"I was there in '67": Burnley fan's 51-year wait to see Clarets in Europe again

When the bus full of Burnley fans on their way back from the club's last European away game in Frankfurt in 1967 was pulled over by customs at Calais, 17-year-old Dave Alexander had a sneaking suspicion he knew what they were going to find.
Dave Alexander (second from right) in Frankfurt for Burnley's lasy European away game with the Burnley Express photographer (far right).Dave Alexander (second from right) in Frankfurt for Burnley's lasy European away game with the Burnley Express photographer (far right).
Dave Alexander (second from right) in Frankfurt for Burnley's lasy European away game with the Burnley Express photographer (far right).

"We had been told that under no circumstances was anyone to pinch any beer steins from Germany, as it was frowned upon," explained Dave, now 68 and living in Blackpool. "But when we got to Calais, we were made to stand out in the cold as the customs people came on, and they found a suitcase full of beer steins and made us stand on the freezing docks as they searched the rest of the bus."

Teeth chattering in the April chill of Northern France, the supporters had just seen the Clarets earn a 1-1 draw in the '66-67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup against an Eintracht Frankfurt squad featuring the likes of Jürgen Grabowski, who started in West Germany's 1974 World Cup final win over Johann Cruyff's Netherlands, and were heading back to East Lancashire in jubilant spirits ahead of the second leg.

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But thanks to the escapades of one souvenir-hunting Burnley fan, Dave fell ill and upon returning to his grandparents' house in Bacup, was, in his words, "so rough" that he was barred from attending the home leg at Turf Moor by his concerned grandmother. The game was lost 2-1 and proved to be Burnley's last in European competition for over 51 years.

Born in Bacup in 1950, Dave's family had moved to Blackpool in 1959 but had always been Clarets at heart, with Dave attending the home games against Stuttgart and Napoli earlier in the '66-67 competition, so when the chance to go on his first European away trip came up, Dave jumped at it, clambering onto the tour bus at Gawthorpe not knowing anyone and as the youngest man on the bus.

"It was a long slog on that bus; it was near enough a week's travelling," said Dave of the 1,400-mile round trip to central Germany. "I'd say out of the 50 people, 45 were smoking and there wasn't any air conditioning. I don't even think there was a toilet, and there weren't the motorway services like you have now."

A goal from wing-back Brian Miller gave Burnley parity in the match in Frankfurt, and while details from the match are a tad hazy, Dave certainly remembers the goal, saying: "The game was a bit of a blur to be honest, but I remember Brian Miller scoring. After the game we saw the team getting on their bus and we shook their hands."

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Fast-forward to 2018, and with Dave now married to his wife Irene, the Clarets are once again renewing their passports ahead of another European campaign thanks to the stellar work of Sean Dyche and his team, with the lifelong Clarets supporter tempted by another away trip half a century on from his club's last... provided travel is a little more comfortable than last time.

"Everything starts at the top, and what Dyche has done is massive, so full credit to him," said Dave of Burnley's rise into Europe. "He is only a custodian of the club and he will eventually move on, but if he leaves it in a better place then where he found it - which he will - it benefits the whole town and the ethos of the club.

"[Being in Europe] is beyond our wildest dreams; we have to remember what we are," he added. "I never thought we would get into the Premier League, let alone Europe. It's something I never expected to happen again.

"It's surreal," he says with a chuckle.