WHATEVER awaits Burnley in their journey through Europe this season, it is unlikely this crop of Clarets will experience anything remotely close to the class of 66/67’s trip to Naples.

Burnley made the quarter-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup 51 years ago, but it was the clash with the Italian giants that most of that squad remember to this day. It was an experience that is difficult to forget.

Having swatted Napoli aside by three goals to nil in the first leg at Turf Moor, the Clarets were confident, but there was an air of trepidation about what may lie in wait in Naples on February 8, 1967.

“There was a headline in an Italian paper that said ‘the lambs of Burnley have come to the slaughterhouse of Naples’,” remembers Les Latcham, who hadn’t been involved in the two wins over Stuttgart and Lausanne that saw Burnley through to the third round.

It was County Durham-born Latcham who had helped put the Clarets in such a strong position in the first leg, having only been told he was playing by Harry Potts on the way back from a training session before the game in Southport.

After Ralph Coates had put Burnley ahead inside two minutes at Turf Moor, Latcham doubled the advantage before Andy Lochhead rounded off the night with a third.

But Stadio San Paulo would present an intimidating, hostile atmosphere. However, Harry Thomson - dubbed a ‘god in a green jersey’ for his display that night - repelled everything that the hosts could throw at Burnley.

And once they’d realised throwing attack after attack at the Clarets wasn’t working, Napoli took a different approach.

“The longer the game went on they realised they weren’t going to pull three goals back, if any, and Harry Thomson was having one of those games, he could have turned his back on it and still stopped it,” said Latcham.

“Then they started kicking everything that moved.”

Latcham was in the wars himself as the game turned physical, although it was more of a self-inflicted injury as he produced some last-ditch defending to deny José Altafini.

“I collided heads with Altafini, the centre forward. The ball was coming in and I knew I wouldn’t get to it properly, so I just flung myself in and we collided and he headed it over the bar, I put him off enough,” he said.

“I had treatment, Jimmy Holland was wrapping my head and Harry Potts shouted ‘come on Jimmy, get him back on’.

“Altafini and I went back on together more or less and then two minutes later he came off and never showed again.”

It was job done for the Clarets when the final whistle blew with the scores still goalless, but the drama was just beginning. As fans set fire to cushions and launched them on to the pitch, the players clashed, with Thomson and substitute goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw at the heart of it.

“At the end of the game their centre forward went up to shake hands with Harry Thomson and Harry didn’t want to do it, because they’d been kicking hell out of him all game, the crowd saw Harry ignored him and started shouting,” said Latcham.

“This bloke then started chasing Harry down the side of the pitch, and as they went past the bench Adam Blacklaw stuck his leg out and tripped him, then all hell broke loose. From then on it was secret police and protection.”

As Latcham went to get his head wound stitched in a tiny room at the back of the dressing rooms, which amounted to Napoli’s medical room, his teammates got ready to make their exit.

But there would be no easy journey back to the airport, with the squad given remarkable levels of protection as they looked to escape what was by now a city seething at the English upstarts who had conquered Naples.

“When we were going to the airport there were two Land Rovers in front, two behind, and each one had four blokes in with sub-machine guns. That was there way of protecting us,” said Latcham.

“We got back on the bus and we got to the airport, Ralph Coates was notorious at being a bad flyer. He was saying ‘thank God we’ve got out of that’, then I said ‘what if they’ve put a bomb on the plane?’

“His face just went white, I said ‘sorry Ralph, I shouldn’t have said that’.”

Having got past Napoli Potts’ side were into the last eight and a first European trophy was beginning to come into view.

But the journey would end at the quarter-final stage, with a disappointing exit to Eintracht Frankfurt, despite a 1-1 draw in Germany in the first leg.

Remarkably, it would be Burnley’s last game in European competition for 51 years, a run that will end in two weeks when the Clarets face Aberdeen in the Europa League second qualifying round at Pittodrie.

“We were disappointed, we did the hard work at Eintracht, we got a draw, Brian Miller scored,” Latcham said of the quarter-final defeat.

“Then we were doing quite well at home but Dave Merrington miss-hit a back pass and put their centre forward through, then we were behind and it was a case of trying to pull things back.

“We never really got back on top, we had Willie Irvine and Andy Lochhead out as they were injured, I was playing centre forward, and I wasn’t a normal centre forward, so unfortunately we were short of the right men at the right time.”

It had been a campaign to remember for Latcham though, and he hopes Sean Dyche’s current squad can make some memories of their own this season.

“I hope the lads this time have as good a time. At the time In Naples it was hair-raising, but when you look back it was a great experience,” he said.