FORMER Burnley star Leighton James has insisted that a long-standing rivalry with Leeds United and the Clarets’ current league position will make Saturday’s Roses clash at Turf Moor a ‘massive’ game for Brian Laws’ side.

Burnley are due to return to action at home to Leeds on Saturday after their weekend trip to Portsmouth was postponed because of freezing temperatures on the south coast.

That meant Leeds were able to leapfrog the Clarets in the Championship table with a 2-1 home win over Crystal Palace, with Burnley now eighth and their Yorkshire rivals sixth.

And, if both clubs’ ambitions to reach the top flight this season have not already made Saturday’s game an important fixture, James knows only too well that a long history of rivalry between the two sides will add extra spice to the Lancashire versus York-shire fixture.

The 57-year-old former winger was part of the 1970s Burnley side that had several fiery and bad-tempered matches against Don Revie’s Leeds, then one of the best sides in England but renowned for taking no prisoners.

And James insists that fans who remember that era will be desperate for a victory over Leeds, in the first meeting between the two clubs for four seasons.

“It was massive for us to beat Leeds in those days because they and Liverpool were the two teams to beat,” said the Welshman, who had three spells at Turf Moor and also played for the Clarets’ current promotion rivals Swansea and QPR.

“We had a good record against Leeds. They were physical, verging on over physical, but we fought fire with fire. It would finish five-a-side if it was played today.

“Both managers won’t thank me for saying it but there was a real hatred between Don Revie and Jimmy Adamson, they really didn’t like each other.

"And neither did the two chairmen, Bob Lord and Manny Cousins.

“That is why there is a rivalry, because of that sort of history, so it would be massive for us to beat Leeds now because it is big for the supporters.

“So many fans from the 1970s and 1980s remember that rivalry. It’s not all about the younger supporters.

“The teams Burnley fans want to beat are Preston and Leeds in this division, now that Blackburn and Blackpool are in the Premier League. And of course I want Burnley to win.

“A win would give the club a massive boost because Leeds won’t be a million miles away from them at the end of the season.

“I think the top three, QPR, Cardiff and Swansea, are miles better than everyone else and Swansea play the best football by a long way.

“But if they slip up there are five or six sides behind them who could be there.

"Burnley are one of them and so are Leeds and Norwich, and I still think Leicester and Nottingham Forest will be in there.

“This is a huge, huge game for both teams.”

Matches between Burnley and Leeds did sometimes spill over, particularly in 1974, when the Clarets were angered by a serious injury to Frank Casper in a 4-1 win at Elland Road before Ray Hankin and Gordon McQueen sent off for fighting at Turf Moor six months later.

James wants to see no repeat of those incidents but does believe that fans relished the tough-tackling nature of the game in those days, bemoaning the sanitised state of football now.

He said: “Supporters who saw those games will have enjoyed them, even the ones they lost. It’s a great fixture.

“The fans loved the physical side of it. If Paul Reaney kicked me up in the air, the Leeds fans loved it.

"If Brian O’Neil kicked Billy Bremner up in the air, our fans loved it.

“But now the game has gone soft. It has become like basketball, it’s become a non-contact sport.

“The referees are told how to referee the game now by some bigwigs in Salzburg or Zurich. There is no leeway.

“Now teams have to be so focused on keeping 11 men on the pitch and that is wrong.”