Burnley's Blond Bombshell - Ray Pointer.
In the late 1950's all the kids read comics and my favourite character was "Roy of the Rovers", a blond who played centre forward and somehow always managed to turn the game around at the last minute.
Good old Tiger comics and Melchester Rovers might have had a fictional Roy of the Rovers but Burnley had a real life look-a-like who performed similar miracles for Burnley Football Club.
Ray was my childhood hero, a dashing, wiry and blond haired Northumberland lad and yet another product of the Clarets north east breeding and scouting ground.
Ray Pointer played mercurially at centre forward (striker) at Turf Moor in the club's most successful years during the late 1950's and early 60's. He became and still is the club's second highest ever goal-scorer with 118 league goals (George Beel 1923-32 still leads with 178).
Born in October 1936, Ray joined the Clarets in 1955, though he had previously had a trial at Blackpool. He was intially signed for Burnley by manager Alan Brown as an amateur and became a full-time professional in 1957, playing his first game for the Clarets in October that year.
He scored his first goal against Sunderland in a 6-1 win and made a total of 270 appearances, scoring virtually every other game whilst bagging 132 goals for the Clarets in a seven year period, before departing Turf Moor in 1964.
Ray was much smaller than I thought at only 1.74 meters tall (5ft 8 and a half inches in old money), but he was a true poacher getting many goals from the simple tactic of using John Connolly, Brian Pilkington and Jimmy McIlroy to cross the ball from the bye line to score a multitude of tap-ins, headers or good old ricochets.
"The Blond Bombshell" as Ray was affectionately known amongst Burnley fans, was also deceptively fast and covered vast acres at speed, running with a characteristically stooped run. Pointer scored an amazing 27 goals in 37 league appearances in 1958-59 and a further 19 in the old Division One League Championship winning side of 1959-60.
Ray thrived under the auspices of the Burnley manager of the time Harry Potts to such an extent, his form and his goal scoring prowess led to an England international call up.
He played three times for England scoring twice. In September 1961, he was chosen to lead the attack for England against Luxemburg at Wembley and scored in the 4-1 victory. He scored again in the 2-0 win over Portugal that took England into the World Cup finals in Chile, with Burnley's John Connolly netting the other.
Here are a few clips of Burnley's Ray Pointer and John Connelly in action that day in a Pathe News clip that was generally available to view in the cinema. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPDE-YCNp_w.
Just when it looked like the World Cup beckoned he was surprisingly and disappointingly dropped. He had scored another 25 league goals in 1961-2 as Burnley came so close to winning the double, coming second in the league before losing the FA Cup Final to Spurs.
In 1962/63 season Ray was moved to inside right, allowing Andy Lochhead to come into the team but in April he suffered a chipped bone in his ankle. Whilst he was out of the team injured, Northern Ireland's Willie Irvine came in to the Burnley team and took his chance.
Ray recovering from injury played mostly in the reserve team. I think it’s sad to say, Pointer's Burnley career seemed to peter out, perhaps because of the injury or maybe because of the plethora of young talent coming through the Clarets' junior ranks.
His last, and 118th league goal for Burnley came in September 1964 against West Ham United and two months later he made his final appearance in the first team aged only 28. Surprisingly, given his scoring record and full England caps he had never really attracted any big money outside interest.
He moved to Bury in August 1965, scoring 17 goals in 19 games for the Shakers. Jimmy Hill signed him for Coventry after 6 months and he added another 11 for them to take his total to 28 league goals for the season, his career record.
In 1967 he signed for Portsmouth and he went on to play 149 league games for the Hampshire club in a midfield role from where he scored 13 times. During his last season there in 1972-3 one of his last games was at Turf Moor in Division 2 and he was given a rapturous welcome by the home fans.
In his last couple of seasons at Portsmouth he became involved with coaching the junior players. at the end of his playing days he became youth coach at Blackpool, where he was reunited with his former manager Harry Potts.
In July 1978, as happened with many of the players from that era, he returned to Burnley as youth team manager under Harry in his second term, before linking up with Martin Dobson at Bury as a coach. He continued to play football well into his fifties.
Ray died peacefully at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in January 2016 aged 79, leaving behind three children, Jonathan, Stephen and Anne-Marie and six grandchildren. Ray Pointer was a man who will feature in the Clarets record books for many years to come and can certainly be classified as a true Claret Legend.
This appreciation of Ray Pointer was written by Clarets Mad regular contributor "Old Colner" and is part of his ongoing look at true Clarets Legends. (TEC).