Friday, 7 August 2009

Burnley at the World Cup? It could happen.

Clarets captain Steve Caldwell has this week been recalled to Scotland’s international squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Norway, sparking interest that for the first time since 1982 a Burnley player could play in the World Cup Finals.

Scotland are well placed to qualify alongside group leaders Holland for the finals, and it is the Scots that represent Burnley’s best chance of having a player at the tournament.

Caldwell is one of three Clarets in the squad, along with veteran Graham Alexander and record signing Steven Fletcher (pictured below). Burnley’s talented young midfield player Kevin McDonald will also be hoping to force his way into George Burley’s reckoning if he can impose himself on the Premier League this season, as well as new signing Brian Easton who has worked his way through the youth set up for his country.

Only one Scot has ever played in the World Cup Finals while representing Burnley and that was Jock Aird at the 1954 tournament. He made two appearances before Scotland’s early exit, in a 1-0 defeat to Austria and then a 7-0 hammering by Uruguay.

Of course, there is every chance that England will be the only home nation travelling to South Africa, and it is highly unlikely that a Burnley player could be picked in Fabio Capello’s squad. But stranger things have happened, and if Wade Elliott or Chris Eagles play to their full ability regularly over the next few months, Capello may be tempted to go for a curveball, unknown option.

Just one Claret has represented England at a Finals and that was Colin McDonald, who was the first choice goalkeeper for the 1958 tournament and who kept a clean sheet against Brazil.

Northern Ireland is the home country where Clarets have been most successful down the years, with three of Burnley’s five World Cup finalists playing for the small country. Indeed, two Clarets were part of their 1982 quarter-final team - Tommy Cassidy, who made just one substitute appearance, and Billy Hamilton, who started all five games and scored twice against Austria.

Burnley’s most celebrated player of all time, Jimmy McIlroy, after whom a stand at Turf Moor is named, made five appearances for Northern Ireland at the 1958 championships.

And with Northern Ireland well placed to qualify after a bright start to their campaign, Burnley’s Martin Paterson and Michael Duff will be dreaming of World Cup glory should their nation qualify.

The chance to see our Claret heroes taking on the very best in the world is just one of the many benefits of promotion to the Premier League. Steven Caldwell was in the international wilderness before his defensive partnership with Clarke Carlisle finally clicked and the Burnley back line stopped shipping goals. His return to the Scotland squad is well deserved, and will hopefully mark the start of the Burnley charge to the World Cup next summer.

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