Thursday, 22 June 2017

An invitation to Blackburn residents to help with plans to commemorate famous events in the town in 1842.

Press release — immediate 

An invitation to Blackburn residents to help with plans 
to commemorate famous events in the town in 1842. 

Thursday 29 June at 6pm at Blackburn Museum 


An invitation is extended to anyone who would like to help with plans to mark the 175th anniversary of Blackburn’s part in the first General Strike.

In August 1842, what began as a strike movement in Lancashire, Staffordshire and West Riding of united resistance to the imposition of massive wage cuts among workers in the coal, cotton and engineering industries immediately took on a political character to become an all-out struggle for universal suffrage. 

In Blackburn on 15 August 1842, thousands walked out of the mills to meet crowds converging on the town from right across Lancashire. 

After the Riot Act was read the Army opened fire and, at least, four women were killed and many others seriously injured. The five men who organised the strike in Blackburn were later sent to Tasmania and never returned. 

In August 1993 a plaque that commemorated this bloody chapter in Blackburn’s history was unveiled at BBC Radio Lancashire’s headquarters in Darwen Street. It is still there 24 years later.

On of those involved in 1993 was councillor Tony Humphrys and he subsequently went on to conduct further research into the events in 1842 and even discovered the names of four women who were killed on 15 August 1842. These names and other information remain unpublished but it is proposed to end some of the mysteries on 15 August this year.

A meeting to help plan events on 15 August is to be held at 6pm at the Blackburn Museum. It will be chaired by councillor Tony Humphrys. Also in attendance will be Mark Metcalf, who is employed by Unite the union on the Rebel Road project (*) that publicly commemorates labour movement heroes and events that are publicly commemorated in the form of plaques, statues and buildings named after them.

For more details contact councillor Tony Humphrys on 07759 629361 and/or Mark Metcalf on 07392 852561 mcmetcalf@icloud.com



Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Want to help remember Halifax’s Chartist heroes?

Want to help remember Halifax’s Chartist heroes?

Come along on Monday 26 June 

6pm prompt start, meeting to end 7.15pm

King Cross Fire Station Community Room, Skircoat Green. 

Following the successful ‘We Remember the strike of 1842 ‘ Guided Walk by author Catherine Howe I was asked by those who have transformed it beyond recognition in the recent past to visit Lister Lane Cemetery. http://www.listerlanecemetery.co.uk

In addition to meeting some of the ace people involved there was also the chance to find out more about the Chartists who are buried in the cemetery including Benjamin Rushton and on whom the Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery (FOLLC) have published a good pamphlet. 

The FOLLC hold regular meetings and are keen to co-organise an event in August to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the 1842 strike and Rushton’s role in it. The FOLCC has booked the meeting room at King Cross Fire Station on Monday 26 June and anyone keen to help remember Halifax’s Chartists either in August this year and/or afterwards is invited. 

The provisional agenda I propose is as follows:-

  1. Introductions and apologies 

2)  What is Lister Lane Cemetery?

3) Ideas for 15/16 August events? (*) 

4) Can we get a plaque up in Halifax Town centre to commemorate August 1842?

5) A mural. ( as above) 

6) Possible play.


Mark Metcalf @markmetcalf07 

07392 852561 Organiser of Unite’s Rebel Road project at:- http://www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/education/rebelroad/

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Flying Fred: The first Englishman to provide top class coaching to the Swedes.

The first Englishman to provide top class coaching to the Swedes stated work today in 1911. 


This is an edited extract from the book FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF FRED SPIKSLEY, a flawed football hero.

www.spiksley.com



Coach Fred Spiksley (far left, back row) stands with his Swedish international team in 1911. 


Sweden will host the Europa League final this Wednesday when the first English side to tour the continent will hope to win the Trophy. Manchester United did so in 1908 with a summer trip to the Austro-Hungarian Empire that was followed shortly afterwards by the England team playing four matches in Austria, Hungary and Bohemia (as the Czech Republic was then called). 

Sweden itself appointed an English football coach in the lead up to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Sweden had been hammered 12-1 in 1908 by Great Britain, who went on to carry off the gold medal. No country needed a football coach more than Sweden.

The Englishman was Fred Spiksley, a Sheffield Wednesday legend and the first man to score three times against Scotland in 1893. His initial brief when he took charge on 24 May 1911 was to prepare the Swedish national team for a high profile match against the German Federation on 18 June 1911.

Fred would have to rise early each morning for coaching and teaching football in two primary grass pitch locations – the Rasunda IP and Ostermalm Parks and Stadia.
On his first day in his new job, Fred Spiksley was introduced to Swedish FA officials and players. He was then given a whistle-stop tour of the city and some tips on how to get safely around. On top of his coaching work Fred was expected to visit football clubs and centres in Sweden to watch matches and assess the abilities of the players. What was required was the building of a strong and skilful national side that could compete on equal terms with other nations. Fred needed to identify talented players who were passionate and enthusiastic about football and also willing to listen, work hard and constantly practise to improve their football skills. 
Buoyed by a report in Idrottsbladet, the leading Swedish sports paper, that he was gentle, friendly and liked by the players who had met him, Fred enthusiastically watched numerous matches and players on his travels, setting up football clinics and organising coaching sessions. 
Fred Spiksley’s number one priority was to teach Sweden’s top amateur footballers a different way of playing the game. As in all walks of life trying to introduce a completely different way of doing things is never going to be easy and it was therefore perfectly understandable that the players were apprehensive as they had never had a professional football coach before. 
However, the new coach had a number of things going for him including his reputation and details of his exploits in the Football League, FA Cup and international matches. Fred’s flair for languages also helped and he very quickly started to pick up Swedish, including a number of phrases that he employed to address his new players the first time they met. In return, the players immediately liked the new man in charge and considered him a warm, friendly gentleman. 
Fred was to pull no punches in telling the players that he meant to change the style of football and that included fundamental ball skills. He also made no secret that there would be lots of hard work and he urged anyone not up to the challenge to leave. Furthermore, if players turned up so much as a minute late to training, they were sent home and therefore lost out on Fred’s wisdom. 
The new coach began by teaching players how to trap the ball and how to use the chest to cushion a ball in the air and bring it dead to a player’s feet. He then turned to how to shield the ball from an opponent and keep possession, while at all times maintaining complete control of the ball with the outside of the boot. When the players had mastered the art of dribbling with the ball, Fred taught them how to kick a football and he coached them in the main ways to kick – the short crisp pass, the centre or cross-field ball, the corner kick and how to shoot. 
Fred was a disciple of combination football. He wanted short quick passing along the ground to unmarked colleagues in order to keep possession and outmanoeuvre opponents so as to create goal-scoring opportunities. As coach, one of his favourite exercises was to line up his forwards on the halfway line and get them to pass the ball along the line as they advanced together before one took a shot. Another was ‘piggy in the middle’ in which two players in the middle attempted to intercept an errant pass from players attempting to pass to one another. Several of the training drills that Spiksley believed would develop a player’s skill can still be witnessed by top professional teams during training sessions and pre-match warm-ups. In terms of skill training, there is little doubt that he was way ahead of his time. 
Fred had never worked harder in his life but he really enjoyed what he was doing and he could see that he was making a big difference especially as he quickly mastered Swedish and could use the language to pass on his instructions. 
Most of the current Swedish side played for Orgryte and there were also Gothenburg-based players from IFK Gothenburg, FF Gothenburg and Kopings IS. From Stockholm there were players from AIK, Djurgardens, IFK, Gavle and Mariebergs. 
The side selected for the big game against Germany at the Rasunda on 18 June 1911 were as follows:
Oskar Bengtsson (Orgryte); Knut Sandlund (Djurgardens), 
Jacob Levin (Orgryte); Ragnar Wicksell (Djurgardens), Gotrik Frykman (Djurgardens) captain, Sixten Oberg (Mariebergs); Herman Myhrberg (Orgryte), Gustaf Efkberg (Stockholm), Karl Gustafsson (Kopings), Josef Appelgren (Orgryte), Karl Ansen (AIK). 
Germany: Moller (Kiel), Kipp (Stuttgart), Worpitsky (Victoria Berlin), Dumke (Victoria Berlin), Droz (Prussia Berlin), Hunder (Victoria Berlin), Burger (Munchen 1860), Ugi (Leipzig), Hempel ((Leipzig), Viggers (Victoria Hamburg) 
The home side contained in Gustafsson, Sweden’s leading international goalscorer with nine goals in eight games. However, it was the outside left in the side, Karl Ansen, who was considered the best forward. He was 24 and had previously played eight international games. Bengtsson in goal was making his eighth appearance for his country while Sandlund, Oberg and Esbjerg were all making their first. 
The game, which was the first international in Stockholm was played in warm sunshine in front of a crowd of 3,000. Having won the toss, Sweden chose to kick with the breeze behind them. The home side took the lead on 28 minutes when Gustafsson was sent clear courtesy of a brilliant ball from Myhrberg and he left Moller with no chance of saving his shot. One minute later and it was 2-0 when Gustafsson hit a great shot past the German ’keeper and this was the score at half-time. 
Buoyed by their success, the home side played some excellent football on the restart but were guilty of missing four gilt-edged chances. This allowed the German team to take the initiative and the away side struck twice in quick succession to level the score. Things then went from bad to worse for Sweden when Bengtsson was beaten by a deflected shot and Germany led for the first time. 
The home side were handed a lifeline on 68 minutes when Gustafsson was upended in the penalty area. Having already scored twice, the Swedish centre forward was the obvious man to take the spot kick. But to the crowd’s surprise the captain of the home side, Gotrik Frykman, saw this as his responsibility and had agreed with Fred Spiksley beforehand that he would take any penalty kicks. Unfortunately for the Swedes, he missed but this did not stop the home side piling forward in search of a deserved equaliser. 
However – and no doubt readers have heard this story many times since – in the final minute of the game, Germany broke forward to make it 4-2. The Swedes had been the better team, had led for much of the game but Germany had won! 
Fred was understandably upset by the result when on another day Sweden would have won comfortably. The Swedish coach also blamed himself for agreeing that Frykman should take the penalties. What had really counted against the losing side, though, was their lack of composure when shooting. Practice could help ensure that was less likely to be the case in the future and despite the result it was clear from their performance that Fred Spiksley’s coaching had massively improved the quality of the Swedish side. 
Over the following weeks, Fred had, according to Swedish FA reports, visited Vasteras and later Karlstad, which is 160 miles west of Stockholm. There he saw IFK Karlstad play short, fast passes to beat Karlskoga IF 9-0 with the latter reported as playing long balloon balls. 
Fred also worked with the Stockholm AIK players as the History of AIK, published 2012, states in the section covering 1911: “Maybe the very first successful autumn of 1911 was due to the fact that the players in the summer got instructions from the English football coach Fred Spiksley who was moving round Sweden.” 
AIK won the Swedish championship, which was run as a knockout competition. They beat IFK Vasteras, IFK Eskilstuna, IFK Stockholm and then IFK Uppsala 3-2 in the final. There were 21 teams entered the tournament. 
Fred appears to have left Sweden at the start of September as there is no mention of him being present at the international in Stockholm on 17 September that saw Norway crushed 4-1. Whether his contract had ended or he left early is unknown. 
Fred’s time in Sweden had been a very happy and rewarding one as he had transformed Swedish football by teaching the players how to play the combination game. He had instilled in the players a pride in their performances in working together for each other as a team. 
Fred was disappointed at missing out on the chance of coaching Sweden at the Olympics but returned to Retford in a good mood. 
Spiksley later went on to coach in Germany, Spain, Peru, Mexico, the USA and Switzerland and thus became the first man to coach on three continents. 
In 1918, Torsten Husen, a sports journalist for the Idrottsbladet paper in Stockholm, obtained Spiksley’s advice when he wrote the first major football book in Swedish. The spiksley.com site has copies if anyone would like a copy. 




Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Would Blackburn’s trade unionists like to help highlight events that took place in August 1842?

Would Blackburn’s trade unionists like to help highlight events 
that took place in August 1842?

IF so please come along to the Plug Riot plaque 
on Darwen Street at 2pm on Thursday 25 May 

Unite Education department runs a project titled REBEL ROAD, which is an inventory of labour movement heroes and events that are publicly recognised in one format or another, generally a plaque. 


On Thursday 25 May a number of Unite members are going to have their photographs taken at 11.30am at the Michael Davitt Memorial on Wilkinson Street, Haslingden. There will then be a page on Rebel Road about this memorial and Michael Davitt. 


It is proposed to then visit Blackburn and have a photograph taken of the Plug Riot plaque on Darwen Street at 2pm. 


Joining up with the Unite members will be local historian Simon Entwhistle and who has written about events on that August 1842 fateful day, the 175th anniversary of which takes place later this year.  (A thought — perhaps an August 2017 event can be held similar to the one being organised in Halifax, where 6 people were killed at the same time in 1842?) 


This is an invite to Blackburn’s trade unionists — of all unions — to come along on 2pm on 25 May to Darwen Street and be part of the photograph featuring the Plug Riot plaque. 


For more details:- Mark Metcalf 07392 852561 or mcmetcalf@icloud.com @markmetcalf07 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Who can remember the first flyby at the football match back in 1991?

An old piece that still brings a chuckle...

‘A masterpiece in one-upmanship.’ 

Burnley 1 Torquay United 0


If you reside more than, say, 10 miles from either town, it is unlikely that the intense and embittered rivalry between fellow Lancastrian Football League founder members Blackburn Rovers and Burnley will have touched you.

Rangers – Celtic, United – City, Liverpool – Everton, Madrid – Barca: Everyone who holds football close to their heart knows of the traditional enmity between certain clubs and their supporters.

But the people of the two East Lancashire one-time cotton mill towns will tell you that, while less well-documented, the rancour between their respective camps is as fierce, tribal and at times downright nasty as any other.

Hoary tales of long-bygone eras purport to pinpoint the origins – was it a game in the 1890’s when Blackburn fans were said to have stoned the horse-drawn carriage that was transporting the visitors, who were said to have played roughly, back to the town’s railway station a few miles from Ewood Park?

Or was it the time the Blackburn players with the exception of their keeper rather tamely deserted the pitch protesting that sub-zero conditions were inhuman for continued play? The Rovers goalkeeper eventually forced an abandonment by repeatedly claiming successfully for offside, they say!

Certainly, by the 1960’s, relationships between the two camps had become strained.
Rovers had denied the Clarets a likely “double” in 1960 when in an FA Cup 6th Round tie at Turf Moor watched by more than 51,000 Red Rose men they came back from three down to force a replay, which they won 2-0 against the First Division Champions elect.

As the swinging sixties dawned, football was often a brutal spectacle and few games produced more controversy and sendings-off than the East Lancashire hotpots which took place in England’s top division.

Just as England were preparing to lift the World Cup in 1966, Blackburn slipped dismally out of the highest echelon, not to return there for another 26 years when hometown boy made good Jack Walker put his virtually limitless funds at the club’s disposal. Their fortunes were to get considerably worse before they got better with relegation to the Third Division for the first time in their history until Gordon Lee revived the ailing club in 1974-75.

Burnley were relegated to the old Division Two five years after Rovers, got promoted back in 1973 but in 1976,  as Viv Richards announced himself to the British public and Elton and Kiki vowed not to break one another’s hearts, the proud Clarets lost their top division status and have never won it back again since.

The clubs had met in a friendly in 1973, at the height of the hooligan culture boom, which saw rioting along the unsegregated Riverside terraces at Ewood which supporters were free to amble down before choosing which goal they would stand massed behind for any particular half. Ewood was promptly segregated from that day on with visiting fans put under the crumbling Darwen End roof.

The one consolation which fans, lamenting the loss of past glories, had to console themselves with during that unforgettably scorching 76 summer was the prospect of two league meetings between the teams for the first time in more than a decade.
For three seasons these uncompromising clashes took place at Christmas and Easter, often before above-average divisional crowds of 20,000 plus, many of them hell-bent on “aggro” and generally misbehaving.

Hostilities ended abruptly as Rovers again fell into the Third tier in 1979 but resumed infamously in 1979-80. Rovers had bounced straight back under Howard Kendall as Burnley found themselves out of the top two leagues for the first time in their illustrious history, then won their way back as Third Division champions under Brian Miller in 1982.

Rovers won the 1982 Boxing Day game at Turf Moor with the home side’s Bete Noire Simon Garner scoring the winner. There was rioting and fighting as Blackburn fans, whose section of the ground was filled early on, sneaked into the home sections only to reveal their leanings as Garner’s early winner found the net.

But those shenanigans were nothing compared to the events at Ewood on Easter Monday, 4 April 1983. Burnley arrived in serious relegation danger and with a sizeable following. It did nothing to lighten their mood when Rovers took the lead from a penalty – Garner inevitably the scorer – in the first half.

After the break, with fires already sporadically breaking out – a local newspaper had perhaps ill-advisedly issued a big match special edition to give away – the anguished Burnley hordes found it too much to bear when Rovers were awarded another spot-kick at the end they were gathered behind.

Garner missed his first effort but was given a second chance because of his encroachment and duly netted. That was the signal for the less rational but more agile Burnley supporters to begin to climb up the ancient rusting frame of the stand. Insanely carrying their ad-hoc torches, they set fire to parts of the roof and pilled huge pieces down, some of which were hurled at the home fans.

With disorder and madness clearly in the air, the entire and considerable ranks of the Lancashire Constabulary stationed around the ground and outside swiftly convened outside the ground on Nuttall Street and decided, unwisely in many views, on a baton charge to strike a modicum of fear into those leading the uprising.

The exit gates were opened and a phalanx of shielded officers sprinted in, some, it was claimed striking indiscriminately at young, old, females and completely innocent male fans as their actions eventually panicked even the wildest travelling Clarets to calm down – all of course to the huge delight of the Blackburn fans who were egging the law on with every step and every bringing-down of their batons onto a Burnley bonce, deserved or otherwise.

Perhaps mercifully, that was to be the last real meeting, save a couple of pre-season tournaments, between the sides until, 2000 by which time stadium alterations, policing and perhaps even the attitudes of people attending football matches were a little more sophisticated, peaceful and safe.

But in 1991, any suggestion that the rivalry was long-forgotten was put emphatically to bed as a trio of Rovers fans pulled off a stroke that put the banter between the clubs into the national spotlight and is still talked about today as a masterpiece in one-upmanship.

Blackburn fan Jim Wilkinson explains: “During the 1980’s neither side was enjoying its finest hours but Rovers, under the excellent stewardship of then-chairman Bill Fox, had stabilised their situation rather better.

“From 1980 we had been a well-established Second Division side, missing out on goal difference on going up to the top league under Howard Kendall and generally having a shout for part of most seasons under his successor Bob Saxton.

“For Burnley, things had seldom been worse. They were relegated to Division Four in 85 and only avoided relegation to the Conference on the last day of the 86-87 season. We had a loyal five or six thousand but their gates had dropped below 2,000 on many an occasion – unthinkable, really.

“In 1986-87 the Play-Offs were introduced but we were far from concerned about them that year as we just about staved off relegation, although we did win the Full Members’ Cup at Wembley under Don Mackay, who had just replaced Saxton and pulled off one of the greatest coups ever by signing Colin Hendry, an utter talisman for Rovers in two spells over the next decade.

“So even in a bad season we had something to shout about – a cup win at Wembley, albeit a Mickey Mouse one, and Burnley almost going into the non-league!

“The following season Mackay brought in Steve Archibald and we had a good, good side – one of the best I ever saw at Ewood with Scott Sellars, Chris Price, Hendry, Simon Garner in his prime – we should really have gone up automatically.

“Things went a bit awry when Mackay brought Ossy Ardiles in loan. Don’t get me wrong, it was a brilliant, creative bit of management – a World Cup winner signing for Blackburn, come on? But Ardiles got nobbled in his first game and that seemed to knock the stuffing out of us.

“We stumbled to the end of the season and just about made the Play-Offs – courtesy of a 4-1 win at Millwall, whose players had patently been over-celebrating their own automatic promotion sealed a week earlier.

“We ended up playing Chelsea. Third bottom in the First Division – remember that was how it worked then – and in truth, they completely outclassed us both games, 2-0 at Ewood, 4-1 down there.

“That was the first time Burnley fans had had something to cheer them up from our end for years and they went to town! One lad I knew, who worked for a printers, had some spoof invitation cards made up.

“They said: “You are invited to Blackburn’s Not-Going-Up Party. Mr Elvis Costello will entertain guests by singing: “I Do’t Want to Go to Chelsea.

“It was all beautifully done in a fancy font with a coloured border and gold embossed edges. It rankled, but you had to give them their due they had waited a long time to have a pop and they made the most of it.

“Unbelievably, next season we made the Play-Offs again. Mackay had shipped Archibald and Ardiles out but somehow managed to get the likes of Garner and Sellars to do even better and he got an annus mirabilis out of Howard Gayle, a player who had been everywhere without really fulfilling his potential, but he had a sensational spell at Ewood.

“We played Watford in a two-legged semi and got through on an away goal after two draws. The finals weren’t at Wembley then, it was two-legged home and away again.

“We pulverised Palace at Ewood – we were two up but Howard missed a penalty to complete his hat-trick. Eddie McGoldrick made it 2-1 but Garner got another late on so we were so confident this was it, our time had come.

“But Palace were a good side – Wright and Bright, remember. We went to Selhurst Park in major good spirits but it all fell apart. We hadn’t failed to score for months but never looked like scoring on the day.

“The only hope was holding out. But referee George Courtney gave them a dodgy pen just after half-time and you just knew we were going to blow it.

“Even players 100 yards away, you could see the colour had drained from their faces. Terry Gennoe was a brilliant keeper but he was dropping balls he would have caught with one hand as a rule, like a bloke trying to pick a live fish up.

“We lost 3-0 in the most horrible manner – extra-time, their fans virtually surrounding the touchline ready to run on and all around on our end, blokes you had grown up with in tears as they realised that was it, gone, the biggest chance ever since 66 to get back crushed.

“I’d been going since I was 7 or 8 and I came off that ground convinced I’d never see my team play at Highbury, Anfield or Old Trafford except in a cup, I was 29 and just thought, that’s it, it’s Walsall or Barnsley or Shrewsbury or worse forever. And everywhere there were blokes twice my age saying they couldn’t face going again, I knew just how they felt.”

Wilkinson’s dark mood and that of his fellow enthusiasts was not going to be rued as a missed opportunity by the gleeful populace of the town 10 miles down the M65.

“Again, the fancy cards were circulated – bigger, better and funnier, all ‘You are invited to the Palace’ and so on. I probably still have a couple somewhere.

“You couldn’t blame the Burnley fans. In places between the towns like Accrington, Oswaldtwistle, Rishton, Great Harwood, Clitheroe the split was almost exactly 50-50. 
You worked together, drank together, went to the shop and met them.

“Of course a lot of it’s friendly but it has to be said, you hate them and they hate you.
If your team wins, and they win, on the same day, that’s OK.  But a really good day is you win, they lose – that’s the way it is.

“It’s all right people saying you should want all the local clubs to do well, but it’s bollocks. You want your team top of the pile and their lot bottom. Rivalry is unavoidable. You don’t expect Celtic fans to say, well, if we don’t win the League, we hope it’s our close friends and neighbours Rangers who triumph.

“They went to town on us, I don’t blame them, and we couldn’t do anything but sit there and take it.

“The next year, with a crap side really, we were in the Play-Offs again – third time on the bounce! But we got beat both legs in the semi by Swindon and to be honest nobody expected any different.

“I think even the Burnley fans had got tired of dogging us, we were so predictable.. I can’t particularly remember the invites coming out, I’m sure they did but I was past bothering.”

The jibes and taunts from the failed play-off campaigns still hurt intensely however and in an unlikely conclusion to the 1990-91 season, a fiendish plot was hatched.

Wilkinson: “Mackay had lost the plot by now and we were rubbish, total rubbish that season. We just about avoided relegation in the last couple of games.

“To make things worse, after five pitiful seasons in Division Four, Burnley were showing signs of a revival. They had a decent old season and made the Play-Offs for the first time in their history.”

Burnley faced Torquay United with the first leg at Plainmoor. It was hardly the most daunting of tasks but Burnley contrived to lose 2-0 in Devon and Wilkinson and his pair of cohorts seized their chance.

“From time to time, we had talked about what we could ever do to top their funny cards. If they ever suffered a crushing disappointment, how could we trump them at their own game? We wanted something that wouldn’t be seen by just a few mates of a mate of a mate, but get maximum exposure to them.

“We talked about ads in papers here and there, trying to get some cryptic message in the programme or something. But on the Monday morning before the second leg I got it. I’d seen these planes carrying banners fly over games, mostly congratulatory messages and I rang my mate John P who’s a Rovers fanatic, and he said: “Can it be done?

“Let’s do it then. Bugger what it costs; we may even get it back if we do something really funny. Another pal of mine, Ted Grant, was a real mischief maker and I called him with the idea and he loved it.

“I was sat in my office at The Gas Board at Blackburn having these conversations, I can distinctly remember them. My boss was a Preston fan and a bit of a card so he turned a blind eye.

“Ted said: “This can be done you know, Jim, in fact I know where to go to get it sorted.” And he did. 

“ There was a bit of a risk element because we had virtually decided that it was going to be a banner taunting them about getting beat and not going up, but the fact was they could well have been two up ten minutes in and the impact would be considerably reduced.

“In short, we risked making even bigger prats of ourselves than we were hoping to make of them.

“An elaborate session ensued in which Ted and I had to work out the wording because we’d been in touch with an “Aerial Advertising” firm at Blackpool Airport and the guy Brian said it had to be exactly 36 or less characters, including spaces.

“He was a complete nutter, assured us we weren’t breaking any laws, and we settled on STAYING DOWN 4 EVER LUV ROVERS HA HA HA.”

Grant trailed the plane from the ground on its route from the West Coast over Pendle, taking photographs, but Wilkinson and Pittard stayed out of the way – and the potential firing line.

Wilkinson: “There had been some suggestion we could even go up in it, but no way. Had it to come down anywhere near Burnley for an emergency, we knew we’d be lynched. I even went to another game that night in case it all went wrong. We’d tipped enough people off about it for there to be a sense of expectation but only a couple of Burnley fans I worked with had any clue something was afoot.”

As Burnley failed to reduce their deficit by half-time, the arrival of plane and banner over Turf Moor was perfectly-timed.

Pictures show spectators on the Bee Hole End demonstrating a mixture of befuddlement, rage and amusement at the mocking message.

Wilkinson and his cohorts tuned into radio and TV news channels and it became apparent, as the match finished an inadequate 1-0 to Burnley, that their elaborate practical gag had worked a treat.

Wilkinson: “I went into a pub in Haslingden after watching the Bolton v Bury play-off and a lad came back from Turf Moor.

“He described the plane and said if the Burnley fans found out who did it, they were dead. Me and my pal Paul were almost breaking our pint glasses in our hands trying not to laugh.”

Bizarrely, Rovers favourite Simon Garner was wrongly accredited with playing some part in the prank.

Wilkinson: “That was rubbish. His business partner was asked about it at a fancy Rovers 100 Club function the night after and he made some comments to the press about what a good jape it had been.

“Garner has been implicated by association ever since, to this day some Burnley supporters won’t believe any different.

“That was fine by us – it took any heat off us.”

It cost us £405 but we made it all back having souvenir t-shirts printed and selling them.