FORMER teammate of Clarets legend Jimmy McIlroy have paid tribute to a ‘wonderful player’ and a ‘father figure’.

The Turf Moor great died on Monday at the age of 86. McIlroy made 497 appearances for the Clarets across 13 years at Turf Moor, scoring 131 goals.

He continued to live in Burnley after leaving the club and a stand at Turf Moor is named after him, while he was given the freedom of the Borough of Burnley in 2008 and made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours of 2011 for his services to football and charity.

Born in Lambeg, County Antrim, McIlroy moved to Burnley from Glentoran in 1950. Almost a decade later Willie Irvine, also from County Antrim, had a trial with the Clarets, and Irvine fondly remembers the help McIlroy gave him.

“When I came across from Northern Ireland I’d just turned 16 and I had a trial for a month,” he said.

“Jimmy took me under his wing, he was like a father figure with me. I honestly believe I got signed on because of Mr McIlroy’s influence.

“He was a tremendous person and a great figure with me. I loved him to bits.

“He was a well loved man.

“This town will remember him for years and years and years to come.”

Alex Elder was part of the 1959/60 title-winning side with McIlroy and he made the same move from Glentoran as the inside forward, whom he described as a ‘legend’ of the game.

“He was a very good friend, he used to babysit for our children when they were younger,” he said.

“I followed Jimmy to Burnley and stayed in the same digs that he had 10 years earlier.

“He’s a legend to me and everybody else. The word legend is used very lightly and flippantly these days, but he was a true legend and a gentleman on and off the field.

“He’ll be sadly missed, I know he’d been unwell for a few years but our hearts go out to his family.

“He was a wonderful player and a wonderful man. May he rest in peace.”

Another to pay tribute was Jimmy Robson, who was a key member of that side that conquered England took the Clarets into Europe for the first time.

It was a golden era for the club, but Robson believes McIlroy was the greatest to ever play for the club.

“He was the best player that ever played at Turf Moor and it was a pleasure to play with him,” he said.

“He was an experienced player and I was a young lad but he always helped me.

“We had great times at Burnley, winning the league, playing in Europe and getting into an FA Cup final.

“Like me, he stayed in Burnley and I used to see him around walking in Scott Park in later years.

“It’s a sad day for Burnley Football Club.”

John Angus, right-back in the title-winning team, remembers a player who used to excite those who watched him.

“He was tremendous, he was a class player, he was like Stanley Matthews, a real Burnley legend,” he said.

“He was a brilliant player. You don’t see many like him today, he would take a few men on and he was really exciting to watch. People loved watching him.

“It’s such sad news for the club and everyone who knew him.

“He was a lovely bloke, he was one of the lads, we all got on well in those days, it was a good time, we were doing well on the pitch and all got on together.”