Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game
Even in England, there are few towns where the local football club means as much as it does in Burnley. Founding members of the Football League in 1888, Premier League overachievers Burnley FC have been known to attract the highest ratio of match-goers per head of population.
Just over 20 miles from Manchester, Burnley’s is a close-knit community of 73,000, a world away from the sprawling metropolis down the M66. But this Lancashire town, built on mining and weaving, saw its local sports club Rovers switch from rugby to football in 1882, a full 20 years before Manchester United emerged from Newton Heath.
Only a year later, Burnley FC moved to Turf Moor, their home of 130-plus years, a longevity record only matched by that of Preston, also 20 miles away. Few clubs, in fact, have more local rivals than Burnley.
Blackburn, 20 minutes by car, are Burnley’s fiercest foe, the East Lancashire Derby arguably the most hostile in England. Burnley’s first-time promotion to the Premiership in 2009 saw the first top-flight meeting between the two clubs since the pre-hooligan days of the 1960s. Despite a gargantuan police presence and Soviet-style arrangements for travel, violence and arrests overshadowed the fixture.
The manager who gained Burnley that promotion, Owen Coyle, who also oversaw their win over reigning champions Manchester United in their first home game, was then snaffled up by Bolton halfway through the season. Previously tame derby games between the two took on a certain malice, even in the Championship, where Burnley found themselves immediately, Bolton two years later.
Along with Blackburn and Bolton, in all a third of the inaugural Football League of 1888 were clubs within a 32-mile radius of Burnley. Champions Preston are also traditional rivals but the Lilywhites were last in the top flight when the Clarets were last in their pomp, in the early 1960s.
League champions for the second and last time in 1960, European Cup quarter-finalists in 1961, Burnley faded with the departures of Jimmy McIlroy and Jimmy Adamson, the coach in charge for Burnley’s later and last top-flight stay in the 1970s.
Despite decades of lower-flight football thereafter, Burnley maintained fierce and loyal support among a broad and significant fan base. Famously, Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell is a committed supporter, a regular on the Turf Moor terraces from boyhood. Prince Charles was a closet Claret until he came out at a ceremony for the British Asian Trust in 2012.
Soap stars, TV weathermen, anarcho one-hit wonders Chumbawamba… Burnley’s surprise qualification for Europe in 2018 would have been cheered in the most contrasting of social circles across the country.
Arriving in town, local transport and timings
Leeds-Bradford is 11km (seven miles) north-west of Leeds. FLYER bus A1 runs to Leeds City Square (every 30mins, journey time 35mins) in town, a short walk from the station. Trains to Burnley Manchester Road take 1hr if direct, 1hr 30mins if you change at Todmorden, advance singles around £10.
FLYER buses A2 and A3 each run hourly to Bradford Interchange, journey times 40mins and 1hr respectively. From there, the hourly train to Burnley Manchester Road takes 45mins, or change at Todmorden (total journey time 1hr 15mins), singles around £18.
For FLYER airport buses to Leeds or Bradford, tickets are £5, £6 return online, or £10 including a day’s travel on TransDev buses in Burnley. A Burnley 1 day pass is otherwise £4.80 or add a £2.50 Burnley PlusBus to the cost of your train ticket.
Manchester Airport is linked by frequent train to Manchester Piccadilly (journey time 20mins), where you change for Manchester Victoria (Metrolink yellow Bury line) and the direct train to Burnley Manchester Road. Alternatively, from Manchester Airport change at Preston or Salford Crescent. Overall journey time is around 2hrs, singles £20.
Reliable local taxi firm Burnley & Crown (01282 455 555/0776 274 6188) quote £50 from Manchester Airport, £60 from Leeds Bradford.
Burnley Manchester Road station is just south-west of the town centre, Turf Moor south-east. Underused Burnley Central is right in town.
Where to Drink
The best pubs and bars for football fans
Burnley’s lively nightlife is centred on and around pedestrianised St James’s Street, with plenty of traditional pubs around town, some with microbrewed beers and/or canalside locations. There you’ll find the smart New Brew-m, with an extensive selection of ales. For later night entertainment but daytime fun too, the self-styled ‘soul & Motown lounge’ Mr Greens puts up a large screen for big games.
Bootleggers on Boot Way fills a former Methodist church with live football action, local brews and friendly regulars. On Manchester Road, The Big Window is another major football-watching spot, with plenty of screens and a loyal clientele. Real ales, large-screen football action, pool tables, a beer garden and live music at weekends have also earned the long-established Talbot a major following. It’s now looking to reopen after the pandemic shutdown.
Live music is also provided at the more contemporary Bridge Bier Huis pub by the river Brun, as well as in cask ales and international beers.
For low-priced beers and discounted meals, The Boot Inn is a spacious and centrally located branch of the Wetherspoon chain.
Where to stay
The best hotels for the ground and around town
The nearest lodgings to Turf Moor are provided by Ormerod Bed and Breakfast and its dozen modest, en-suite rooms a ten-minute walk from the ground. Slightly further away, the Premier Inn Burnley is the local branch of this nationwide chain, with an adjoining pub/restaurant set in its own pleasant grounds a ten-minute walk from Turf Moor.
For scenic grounds and lovely views of the surrounding countryside, The Oaks is well appointed with a health club, spa and renowned restaurant, popular for weddings and conferences. It is located 2.5 miles from Turf Moor, near the Reedley Drive stop for routes M3-M4-M5 from Burnley bus station.
Rosehill House is a family-run boutique hotel set in own picturesque grounds overlooking the town, close to Manchester Road station also well served by local buses.
The club recommends the Holiday Inn Express, Burnley, 1.5 miles from Turf Moor, a pleasant, ten-minute canalside walk from town. The hotel has 100-plus guest rooms and its own restaurant.