The greatest player in Burnley’s history, Jimmy McIlroy was also one of the finest to represent Northern Ireland.
A playmaking inside-right, he scored 10 goals in 55 appearances for his country between 1951 and 1965 and was a member of the side that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1958 before losing to the France of Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine.
McIlroy also played 497 games for Burnley between 1950 and 1962, winning the league title in 1960 and reaching the quarter-finals of the European Cup the following season before losing to Hamburg.
A statement from Burnley read: “[The club are] deeply saddened to learn of the death of our greatest ever player. A giant of a man. The thoughts of everyone connected with the club are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
McIlroy started his career at Northern Irish club Glentoran in 1949 before moving to Burnley one year later. He went on to score 131 goals during a time the club describe as their “golden age”.
In 1962 Burnley finished league and FA Cup runners-up but, after falling out with manager Harry Potts, McIlroy moved to the “veterans team” put together by Tony Waddington at Stoke City. He partnered Stanley Matthews in their Second Division title-winning side in 1963 and totalled 116 further league appearances with the club before moving on to Oldham Athletic and finally retiring from playing in 1967.
He was Oldham manager from 1965 to 1968, and also took charge of Bolton Wanderers for a brief period in 1970. He later worked as a writer with a local newspaper, the Burnley Express.
Burnley’s Turf Moor ground has a stand named after McIlroy, who was awarded a testimonial in 2009. In 2011, he was made an MBE for services to football and to charity, and asked if he could receive the honour at Turf Moor rather than Buckingham Palace.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph in 2008, he revealed that he turned down lucrative offers to leave Burnley, including one from Sampdoria.
He said that the Italian club’s coach met him on the morning of the 1962 FA Cup Final, which Burnley lost 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur, and “promised me all sorts: a villa overlooking the Mediterranean, an international school for my children, wages way beyond what I was getting in England”.
McIlroy added: “But when I went back to the hotel and told my wife she said to me: ‘What would we want to leave Burnley for?’
“I even had a chance to go to South America, River Plate in Argentina, when I went on tour with Stoke there. Again I rang my wife and said there’s good money here, and she just said: ‘Sure, but what would we want to leave Burnley for?’”
“Jimmy came from an era that defines us as a club. Even today, over 50 years on, the stadium proudly bears his name on a stand and he is someone who was, and is, idolised by fans of every generation” Burnley chairman Mike Garlick (left) pays tribute to Jimmy McIlroy
danger man...in action against Tottenham hotspur
World Cup...Northern Ireland’s side in 1958 (McIlroy is front row, second from left)