John Connelly: The down-to-earth football hero who went on to run a fish and chip shop (From St Helens Star)
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John Connelly: The down-to-earth football hero who went on to run a fish and chip shop
10:00am Thursday 1st November 2012 in News
WORLD Cup winning team-mates of St Helens-born footballer John Connelly are expected to be among mourners who will gather in Burnley for his funeral.
John, 74, a former winger with Burnley and Manchester United who was also a member of the triumphant 1966 England squad, died peacefully at his home in Barrowford, Lancashire.
He had been battling bone cancer for two years.
Remembered for his dazzling skills and quicksilver pace, he is survived by wife Sandra, their two daughters and a son.
His younger brother Jim, 69, stills lives at the family home in Clock Face.
One of the town’s unsung sporting icons, John was a junior star with St Theresa’s school, in Sutton Manor.
He combined a short stint with St Helens Town with a day job as an apprentice joiner, before he was spotted by Burnley scouts in 1956 and lured to Turf Moor aged 18.
In a career that ran until 1973, he won league championships with the Clarets and United, where he played alongside greats such as George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law.
As a member of England’s 1966 squad, he was belatedly given a winners’ medal in 2009.
His 20 caps, included the opening game of the tournament against Uruguay, however, he was denied the chance to play in the final after England boss Sir Alf Ramsey adopted the ‘Wingless Wonders’ system.
After his retirement from the game, he ran Connelly’s Plaice, a fish and chip shop in Brierfield for many years.
Tributes have poured in from his former team-mates, clubs and supporters.
Jimmy Mcllroy said John was “good enough to play for any team in the world”
He told the Lancashire Telegraph: “It’s a terrible shock. John was such a lovely fellow, always ready with a joke, an extremely popular and humble man.
“In that special Burnley team we worked together because we were both wingers and he was on the opposite flank.
“It was a privilege to play alongside him, I watched him closely and he was as talented as it got. I used to tell him he was good enough to play for any team in the world.”
BBC radio and TV presenter Tony Livesey said: “Only in Burnley could such a footballing legend run a chippy.
“He was a lovely man and for us Clarets-mad boys the chip shop became a place of pilgrimage.”
Former Prime Minister’s spokesman Alistair Campbell said his love of the Clarets had been formed as a young boy “watching legends like John Connelly”.
He added: “I got to know him later at club events and he was a lovely, warm gentleman who was a down to earth as they come.
“It was always a real treat to visit his chip shop after a game too.”
John’s funeral will take place on Monday, November 5 at St Mary’s RC Church, Yorkshire Street, Burnley, starting at 10am. Parking is available at Burnley FC’s Turf Moor.