Les Shannon: The draughtsman of Turf Moor Soccer

August 29, 1958
Les Shannon, I suppose it is fair to say, is the draughtman for Turf Moor’s soccer ambitions. Others (like Alan Brown and Billy Dougal and Harry Potts) may carry the architectural responsibility for Burnley’s success or failure and, indeed, every player who dons the Claret shirt may, in all the full sense, have an equal part to play in the achievement of the whole. But, as a George Orwell character once pointed out with profound simplicity, all men may very well be equal, but some are more equal than others. And, so far as Burnley football is concerned, I rate Shannon as one of the latter. He dictates the direction of Burnley’s play in midfield. And when Burnley are playing really well one invariably has Shannon’s sagacity as well as Jimmy Adamson’s stolidity and Jimmy McIlroy’s rapier thrusts to thank for it.

Les Shannon, Burnley F.C.

Shannon, a Liverpudlian of Irish ancestry and a joiner by original trade, is, of course, a more thoughtful and less galvanic wing-half than most and in consequence he is frequently a move ahead of his opponent where a more frenzied chase-the-ball player might be a yard behind. That is to say he is at least as much concerned with where the ball is likely to be next as to where it is at any precise moment. It is this deliberate attempt to think ahead, plus an uncanny instinct, which accounts for his highly – developed positional sense and enables him to pop up, as it were, from nowhere at the right place at the right time. It would be wrong, however, to classify Shannon either as an essentially defensive or an essentially attacking wing-half. He combines both duties well. In any situation he is a constructive rather than a purely destructive player and it is, I suppose, in his deft use of the ball for attacking purposes that his value to the Burnley scheme of things is most pronounced. He moves the ball forward with a fine accuracy; and he will move himself forward, too, when need be, with a sharpness which is quick to exploit any suddenly-exposed chink in the opposition defences.

His schooling in football, of course, was based on attack: first with a rag ball in the streets of a Liverpool suburb where one had to learn to look after oneself; then at Goodison Park where as a young lad “four foot nowt” in height he was buffeted about in the “C” team and eventually turned away; then at Anfield as a winger; and since 1949, at Burnley.

Burnley, in fact, during Frank Hill’s managerial regime, paid round about £6,000 for Shannon. Billy Dougal had him back for overtime training and played a major part in his development from a physical and technical point of view. Alan Brown taught him how to think football as well as play it. And Shannon, like McIlroy, was a good pupil. So good, in fact, that he became not only one of Burnley’s most skillful, but also one of the club’s most versatile footballers for many years. He first got his senior place by ousting Jack Chew on the right wing. He has since played for Burnley in every position except goal, right-back and centre-half!

He, himself, prefers his present position at left-half. I think I prefer him there, too; though I have good memories of him as an inside forward partner to Billy Elliott.

Shannon is now 30 years old, weighs 10st. 6lb. and stands 5ft. 8in., and has settled down with a wife and a young son in a semi-detached house on the outskirts of Burnley. He is a certified F.A. coach. He has three times played for England’s “B” team – against Scotland, France and Germany. He has been seriously considered for senior international selection. I shall not argue about his omission. But I will assert this: worse wing-halves have represented England in these past few years than Les Shannon at his best. Shannon has his indifferent games like anybody else. But at his best there are not many – if any – better wing-halves playing football in England today.
(Source: Nelson Leader: August 29, 1958; by Noel Wild)


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