When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Dave’s dream decade of Turf tales
HE has written 12 books about Burnley in 10 years, reunited families and even seen Jimmy McIlroy in his pyjamas. But Dave Thomas is not finished yet.
The lifelong Burnley fan never expected any of this when he wrote his first book about the club almost by accident in 2003.
Last month he released his latest work, a biography of ex-Clarets player and manager Jimmy Adamson. Already plans are being made for his next book.
“I’ve achieved an ambition,” said the 69-year-old – a former headmaster at Thorpe-on-the-Hill School in Leeds, where he now lives.
“I’d always kept diaries and harboured a secret desire to be a writer.
“I took early retirement when I was 55 and the intention was I’d have a serious go at it, but I began to do supply teaching and consultancy work so it went on hold.
“I rang a publisher in Manchester to get some advice about something else though, I can’t think what, and we got talking.
“I just happened to let slip that I’d been keeping a Burnley diary of the 2002/03 season, under Stan Ternent.
“He said, ‘We’ll publish it’, just like that. It was a happy accident.
“He read the draft and he was horrified because it was just a personal diary, full of horrible things you say in your own diary.
“But we cleaned it up and the end product was ‘It’s Burnley Not Barcelona’.
“Within weeks the book was in the remainder shops for a couple of quid. I rang the guy and he said, ‘I’ve gone bankrupt’.
“My first book put the publisher out of business within weeks!”
But by then Thomas had got the writing bug.
“Once you do one book you want to do another,” he said.
He would soon write ‘No Nay Never, a Burnley Anthology’ before ghost writing a book for former Clarets star Willie Irvine.
Later came a book about ex-Burnley manager Harry Potts, a second diary and anthology, then two books about the legendary McIlroy in 2009.
Thomas, who grew up in Todmorden, will never forget his hands trembling with nerves when he first phoned the Northern Irishman years earlier, for his first anthology.
“These were my boyhood heroes,” said Thomas, who first started watching Burnley in the mid-1950s. “We’d play football on Centre Vale Park in Todmorden and I’d pretend to be Jimmy McIlroy and somebody else would be Ray Pointer.
“The very first time I phoned Jimmy, I was nervous.
“I’m an ex-headmaster, I’m not soft, but you ring up somebody like that and you think, ‘Will he speak to me, will he want to know?’ But I asked him one question and he was still talking 30 minutes later.
“When I was writing the books about him we met every week for almost a year.
“He came to stay here in Leeds for a couple of weekends.
“I’ll never forget that he came down on one Saturday morning and he’s standing in my kitchen with a mug of tea in his pyjamas.
“I said to him, ‘Jimmy, this is surreal, you were my hero and you’re in my kitchen in your pyjamas!’”
After that Thomas, wrote a book about the Turf Moor reigns of managers Steve Cotterill, Owen Coyle and Brian Laws. He then ghost wrote for former Clarets Roger Eli and Paul Fletcher.
His latest book about Adamson was not a straightforward task.
The former Clarets boss died two years ago and plenty of research was required to piece together the tale of how the 1962 Footballer of the Year grew up in poverty in the north east, then became a recluse following his exit from Turf Moor and a turbulent time as manager of Leeds.
But, not for the first time, the book helped to bring about a family reunion.
Thomas was contacted by Adamson’s nephew Mark, who had known Jimmy during childhood but whose family had lost touch. Mark had to follow the managerial career of his uncle and idol from afar but, now a successful businessman, he offered to pay for the book launch.
“Mark had totally lost touch with all the Adamson family after 1974, but he maintained his interest in Jimmy,” Thomas said. “When he was reunited with the grandchildren it was a massive moment for him.
“The Willie Irvine book led to a reunion too between him and his brother Bobby, who was the goalkeeper at Stoke. He hadn’t spoken to him for 10 or 12 years.”
Thomas has been delighted with the way Adamson book has been received.
“On Amazon it was number one on the Kindle top 100 list for English FA books, up there with the Beckhams and the Rooneys,” he said.
“I was chuffed as hell about that.”
He admits his books are more a labour of love than a money-spinner.
“I barely make a penny out of it,” he says frankly.
“It probably costs about £900 to write a book. But I feel I’ve achieved something.
“When I’m long gone there will be people reading my books, so you’re leaving something behind and I just think that’s fantastic.
“I want to keep writing for as long as I can. I’ve done 12 books but I’m not doing a number 13, I’m going straight to number 14!
“I’ve seen another guy about a book, but it’s not Burnley, which is a big change for me.”
Thomas’ books have made him a respected member of the Burnley community, although worldwide fame continues to elude him.
“I got a call a couple of days after the Adamson book came out,” he said.
“The guy said, ‘Is that Dave Thomas? It’s talkSPORT’.
“He never got another word out.
“I just jumped to the conclusion that he wanted to talk about the book and that I was live on the radio.
“I rabbited away non-stop about Adamson and the book, I must have gone on for about 10 minutes until he got a word in.
“He said, ‘Well that’s fascinating Dave, but all I’d rung you up for was to ask have you got Dave Burnley’s phone number?’.
“So I’m still not famous!”
Comments are closed on this article.