LES PAYNE: The legends who took Blades up 40 years ago

Going up: United drink to promotion to the First Division in 1971 - Peter Burkinshaw's film of the great day will be shown at a celebration  event
Going up: United drink to promotion to the First Division in 1971 - Peter Burkinshaw's film of the great day will be shown at a celebration event
Share this article
Have your say

WITH Sheffield United seemingly set to drop out of The Championship pretty soon, a special celebration of a promotion year when they joyously exited at the other end is due to be held at Bramall Lane at the end of this month.

It will mark the 40th anniversary of United’s promotion to the top flight in 1971, the era of Tony Currie, Alan Woodward, Len Badger and others who became Blades legends.

And what those former stars, together with a host of fans, will see on the night is previously unseen footage of the promotion-clinching final game when United beat Watford 3-0 at Bramall Lane.

By dint of a great piece of detective work - in other words a friend who casually mentioned he took it - I came across the bloke who actually took the film that memorable day at the Lane.

He’s Peter Burkinshaw, retired former owner of the family car company, now Burkinshaw Motor Company at Swinton run by his son Nigel, a Unitedite, who is responsible for the footage getting into United’s hands.

“I had a Canon cine camera and I took it to the last game against Watford and took some film of the game from the seat in the stand up behind the Bramall Lane goal,” said Peter whose father, Lol, had a spell at Sheffield Wednesday and won a Second Division Championship medal with Birmingham City.

“I’ve actually not seen the film since. Nigel had a DVD made from it and happened to speak to Len Badger at a United game recently, told him he’d got the film and it’s gone from there.”

The 40th anniversary event, in the Platinum Suite on April 28, will have Peter and Nigel as guests and the footage, which lasts around 20 minutes, in colour but without sound, will be shown. “It’s an unbelievable chance to see all three goals as well as being guided through the emotions and the feelings of 40 years ago by the men who clinched that famous victory,” says John Garrett, historian and archive manager at Bramall Lane.

Many of the players who played in that memorable season will be returning for the function and there will be a question and answer session. There were more than 38,000 inside Bramall Lane that day to see two goals from Gil Reece and an Alan Woodward penalty send United up to the top flight.

I was there but can only really remember two things.

One was Stewart Scullion - later to join United - hitting the bar for Watford early on and the other was late on at 3-0.

When I went to the Lane I used to stand in the corner between the Kop and the John Street Stand and I can vividly recall United centre half Eddie Colquhoun having a run down the left wing, for some reason, into that corner of the pitch.

He miskicked the ball trying to centre it and then turned round to run back and - I can see it now - he nodded his head up and down in laughter at himself as he ran back, the crowd joining in and laughing along too.