Frank Burrows Obituary
Wednesday, 24th Nov 2021 15:14 by Keith Haynes
‘He has a bit of a mad look in his eyes’ That was the first thing I was told about Frank Burrows. The second thing I was told was ‘He is a great man manager, if you listen to him’ Frank was at Swansea City for four seasons, he took the club to Wembley, and a victory in the Autoglass Final, for that alone he stands with very few who have managed our club. In1991 he led the swans to a Welsh cup final win against Wrexham in Cardiff.
Frank Burrows died late on last night, at seventy seven years of age, and with nearly thirty years of managing a variety of clubs even the iron Scotsman couldn’t win his latest battle. Frank Burrows enjoyed a successful career both as a player and manager.
Frank’s career started at Raith Rovers in 1962, after nearly eighty appearances he moved on to Scunthorpe where he featured in over one hundred games at the heart of their defence. His position as the sides iron man, his absolute no nonsense style, hard and gritty quickly earned him recognition from higher placed clubs. In 1968 Frank replaced Mel Nurse at Swindon as centre half and became a leader again in Wiltshire. He played in the 1969 League Cup final as a part of the side that defeated Arsenal at Wembley, accolades of which were very prominently featured in his Bromsgrove home. Something else that was noticeable in his unassuming but warm and welcoming home were the many pictures of his time at Swansea, for all his successes that period of time at the swans was clearly a very special time.
For those that knew him, and even those he had just met, he always had an open door at his home, he loved welcoming Swansea fans in to his house, he would chat for hours. His hospitality was incredible. A never ending supply of whatever refreshment you wanted, his eyes burning in to you, and smiling as well as he talked football, but it was very clear his heart was in west Wales as much as anywhere he had ever been.
However, as a player at Swindon was where he found his feet and his place in league football. After the league cup final win, totally unexpected of course, Arsenal blamed their loss on having the flu, it seemed like sour grapes. Although League Cup winners, Swindon were ineligible for a place in the Fairs Cup (later the UEFA Cup, now Europa League) of 1969–70. At the time the competition was only open to teams from Division One. European competitions for the club to compete in were then created so Swindon went on to win the Anglo-Italian League Cup in 1969, and the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1970.
His first spell in management was with Portsmouth after a spell as the club's assistant. He enjoyed success at Fratton Park, winning promotion from the fourth division in May 1980. A spell at Sunderland followed, before he was appointed manager at Cardiff City in May 1986. Burrows achieved another promotion as he guided Cardiff to promotion in the 1987–88 season. Later that year, Frank returned to Portsmouth as assistant to John Gregory, before being appointed manager in 1990. He then moved to Swansea City in March 1991, and enjoyed four-years with the Swans.
Frank at Portsmouth
After Swansea, Burrows worked under manager Harry Redknapp at West Ham before returning to Cardiff City as manager in February 1998, succeeding Kenny Hibbitt. Under Burrows, Cardiff again won promotion to the old Division Two in the 1998–99 season. From 2000 until 2004, Burrows was assistant manager to Gary Megson at West Bromwich Albion and helped the club win promotion to the Premier League on two seperate occassions. After a spell at WBA as caretaker manager following Megson's departure, he later joined Leicester City to again assist Megson. He was last in caretaker charge of the club before the appointment of Ian Holloway in 2007.
Illness did plague Frank in his later years, initially defeating cancer of the kidney twenty years ago, he came bouncing back announcing in 2004 he was up for more football management. It’s hard to stop writing about Frank, never a more friendly football man will you meet, he was though a hard uncompromising disciplinarian in the dressing room. He would never accept less than one hundred percent, Swansea players whom he managed during his time at the vetch field are testament to that. For me he was the first manager I noticed who wanted to pas the ball and dominate the opposition with total football. It sometimes worked, but at Swansea’s level at that time certain players were not up to the job. Frank always had his fingers in the lower league pie. His awareness of players such as Des Lyttle, Jon Ford and John Williams were a great financial success for then chairman Doug Sharpe. He also developed the likes of John Cornforth, Jason Bowen and Andy Legg during a four season era that many swans fans will recall fondly.
Roger Freestone once said of Frank Burrows “He was a great manager, let’s be certain you knew exactly where you stood with Frank, he wasn’t intimidating personally, that wasn’t him, but he had a firework in him that exploded at times. You just dropped your head and hoped you weren’t going to be on the receiving end. He was a very hard and a very fair man” They did have to fix the dressing room door a few times at the swans I am reliably told. Sometimes he would leave the players for as long as half an hour in the dressing room after a poor performance. As soon as any note of hilarity or joviality was heard ‘ boom’ the hinges would fly and the boss man was present. Cups and plates were sometimes hidden, learning from one memorable Burrows debrief in 1994. But Frank was also an approachable, kind and generous manager, ask any player who played under his guidance. Respect is earned, and one hundred percent in everything you do was all he asked.
Respect is given too easily in football these days, a place where agents make your career, who tweet your twitter accounts, who arrange your charitable donations, and alert a greedy media to your charitable concerns. Frank wasn’t cut from that cloth, he was a football man, a fiery Scotsman who had a tender interior with Vesuvius just bubbling away underneath. That flat cap and pipe, that smile, and that glistening twinkle in his eye is how I remember Frank Burrows.
“Pass the ball to someone you came up on the bus with” That was Frank’s football mindset, I know, I had the pleasure of hearing him say it in one match day briefing. Simple, easy to understand and the way football should be played.
Tonight I will raise a glass in memory of Frank, it will be his favourite Merlot, and on reflection maybe one or two more. Rest in peace Frank, you were and will always remain one of a kind.
Frank Burrows : 30th January 1944 to 23rd November 2021.
Photographs licensed from Reuters
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