RALPH COATES 

By Tony Scholes
Last updated : 21 June 2011

Date and Place of Birth

26th April 1946 - Hetton-le-Hole

died 17th December 2010

 

Transfers to and from Burnley

apprentice then pro - May 1963

to Tottenham Hotspur - May 1971 (£190,000)

 

First and Last Burnley Games

Sheffield United (h) - 19th December 1964

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers (a) - 1st May 1971

 

Other Clubs

----------------------------------------

Tottenham Hotspur, St George's Sydney, Orient

 

 

Burnley Career Stats

 

Season League FA Cup League Cup Others Total
                     
  apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls apps gls
1964/65 7 1 - - - - - - 7 1
1965/66 35 5 3 - 4 1 - - 42 6
1966/67 33 2 2 - 3 - 7 3 45 5
1967/68 25(2) 6 1 - 2(2) - - - 28(4) 6
1968/69 37 5 2 - 7 1 - - 46 6
1969/70 39 5 3 1 5 - - - 47 6
1970/71 38 2 1 - 1 - 2 - 42 2
                     
Total 214(2) 26 12 1 22(2) 2 9 3 257(4) 32

 

Profile by Tony Scholes

 

I was coming to the end of my first year at university when my flat mate brought me some news with my morning cup of tea that I simply didn't want to hear. He had no interest in football whatsoever, and despite my attempts to educate him I don't think he'd even got as far as knowing we played in claret and blue.

I can remember those words he spoke back in May 1971 to this day. He said: "You've sold someone called Ralph Coates to Spurs." I was aged 19 and past the time when I could get upset at the departure of a player, or so I thought, but as inevitable as it was I was devastated at the sale of Ralph who had become such an exciting player for us since making his debut in 1964. I still think, of all the players we have sold, that his sale was the one I found the hardest to take.

He'd made it to the England team, and that was no mean feat for anyone playing for Burnley, but with the club relegated from the first division after a 24 year stay it was surely in the club's and in Ralph's best interests that he continue to play his football at the highest level even though I really didn't think so at the time.

This wonderful footballer looked like anything but a footballer. In his own words he admitted that the young lad who arrived from the north east to join Burnley in 1961 was a short and rounded centre forward.

We were fortunate to get him, very fortunate. His mum wasn't keen on the idea of him leaving home to become a footballer and was happy for the young Ralph to continue his apprenticeship as a fitter at the local colliery. He'd been spotted by Burnley scout Jack Hixon and it was the fact that Mrs Coates thought the scout was a nice man who could be trusted that she allowed Ralph to move to Lancashire.

He was just 15 at the time but his progress was such that the club offered him his first full contract just after his 17th birthday in April 1963. He'd proved to be a prolific goalscorer in the junior teams and then the reserves but his route to the first team was because of the quality of the players ahead of him in his position.

An injury to Andy Lochhead gave him his debut on the Saturday before Christmas in 1964 and although the teenager didn't score he had a good game in a 3-1 win with his forward partner Willie Irvine scoring twice. Later that season he netted his first goal for Burnley against Leicester.

Lochhead and Irvine were proving to be a real obstacle for him but such was his talent he wasn't going to be a reserve team player for much longer. By the 1964/65 season he'd found himself a new position that won him a regular place in the side. Gordon Harris had moved to an inside forward place and Coates came in as a left winger.

An unlikely looking centre forward in truth he didn't look any more like a winger. But he was in and there to stay. Despite his appearance he had pace, fantastic stamina that seemingly allowed him to run all day, and a superb ability on the ball. With Willie Morgan on the right wing and Coates on the left it must have been a dream to play up front for Burnley at that time.

The 1965/66 season proved to be a superb one for Burnley. We finished third in the league in World Cup year yet astonishingly didn't provide one single player for Alf Ramsey's squad. There were a number of candidates and despite only just reaching 20 there were many judges tipping Coates for a place.

It didn't happen although his form at Burnley never dipped and he did win international honours with the Under-23 team and then with the Football League.

Although Burnley started to fade as a team in the top division Coates' performances didn't, and eventually in 1970 he was rewarded with a call up to the full England squad.

By then Burnley were playing with a very modern looking 4-4-2 system. That meant Coates was on the left hand side of the midfield four and he revelled in the new responsibilities of this new look system.

His England debut came as a substitute against Northern Ireland, coming on for Francis Lee, and he was called up for the squad to go to Mexico for the World Cup. Ramsey took 28 players with him initially and reports coming back from the warm up games were telling us Ralph Coates was proving to be the outstanding player.

It counted for nothing and when six names were cut from the squad his was one of them and he was on his way home and ready to prepare for his last season in a claret and blue shirt. That season was something of a nightmare for us and ended with relegation after a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal with three games still to play.

One of those games was an away fixture at Chelsea on a Monday night. It was Ralph's 25th birthday and was the last time I saw him play for Burnley. We won that night and the following Saturday, when a family wedding prevented me from going, we lost 1-0 at Wolves to end the season.

Four days after that Molineux defeat he was driven down to Stoke, where Spurs were playing that night, to meet their manager Bill Nicholson. He didn't want to leave Burnley but there really was no option and he actually signed the forms on a £190,000 transfer whilst sat in Jimmy Adamson's car.

At Spurs he won further England caps, he won a UEFA Cup winners medal and also scored the winning goal in a League Cup Final win against Norwich. I'm never so sure he was ever as big a player for Tottenham as he was for us but he'd become the big crowd hero at Turf Moor over his last few seasons as a Claret so maybe it is just a biased view.

He was in the Tottenham side that suffered relegation from the first division and then lost his place. He eventually left to play for St. George's in Sydney, Australia but returned to sign for Orient as player/coach.

On the opening day of the 1979/80 season he lined up against us in a 2-2 draw at Brisbane Road and scored both goals. I wanted to win the game but if anyone was going to score twice against us I wanted it to be Ralph.

Apart from getting his autograph when I was a youngster I'd never spoken to him until more recently when he came to make the half time draw at the Turf when we played Spurs in the League Cup. As I spoke to him in walked Lochhead and Irvine and it was almost like going back in time.

Two weeks ago he was interviewed on the touchline at White Hart Lane during the half time interval of our Carling Cup Semi-Final first leg against Spurs. "You'll always be a Claret," chanted the Burnley fans. To me, Ralph Coates will always be a Claret and one of the best I've seen. I've still not got over the news that came with my morning tea back in May 1971.

This article was written in January 2009 but in December 2010 Ralph Coates passed away after suffering a severe stroke. He was mourned by Burnley and Spurs fans alike with both clubs simultaneously staging a minute's applause prior to a home game; Burnley's against Scunthorpe United on 28th December.

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