Ray Pointer: Burnley and England striker who netted 23 times during the Clarets' double-winning 1959-60 season

Burnley's "Blond Bombshell" was a dead ringer for comic-strip hero Roy Race

Ivan Ponting
Wednesday 17 February 2016 19:23
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Potent: Pointer in 1959
Potent: Pointer in 1959

Ray Pointer was Burnley's "Blond Bombshell", and the fans' nickname fitted him admirably.

The dashing England international centre-forward was a dead ringer for comic-strip hero Roy Race, while his goalscoring record for the Turf Moor club, with whom he shone as they stunned their big-city rivals by lifting the League championship in 1959-60, would not have disgraced the fictional sharpshooter.

Tremendous in aerial combat, despite standing at only 5ft 9in, Pointer also packed a potent shot in either foot – and was ready to hammer the ball goalwards from any angle. He meshed beautifully with the men around him in manager Harry Potts' exhilarating side, particularly the sumptuously skilful schemer Jimmy McIlroy, penetrative wingers John Connelly and Brian Pilkington and fellow spearhead Jimmy Robson.

His strike-rate was remarkably consistent, his highest return being 29 in 1958-59, while his 23 in all competitions during the title season was exceeded only by the excellent Connelly.

While growing up in his native north-east, Pointer operated initially as a flankman, but such was his weight of goals in junior football that he was converted into a spearhead. Sunderland were interested, but thought him too small to be a centre-forward, which by then was the only position he wanted. There followed a trial with Blackpool before he turned professional with fellow top-flight outfit Burnley in August 1957.

In October 1957, shortly before his 21st birthday, he made his senior debut against Luton Town – and by season's end he was a regular.

During the following campaign he soared, netting 11 times in nine games during a purple springtime spell. He maintained his impetus the following term, as Wolverhampton Wanderers were pipped to the League crown with a 2-1 last-day victory at Manchester City.

By then he had been called to his country's colours, scoring twice on his England under-23 entrance in a 3-0 win over Italy in Milan, and he found the net when he was awarded his first full cap in a 4-1 win over Luxembourg at Highbury in September 1961. He registered, too, in his third and final senior international, in which he helped to defeat Portugal 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley that clinched England's place in the 1962 finals.

Back at Burnley, Pointer continued to excel, topping the goal chart with 26 strikes in 1961-62 as the Clarets went agonisingly close to the League and FA Cup double, finishing second in the First Division to Ipswich Town and losing the Wembley final to Tottenham Hotspur.

That signalled the end of Pointer's pomp. In 1962-63, though he retained his place before suffering injury, he was shifted to inside-right to make way in the centre for the abrasive young newcomer Andy Lochhead. Pointer's star was in decline and in August 1965, having contributed 133 goals in 270 senior outings for Burnley, he was sold to second-tier Bury for £8,000.

At Gigg Lane he was a predator reborn, scoring 17 times in 19 appearances before switching to Jimmy Hill's Coventry City that December. In January 1967 he moved to Portsmouth, whom he served for another six seasons in the second flight, and he later coached at Blackpool, Burnley and Bury.

Raymond Pointer, footballer: born Cramlington, Northumberland 10 October 1936; married (wife deceased), two sons, one daughter; died Blackpool 26 January 2016.

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