “United paid a record fee for me. It was no big deal.”
Morgan was back in Burnley to sign copies of his new autobiography ‘On The Wing.’ The book chronicles a remarkable career, and the 69-year-old still has great affection for the club where it all began.
In the corridors at Turf Moor, he surveys the pictures on the walls closely, remembering old friends.
“This is where I started and you never forget that,” said Morgan, who played 232 games for the Clarets between 1960 and 1968, before returning for 13 matches in a brief second spell in 1975.
“The dream for me was to play for Sauchie Juveniles, the local team in my village, where they all worked in the mines.
“The rest just happened. In the village we didn’t have a TV or telephone, we were very poor.
“Burnley was a big adventure. I had a choice of every club in the country at the time. I was going to come here for two weeks to have a look, then go to Chelsea, Manchester United and then go back and play for Celtic.
“But I came here, broke a bone in my toe and was here for six weeks in plaster.
“They were just nice people, they had electrics here, inside toilets and television!
“So I signed, much to my dad’s disillusionment. He wanted me to play for Celtic!”
After arriving at the age of 15, just as Burnley were being crowned champions of England, Morgan’s progress was swift.
“I came through very quickly,” he said.
“You looked to be getting into the first team when you were 24 or 25 and I got in as soon as I turned 18, which at that time was unheard of.
“I made my debut at Sheffield Wednesday against a fearsome left back called Don Megson (father of Gary Megson).
“I said, ‘I’ll terrorise him, I’ll do this and I’ll do that’. I did, and we beat them. That was the start of it.
“As an 18-year-old, you have no fear. For the home games I used to say I’ll do a pirouette or I’ll do this. I was just basically showing off.
“I believed I was the best in the world, and so it proved to be later on.”
Indeed, Morgan was voted the best winger in the world in 1972. He had moved on to Manchester United by then, after failing to see eye to eye with Burnley’s chairman Bob Lord. He was not the first or the last.
“I had no intention of leaving, I was here for life as far as I was concerned,” Morgan says.
“My memories here were all special. We put seven past Spurs here, and beat Manchester United 6-1.
“I scored two and made four for Andy Lochhead. Andy still complains because he scored four and thought he should have been man of the match – but I got it!
“Harry Potts was a great manager. I only left because of Bob. My contract was due up and he didn’t want to pay.
“It was sad the way it ended.”
During his time at Burnley, he is credited with being the first football player to have an official fan club.
“That’s true,” he said. “I was a member of the Elvis Presley fan club and in those days people like Elvis and Cliff Richard used to have a monthly thing that came out from their fan clubs.
“Then two girls from Nelson contacted me and said we’d like to start an official fan club for me, so they did.
“I was the second player to have a boutique, too, after George Best. I had one in Keirby Walk in Burnley. Brian O’Neil was my partner. I have a special bond with the supporters of all the clubs I played for. It’s a nice feeling.”
After departing Burnley in 1968, Morgan regrets returning to sign for Jimmy Adamson’s Clarets in 1975 after seven years at Manchester United.
“It was a mistake,” he admits. “I only came back because of Jimmy Adamson. I thought the world of him.
“I signed a six-year con-tract when I came back but when Jimmy fell out with Bob and left, there was nothing for me here.
“Jimmy convinced me that it would be okay and that Bob had changed, but he hadn’t – we still didn’t like each other.”
After his second spell at Burnley, Morgan moved on to Bolton before loan spells in the North American Soccer League with Chicago Sting and Minnesota Kicks.
“It was fabulous, I loved all the razzmatazz,” he said.
“I played against Pele, Cruyff, Eusebio, Besty, Franz Beckenbauer. It was the who’s who of world football.”
Still based near Manchester, Morgan has followed Burnley’s progress with interest this season.
He hopes today’s top of the table clash at Leicester can pave the way for promotion back to the Premier League.
“It’s fantastic to see them doing well,” he said.
“They should never be where they are anyway. They should be back in the top flight.
“The decline was sad. It could have been avoided.
“I think they’ll hang on and win the league this season.”
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