Clarets Legends on a Midweek Wednesday - this week it's RALPH COATES.

01 March 2017 05:07

Clarets Legends feature the superb RALPH COATES.

Ralph Coates was an unforgettable player, often seen flying down the left wing, tantalizing opponents and mesmerising them to such an extent he could even take a time out to sit on the ball, as he famously did against Blackburn Rovers on New Years Day, 1966.

Ralph's appearance was also unforgettable, short and stocky, head balding with an amazing comb over that even out Bobby Charltoned the great Sir Bobby Charlton. Ralph was also immortalised in song by the pop group the Abs aptly titled, " Grease your Ralph". 

Ralph gave the Turf Moor club 10 years of his life and was born on the 26 April 1946 in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham. Ralph was talent spotted playing for Eppleton Colliery Welfare. He arrived at Burnley Football Club aged 15 in 1961, the year after the Clarets were crowned worthy First Division Champions.

Ralph was apprenticed under the watchful auspices of the revered Burnley manager Harry Potts, who co-incidentally was born in the same north east village. Coates signed as a full time professional with Burnley in 1963, playing his first game in 1964 and scored his first goal in a 2-0 win against Leicester City in March 1965. 

His father died when Ralph was just 11 years old and his mother sadly passed away when he was only 19. It meant Burnley and the local community became his surrogate family. Harry Potts drove him home when Coates’ mother died, keeping the news a secret until they were almost there. Coates said it was hard to overstate the influence the man he referred to as ‘Boss’ had on his career. 

At this time Burnley were an established First Division side, discovering and developing lots of young soccer talent. So much so that the Clarets started to believe with their conveyor belt of young players, they had become a permanent fixture in the top flight of English Football.

Memorably in 1966 England's World Cup winning year, Burnley had the rampant Ralph Coates on the left wing, Willie Morgan dancing down the right wing with the aggressive Andy Lochhead and the prolific goal scorer Willie Irvine playing in the centre. Burnley finished third in 1966 and many believed the Clarets should have been crowned Champions again.

However, things changed and in 1964 when the maximum wage restriction was lifted, Burnley had to rely on their gate money to cover operating costs. The Clarets simply had to to sell to survive. Ralph Coates gradually went from being one of the youngest to one of the oldest players in the team by the time he was just 26 years of age.

He was moved into a midfield berth for the Clarets and became a revelation, subsequently capped for England in 1970 whilst still at Burnley. Manager Harry Potts was reluctantly moved upstairs to become general manager and Ralph was the focus of what the new manager Jimmy Adamson said would be the "Team of the 1970's."

When Burnley were relegated in 1971,  old foes Tottenham Hotspur offered Clarets' Chairman Bob Lord £190,000 for Coates and he was gone. Ralph was not unhappy about the move to the capital but modestly said no one was worth that sort of money.

He made 480 Football League appearances in total. 216 for Burnley, scoring 26 goals, 188 for Spurs with a tally of 14 goals and spent over 8 years at White Hart Lane.

Ralph enjoyed a loan spell in Australia and ended his playing career with Leyton Orient, totalling 76 games, scoring 12 goals and also carried out coaching duties whilst at Brisbane Road.

He earned 8 England under 23 caps and 4 full England caps, playing under Alf Ramsay along with iconic names such as Bobby Moore, Emlyn Hughes, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Gordon Banks.

Two games were in the Home Championship against Northern Ireland and Wales and two European Cup qualifiers. England won 3 and drew 1. He was part of the pre-1970 World Cup tour to South America and was applauded onto the pitch by his fellow players at Turf Moor but surprisingly failed to make the final squad.

Life under Bill Nicolson at Tottenham was a struggle at first. At Turf Moor, Coates was the lynchpin of the Burnley team but at Spurs with players like Martin Chivers, Alan Gilzean and Alan Mullery he wasn’t and Ralph had to settle for a starting berth playing on the left wing.

Not surprisingly, it took Ralph time to fit in down south and adjust to life at White Hart Lane.  The change seemed to stifle his international career and contributed to a premature end to his England hopes.

Ralph's story could perhaps provide a salutary lesson for contemporary Burnley players thinking the grass is always greener away from Turf Moor?

Coates famously scored the winning goal in the League Cup Final against Norwich and won a UEFA Cup medal in 1972 against Wolves. He also had the sheer temerity to go and score two goals against the Clarets in the 1978/9 season!

Ralph retained his strong Spurs links, undertaking match day hospitality duties and played Sunday league soccer until he was 59. He also kept in touch with his Burnley former team mates, visiting Burnley from time to time and also ran his own business in his later years.

Ralph Coates was a modest man who gave everything to his respective clubs. He was a softly spoken man with a kind Geordie accent and lived in St Albans. He died there age 64 after a stroke on 17 December 2010, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.

Ralph Coates passed away far too soon but will always be remembered as one of the best as a man and as a player, by both Burnley and Spurs fans.

This appreciation of Ralph Coates was written by Clarets Mad contributor "Old Colner" and is the first in a series of articles relating to Burnley Football Club player legends. (TEC).

Source: DSG