Jimmy Adamson was very much an enigma, a great player of the 50s and early 60s, a title winner, man-of-the-match in the 1962 Cup Final, a revered coach whose name is still remembered in the game, but a manager who was sometimes not the easiest to get on with, and whose spirit was shattered by his dismissal as Burnley manager.
It is a story of the changing relationships between three men: Harry Potts, Bob Lord and Adamson himself, the three of them once the inseparable and on-going heart of the club, but who eventually could not speak to each other.
By all accounts a complex and private man, all who knew him would describe him as a marvellous coach but as a manager not everyone’s favourite person. “Not everyone’s cup of tea,” was the nicest way it was put by one of his most loyal disciples.
“Captures the essence of one the greatest ever to wear the claret and blue shirt”
In 1962 Jimmy Adamson had the football world at his feet; a supremely elegant player respected throughout the game, Footballer of the Year and invited to become England manager having been assistant manager in Chile during the World Cup. He turned it down. Appointed Burnley coach in 1965 he oversaw the 1968 Youth Cup Final victory and made a bold prediction that Burnley would become the ‘Team of the Seventies,’ but relegation soon followed. Then came the promotion season of 1972/73 to restore the club and repay the faith that Bob Lord had kept in him. He came so close to his dream but Chairman Lord then sold the best players one by one to pay the bills. After a golden three-year period, his vision faded and died.
In the mid-seventies he was one of the game’s greatest coaches with a huge reputation throughout football, but sacked in 1976 after a controversial FA Cup game at Blackpool, Jimmy Adamson, shattered, was never the same again, his heart almost broken. Lord had told him that he had a job for life at Burnley, but their once father-son relationship became more and more fragmented and bitter.
After Burnley he spent two years at Sunderland in the shadow of Brian Clough and Bob Stokoe and then endured a torrid two years at Leeds United, where supporters still yearned for the glory years of Don Revie. He joined Sunderland at a time when relegation was a certainty – but he almost saved them. At Leeds he took them to the best season they’d had since Revie but the abuse and scorn he endured there finished all the love he had once had for the game and he turned his back on it forever. He was only 51. How that love for the game was destroyed is one of the central stories of the book.
“Revealing as well as saddening… well worth a read”
Written with the support of his five grandchildren, this is a poignant story of broken dreams, frustrated ambitions and personal family tragedies. In his final years he was totally estranged from the club he had once loved so much. At the very end he was almost reclusive until in 2011 the Jimmy Adamson Suite was opened at the club. With his five grandchildren, Jimmy frail and ill, attended the opening, and received the acclaim of the matchday crowd. It was a healing moment. He died not many months later.
Jimmy Adamson: the Man Who Said No to England. Pitch Publishing: Autumn 2013. Contact the author for more information.